The Pentax K5 Digital Camera Review

The Pentax K5 Real World Use Review

By Steve Huff

** ATTENTION ALL PHOTOGRAPHERS! – Don’t forget to enter the Leica M9 giveaway that is going on NOW! – Details HERE **

So here it is 2011 and I have been shooting with the lovely Pentax K5 for a few weeks now. I have not been able to get out every day with it but on the days I have been able to, I have really enjoyed shooting this camera. The Pentax K5 is essentially an upgrade to the Pentax K7 which I ABSOLUTELY LOVED. You can see my full review of the K7 HERE in case you missed it. That K7 gave me plenty of superb photos when I shot it with the Kit Zoom AND a couple of Pentax Limited prime lenses.

My K7 review also sparked lots of comments and interest. Even the president of Pentax, Ned Bunnel, posted about it on his personal blog. If you google “Pentax K7 Review” my review comes up as the #1 result. I have received lots of e-mails about that review and many thanks from those who bought one due to the info in that review.

When the K5 was announced it didn’t take long for the e-mails to start pouring in asking me when I was going to post a review for it! The pressure was on so I knew I had to try it out but seeing that I almost bought a K7 for myself, I was a bit scared to review the K5! Why? Because I really can’t afford another camera after my Ricoh GXR purchase! Anyway, I decided I HAD TO review it, and I am glad  I did because this is one of the finest (if not THE finest) APS-C sensor DSLR’s I have shot with to date!

This time around, B&H Photo sent me the K5 to try out along with the 43 1.8 limited lens. This lens, while not as tasty as the 77 limited I shot with last time is still a GREAT lens. With a fast 1.8 aperture, it will give you great performance in low light as well as allow you to get a shallow depth of field. Most of you know I love shooting like this because I love the looks I get with a fast prime lens 🙂

“Bella” – Pentax K5 with 43 Limited at 1.9 – Click image for larger and better version!

“Evening Bokeh Drive” – The Pentax K5 in one of the cool cross process modes – JPEG – 43 limited at 1.9 – ISO 200

When I first opened the Pentax K5 two things struck me. First, I was like “WHOA” this thing is huge!

BUT IT IS NOT! It actually is VERY small for a DSLR but because I was so used to shooting cameras like the Sony NEX-5, Olympus E-P2 and Ricoh GXR over the past 3 months, I was spoiled by those small cameras. After handling it for a few minutes I realized just how small this camera is for a DSLR and I was instantly taken back to my days with the K7. Yea, this is a SOLID, SMALL and amazingly well made DSLR. It makes the Sony A33 and A55 feel like toys. It really does.

As for the look, feel, and operation, there is not much more I can say that I already didnt say in the K7 review. Yea, the K5 keeps the awesome K7 features but adds some like having a better sensor with higher resolution (16.3 vs 14.6), better high ISO capability (up to 51,200 ISO) and performance, 1080P HD video (better video than K7), 7 FPS vs 5FPS on the K7, faster AF speed, better HDR recording, and it still has the 77 weather seals on the body alone. This is ONE HELL of a DSLR on paper, no doubt. Man, I loved the K7 so it should be a no brainer that I also love the K5 right? THAT WOULD BE A BIG YES!

Pentax K5 with the 43 Limited lens at F4, ISO 100

The Pentax K5 with the 43 Limited at f/5

The Features Of The Pentax K5

I already mentioned some of the upgrades of the K5 over the K7 but let’s see ALL of the features of this great camera:

• High resolution 16.3 megapixel CMOS sensor w integrated AD conversion circuitry

• High sensitivity 80-51200 ISO range with improved noise performance

• Speedy 7 FPS captures fast action shots

• Highly responsive and accurate 11 point SAFOX IX+ autofocus system with dedicated AF assist lamp and light wavelength sensor

• Widescreen 1080p HD video at 25 FPS, with sound via built-in or external 3.5mm stereo microphone jack

• Large 3″ LCD with 921,000 dots of resolution

• Fully weather sealed and coldproof design

• Durable magnesium alloy covers surround a rugged stainless steel chassis

• Highly accurate 77 segment metering system

• Pentaprism viewfinder with 100% field of view and 0.92X magnification

• Pentax body-based Shake Reduction (SR) stabilization system

• A maximum 1/8000 second shutter speed

• HDMI port outputs high definition images and video (and sound)

• Native support for both PENTAX PEF and Adobe DNG 14-bit RAW files

• Improved in-camera HDR image capture

• A wide range of in-camera image processing and special effects filters

• Customizable RAW/Fx button

• Built-in electronic level with tilt scale display

• SDXC memory card compatibility (via firmware update)

The K5 In Use. How Did I Like It After Not Using A DSLR For Months?

So here I was with a DSLR after not using one for months. It was kind of weird for me because as most of you know who come here on a regular basis, I love my Leica cameras and I love my small cameras. I just DO NOT get into big bulky DSLR’s anymore. As good as some of them are (Nikon D700, Canon 5DII) they are just too damn big for me to carry around on a daily basis. I am one of those guys who bring a camera with me EVERYWHERE I go. If I run to the store for milk I have a camera on me. I do this because with todays small cameras that also pump out high quality, it is not an issue bringing them along.

The K5 is just at that point to where I would question if I should leave it at home or automatically strap it around my shoulder. Cameras like the Olympus E-P2 and Sony NEX-5 could go everywhere and provide good quality. The K5 would provide even better quality but it’s a but larger and heavier BUT it is also built like a tank and weather sealed! When it was all said and done I found that I had no problem taking the K5 along with me when I went out. The K5 paired with some of the awesome Limited prime lenses give you a kit that is on the smaller side (for a DSLR) but also gives you pro results. I was noticing better image quality with the K5 and 43 Limited than I was getting out of the Micro 4/3 cameras and the NEX-5 as well.

Pentax K5 with the 18-200 Kit Zoom at 3.5 – ISO 400 – 1/50th s

Pentax K5 with the 18-200 Kit Zoom at 18mm – ISO 1600

One really nice thing about the K5 is how quiet it is. When I fired the shutter it was REALLY smooth and quiet. I LOVED the sound and it made my NEX-5 sound like a shotgun. Everything about the K5 was just…well…SMOOTH. I felt like I was still shooting the K7 as it felt exactly the same but I was getting faster AF and better high ISO performance. One thing to note is that almost every image you see here was shot as a JPEG and they are pretty much straight from camera images. If I did anything to them it was just level adjustments or maybe a contrast bump.

The Pentax K5, like the K7 has very good out of camera JPEGS. They can be a little on the soft side but they sharpen up well.

Bokeh Test – Pentax K5 with the 43 Limited wide open at 1.9 – ISO 200

Pretty sharp wide open at 1.9…love these little Pentax limited lenses!

Again, if you did not read my K7 review please do so HERE as quite a bit of it (like the video showing the features and menu) IS the same as the K5. Basically, this K5 is a KILLER DSLR with amazing *EVERYTHING!* Being a fan of the unique I would buy this camera over the Nikon D7000 as I feel it’s just as good if not better. It’s smaller and the Limited lenses ROCK. The Pentax K5 along with a 31, 43 and 77 limited lens set would be amazing! Add in a nice wide angle limited like the 15 f/4 or 21 3.2 and you can have a pro quality kit for less than an equivilant Nikon or Canon setup. Besides…EVERYONE shoots Nikon and Canon these days! Why not support a company that made a kick ass camera for those with a photographic mind. If I were in the market for a DSLR (and this one just might push me over the edge) the K5 would be mine.

This camera is built for the photographer. I really can’t see an area that is lacking with it. It’s build is top notch, its image quality is up there with the best APS-C cameras available, its out of camera JPEGS have great color and quality, its HD video rocks, it has all of the bells and whistles and then some, and it is very customizable. The K5 seems to do everything right.

So did I like it as much as  the K7? NO, I liked it even better 🙂

Pentax K5 with the 18-200 Kit Zoom at 18mm, f/3.5, ISO 100

Same settings as above…

High ISO Testing

My one complaint about the Pentax K7 was it had limited high ISO performance. After ISO 1600 it started to get grainy. Though I said I would use it up to 2500 (which is damn good) I was curious to see if the K5 was living up to the hype of having better high ISO performance. Here are the results of my high ISO test.

I have to say, even ISO 12,800 looks pretty decent. I would use it if I needed to really get the shot. It appears the ISO 12800 shot is sharper but that was most likely due to the shutter speed/focus. The K5 is improved over the K7 with high ISO and these are some of the best results I have seen, right up there with the Sony A33/A55/NEX cameras and honestly…possibly better.

Here is one more at ISO 6400 along with a 100% crop…

To my eyes, this little K5 is giving me the best high ISO performance I have seen to date with an APS-X sensor.

In Camera Filters

The K5 has in camera filters like the K7 did. The two I liked the most were the Toy Camera and High Contrast filters. Here are a couple of quick out of camera samples.

The Toy Camera Filter…

and the high contrast filter…

Full Size Out Of Camera JPEGS and crops

Here is a quick snap I shot wide open at 1.9 so you can see the quality of an untouched out of camera JPEG. Click the image below for the full size file..

Pentax K5 with the 43 Limited lens wide open at 1.9 – Has that creamy/dreamy feel going on

and this next one was shot a little stopped down at f/2.5 – click for full size

Here is a test shot to show how sharp this lens is, even when shot as a JPEG and untouched…

and the 100% crop below…I do see some CA/Purple Fringing but again, this is an out of camera JPEG shot wide open at 1.9

HD 1080P Video Quality – Random Video Samples

I am very impressed with the HD video of the Pentax K5. Even in lower light it keeps its rich color and with a nice lens like the 43 Limited mounted the K5 delivers awesome video. The built in IS works well as you can see in my video samples below which is ALL handheld to test the IS. I also found the video implementation much better on the K5 and yea it does 1080P. You can watch the video below in your browser or right click on it and choose “watch on youtube” if you want to see the 1080P version.

The 43 1.9 Limited Lens – It’s awesome!

The 43 Limited 1.9 lens! What a great lens this is for this camera. The 43mm focal length will give you an equivalent of a 64mm lens so it is a but long but I loved this lens. While not up to Leica quality, the Pentax Limited lenses do have a unique signature look to them and I really enjoy this look. The lenses are also very small. When compared to a NIkon or Canon prime these small Pentax lenses are an absolute joy to look at and use. To be honest, even the Pentax kit zoom is good. One of the better kit lenses I have tried out. Pentax knows how to make a great lens, no doubt.

Here are a few more images with the 43 limited to wet your appetite and if you are a Pentax shooter you can buy this lens at B&H Photo HERE, my preferred camera dealer for Pentax. BTW, the in camera stabilization works AWESOME with this lens with photo and video. Yea, the K5 has IN BODY IS (image stabilization).


The Kit Zoom – It’s great!

I also enjoyed the kit zoom just like I did when I shot it with the K7. I found it was plenty sharp and the image stabilization works VERY well with this lens. It’s construction is on the cheaper side but better than some of the Nikon, Canon and Olympus kit zooms I have shot with. The IQ is there though and with the K5s great IQ and high ISO performance, even a slower lens like this can yield great results.

My reviews are always based on real use and the image quality. If I enjoy using a camera…if it inspires me to go out and shoot…if it has character and feels good in the hand then I will most likely enjoy it. I always try to get out there and get real photos with whatever I am reviewing and sometimes it takes me a while due to me always shooting with so many cameras! While my photos here may not be amazing, I do feel they show that the K5 is a highly capable camera, even with the kit zoom which will only set you back another $100 or so when buying the kit. Well worth it over just buying the body.

The next 7 images were all shot with the Pentax K5 and the 18-55 Kit Zoom

So, you have $1500 to spend…which camera to buy? The K5 vs ?

Since I get to shoot with so many cameras and lenses I get asked on a daily basis “what camera should I buy”? While I usually try to avoid giving this advice I decided to write down my opinions on a few other cameras vs this Pentax K5. Maybe this will help you decide which one is right for you…

The K5 vs the Nikon D7000 or D300s

If starting from scratch..if you do not own or are not invested in any lenses from a certain manufacturer then this could be a tough call. Nikon is legendary and will always be around. Their glass is phenomenal (but expensive for the good stuff) and the body that would go up against the K5 would be the D7000 or D300s though the D7000 is a little cheaper. If given the choice between the two I would take the K5. If given the choice between the D300s or the K5 that one is a bit tougher but due to size alone I would go with the Pentax K5. I like the video better on the K5 as well. If size is not a concern then the D7000 and the D300s are great DSLR’s but the K5 is better built and smaller than the D7000. Yea, I would go with a K5. But that is just me, and this is just my opinion.

The K5 vs the Ricoh GXR

Hmmm. I love the GXR along with the 28 and 50mm modules. The image quality is stellar and they have their own unique look that is not far off from a Leica look. The Ricoh is also made VERY well but it is much smaller. The only con with the GXR over the K5 is the GXR is not a DSLR so their is no optical viewfinder. The K5 will give you better AF, better higher ISO capabilities, and a slew of other features that the GXR does not but for overall IQ at lower ISO, I personally (slightly) prefer the GXR with the 28 and 50. Plus you can buy the GXR with both modules for about the same price as the K5 with its kit zoom. There is just something about that GXR for B&W and people photography. Still, it is not a DSLR so if you want a non full frame DSLR the K5 is the one I would get. What you lose in size and weight over a GXR you gain in functionality, speed, ISO and HD video features and I love the K5 as a complete package. It all depends on your needs and wants.

The K5 vs ?

I’d rather but the K5 than the competing Canon DSLR. The bottom line is that the Pentax K5 is an improvement over the already superb K7. It’s features are professional grade and there really isn’t much you couldn’t do with one. Would I trade a Leica M9 for one? NO WAY! But for a DSLR, again, it is the one I would buy if I were in the market for one under $1500. In fact, the only DSLR I would prefer over the K5 is probably the Nikon D700 but that comes in at quite a bit more money and it is much larger.

My Final Word On The Pentax K5

If you want a DSLR on the small side that will give you pro build, pro weather sealing, pro image quality and great HD video with the availability of some GREAT prime lenses then look no further. Pentax may not be as big of a name as Nikon or Canon but I have always been a fan of the “little guys” who do things right. Pentax has done almost everything right with this camera. I sat here for 2 hours wondering what I could say that was NEGATIVE about this camera and I really came away with NOTHING! So no pro/con section this time because to be honest, I love this camera and have no negative things to really sat. It’s AF is fast, it’s IS is superb, its IQ is fantastic and it just has so much going for it.

UPDATE: After posting this review a couple of readers did point out one negative that would make this a perfect DSLR if Pentax implemented it. FULL MANUAL CONTROL during video. Maybe Pentax can do this via a firmware update? Either way, I still love this little guy and found its ease of use, customization, dynamic range, high ISO performance and build to be up there with the best pro DSLR’s.

If you are not afraid of shooting with a DSLR that doesn’t say Nikon or Canon on it then JUMP on this one. I can not imagine anyone being disappointed in it. If I had to complain about anything it would be that the menus look kind of generic. Not as polished as the other brands but it’s the menu, not a big deal. The K5 is quiet, customizable, and delivers the goods. Even its shutter is rated at 100,000 click and goes to 1/8000s which means we can use those fast lenses during the day. WIll I buy one? I WOULD IF I COULD but I can’t afford to right now! The Pentax K5 is amazing and with those sweet Pentax Limited lenses, even better. Way to go Pentax, you managed to improve upon the K7 and delivered and all terrain, all weather DSLR that is small, built like a tank and gives outstanding quality in good light and low light. Video is SUPERB as well. An all around fantastic camera.

In closing, I know this review has been VERY positive and for those who know me and my style…when I really like a camera or a lens I tend to get excited about it and yes, this comes out in my real world use reviews. The K5 got me pretty excited and I just wish I had more time with it so I could do it justice. The photos in this review were just what I was able to shoot over the past 2-3 weeks, snapshots really but I most of us shoot this way anyway. If you really want to see some amazing images with this camera and the limited lenses, click here. Inspiring stuff!

You can buy the Pentax K5 at B&H Photo who I HIGHLY recommend for all of your photo gear.

Click here to go direct to their Pentax K5 BODY ONLY page.

Click here to go direct to their Pentax K5 with Kit Zoom page.

Some great lens choices for the K5 – The Pentax 31 LIMITED F/1.8, The Pentax 77 Limited f/1.8, The 43 1.9 limited, The 15 Limited.


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  1. Hi Steve,
    I came to the party quite late – your review convinced me to buy a *brand new* but officially 2nd hand Pentax K-5 last week. It may be a now 6 year old device, but including the kit lens at €350 (about $390) it was just irresistable to give it a try as “my first DSLR”. So far I’ve been extremely happy with it. Thank you for yet another great review!

  2. Very interesting review on the K-5. I have been doing quite a bit research regarding the problems associated with the k-5 and I am quite disappointed to read about the AF and low light situation issues. I am trying to upgrade from my wonderful k100d Super and every review I read on some recent Pentax releases all seem to have the same issues. My k100d Super has no problems with AF and low light conditions. It is now 1/1/2017 and I hope you will be posting an upgraded review of the k-5 since I do have my sights set on a nice looking and reasonably priced outfit. Many thanks and Happy New Year.



  3. Thanks for this review! I had decided to buy the K-5 a couple of days ago, as soon as I saw it, I knew it was the one. I was a little dismayed by some previous reviews I read about the video function, but reading this article and watching your gorgeous videos, I have never been so sure about my decision to buy the K-5. I are very excite! (Borat style) Thanks all the way from Shetland

  4. Steve one question….the weather sealing is important to me…do you have to get a weather sealed lens to match?

  5. Hi steve,

    Thank you for your great discussion (been a while). I used to have a Spotmatic, an ME Super and K20D. Now I am the happy owner of the K5. Since I live in Holland, I do not buy from B & H. Your difference in discussion with colleagues from other magazines is that you talk from the heart of a photographer, I can do something with it.

    Warm regards,
    Ivo Verboon, Netherlands

    • I have already read a perliminary review on the K30 (on engadget I believe…) and guess what… AF is still not on par with the competition (although it seems to have slightly improved). I guess that the OM-D really is the way to go…

  6. I have a K10D and it’s main problem is AF. I was keen in buying the K5, but, although almost every review is very positive, the user feedback is not so much impressive regarding AF. It seems Pentax is still a lot of steps behind the competition in terms of AF.
    Steve, your review is very nice, but some of the photos you posted ar out of focus, like the one with the old lady and the dog, and expecially the one with the girl with the green sweater walking with a bag in her hand. One seems to have mixed focus due to poor light and the other due to movement. If this camera is not able to focus correctly such simple subjects, than it really is miles behind its competition, which is a real shame because I really would like to buy one…

    • I shoot a K20D and have no AF problems. (Except for the occasional self inflicted stupidity!) If you haven’t shut off the AF on the shutter button that could be your problem. I use the AF on the camera body. That way it’s locked. YMMV

      As far as on line pics… everyone knows you can’t really enlarge a pic. But most don’t realize it’s because the software is essentially sharpening it. So it’s over sharpened. Software has to add pixels.

      But most don’t realize that reducing a pic blurs it. Same reason. The software has to remove pixels, softening the pic. So virtually everything you see on the web is going to be softer than the original.

      On the other hand, some lenses are softer than others. I like to be able to count the hairs on a peach. Some lenses just won’t allow that.

      • In good light and with almost static subjects I also don’t have AF problems with the K10D. But if the light is poor then the problems start. If you add movement to that then you really have a big problem (even with good light the K10D can’t focus correctly on moving objects).
        The issue regarding the online photo compression does not apply here. You can clearly see that the two pictures I mention are out of focus (especially the one of the girl in a green sweater). Lenses are important, but they are not everything, and Steve’s review proves it: he used a prime and still got out of focus pictures.

  7. Hey Steve. Great review. I’m currently considering this camera, in black or silver and I’m also giving a good thought to Nikon D7000. Would you do a review of the Nikon D7000? Frankly after seeing tons of very positive reviews about the K5, I’m halfway there. And after seeing the silver K5 (and the price) I had to take a step back. Hope you can help with this very complicated problem.

  8. As I said in my B&H review:

    “I have been a professional photographer for over 25 years and have worked for magazines the likes of VOGUE, Harper’s BAZAAR, L’Officiel, etc. I have been using Pentax cameras since their K10D and am now using both the K20D’s and K5D’s. The K5D IMHO outshines all of the under $2500 USD DSLR’s out there and I would go far as to say that when published in magazines and catalogues one would be highly challenged to tell the difference between the K5 and any of the FF sensor DSLR’s out there. The dynamic rage is phenomenal and the iso range and usability is superb. Built like a tank, silent shutter and rapid fire are some of the assets I really appreciate in this camera. For those Canon and Nikon users out there thinking about changing systems, not to worry, this camera will not disappoint.”

  9. I find the ‘bokeh’ in the picture of the horse horrible. It probably has more to do with ‘digitallity’ than the quality of the lens itself. It looks as if the horse is made out of cardboard. The plasticity is absolutely flat and horrible, could anyone explain and expand on it, why this is the case?

  10. Great review Steve! I am a re-discovering enthusiast and rented the K-5 for a few days after reading this. I was really impressed by the image quality, the small size for a DSLR, and the amazing build quality. Now I just have to wait to see the reviews of the new OM to decide which one to plunk down the $ for.



  11. very nice review and great shots.
    I have a K-7 but will be shooting 2 weddings this summer for friends (my first ones). So I’m planning on upgrading to the K-5 so I can shoot in higher ISO. It’ll be a while till I’ve saved up but look forward to it.

  12. Hi Steve, after a extensive searching i find K5 is the best aps-c dslr.highestDXO marking,smallest & toughest, full weather proof.i m using canon upgrade to a dslr-my primary choise were canon 550D, 60D, Nikon D90.but i m afraid of pantex lens availability.i m only landscape(inclding panaroma) & macro shooter.I want only prime first consider is lens, then body.can u help me best prime for lanscape,tilt-shift,macro & brand is not an issue.Does pantex support sigma,tamron,tokina,zeiss? pl.reply via email.
    pl. see my photostream

  13. I bought the K-5 before reading this. At first I was afraid of this complex machine. But, have used it a bit now and am really liking it. I love the build quality, it feels old-school and solid. I am getting more confident and I think this camera is going to become a “trusted friend” in my photography.

  14. Looks like a wonderful camera. I have the old Canon 350D and what i like is its size. But I have canon lenses 2 of which are of value. I was looking at the 5D II for a LONG time now. Then started looking at the M 4/3 systems and also the GXR Ricoh (Which I also love) My head is spinning. Thanks very much for the review the Photos from this camera look stunning.

  15. Hi Steve, thanks for this (and other) reviews, it helps me in decision taking. Following the disappointing news about the Fuji X10 (white dot syndrome) I am looking for a good alternative, and more and more I come to the decision to by a “small” SLR. Here the K-5 is really my favorite.
    We have good offers for the camera here, there is a 150 CHF (about 1:1 with USD) provided for the K-5, thus the body would cost 850 CHF! There are as well kit-offers with the 18-55 mm zoom (930 CHF) or the 18-135 mm zoom (1410 CHF).
    I wonder now how these kit lenses compare with the SIGMA 16-70 mm (f2.8-40) DC Macro OS HSM zoom. This lense is in offer here for 470 CHF, may be this is a good alternative to the 18-135 mm kit lens?
    Thanks, Patrick

  16. Hi Steve, thanks for your review.
    Helps me to make decision on my first DSLR.
    Now my K-5 accompanied with FA 43mm f1.9 limited & FA 31mm f1.8 limited and I am looking for tele-zoom lens.
    Do you have recommendation on Tele-zoom lens that work best with the K-5?

  17. Hi Guys,

    I am just before buying a K-5 but looking for the right lenses. We are using the camera mainly for portrait and portrait from longer distance.

    Could you help me with the best lense matter, please? thanks a lot

  18. An oops update. That’s the magic lantern series of books. Dunno where I got red lantern from.

    At any rate, I’ve seen them below 1k in some places. Body only of course. Maybe they’ll fall even more for the holidays.

  19. The K-5 is on my wishlist too. The little green button to shoot manual lens is great even on the K100D that I’m still using. Since it does have some niggling problems, I plan to getting more lenses first & get a K-5 when the price drops a bit. Really amazed at the almost silent shutter.

  20. A fine review, Steve ! My friend Andre William Winter used to carry a Pentax Spotmatic (it was all screw mount back then in the ’70’s) along with a bagful of Takumar lenses that covered everything from fisheye to 300mm), and he really freaked out at the TAJ MAHAL ! On my part, I loved the Pentax’s rugged simplicity and superb image quality. No, Pentax (or Asahi Pentax as it was then called), have as good a lineage / pedigree as any, and better than most! Man, if I wasn’t already into the Minolta XE-1 then, I’d have gone the Pentax route!
    But somewhere along the line, Pentax seem to have faltered a bit, even as I switched to Nikkormats and later the fantastic FE with its amazing MD-12 motor drive and razor sharp Nikkor lenses). So it’s hardly surprising that, in quietly resurrecting the ‘ye olde’ Pentax tradition of producing world-class image taking instruments, the Pentax of today is making a fighting statement. I wish Pentax all the very best, and though I lost my heart to Nikon long ago (and I’m just days away from buying a D5100 plus 16 – 85 zoom – that’s the best I can afford right now), I always remember with affection burly Andre, the intrepid Englishman, and his huge love affair with the Pentax (cause for the utmost concern to his lovely wife Doreen) and grab this opportunity to salute all three of them.
    Keep the no-frills, shoot-from-the-hip, straight-from-the-heart reviews coming, Steve ! Thanks a million for this excellent one on the Pentax K-5 ! Hard work always pays off …

  21. Steve, bought this K5 on your recommendation. Sold my Canon 5D MKII and all that Canon glass. Bought the 15, 31&77 limiteds, and the 50-135……couldn’t be happier. Thanks for the review and your honesty!

  22. Yup. The hat seals your fate. 🙂

    I go back to the honeywell for my lens collection. But as far as 3rd parties ignoring them… I think that’s due to change. Since Pentax has been easing into the P&S market they’re beginning to advertise more. That’s one thing they never really did.

    (On the other hand, there are a lot of aftermarket products out there for it, but they are really hard to find.)

    As far as Nik’s and Can’s… well, they see it used on tv, their neighbors have one etc. But no one has a Pentax. No one really ever heard of the Pentax. And if they do see someone using one they think it’s a low end no-name.

    Personally I don’t think Canon can hold a candle to the P. Nikon, probably neck and neck… until you read the manual and realize that Pentax is generally a little more advanced in a lot of areas. But again… my opinion/personal preference.

    Even if you can stumble across a comparison or even a review, most of the Pentax specific features aren’t listed. I’m thinking because the user doing the comparison has no idea what it can actually do; since some features just don’t exist in any other camera on the market. (At least, I haven’t found them) So you can’t just pick it up and shoot with it and honestly compare it unless you RTFM. Or better yet, pick up a 3rd party manual. The K20D Red Lantern series points out a lot of unique features. It has a lot of “but wait, there’s more!” tips highlighted.

    I always say you can find the answer to any question. But if you don’t know what the question is… you’ve got a problem and don’t even know it. You’ll never know what you’re missing.

  23. Appreciate your review, and sample photos. I have the K20D which serves me well, but the K5 has had so many excellent reviews I am being drawn in. If I had not started out with Pentax I may well go to Nikon, but I have many old lenses going back to my Spotmatic SP1000, which still works fine. The only real drawback for Pentax (if it is considered a drawback) is many third party manufacturers
    seem to ignore Pentax. But most of those items can be worked around, or passed on altogether. Besides, I have a hat that says PENTAX, so I’m stuck. Anyway, thanks for the write up, keep up the good work.

  24. I am Pentax user since film era. Now I am using K10D & K20D for all my assignments. I read an article in DSLR magazine few month ago about APS vs Full Frame. All known brands vs D3x & 1DM4. Pentax K5 is the winner & beat D3x in few areas. I am waiting upgrade version of K5 with swivel LCD screen & improved video capabilities. Hope to see one on 2012.

  25. Focus Problem at Infinity – anybody experience the same?

    There is a problem with the 40mm DA on the K5. Both are new.
    If the focusing target is at infinity, the AF will not confirm and not release.
    Sometimes(rarely) after waiting for a while(few seconds) the shutter finally fires.

    I also have the 70mm and the 21mm. In exact the same situation the 70mm will work fine. The 21mm sometimes also “hesitates” a bit but then releases.

    Now I don’t know if its the camera or the lens problem.

    Did you guys find out something?

    Besides that the 40mm and 21mm are both super sharp and contrasty. specially the 40mm. and the bokeh from 40mm is great. the 70mm is overhyped on the reviews compared to the 40mm, which doesn’t always get the best reviews.

    I m coming from nikon d700 with 85mm 1.4g and 35mm 1.4g, Nikon has great quality and in low light the images are superior as well as the AF is more intelligent. I like the color from Pentax though and the sharpness – which can result in nice clear pics. And even if I carry all 3 lenses with the Pentax my whole bag is still lighter then the d700 alone.

  26. The K5 is a great camera, shame about the after sales service is not up in Belgium. My K5 has been 8 weeks for repair and I still waiting.

    • Van Der Eecken Guy:

      I was wondering if Pentax has returned your camera as of yet. My camera has been in repair with Pentax for 8 weeks also, and has been on “parts hold” for 3 times since commencement of servicing. I have called nearly every week to check on repair status. As of last week, I was promised to have a new replacement cameram given the difficulties with repair. When I called this week, I was informed that Pentax was looking for a replacement, and would be sent to me ASAP.

      At this point, I am extremely frustrated and am just wondering if I am the only one going through the same problems with this company.

      I love my camera, but am truly considering switching brands, if this is the type of customer service which I will receive.



      PS: My camera is under warranty.

  27. I was kind of looking at the K5 but from what I understand it’s somewhat smaller than the K20D. Not a selling point for me. I love the K20’s size. And since I have absolutely no use for video (that’s what they make camcorders for)… on the fence.

  28. Hi Steve,
    Thanks for the review. Still cannot decide whether to buy the K-5 or the K-r or wait for the next generation, but I do know I am not into primes! However, what was the 18-200 kit lens you used please?Here in Europe there is an 18-135 but I cannot finf an 18-200.

  29. What is the difference between the K5 and K5 limited edition. Externally there is slight difference but
    internally they are the same I believe. Is it worth the extra cost.

  30. I was impressed with the review of the K5 and was about to switch from nikon D90 to K5 until the news of Rocoh buying over pentax. What will be the future of pentax DSLR

  31. Amazing review review, Steve! Not just because I like Pentax but i love reviews like this. You know, testing cameras with real world applications! I currently have a K-x and i was planning to swap it with the K-5 at the end of the year. Probably. Anyway, I have a dozen more reason why I should buy the K-5 after reading this. Thanks!

  32. Thanks for the great review. However, as I long time (and current) Pentax user, I would point out that prospective buyers of the K-5 might want to consider the K-7 instead. I have owned both cameras (I still own the K-7), and I would say the following: Unless you’re shooting at high ISOs (this is where the K-5 really shines) the difference in image quality is not that significant. The K-5 is, however, experiencing serious ‘teething problems.’

    These have included ‘sensor-stains’ (recent models should not have this); camera lock-up that requires battery removal to fix; random mirror-activation (seems to be related to the level of battery charge), and if you shoot in low-light, front-focusing issues. (I found ff starting to occur between EV 3 and 4). Pentax should have the basic qc problems. under control soon. However, the front focusing issue might be more difficult to resolve. K-5 owners are hoping that it will be fixed with a firmware update. It’s not at all clear, though, that this can be done

    The ff issue is why I sent my K-5 back. I’m quite happy to work with the K-7 until this problem is fixed.

    P.S. For those who don’t know: Pentax has just been acquired by Ricoh. This should be a huge plus for Pentax. With Ricoh’s deep pockets and commitment to digital photography, the Pentax community is quite optimistic about the future of the company.

    P.S.S. The Pentax limited lenses are, indeed, superb.

    • Yes, originally bought by Hoya for their (superb) glass technology and sold to Ricoh. Let’s hope they’ll start putting ads out there like nikon/canon so the world will “re-discover” Pentax. They are the old “work horse” of the industry, after all. 🙂

  33. Thanks Steve for your excellent K-5 review. My last two point & shoot cameras have been Pentax. Currently using the Optio V10 but ready to make the big move up to DSLR. Since I’ve been bombarded with non stop Nikon and Canon TV commercials this past year I thought those were my only two options. Actually had my heart set on a Nikon D5100 or Canon T3i until I went to my local camera store and held them in my hands….well what can I say? Plastic…Plastic…Plastic.
    That’s when the owner came over and said “forget those ones…try this one”. It was a Pentax K-R.
    At $250.00 less than the other two the build quality was so much better than the big boys plastic offerings and it had vibration reduction inside the camera where it should be and not in the overpriced lenses! He also has a K5 in the display case I’ll be looking at next week. So thanks to him and to you it looks like I’ll be staying with the Pentax family for my DSLR.

  34. Steve, Thanks for your positive approach in evaluating the K-5. I do get tired of the negative feedback when it comes to reviewing cameras. I shoot with a pentax k-2000. I sell images of almost anything. Nikon and Canon users ask me what kind of camera I use. When I tell them Pentax, they are amazed. Their comment is “wow the IQ is better than my Nikon or Canon.” Even the build quality of my Pentax is noticeably better than its competition. I get a good laugh when they say,”what did you pay for the camera and lens?” I look at them and grin, “$419.00; B&H Photo.” I too am for the under-dog, therefore I will always choose quality over name.

  35. I am still holding off, but am very close to buying a K5. Unfortunately, after having used superzooms with fully articulating (swiveling) displays, just like a number of people I’ve met, we all agree that that is one of the features that would seal the deal for me (aside from the problems reported in this forum – lack of manual controls when shooting videos, front focus issue, problems focusing at low lights, etc.). I think the latter issues can be addressed via firmware, however, fully articulating displays like in the Canon T3i and 60D can only be done through a new K5 release (I know some people wouldn’t care less, but the vertical swivel only displays as in Nikon D5000 not good enough for me).

    Also, does the 18-200 come as part of the K5 kit as well or do you have to get the 18-55?

  36. Great review, Steve! Yes, the K-5 rocks! I have the limited edition silver camera with the 15, 40 and 70 limited lenses. And today my K-mount Carl Zeiss 50 and 85 lenses arrived. Wow, the quality! I can now do studio work with the K-5 in a quality that’s basically undistinguishable from Nikon D3X or the equivalent Canon. Together with my Leica X1, I feel I now have the perfect setup for basically anything I want or need to shoot.

  37. Your camera reviews of both the K7 and K5 were excellent and well written!!. These real life reviews are what people should judge a camera’s qualities on, not an in depth scientific study using graphs, statistics and technical jargon! I love my K7 though admittedly the autofocus could be better!! But it is small, handles like a dream and weather sealed!! And, as you say, the high ISO performance isn’t terrible, and usable in REAL life situations if you accept the limitations. If only I could afford those beautiful prime lenses though!

    As your review here shows, the Pentax K5 is a jewel in Pentax’s crown.

    And maybe when the price of the K5 drops in the next year, I will upgrade!! Keep up the good work.

    Kind Regards,

    Mark Riley, Wrexham, N.Wales UK

  38. Thanks for this good review.
    I had the occasion to see a honest picture of America.
    I was just oriented to buy this camera…now I am completely convinced.

  39. I am currently debating between two cameras: the K5 and Fujifilm X100. My primary criterion are high IQ, especially in available light, and portability. I am impressed with what I have read about K5 but I really don’t see the sharpness or the pop that everyone keeps raving about. I dare say that the IQ of the Fuji seems to be much better, but then, I am only basing this on others samples. That said, Steve, I am really looking forward to your review of the Fuji — hopefully, it will go a long way in resolving my dilemma.

  40. Great Review. I’m going to buy it.
    I’m from India. I just wonder why Pentax don’t have any sellers in India? In India there is lots of Pentax user and most of them buy it from grey market.

    sunil dutta

  41. YVES says great report I agree the k5 is an improvement over the k7 because I owns both k5 &k7 the only problem sometime the k5 freeze out, the only way to get it going is to remove the battery, do you have an idea whay can cause that?

  42. Hi Steve
    Been reading your blog for quite a while. Really like your effort and work for keeping this site so neat. I have been carrying out several assignments on my own as as a personal interest. I also read the 31mm FA vs. 35mm Summilux review.
    I am trying to make a decision on whether to purchase the new K-5. Right now, I have a really good time using my GXR w/ 50mm and E-P1 w/35mm Summicron ASPH. I am wondering how K-5 with 31mm or 50mm FA perform comparably at similar focal length. (Already own both lens on my K10D)

    • Nikon is known for having maybe the best and fastest focus system around (high end Nikons). If the AF of the D7000 is on the level of the D700 then it is absolutely great.

  43. Hi – great reviews of both K7 and K5. Been going between NEX5 with zeiss/voigtlander prime or K7/5. Now the K5 is out, price of K7 has come down, so could get (on my budget) K7 and 43mm ltd prime, as IQ is what I’m really after. Seen shots of Nex and voigtlander 40mm nokton that look fantastic…but so do the K5 shots you took with pentax 43mm prime. Is the same kind of quality possible with the K7 and those limited lenses?

    Great site by the way…great to read more real world reviews than the usual pixel peeping! 😉

    • Bugger…just discovered X100 (yes, yes, where have I been…) and my head has been decidedly turned. X100 or K5…and fork out for limited’s at later date? I know, different beasts. Looking forward to X100, X1 Arizona shoot-out!

    • If I would have personally had any of these issues I would have written about them but I did not experience any Sensor stain, no low light AF issue and I had ZERO Front Focus during my use. Thanks,


  44. Hi Steve

    Great review. After reading this and other reviews on the net, I finally decided to purchase a K5 and the 31mm limited lens. Pick up the gear in a few weeks time!


  45. Hi Steve,
    Thanks for an excellent review of the K5. Since you did not have the K5 for a very long time and probably did not run extensive video sequences with it, you did not suffer from the “stained sensor” problem that has been plaguing a large number of specimens from the early production series of that otherwise excellent camera. I suffered from the problem myself and am at the moment cameraless and waiting for a replacement. It took Pentax some time (+ 2 months) to finally acknowledge the problem*, but they have promised to do the right thing for those unfortunate early-purchasers.

  46. Steve,

    Excellent review as always. Quick question. Having worked now with both the K5 and Sony’s A33 (and this really pertains to the A55 as they have the same sensor I think) which in your opinion would deliver the better image. A K5 with its best lens (from what I can tell the 31mm) or the Sony with a Zeiss 24mm f2? (Or, any of Sony’s other top Zeiss lenses for that matter!)

    I can go either way with weather sealing* and EVF (I have a G1 so I’m used to it and its limitations) and my guess is the shutter noise is about par.

    Just curious about which you might feel will provide the more satisfactory image.



    *I’ve smeared ultra thin layers of silicone caulk around key seams (like around the LCD) in other cameras with no ill effects.

  47. I own the Leica M8.2, but want a weather sealed supplement (for rain, snow and cold) that is similarly quiet, ergonomic and well built, with high quality 35-50 equivalent prime lenses.

    Well, the K5 WOULD be almost perfect* except a weather sealed camera is NOT really so if the lenses aren’t also weather sealed. None of the limited lenses tested by Steve meet this criteria. And the kit lens, while weather sealed and perhaps better than most kit lenses, is neither fast nor in the Limited league.

    I join Mike Johnston (TOP) and Sean Reid, both having favorably reviewed the K5 (Sean’s review in progress), in wanting a 35 equivalent weather sealed, high end Pentax lens. Until that happens, I remain on the sidelines.

    (*I could do without video and other popular ‘bells and whistles’….and full frame would be better still…but can’t have it all, apparently)

  48. Steve…BIG thank you for the review mate.. i’ve had a Pentax K100d for 3/4 years now and its time for an upgrade! Looking forward to my new K5. will you have an opportunity to test the new 135 kit lens??

    Thank you,

  49. Great review, Steve! I’ve been waiting for sample shots&vids for K5. You’ve confirmed my choice! Thanks a LOT!

  50. Hi Dave, fine review, I can agree to all you said, I am a great fan of the K5. But you should be aware that this fine little cam has a front focus issue in low light situations. It is not my intention to spoil this good review, but to make potential buyers be aware if they plan to shoot under low light circumstances (like I do). I am confident that Pentax will fix this, just until now there was no official comment – which makes me a bit nervous.
    Again, for all other situations it is the best camera I ever had.

    • Well, I have not encountered this issue AT ALL. Some say it has an issue and others say it doesn’t. Me, I did not experience this nor did I have any out of focus images. If I did I would have mentioned it as it would have been a problem.

      The K5 performed flawlessly for me while I had it.


      • Yes, there are some who have a heavy FF, and some not at all. I for my part tried out around 6 K5 in a period of 2 months, and all were the same. I hope others have more luck.
        It is like on the picture with the boy sitting on the stairways. His knees and shoes are sharp, his face is slightly out of focus. You may have focused on the knees, so it may be fine.
        Again, this is something that surely will be fixed, so I willl keep to this cam.

    • I think this low light focusing issue has been blown out of proportion by the internet forums. There are many happy K-5 users (myself included) who have not had any trouble focusing under low light/tungsten light. Without a way of independently verifying this it’s hard to know whether the camera or photographer is at fault. Some with the problem have said that changing the white balance from AWB to Tungsten fixes the issue, which doesn’t make sense at all.

      So don’t generalize. Some users have the issue, but the vast majority are happy 🙂

      • “So don’t generalize. Some users have the issue, but the vast majority are happy.”

        The front focusing issue is not a ‘quality control’ issue with the K-5. It is a design issue. And *every* K-5 is, in this regard, ‘broken’. And by that I mean every K-5 cannot shoot according to factory specification.

        If the ‘vast majority are happy’ with the focusing capbilities of the K-5 (which might be true, I don’t know) it can only be because (a) they rarely, if ever, use their camera under conditions where this (inevitable) failure occurs; or (b) they have a very high tolerance for out of focus images.

        This problem has been studied by serious users (e.g. Falk Lumo aka ‘falconeye’); it has been verified by many.

        If it doesn’t effect your particular style of shooting, then I say ‘great’. However, the front-focusing nay-sayers are not helping Pentax by denying that this problem exists.

  51. Thanks, Steve. Almost the perfect camera. If it had a flip-out swivel LCD, manual control of video and 24fps, I would have gone for the K-5 instead of the Panasonic GH2 (which I worry about whenever there’s any moisture in the air). If Pentax can give me those 3 when they go mirrorless, I’ll switch.

  52. I tried the K-5, D7000 and 60D, and thought that the Pentax was best to handle especially with its compact but solid body and well laid out controls. This “practical” review reinforces my initial findings and the IQ has been proven (again) to be the best from any APS-C body.

    The K-5 is more expensive than the other mentioned DSLRs, but add a couple fast zoom such as the 16-50/2.8 and 50-135/2.8, and you’ll end up with an outfit (with image stabilization) considerably cheaper than the Canon and Nikon equivalents. I’ve used a K-7 with the 16-50/2.8 before and that was a sweet setup.

    If I were to get the K-5, which I’m very much considering, I’d get it with those two f2.8 zooms and I’d be set. Well almost. I’d need a fast normal – faster than f2 within 40-55mm equiv. Oddly enough, with all the primes Pentax has, the only one to fulfill this is the 31/1.8 (46.5mm equiv.). That lens, which is undoubtedly awesome, costs about $1000, and the 43/1.9 is a bit long. Meanwhile, a 35/1.8 Nikon DX (52.5mm equiv.) costs $200.

    Perhaps a GH2; it’s even more compact, and I’ve got some m4/3 and adapted MF lenses already that I use with my E-PL1. Oh, decisions…

    • Note, Pentax now has a new DA 35 mm f/2.4 lens for around $200. The FA35 mm f/2 can also be found used for around $400.

  53. The K5 has all the virtues that you noted, but I think you missed the thing that I like best about it. I have old eyes and I don’t see all that well close-up without reading glasses, but all of the common controls on the K5 are easy to find, see and change.

    I’m a long-time Canon user and love the images I get from my 40D, but there’s just no comparison in terms of ease of use.

    Also, for what it’s worth, I got the 18-55AL “kit” lens with it, mainly because it was almost free. I didn’t expect much from it, but it’s tiny (for a zoom), light, and shockingly good. I use it all the time now, and I’m pretty picky. No thin depth of field shots, of course, but really really sharp.

  54. Great review! What are your thoughts about this camera versus the Panasonic G2, about which I know you were also very favorably inclined?

  55. Good review, Mr. Huff. I think it’s appropriate that you would review the K-5 on this site, as I think the K-5 may be the best DSLR companion to the Leica M9 at the moment for those who want a second camera. I say that because while other more expensive Canon and Nikon cameras could give more pure performance, the K-5 with its smaller form factor and emphasis on small prime lenses just seems more Leica in philosophy to me. Do you agree?

    If I could afford an M9 and great Leica lenses, I think that and a K-5 as a pair would be my choice for shooting weddings. Great image quality + DSLR versatility in a small package = Awesome alternative to the status quo.

  56. Thanks Steve for the focus on the experience, the handling. That’s key, because there are a number of other capable cameras out there, but Pentax made their own design choices. Compact, sturdy, nice choice of (also compact) primes. It’s not for everybody, but when it fits you it’s a lot of fun to use. And I certainly enjoy it every day.

  57. Hi, great photos and review! Sorry for the maybe silly question – can you adapt the The 43 Limited 1.9 lens (for Pentax above) to Sony Nex?

  58. Steve – I dont know if you had the time to explore with using the K5 in “old school” style with manual focus lenses and manual exposure, but it is a REALLY COOL camera when used in the simple, stripped down way so beloved of Leica users…

    First off, there are loads of interesting manual focus lenses out there. And many of them are CHEAP !!

    The K5 makes life simple when you use old manual focus lenses, because it provides a focus confirmation light in the viewfinder. You can also get different ground glass focus screens if you want, just like with an old style film camera.

    On top of this, the K5 is also really easy to use with manual exposure. When set to manual, if you press the green button on the back with your thumb the camera will set suggested metering as if it was on program auto ! All you then do is assess the image and using your interpretation adjust aperture or shutter speed to compensate exposure to your taste. Or of course you can use aperture priority auto… Centre Weighted or Spot metering options are also available.

    It is really intuitive and easy to use. You can tell that someone in Pentax likes to use cameras in a simple way, almost “old school” but with a modern twist.

    Put all this together with a sensor that handles high ISO in a way that Leica can only dream of, you end up with a really interesting and unique camera combination..

    I know I sound like a Pentax fanboy, but I have’nt been as pleased with a new camera in years.

    • Rufus, Couldn’t agree more as a K-7 user (though contemplating moving on to the K-5). I probably do half my shooting with old manual lens including a wonderful 50 mm f 1.2(!). Do you have any experience with different focus screens you could share?

  59. Great review! Your K-7 review made me buy the K-7.

    Did you know the Pentax 43 f1.9 was made for Leica m-mount as well, the Pentax-L 43mm f/1.9 Special. There are two for sale at right now.


  60. Steven,
    Great writing. The sort of review everyday customers would make if they could take a demo camera home for a few days trial.
    Your reflections are very believable, and you get your ideas across very well.
    Four comments about Pentax: 1) early lenses work great: 28mm=40mm in 35 mm format, and these can be had second-hand quite readily; 2) try raw sometime, and just use the supplied software to see how you go. Be patient and try various options; 3) the 40mm DA F2.8 is absolutely the reason I will always have a Pentax DSLR, even though I own other makes, as well as the 50mm 1.8 K-mount and screw mount: colour and sharpness are wonderful; 4) it’s reassuring to know that Pentax has never left a customer with unusable lenses, like Leica.

    Cheers from faraway.

  61. You are totally predictable in praising the K-5 in spite of the suspect “tests”, based on your previous reviews. AF is a known problem when compared with competing models, not so fast or accurate when the going gets tough, like in low light, or like in sports, etc. Even though there are excellent primes lenses, which are really expensive for their low speed and limited range, you should mention that there are serious issues when it comes to what most people prefer to us, i.e. zoom lenses. Nice job though in this review. Pentax will be very grateful.

    • I would have mentioned any AF problem if I had one. During my 4 weeks with the camera not once did I have an OOF image or AF issue. At all. Neither with the kit zoom or the 43mm. Thanks for reading.

  62. Another great review. I love that Pentax cameras can meter old manual lenses. I still use an old *ist Ds with my manual focus primes. One of these days I will upgrade. It sounds like the K-5 with an add- on split prism would be a great upgrade.

  63. Steve,

    Thanks for your easy reading and direct “real world” take on the K-5. Of course I’m partial, but I love the fact that I can pack up the K-5 and a few limited lenses in my beat-up Billingham bag and travel like a old school photojournalist. Glad you enjoyed the FA 43. You’ll have to come to my beach town of San Clemente one of these days so you can see how the FA 31 works with our wonderful afternoon light by the ocean 🙂

    Best Regards,

  64. Picked up my new K5 today, thanks in part to your great review Steve. Battery is still charging as I write this. Did get a few quick shots off before I put the battery in the charger however. Wow what terrific noise control in high ISO!

    Keep up the good work with your real world reviews. Much better from a user’s perspective than reading the technical ones all of the time.

  65. i own a canon 7d (upgraded a year ago from a canon 30d) and have been very disappointed with this camera (for reasons to numerous to get into). after reading many specs, i bought a K5 when it went on sale about two months ago. i also bought the FA 77 limited lens. OMG!!!!! this camera is EVERYTHING the 7d isn’t: lighter, compact, an order of magnitude better image quality then my canon L glass and much easier to manipulate the various camera settings. a month later i added the FA 31 limited and am now in the process of selling ALL of my canon gear. i also use a leica m9 with the 75 f2 lens and for my eyes i often can’t tell the difference in iq between the k5 with 77 limited and the m9 with the 75. if you’re at all on the fence about the k5, jump off the fence and go for it. the only caveat i would add is stick to the FA limited lenses at first; the other pentax lenses generate a small amount of negative reviews but i could not find a single negative review of the FA limited lenses. i plan to add the da* 200 pentax lens once my canon gear is all gone. the da* lenses are all weather and dust resistant and have pretty positive reviews. happy shooting!

  66. Steve,

    Thanks for this! When I bought my K-7 your review had a lot to do with it and I haven’t regretted it for one moment.

    With all best wishes for 2011

  67. I just love these non-technical reviews Steve, don’t ever change your format. While I can attest to the greatness of this camera on paper alone, it’s out of my price range. Are you planning on reviewing the K-r at all?

  68. You write in a style that makes reviews enjoyable to read. I’m a Micro Four Thirds shooter myself, but I have a great appreciation for Pentax and what they are trying to achieve. I would not necessarily compare the K-5 to live view cameras like the Ricoh GXR (or the Sony A55, Panasonic GH2,…). I think composing via a live feed from the sensor is fundamentally different than looking through ground glass. The better EVFs have improved so much that I would decide whether an EVF or a traditional OVF would suit me better before deciding on a particular manufacturer and system.

    • Excellent point on the EFV-OFV decision. I’ve used older Lumix EFVs and while they are nice and bright in very dim light, they time lag for processing made manual focus hard if you are used to ground-glass rocking “overshoot” focus technique, of going through sharpest focus, then back to find the mid-point. With a lag in the image this just doesn’t work.
      I assume the newer cameras have much faster processing, but there is bound to be some lag in the EFV image, so I’d think they would still be best for auto-focus, or at least non-action shots.

      • Hey Steve have you tried the wide adapter for the NEX 16mm pancake lens, I picked one up last week, pretty good fun and it seems to hold the image quality

        • I would also be interested to know this – I know that Steve isn’t really an ultra-wide shooter, but the Sony Ultra-Wide Adaptor does look interesting to me, takes the NEX cameras to around 12mm (18mm equiv) I believe. Also, I’m interested to know if the Ultra-Wide Adaptor still has a 49mm screw as I enjoy shooting with polarisers and ND, and also the vignetting repercussions.

          • You can’t screw filters on to the wide adapter which is a pity, also with the adapter it takes the FoV down to 16mm in 35mm terms.

  69. Fantastic review once again, Steve! What a wonderful DSLR without the Canon or Nikon branded logo on its forehead. =D

    Thank you~


  70. Great review Steve. I picked up a K7 last spring over a D300s or a 7D partly based on your review and the fact that I’ve been a Pentax film SLR shooter since the early 80’s and was looking to get a DSLR. Last fall I picked up the three FA Limited lenses (31, 43 & 77) and love using them on both my K7 and my old Pentax LX. I can pack those two bodies and 3 lenses in a very small Domke bag plus my trusty, go everywhere Ricoh GRD3 and be set for full day’s shooting!

  71. Steve… oh you know I’ve been waiting for this review and it doesn’t make my decision any easier!
    I have really come to like my K-x with Limited lenses (though I went with the 40 and 70)… and I know the K-5 would be an upgrade… you *know* I want weather-sealed!

    However, there is ONE big negative with the K-5 that has been holding me back from jumping. Anyone who knows me is going to think I’m a broken record at this point…

    NO MANUAL CONTROLS in video mode. This a big flaw. I know you focus on photography and for *that* I would buy the K-5 without hesitation. However, I’ve started to get a little into video lately and realize how big a deal it is to have full manual controls in video mode.

    I would make the bold statement that the K-5 has some industry-leading image stabilization/shake reduction in their video mode. We KNOW the new K-5 has top-of-the-class dynamic range and awesome low-light performance. If it had full manual control in video mode it could be competing with the big boys right now! It’s such a shame and FRUSTRATES ME to no end…

    I’m left deciding between the GH2 and K-5. I already bought the adaptor to try those great pancake lenses on a m4/3 body (my EP2 and hubby’s GH1). I’ve been baffled over what to do because of this one big missing feature on the K-5 body.

    Enjoyed your review none-the-less, though it hasn’t made my decision easier! LOL

    • Hey Amy, thanks for reading! When you say full manual in video mode you are referring to choosing the aperture and shutter speed manually? I can see where that would be a plus, you are correct. To be honest, I was so happy with just shooting in Aperture priority and choosing my aperture manually that I did not even think about having FULL manual for video. I guess if they did that it really would be a perfect APS-C DSLR 🙂

      • Shutter speed and ISO are not selectable at all in video mode. There are some clumsy work-arounds, but the K5 doesn’t even display what setting it’s at in video mode (other than aperture). Is it a big deal for most people? On the K-x I’d say no… it’s an entry-level DSLR and anyone using it for quick videos probably wouldn’t care. But in the K5, which is more a “pro” level body, a lot of users would like to get the most out of the video they shoot with it, and the only way to do that is to be able to set aperture, shutter speed and ISO.

        • Hey Amy, just a curious question, since you are into video on DSLRs, wouldn’t the contstant exposure to light to the sensor during video recording shorten its life?
          E.g. rather than the 1/250th of a second for 1 frame for which the sensor is exposed to. You’d take a photo say once in 5 minutes.
          In 5 minutes of shooting a video, you are exposing the sensor for 1/250th of a second multiplied by 30 frames a second, for 300 seconds = 36 seconds of light exposure to the sensor, in 5 minutes rather than 1/250th for just taking a photograph.

        • Oh nooo… this is one of the main reasons I intend to buy this camera (the Canon 5D Mark II is simply out of my reach). This is so frustrating! Does it have a manual/automatic “brightess” feature of some sort? Can you use manual aperture lenses in video? Do you know what shutter speeds are attainable?

  72. Great review Steve! As always, its refreshing to see someone actually take pictures and show what a camera can do rather than write endless technical data facts. The pictures at high ISO are really impressive!!! Much appreciated!

  73. Nice review and photos! One error I picked up though, on the high-iso samples of the Aveeno bottle, the first is labeled at 6400 but is actually only at 1600 according to exif date. I am sure it’s a mere typo, but wanted to point that out.


  74. Nice review Steve, Thanks!
    The K5 is about the only DSLR I’d consider, but it still seems to have too much “fluff” complicating it. That’s why I finally bought the M9: I can select manual ISO and use it just like a film camera with easy manual focus and “match needle” exposure that makes compensating exposure more natural than any DSLR I’ve seen.
    Because many of us old-timers still have collections of the excellent Pentax manual-focus film lenses, I’d like to see a review that evaluates how easy the K5 is to use with them, using both manual focus and exposure. Even with the APS sensor the old 20, 24, 28 etc. lenses should provide good range, and the 28 f2 and 35 f2 “M” versions would be interesting “normal” lenses – IF the K5 would get out of the way and make using them easy. The old 85 f2 is also one of my favorite lenses, so a 50 f1.4 might be equivalent on APS format.
    The K5 is still huge compared to an MX (or even a Spotmatic), but is probably as close as we’ll see to a digital replacement for them. But without a review that evaluates one the way I would – by turning off the fluff and using it like a film SLR – I’ll stick with film for SLR applications.

    • I have a K7 and use my old manual focus lenses from the 80’s on it quite often (when I’m not shooting my LX or ME Super). The thing I really like about the K7, and I assume this is true of the K5 as well, is you don’t need to fiddle with the menus once you’ve set the camera up to your liking. I’ve found that it’s not all that different from shooting my LX, other than using the aperture ring vs. a dial on the body. The K7 can do stop down metering for use with old M lenses too (I have are A lenses, so haven’t needed to try this).

      • Thanks, that’s a helpful response! I’ve had a couple of the “A” lenses, but the lens lines cheapened with each new model, and the feel of the controls bothered me. The “M” lenses still kept nice feel. My favorite were the Super Takumar screw mount, that even feel better than many Leica lenses. (Too expensive to make for Asahi however.) I also use an LX, but prefer the MX handling. Lately I’ve gone back to a non-metered H1a, and somehow like the results better. The more frills (even adding a light meter) distract from my results!
        I’ll have to test a K5 and see how it will do.

    • Thanks for reading! You can also select manual ISO and exposure on the K5 (in M mode) and using it with manual focus very easy. The limited primes MF very smooth and nice. But no DSLR will replace the M 🙂

  75. One bad thi g about it: no manual controls for video. Pentax are you listening? We need those! Aside from that, this and the Canon 7D are probably the best APSCs ever, and personally I like small, dense, Pentax bodies better. The 43 ltd is an awesome lens indeed.

    • Just updated the last part of the review with this info. Seeing that I am not so much a video guy I was happy as a clam with just shooting in A mode for video 🙂 I can say that this is some of the best (quality) video I have seen with any DSLR I have shot with to date, and its a bit cheaper than a 5DII.

  76. Great review as always Steve! Now i have to convince my wife to sell the Canon gear and get he Pentax again, i had couple of them K20d and K100d super.

  77. Thanks for the great review. I follow your site regularly. You should offer readers the opportunity to contribute to the site directly.

    I’m a lifelong Leica/Nikon user. I was heading to Key West for Christmas with our family and dreading carrying a full frame Nikon along with an M9. So I bought a K5 and the 35mm/f2.8 Macro.

    I used the macro feature of this lens and also used it as a 50mm eqivalent on the streets. The K5 performed well in some salt mist that I would not dare expose an M9 to.

    My testing suggests that the K5 outperforms my neighbor’s D300s somewhat in terms of sharpness at the raw level. I never shoot jpegs. Having a modest macro capability in a 50mm equivalent lens is very desireable for me. No matter what Leica says, no matter how hard one tries, 90mm+eyes, macro and a Leica rangefinder isn’t happening.

    The K5 will be my first non Leica/Nikon keeper in over 30 years.

  78. Steve – I think the Pentax K5 is the DSLR for Leica lovers !!

    I simply LOVE my K5. I ditched a Nikon rig with a lot of large, fast zooms to go for K5 and some tiny pancake primes.

    The high ISO performance is amazing. The K5 also seems to have a bit extra dynamic range – preserving more highlight and shadow detail.

    With its tiny little pancake lenses, a K5 can slip into a small bag with 3 small lenses and you are done. In this respect, you can shoot the K5 with the same kind of philosophy as you would a Leica, aided by the K5’s really quiet shutter.

    In this respect, the K5 is THE stealth DSLR. It is perfect for travel photography and when you have it you do not attract the same kind of attention you do with a large Canon/Nikon and large zoom.

    There are things a DSLR can do better than a Leica. For me, the K5 is a revelation.

    One last thing – the 43mm lens is sweet but you are right, it is a little too long. Try it with the 21mm DA – it is so small and with an equivalent of 31mm on 35mm, it is close to being the perfect walk around length. It is a bit slow, but with the high ISO performance of the K5 this does’nt really matter.

    Get a K5 outfit , Steve. It is the DSLR for Leica-style shooting !!

  79. Great review Steve. I came up with Pentax (K1000, ME-Super, Super-A), but when the whole world went AF, they lagged behind and I changed to Canon. Still, it’s good to know that they’re back. If I were starting from scratch and considering a crop sensor, I’d seriously look at Pentax.

  80. Loving the sound of this Steve. Seems a great camera for sure. Got me thinking though… weather sealing for the next Leica M? Pentax are onto something here and Leica would do well to take note. Shooting in England as I do there is a lot of inclement weather to deal with. When I shoot film (which is most of the time) this is no problem but for digital (I use a D700) I always get a bit nervous shooting in the rain. The K-5 would solve that very nicely. Of course, a weather sealed M 10 would also! 😉

  81. Great review. I personally prefer the Nikon D7000 but if your not invested in lens’ already it’d be a tough call.

    Also I know these are just taken as sample shots, but there are some really great photos here. Really well taken Steve, it shows how much you enjoyed using this camera!

  82. Thank you for this great review!
    Makes me even more happier with my K-5 then i was 😉
    Regards from Holland!


  83. Your review of the Pentax kx last year motivated me to go out and buy one. I had not used a reflex camera for many, many years; not since the 80’s really! That KX purchase re-kindled an old passion for photography of mine that I had forgotten I ever had. My only two regrets about the KX is that that its ergonomics are not optimised for those who prefer working with a camera in manual mode and it’s not weather sealed. The KX is still a wonderful photographic tool though and I have loved using it. Your excellent review of the K5 here Steve has convinced me that this new Pentax is exactly the camera that I need to take my photography further. Smallness is essential to me, since I need a camera for my travels abroad and weather sealing is a great plus – I took my KX out in a snow storm recently to take pictures. The camera survived the ordeal and I got a few decent pictures, but I struggled to keep the snow and water off the camera. I know I could have taken so many more and better pictures had the camera been weather sealed. Well Steve, you’ve got me saving up for the K5! Many thanks for this review and for bringing passion back into photography! 🙂

  84. Steve, thanks for the review. Enjoyed the photos very much. Would love to get a K5. Plus, those fast small Pentax primes are so cool looking! Too bad I already picked up an A55 (thanks in part to your A33 review), which by the way, I am totally loving so far! Super fast AF and awesome EVF. Like you, after spending the last year with rangefinders and mirrorless cameras, I am surprised at how much I’ve been enjoying using the A55. May even sell the M9.


        • Totally different – OVF vs EVF. The K5 VF is bright and plenty big. It’s a good thing when it doesn’t draw attention to itself, meaning…if it were small or narrow I would have noticed 🙂

          • Last question, I promise (yeah right). Is the K5 about the same size as the A33? I’m sure it’s heavier thanks to it’s much sturdier and weatherproof built. But size wise, are they about the same? Thanks!

  85. Thanks for yet another amazing review. I’m right there on the edge of buying the K5 now as an upgrade over my Nikon D90 but still not sure if it’s small enough for me. I would have liked to have a faster wide angle prime also.

    • There are the 24/2 and 28/2 if you want something wider but still fast. There are are probably other non-Pentax lenses too, I know the Zeiss K-mount lenses are meant to be great 🙂

    • @Stefan The K-5 is actually about the same size as the D90. Where you’d notice the difference between the two cameras is the K-5 is a bit heavier and much more solidly built.

      I agree with you about the need for more fast wides, and I’m hoping Pentax brings one out this year. For now, I’d recommend the Pentax DA21 mm f/3.2 Limited and Pentax FA*24 mm f/2 as good fast wide options. The FA*24 has been discontinued but is fairly easy to find used. There are also wide options available from Zeiss and Voightlander (although they are discontinued as well and manual focus) and Sigma.

    • Pentax DA14/2,8 is a great wide angle prime. I also like my FA*24/2 a lot, but that is not available new anymore. DA21 as newer alternative is small but not as fast… FA31, Da35’s and FA35 are not wide on digital anymore…

  86. Great review – I love Pentax – every camera I’ve ever had, be it film or digital has been either a Pentax or a Sony and I really enjoy seeing them do well. With the release of the K-x, which I owned and only recently traded in to buy a NEX-3, Pentax really started to come into its own in the consumer DSLR market and I really hope they release a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera soon, as I imagine it would be amazing, especially considering it already has “pancake” lenses available. There’s really no camera manufacturer that has yet released a micro camera with full compatibility with it’s previous lenses without an adaptor, but I think Pentax could be huge if it releases a K-mount micro camera, with compatibility all the way back to the 70s – that would be fantastic!

    Again, great review Steve. Keep up the good work you lucky so and so 😉

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