Pentax Announces the K-3 Mark III 26MP Flagship APS-C DSLR

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One of the things we love about Pentax is that this company wears a love for photography on its proverbial sleeve. A recent video introduction to its new flagship Pentax K-3 Mark III DSLR starts with a simple affirmation of the core Pentax principles, citing a devotion to the photographic process and the user experience that goes beyond a sheer sales pitch. It is something to be valued, and this devotion is evident in Pentax cameras, including its latest DSLR model, which on the inside is a substantial redesign of the previous K-3 Mark II, introduced in 2015. Now that Pentax has its full-frame DSLR, this new model is built with APS-C shooters specifically in mind and its impressive specs and features bear that out, down to the details. The K-3 Mark III is available in silver and black models and also as a kit, including the D-BG8 battery grip, a leather strap, and a second battery.

Let’s start with the 25.7MP BSI CMOS sensor and new shutter mechanism that can shoot up to 12 frames per second, and the newly designed optical viewfinder that provides a full-frame angle of view. The K-3 Mark III’s back-illuminated high-resolution sensor is paired with Pentax’s well-established anti-aliasing optical system and the PRIME V image processor for sharper images and a high sensitivity of ISO 1600000. Consider those specs for fast action and wildlife photography!

Image Stabilization, Autofocus, and Artificial Intelligence

Pentax has updated its in-body 5-axis image-stabilization system to 5.5-equivalent shutter-step compensation and added a Panning mode to capture slow-moving subjects more efficiently. Having its shake-reduction system in the camera body provides stabilization for any K-mount lens. The K-3 Mark III also includes the Pixel-Shift Resolution System, which creates super-high-resolution images by synthesizing four images into a single composite image. This system obtains all color data in each pixel and delivers images with more truthful colors and much finer details. This camera also features a newly developed SAFOX 13 phase-matching AF sensor module for less focus hunting and precise autofocus operations. With 101 focus sensors, including 25 cross-type sensors positioned in the middle of the frame, focus is achieved quickly, even in less-than-optimal lighting conditions.

Adding to the benefits for wildlife and action photographers, the K-3 Mark III offers the PENTAX Real-time Scene Analysis System, supported by the latest Deep Learning artificial intelligence technology. This system instantly detects the subject’s face and eyes and makes real-time analysis of their movement, optimizing exposure settings and improving autofocusing.

Optical Viewfinder

While developing this camera, Pentax has made clear that a redesign of the optical viewfinder is fundamental to this new model and is a key to improving the overall APS-C shooting experience. The K-3 Mark III provides an OVF with a nearly 100-percent field of view, a viewing angle as wide as that of a full-frame camera, and 1.05x magnification. A newly developed, high-refraction glass prism assures improved magnification, and by using distortion-correcting optical elements and optimizing the lens coatings, it delivers a distortion-free, “true-to-life” image, with brightness improved by nearly 10 percent over the Mark II’s viewfinder. The viewfinder eyepiece is designed to protrude away from the LCD monitor screen and, positioned at the bottom of the eyepiece is a sensor, which turns the LCD monitor off the moment the photographer looks into the viewfinder.

Touchscreen LCD

For the first time in a Pentax K-mount camera, the K-3 Mark III incorporates a touchscreen LCD monitor, providing intuitive operation of menu selection and image zooming during playback. The high-definition, 3.2" LCD monitor with approximately 1,620,000 pixels features gapless construction, in which a special resin material is injected between LCD layers and a protective tempered-glass cover, reducing reflections and improving visibility during outdoor shooting. Also, its Night Vision LCD Display function offers speedy adjustment of the monitor’s brightness level.

Smooth Shutter and High-Speed Continuous Shooting

As mentioned, the new Pentax K-3 Mark III is designed to improve the overall APS-C photography experience and, to that goal, the camera offers a newly developed mirror-driving mechanism for faster and more accurate control of the mirror and shutter mechanisms. This development, combined with the high-speed data transmission of the PRIME V imaging engine, enables a maximum speed of 12 images per second in the AF.S mode, or 11 images per second in the AF.C mode.

Other features that benefit photographers needing fast control of their settings are the Hyper Operation System, with a new Advanced mode for more flexible exposure control; the dedicated Smart Function button, for speedy selection of various functions without the need of switching on-screen menus; and the Button Customization function for 10 different control buttons. Of course, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (Wireless LAN) are built in for connection with mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, and remote-control functions.

Video

The K-3 Mark III captures 4K-resolution video (3840 x 2160 pixels; 30p/24p frame rate) or Full HD movie clips (1920 x 1080 pixels; 60p/30p/24p frame rate) in the H-264 recording format. The LCD’s touchscreen functionality enables easy and silent settings adjustment, and a stereo microphone input and headphone jack input are provided, as is manual control of audio levels.

Compact and Rugged

Pentax DSLRs have consistently proved to be among the “toughest,” best weather-sealed cameras available and the latest K-3 is no exception—its top, bottom, front, and rear panels are all made of lightweight magnesium alloy, coupled with dustproof, weather-resistant construction and seals applied to crucial parts of the camera body. The camera is designed to be extremely durable even in harsh environmental conditions, including cold-resistant performance to a temperature of -10°C and a dependable shutter unit—verified in an endurance test of 300,000 shutter-release actions.

The camera’s compact form factor also adheres to the Pentax mission of a dependable user experience, with an ergonomic grip and easily accessed buttons and dials. Dual SD-card slots and compatibility with the lengthy list of new and vintage K-mount lenses are just two other advantages of this new flagship APS-C DSLR, which clearly represents the Pentax commitment to the DSLR and the APS-C format.

Use the Comments section below to let us know if this camera meets the expectations of the many Pentax photographers who have eagerly awaited its release, and any other thoughts you have on APS-C DSLRs for wildlife and action photography.

Photo By Kerrick James
Photo By Kerrick James
Photo By Kerrick James
Photo By Kerrick James
Photo By Kerrick James
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10 Comments

 I'm debating between the K-1 Mark II full frame and the K-3 mark III.  As a photographer who mainly loves nature and animal / bird photography, and following the new data I saw of the K-3 mark III, do you think there is an advantage to my needs in the new camera?.  And does the figure of 36.4mp in k-1 compared to 26mp not play a role?

Both cameras you list above would have their benefits, so it would mainly depend on how you will be using the camera and the final use of your images as to which may be a good fit for you.  First off, do note that both cameras may be used for nature/landscape photography and bird/animal photography.
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The main differences between the two cameras for your planned usage would be the Pentax K-1 Mark II has a full-frame sensor and higher image resolution and larger individual pixels, making the camera better for both printing large images or cropping in tight on an image during post-processing, and at shooting in low-lighting conditions.  While the Pentax K-3 Mark III has a higher maximum ISO range, making it more sensitive in low lighting, the K-1 Mark II's larger pixels would be more efficient at gathering light and should have better performance in terms of digital noise.  The Pentax K-1 Mark II also has LED lights on the body that may illuminate in dark conditions, and you have the ability to your an Android or Apple iOS smartphone/tablet as a wireless remote to control your camera's settings and trigger the camera's shutter.  If you regularly print images larger than 12x18" or 11x17" at 300 DPI, or 20x30" prints at 200 DPI without interpolating your image file, then the larger pixel size of the K-1 Mark II would be beneficial.

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The main benefits of the Pentax K-3 Mark III would be the camera as more focus points (101 vs 33), faster continuous burst shooting speed at 12 frames per second (compared to 4.4 fps on the K-1 Mark II), and better battery life per charge, as well as the ability to focus in dimmer light due to its improved focus sensitivity.  There are other advantages such as lighter weight, a LCD touchscreen which has higher screen resolution, 4K video, and built-in Bluetooth connectivity.  Also, as the camera uses the smaller APS-C sensor, there is a 1.5x crop factor compared to the full-frame K-1 Mark II, so a lens used on the K-3 Mark III will appear to have a focal length 1.5x longer than the same lens used on the K-1 Mark II.  This will make it appear that you are closer to the birds/animals you wish to photograph compared to using the same lens on the full-frame K-1 Mark II.  That added with the 12 frames per second continuous burst shooting speed would make this an excellent camera for photographing birds in flight or fast-moving land animals.  You can still print images up to 12x18" or 11x17" at 300 DPI, or 20x30" prints at 200 DPI without interpolating your image file​, but larger prints would require interpolation to retain photo quality (though many programs such as Adobe Photoshop or On1 Resize).  If you will only be sharing your images online or printing smaller than 11x17", then both cameras have more than enough resolution for these tasks.
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As stated, both cameras will do a good job for your usage needs.  However, you would have to decide if you will be printing large images or cropping in tight and can benefit from the larger resolution and low-light performance from the full-frame K-1 Mark II (which is great for landscapes and nature images), while understanding the camera will have fewer focus points and would have a slower continuous burst shooting speed for action images of birds or animals, or if you instead prefer the autofocus performance and burst shooting speed, improved battery life, and lighter weight of the newer K-3 Mark III, as well as the ability to shoot 4K video.

I am a professional sports photographer for high schools and colleges, as well as an occasional portrait taker. I am very excited to have this new, updated model of the K-3! I am hoping that with this new model, I will see and feel the difference of the improvements. I have been a dedicated Pentax user since the beginning and am frequently mocked by the other sports photographers at events. I am excited to see that I can continue with Pentax DSLR's and not give in the to "other brands". :)  

We applaud you for standing out from the pack and adhering to your personal preferences, Teresa B.! One should always go with the formula that works best for one's way of working. Remember: it's the magician, not the wand. We hope the Mark III brings you all the updated functionality you wish for.

I have a K1ii and K3ii. I pre ordered the K3iii as soon as it was listed. Can't wait to see it in action.

Joe D., we are as enthusiastic about the K-3 Mark III as you are. Please come back to the Comments section here and share your feedback once you have had some time to spend with the new camera.

I shoot the excellent FF Pentax K1 for landscape and street photography, but APS-C makes complete sense for wildlife and sports. The K-3 iii looks ideal for those purposes, with the greatly improved AF.C, high ISO and OVF. This camera is a triumph of function over fashion. I can't wait to take it out in the field.

Thanks Paul... I think you should have written this announcement!  You nailed all the highlights and you're right, it should be a gem for working out in the field.  Thanks for the comment.

Looks fantastic - a slick new design, and the optical viewfinder just makes so much sense, and I get the benefit of new glass and keep the older lenses too. Well done Ricoh Pentax.  Truly a gem of a camera for real photographers!

Thanks for the comment Colin, really appreciate the feedback.

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