Pentax K-70 Review

Introduction

The Pentax K-70 represents a return to classic SLR design and feel. Released in the spring of 2016, it’s one of Pentax’s latest mid-range DSLRs. And it officially replaces the previously released K-50. Pentax is known for jam-packing their release and over delivering on cameras. And this camera surely aims to continue the suit, promising a far refined feature set compared to rivals at this price.

Most notably, it delivers full weather sealing, a faster shutter, a high-resolution multi-shot mode, and a full-size viewfinder. On paper, it even borrows several highlight features from their flagship K1. And with this camera, Pentax is coming out the gates swinging with a feature-rich yet affordable entry into the SLR segment.

They aim this mid-range DSLR at enthusiasts looking for a semi-professional, yet affordable option. And it’s also a camera they aim to compete with Nikon’s D5500 and Canon’s T6i. However, Pentax holds a rather small market share in the current SLR segment, is this release enough to change that? Let’s find out.

pentax-k-70-camera-specs

 

What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Pentax K-70? 

Pros:

Image Quality

It features a brand new 24.2MP CMOS sensor without an Anti-Aliasing filter and the PRIME M II processor. This combination delivers better performance than the K3 II and K-S2. Considering this is the first Pentax mid-range camera to debut a 24MP sensor, the image quality this camera produces is excellent for the class. Images are sharp, well-exposed, with natural color rendering. And the removal of the aliasing filter makes JPEG sharpening counterproductive and undeeded. The camera’s 14-bit DNG files also provided excellent dynamic range, with well-controlled noise and sharpness during post-processing. Overall,the  image quality is excellent and is arguably the best in the current Pentax lineup, even outdoing the previous K3 II.

The camera offers the Clarity Control Function, an image-processing tool that adjusts the clarity of images in-camera.

It obtains the Skin Tone Correction Function, which helps soften skin textures and tones.

It offers continuous shooting speeds of 6 frames per second, a steady improvement over the K-S2’s 5.4 fps maximum. The buffer depth is also excellent. And the camera can capture 40 JPEGs or 10 RAW images before buffering, making it a capable option for moderate sports.

 

 

Video Quality

It shoots 1080p full HD video up to 30 frames per second to the MOV format using the MPEG-4 codec. And overall, this camera’s video capabilities offer only a modest improvement over the K-S2. In this case, Pentax has added the 60 fps recording frame rate in the Interlace format. And the camera offers a flat picture profile, which lends itself to easier post-processing. The video on this camera comes with several notable drawbacks; we will cover these in the cons section below.

It has zebras for exposure warning indication.

Low Light Performance

Low light performance has improved over the K-S2 and the predecessor, by as much as one stop. It features a native ISO range from ISO 100 to 102,400. And users can expect usable photos up to ISO 6,400 or 12,800 with minor post-processing.

Focusing Performance

The camera uses an 11-point AF system when composing through the viewfinder, with 9 higher-end cross-type compatible points. It also uses the SAFOX X metering system, which provides AF support a -3EV, a similar overall setup as the K-S2. Overall, the autofocusing performance is excellent at point to point focusing. The focusing performance also excels as advertised when shooting indoors or in low light. But, the system pales compared to rivals at tracking—more on this in the con section.

It is, however, the first Pentax camera of any kind to obtain the new on-chip phase-detection AF system. This gives the camera hybrid autofocus for both Live View and video recording. In theory, this would deliver more accurate live view performance, but it’s not quite that simple.

The camera also offers manual focus peaking and focus magnification if you prefer manually focusing.

Display & Viewfinder

It features a 3.0-inch vari-angle LCD with a resolution of 921K dots, the same setup as the K-S2. And the screen can articulate 180º either forward or backward. A fully articulating screen is the ideal choice for a display, as it provides the most versatility when shooting. The screen itself is reasonably sharp, detail, and bright enough to use outdoors. Considering its Penxtax’s second attempt at this type of display, it plenty durable and well-designed.

The display also incorporates a unique feature from the K-1. In this case, the Outdoor View Setting, which brightens or dims the screen for more comfortable viewing. It also brings a new one of its own, the Night Vision Display setting, which inverts the display to a black and red scheme suited to shooting in the dark. This is quite a rare feature, but it’s perfect for astrophotographers, as it reduces the screen’s light spill when shooting.

The camera also uses a pentaprism optical viewfinder with a large 0.95x magnification and 100% coverage of the imaging area. This viewfinder configuration is typically only found on high-end DSLRs, such as the Pentax flagship. And for this reason, it’s the current leader of the mid-range class in this regard. And the best it gets in the APS-C realm. The viewing experience it provides is excellent. The image is large, bright, sharp, and clear.  And it’s quite surprising to see such a high-end setup on a mid-range camera.

User Interface

The camera uses standard Pentax user interface and menus, which remain mostly clear and well-organized. They’re updated from the K-S2, with sleeker and more appeal fonts and icons. But, in general, they’re a bit old fashioned in aesthetics and design. Nevertheless, they’re functional, and new users will find them reasonably intuitive and quickly mastered.

It offers three user-defined presets on the Mode Dial, U1-U3. These allow you to recall three shooting setups, a nice change over the K-S2, which only provides two.

The camera offers excellent physical customization, allowing users to tailor it to their style. It provides two function buttons, FX1 and FX2. And in total, ten buttons are fully customizable.

It offers the INFO button, which recalls the customizable Control Panel. This menu allows you quick access to a variety of shortcuts and standard camera settings it offers.

It has the Memory Menu, a rare addition that remembers and recalls settings after the camera’s powered down.

Physical Layout & Ergonomics

It sports classic SLR design and ergonomics. Pentax built this camera from a robust polycarbonate construction that affords the camera full weather sealing. While not the full magnesium alloy chassis of the K-3 II, it’s a notable improvement in build over the K-S2. Plus, it offers outstanding cold-proof performance to withstand temperatures down to -10ºC. And in this regard, it’s by far the most rugged SLR in its class, making it a leader here. Overall, it feels quite substantial and well-built. Yet, it’s relatively small for a DSLR, at only 628g body alone.

Pentax is known for handling and ergonomics, and this camera isn’t any different. It provides excellent ergonomics with a large comfortable grip, covered with a rubber coating for extra security. And it offers ample room to purchase with minimal hand fatigue during prolonged use.

The button placement follows traditional DSLR logic, and it’s well-executed. It’s not as complex as higher-end DSLRs but delivers the same functionality. And Pentax resculpted several to make them more pronounced and easier to reach.

It has two adjustments (e-dials) to control shutter speed and aperture, a rare feature for this class.

Niche Features/Extras

It has a built-in pop-up flash.

It has a microphone input.

It has a dual-axis electronic level.

It obtains the built-in 5-axis stabilization system from the K1, which is rated for 4.5 stops. In performance, this new Shake Reduction system outdoes the K-S2 by a stop. And it allows you to shoot confidently at shutter speeds of 1/10 second.

It obtains the Pixel Shift Resolution Mode from the K-3 II and K-1. This mode provides incredibly high resolution by shifting the sensor slightly between four exposures. It then combines these in-camera for a single high-res image, which increases both color accuracy and dynamic range. It does a fantastic job and easily matches the equivalent modes of Panasonic and Olympus. Pentax has also included a Motion Correction option, which corrects subtle movements between the exposures.

It has a full array of compensation features, included distortion, vignette, and chromatic aberration correction.

It has AF fine adjustment.

It has a Dust Removal mechanism, which shakes the sensor to prevent dust from appearing on images.

It offers the Interval Composite Mode, which lets you composite images from a time-lapse with three synthesis modes.

It has Auto Horizon Correction, which automatically rotates the sensor to compensate for the horizontal tilt.

It has the Star Stream Movie Mode, which records traces of stars as a 4K movie file.

It has a 4K Interval Movie Mode, which records a 4K time-lapse movie. The camera also offers a built-in intervalometer for manual time-lapses.

It has a built-in HDR, along with the K-S2’s Advanced HDR (A-HDR).

It has a Bulb Timer Function, helpful for shooting long exposures.

It offers extensive in-camera processing, where you can crop, rotate, scale, convert, and do much more to images.

It has built-in Wi-Fi, allowing you to transfer photos and remotely control the camera wirelessly via the Image Sync app.

It has a unique Anti-Aliasing Filter Simulator, which reduces the presence of moiré artifacts. This feature is found only on Pentax cameras, but it does well to remove this artifact from certain scenes.

It has multi-exposures.

Cons:

Video Capabilities

Video on this camera as a whole is average. The footage is quite soft compared to rivals. And it also suffers from moiré and aliasing artifacts when recording in scenes with sharp contrasting lines. Plus, the footage is heavily compressed, making it appear muddy-looking. Overall, the video capabilities are rather unimpressive for a modern DSLR.

It only shoots 60 fps at 1080p in the lower Interlaced format, which doesn’t provide the same detail as the Progressive format.

It lacks 4K UHD, true 1080p 60p and 120p video.

The camera also disables the 5-axis stabilization system during video recordings, like the K-1. And, instead, it defaults to an electronic stabilization system, which causes warping and other artifacts.

The camera lacks a clean HDMI output, which means it’s not suitable for external recorders or live streaming.

Video recordings limit at 25 minutes, not the industry standard 29 minutes and 59 seconds.

The camera also stops recording when the video reaches 4 GB in size.

Autofocus Performance

When composing through the viewfinder, the camera uses a basic 11-point AF system. Comparatively, the D5500 uses 39 points and the T6i 19 points. And this system clusters these points around the center of the frame. Overall, it’s not ideal for tracking sports and action. And it’s best reserved for slower scenes.

While Pentax has improved the camera’s Live View system with this iteration, it’s just not usable. The camera loses focus on subjects easily and desperately tries to track something else, often missing entirely. Performance remains equally as bad even when filming static subjects. And, overall, continuous AF in Live View should be avoided. Instead, use single-shot AF and direct focus. Otherwise, manually focusing on this camera for Live View shooting is recommended.

Battery Life

Battery life is miserable. Pentax rates its D-LI109 battery at 480 shots per charge, which is far below average for a mid-range DSLR in this class.

Display

The rear screen it’s a touchscreen.

Ergonomics

The camera’s grip is rather large. And while it keeps your fingers free and clear from the buttons, it’s quite uncomfortable if you have small or medium-sized hands. You’ll have to hold the camera quite tight for security to avoid potential drops, which eventually causes cramping.

Lacking Features

It lacks the Sensor Composition Shift Mode from the K-1.

It lacks the MTF setting from the K1.

It lacks built-in GPS. If you want this feature, you’ll have to purchase the O-GPS1 unit. And it also lacks the NFC connectivity of the K-S2.

It uses the slower USB 2.0 format, which means file transfer is rather slow.

It lacks an electronic shutter.

Is this a good beginner camera?

Yes.

It’s an excellent beginner’s camera for the price. And one that carries a high-end feature set from the K-S2, but goes a step above with better ergonomics and customization. Given the options, it’s also one of the better options available to date for a mid-range DSLR in overall versatility. And it goes several steps above the standards in this segment of the market. For this reason, it’s an excellent starting platform and one that provides long-term growth.

What are the best lenses & bundles for the Pentax K-70?

GPS unit: 

PENTAX GPS UNIT O-GPS

General Photography: 

Pentax 17-70mm f/4 DA SMC AL IF SDM
Pentax 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 ED AL
Pentax 16-50mm f/2.8 ED AL IF SDM

Macro Photography:

Pentax DA 35mm f/2.8 Macro 35-35mm
Pentax 100mm f/2.8 WR D FA

Landscape & Astrophotography Photography:

PENTAX-DA11-18mmF2.8ED DC AW

Portrait Photography:

Pentax DA 35mm f/2.8 Macro 35-35mm
Pentax DA 50mm f1.8
Pentax SMCP-FA 77mm f/1.8

Sports & Wildlife Photography:

Pentax HD DA 55-300mm f/4-5.8 ED WR
pentax DA 200mm f/2.8 ED IF SDM

Product & Still Life Photography:

Pentax SMCP-FA 77mm f/1.8

Extra Batteries:

DLI109 Lith-ion Battery

SD Cards:

SanDisk Extreme PRO 32GB
SanDisk Extreme PRO 64GB 
SanDisk Extreme PRO 128GB

Tripods & Gimbals:

Manfrotto Compact Action Aluminum 5-Section Tripod

Microphones & External Recorders:

Rode VideoMicPro

Is this a good camera for you?

Yes.

It makes an excellent choice for landscape, architectural, or night photographers. It delivers ample flexibility in dynamic range and performs admirably during post-processing. And for this reason, it’s a reliable choice for these mediums.

For videographers, however, look elsewhere. There are better options at this price point for a video camera. The footage is too soft, and the camera doesn’t offer enough video-centric features.The specs and capabilities offered are barely adequate to today’s standards. It’s nice to see them moving towards adding video features, but they’re far behind rivals. And it’s clear Pentax doesn’t aim this camera at videographers.

Given its current price and feature set, it’s an excellent alternative to the Pentax KP, mainly if you prefer a fully articulating screen.

While not explicitly designed for sports, wildlife, or journalism, it’s reasonably capable with its 6 fps burst speed and deep buffer. The only issue is the AF tracking. But, if you muster the skill set, it’s capable.

It’s a true successor and a substantial one at that over the K-50. Users looking at the K-50 should seriously consider this camera instead.

Those looking at the K-S2 should also consider this camera instead. With improvements to ergonomics, imaging, and the user interface, it’s the superior choice for new users to the ecosystem.

In the end, Pentax’s K-70 delivers a powerful feature set, given its apparent entry-level price point. And in many ways, it makes several other cameras in their lineup obsolete since it simply offers better value. This is a camera that, overall, punches far above its weight class. And in some regards, even outperforms the K-3 II. And quite frankly, if you don’t need the larger full-frame sensor from the K-1, it’s also a better option for similar enough quality at an affordable price.

If you don’t need blazing fast autofocusing performance or robust video capabilities, this is a very confident camera. And, arguably, one of the top options in the entry-level segment. It provides best-in-class image quality that rivals full-frame models twice the price. And if you’re looking for the best image quality possible from a DSLR in this segment, it’s one to consider. Plus, with weather sealing and a best-in-class viewfinder, it goes above and beyond this segment’s expectations. Poor autofocus and weak video aside, it delivers fantastic value. And it stands as the finest midrange camera Pentax has released to date.

Overview
  • Image Quality
  • Video Quality
  • Focusing Performance
  • Low Light Performance
  • Dynamic Range
  • Battery Performance
  • Display & Viewfinder
  • User Interface
  • Physical Layout & Ergonomics
3.4