Pentax K-70 Review
|Full model name:||Pentax K-70|
(23.5mm x 15.6mm)
|Viewfinder:||Optical / LCD|
|Native ISO:||100 - 102,400|
|Extended ISO:||100 - 102,400|
|Shutter:||1/6000 - 30 seconds|
|Max Aperture:||3.5 (kit lens)|
4.9 x 3.7 x 2.9 in.
(126 x 93 x 74 mm)
includes batteries, kit lens
|Full specs:||Pentax K-70 specifications|
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Ricoh's Pentax brand has made a name for itself by providing enthusiast-grade features at aggressive, entry-level pricing. The Pentax K-70 follows in that tradition and offers an unbelievable amount of camera for very little cash. But that's not to say that it's perfect: We had concerns about its wireless communications and movie autofocus in particular. So should you buy one regardless, or should you look elsewhere for your next DSLR? Find out now in our in-depth Pentax K-70 review!Pros
Huge bang for the buck; Great image quality; Excellent high ISO performance; Fast autofocus; Good burst frame rate with deep buffer; Pentaprism viewfinder; Twin control dials; Articulated LCD; Comprehensive weather-sealing and freeze-proofing; Unbelievable wealth of rare to unique (yet very useful) featuresCons
Wi-Fi wireless communication is slow, clumsy and unintuitive; Video autofocus is prone to hunting or racking focus; Slow buffer clearing; Rather heavy for an entry-level DSLR; Autofocus and metering systems are a bit dated; Below average battery lifePrice and availability
Available since late July 2016, list pricing for the Pentax K-70 is set at about US$650 body-only, or US$900 bundled with an 18-135mm lens. Two body colors are available in the US market -- black or silver, both of which sport black leatherette finish on the handgrip.Imaging Resource rating
4.0 out of 5.0
Pentax K-70 Review
by Mike Tomkins
Preview posted 06/08/2016
06/09/16: Technical Info added
10/15/16: Field Test added
10/31/16: Performance test results added
11/01/16: Image Quality Comparison and Print Quality Analysis added
11/02/16: Conclusion added
For the last couple of years, the entry-level point in Ricoh's DSLR lineup has been occupied by the company's K-S series, first with 2014's K-S1, and later with 2015's followup K-S2. Both cameras featured controversial love-it-or-hate-it styling, but beneath their rather divisive skins you could expect to find unusually comprehensive feature sets. And both also debuted brand-new features for the company's cameras.
That, as we found out in an interview early in 2015, was no mere coincidence. Within Ricoh, the K-S series was seen as a proving ground for new innovations. And these weren't cameras aimed at existing Pentaxians, but rather were designed to bring in users from other brands -- or perhaps those considering stepping up to an interchangeable-lens camera for the first time.
K-S series innovations paired with more grown-up K-series styling
Now, the brand-new Pentax K-70 arrives to take those features into a more mainstream camera, as hinted at by a return to the company's long-running K-* branding. Thanks to more conventional styling and some very worthwhile upgrades, the K-70 appeals not just to the younger crowd who've yet to purchase their first Pentax camera, but also to Pentaxians looking to upgrade from an earlier model.
Gone are the flashing lights of the K-S1, as well as the two-tone body and unusual top-deck materials and textures of the K-S2. In their place, the brand-new body of the Pentax K-70 sports a more mature aesthetic in one of two traditional body colors -- either black or silver. Both variants are wrapped in black leatherette trim, giving the K-70 an altogether more serious look.
A familiar control layout and comprehensive weather-sealing
Although the Pentax K-70 forgoes the more eyecatching aesthetic of the K-S2, the basic control layout is very similar to that camera. The K-70's body is weather-sealed for resistance to rain, snow and dust, just like that of the K-S2 before it, and it's also freezeproof to 14°F (-10°C).
The main controls -- particularly the Mode dial -- have been tweaked for better handling when wearing gloves. (The new Mode dial is both taller, and returns to a diamond-knurled finish that makes for an easier grip when turning the dial.)
The Pentax K-70's new imaging pipeline boasts higher resolution and sensitivity
With the K-70, Ricoh brings its entry-level APS-C cameras right up to date thanks to an overhauled imaging pipeline. Gone is the 20-megapixel sensor of the K-S series cameras, replaced by a 24.24-megapixel sensor that puts the K-70 in the same league as the flagship K-3 and K-3 II siblings, resolution-wise.
As in both the K-3 and K-3 II, the Pentax K-70 also opts for 14-bit readout, instead of the 12-bit readout of its predecessors. And as is par for the course these days, there's no anti-aliasing filter, with Pentax's clever on-demand AA Filter Simulation function instead provided to help combat moiré when needed.
Performance, too, has been improved since the K-S2
Unlike the flagship models, though, the K-70 retains the same PRIME MII image processor which was used in the earlier K-S1 and K-S2. Burst performance was measured in our lab at just a hair over six frames per second, more akin to the 5.4-5.5 fps of the K-S1 and K-S2 than the 8.3 fps of the K-3 and K-3 II.
In one respect, though, the Pentax K-70 bests not only the K-S1 and K-S2, but also both of its flagship APS-C siblings. Where those cameras all topped out at ISO 51,200-equivalent, the K-70 has a maximum sensitivity of ISO 102,400-equivalent.
Finally, on-chip phase-detect and full-time movie AF come to Pentax!
It might not be part of the innovation-oriented K-S series, but as the spiritual successor of the K-S1 and K-S2, the Pentax K-70 boasts other firsts for a Pentax DSLR, too. Perhaps the most exciting of these is a new hybrid autofocus system that, for the first time in a Pentax camera, couples contrast-detection autofocus with on-sensor phase detection pixels.
Although it can be a bit prone to hunting, this change still makes for better and faster autofocus in live view. It also means that for the first time in a Pentax DSLR, the K-70 will offer full-time continuous autofocus during movie capture -- and that's potentially a big deal in a camera aimed at consumer use. (However, it's not as big a deal as it could have been, as we found the K-70's movie AF, too, was too-easily confused and rather prone to hunting.)
Refined aperture-control for movies, too, but no true 4K capture yet
Speaking of movies, there's another intriguing note in the launch of the Pentax K-70: Ricoh tells us that there's a new aperture-control function which, it says, will "automatically assure a proper exposure level even in fluctuating lighting conditions during movie recording". This function only works with one lens at launch -- the simultaneously-announced HD PENTAX-DA 55-300mm F4.5-6.3ED PLM WR RE zoom lens -- but we'd expect to see further Pentax lenses gaining this capability in the future. Sadly, this lens was not available to us during our review of the K-70, and so we've been unable to test it.
As for what the aperture-control function is doing, we're guessing that it allows for automatic aperture changes during video capture as dictated by changes in scene brightness, perhaps if the shutter speed and/or sensitivity stray beyond certain limits. Press materials for the lens itself suggest that aperture control noise is minimal and shouldn't be picked up too much by the K-70's onboard stereo microphone. Hopefully the updated mechanism also allows for more gradual aperture changes to reduce the impact on the recorded video.
Sadly -- but not surprisingly -- there's no native 4K video capture in the Pentax K-70, though. Instead, regular video tops out at 1080p30 or 1080i60 max. (1,920 x 1,080 pixels; 30 frames per second progressive-scan or 60 interleaved fields per second.) Your only option for native 4K video with the K-70 is to shoot a time-lapse video, something Pentax DSLRs have offered for a few years now.
The Pentax K-70 also sports all the sensor-shift goodness we've come to expect
Ricoh has not surprisingly retained its in-body Shake Reduction system for the Pentax K-70, and along with it the raft of clever alternate uses for the system that we've seen in past models. The system is said to have a 4.5-stop corrective strength, which puts it in the same class as the flagship APS-C model, the K-3 II, a fair bit better than the three-stop correction of the K-S2, but not quite as good as the five-stop correction provided in the full-frame Pentax K-1.
As well as helping to fight blur from camera shake, the system is also used to provide for the aforementioned AA Filter Simulation function, and to correct for tilted horizons automatically. It's also used for the detail-boosting, multi-shot Pixel Shift Resolution function which debuted in the Pentax K-3 II, but with the inclusion of the motion correction function which was added in the K-1. This won't allow handheld shots, but should be able to account for moving subjects within the scene. (These won't gain the benefit of added sharpness, but the rest of the frame will.)
And if you own the company's optional O-GPS1 accessory, the Pentax K-70 will also be able to freeze star trails, too.
The K-70 uses a brand-new cable-switch for remote shutter release
Speaking of optional accessories, there's a brand-new one being offered alongside the Pentax K-70. The CS-310 Cable Switch is the only wired cable release compatible with this camera, and it connects using the built-in microphone jack on the left side of the camera body. It has a one meter-long cable, and offers an alternative to using an infrared remote control or capturing via Wi-Fi from your smartphone. This, again, was not available to test during our review of the camera, unfortunately.
Many other Pentax K-70 features carry over from the K-S2
There are certainly plenty of new or updated features in the Pentax K-70, but a fair few also carry through unchanged from the preceding K-S2 model. These include the near-100% glass pentaprism viewfinder with 0.95x magnification, a side-mounted tilt/swivel LCD monitor, and a SAFOX X phase-detect autofocus system with 11 points, of which nine are cross-types. Also retained are the 77-segment metering system, top shutter speed of 1/6,000-second, and built-in Wi-Fi wireless networking to put images on your phone as quickly as possible.
Pentax K-70 Field Test
Mid-range features, entry-level price: Is this your next DSLR?
I've been a big fan of Pentax's cameras for the best part of a decade now, ever since the launch of the flagship Pentax K-7 all the way back in early 2009. After my review of that camera, I bought into the Pentax brand myself, jumping ship from Canon and replacing my gear with Pentax equivalents.
I've stayed with the brand ever since, and while there are more than a few reasons for that -- not the least of which being that I now have a significant investment in Pentax glass -- the company's reputation for offering exceptional value for money is perhaps the key.
The Pentax K-70 is no different in this respect. Affordably priced at US$650 body-only, it includes some really important features which its nearest rivals from the likes of Canon and Nikon lack. Since I like to get a feel for how cameras compare before I head out for a review, let's start with a quick comparison against the K-70's closest competitors.
Pentax K-70 Image Quality Comparison
A head-to-head showdown with its nearest rivals
Herewith are crops from our laboratory Still Life target comparing Pentax K-70 image quality to its spiritual predecessor, the K-S2, as well as its more expensive sibling the K-3 II. For good measure, we've also compared it against both of its nearest DSLR rivals, the Canon T6i and Nikon D5500, as well as a similarly-priced mirrorless camera, the Sony A6000.
NOTE: These images are from best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera. For those interested in working with the RAW files involved, click these links to visit each camera's respective sample image thumbnail page: Pentax K-70, Pentax K-S2, Pentax K-3 II, Canon T6i, Nikon D5500 and Sony A6000 -- links to the RAW files appear beneath those for the JPEG images, wherever we have them. And remember, you can always go to our world-renowned Comparometer to compare the Pentax K-70 to any camera we've ever tested!
Pentax K-70 Print Quality Analysis
How will those prints look when framed on your wall?
The Pentax K-70 is an entry-level camera that offers print quality that is markedly above typical entry-level results. Base ISO and ISO 200 prints are stunning in their fine detail, thanks in large part to the lack of an optical low-pass filter, and the camera is capable of providing usable prints a good ways up the ISO spectrum. In general, as with most cameras these days in the APS-C world, we recommend remaining at ISO 3200 and below for your critical printing needs, especially for anything up to 8 x 10 inch prints. Moving to ISO 6400 and higher simply allows too much noise and general softening to enter the picture, but you can expect very solid results from this camera in the print quality department at ISO 3200 and below.
Pentax K-70 Technical Information
What's beneath the skin of Ricoh's new entry-level DSLR?
At the core of the Pentax K-70 digital SLR is a brand-new 24.24-megapixel, APS-C sized CMOS image sensor, up from the 20.12-megapixel chip of the K-S2. For the first time in a Pentax camera, the sensor includes on-chip phase-detect autofocus pixels.
Total resolution of the K-70's sensor is 24.78 megapixels. With dimensions of 23.5 x 15.6mm, it's just ever so slightly lower in effective resolution terms than the sensor used in the APS-C flagship Pentax K-3 and K-3 II, but has a fractionally higher total pixel count. (The K-3 siblings share a 24.35-effective / 24.71-total megapixel count.)
Just as in most DSLRs these days, there is no optical low-pass filter in the Pentax K-70. This means that per-pixel sharpness should be maximized, but moiré and false color effects could be an issue with certain subjects. However, the presence of Pentax's clever anti-aliasing filter simulation function, first introduced on the K-3 DSLR, means that if you have a problem with moiré or false color you can simply reshoot with the function enabled to avoid the problem.
Pentax K-70 Conclusion
Final thoughts on Ricoh's overhauled entry-level DSLR
If you've been following our site for a while, you'll likely know that I'm a big fan of Ricoh's Pentax brand, and its excellent K-series line of DSLR cameras. The company has produced some really impressive products in the last seven and a half years since it launched the K-7, the first Pentax camera I bought for myself. And with the arrival of the Pentax K-70, it brings some unique features and even some firsts for the Pentax brand at a seriously aggressive pricepoint.
Good handling in a solid, well-built (if perhaps a little heavy) body
One of the strengths of Pentax's DSLRs have been their great ergonomics, and even if it's not quite up to the flagship K-3 and K-3 II in this area, the Pentax K-70 still has very good ergonomics for an entry-level model. Most controls are comfortable and well-positioned, and I never found myself making accidental settings changes with the K-70.
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