On test: Pentax K-70

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A wet weekend in Walton-on-the-Naze sees Daniel Bridge wishing his jacket was as weatherproof as the Pentax K-70, but is the camera hot stuff, or a damp squib?

Article first featured in the February 2017 issue of Outdoor Photography

All images © Daniel Bridge 

Seeing as I can’t even appear to get myself ready properly for a day’s shooting at the seaside, it’s a real advantage to have a camera with me that doesn’t need any special preparation to withstand whatever weather the UK can throw at it. For an enthusiast’s model, coming in at around £560, there’s an awful lot of camera here, with a specification not too far removed from the full-frame K-1, reviewed in OP212.

In a relatively compact body that’s dust, weather and cold-proof, we have a 24MP APS-sized sensor with no anti-aliasing filter, a pentaprism viewfinder with 100% view, 6fps continuous shooting, sensor-based Anti-Shake with 4.5 stops of compensation, Wi-Fi, an ISO range from 100 to 102400, Pixel Shift Resolution, an articulated screen, two control wheels and three custom user modes. The camera is well suited to night photography: it has an autofocus system rated to -3EV, night-vision preserving optional red LCD display and, when used with the O-GPS1 unit (sold separately), the Astrotracer function can be used to shoot stars without trails.

Although it’s a small body, the grip is deep and gives a firm purchase in hand, even with gloves on, and the controls are generally well laid out. My only gripe is that the four-way controller on the rear of the camera is right over to the right of the body, and I found a few times that I had inadvertently selected the self-timer or moved the focus point with the ball of my thumb. Adjusting my grip would no doubt avoid that.

Image above: The bright background required positive exposure compensation to achieve a correct exposure. The auto white balance is too cool here, fooled by the warm-toned scene.
Pentax K-70 with DA* 300mm f/4 lens, ISO 800, 1/1000sec at f/4, handheld

The mode dial has the usual Program (P), Aperture Priority (Av), Shutter Priority (Tv) and Manual (M) exposure modes, along with the usual Pentax extras of Sensitivity Priority (basically program mode with easily selectable ISO), and TAv (essentially Manual exposure with auto ISO). Unusual for a DSLR at this price are the three user modes, which allow commonly used setups to be saved to memory and recalled in an instant.

The autofocus system is a step down from the K-1’s, with just 11 focus points, albeit with nine of those being cross-type. It’s a basic system that works as well as you might expect it to, and no worse than similar systems from Canon and Nikon, although these have been upgraded on more recent models with more focus points. The K-70 has a hybrid focus system to speed up live view focusing, and it certainly seemed swift and snappy. Continuous focus is available with a selection of lenses while videoing too.

If you’re shooting Raw, you can choose either Pentax’s own PEF format or Adobe’s DNG, both 14-bit. These can be processed in-camera if required. If JPEGs are your preferred format, you have available a wealth of ways to customise the look of the images, with basic presets including Auto Select, Bright, Natural, Portrait, Landscape, Vibrant, Radiant, Muted, Flat, Bleach Bypass, Reversal Film, Monochrome and Cross Processing. These are all subject to adjustment too, beyond the usual contrast, saturation and sharpness. You can adjust the clarity, skin tone, shadow and highlight contrast, and apply digital filters such as Toy Camera and colour abstraction.

Just as with the K-1, the sensor-based image stabilisation system has several other uses, including composition adjustment, automatic horizon correction and Pixel Shift Resolution. Similarly, the drive modes are the same as the K-1, with lots of choice for creative photography. One-touch bracketing, interval timers, interval composites and Star Stream videos are some of the options. I’m not a fan of auto white balance, but here it does a decent job, although it felt a little too cool for my liking in the natural environments I was shooting. Exposure was also consistently accurate, with compensation required when you’d expect, but rarely otherwise.

Image above: Exposure and white balance are both generally accurate.
Pentax K-70 with DA 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at 18mm, ISO 400, 1/350sec at f/11, handheld

The K-70 is primarily a photographic tool, and video is catered for but is not something the camera excels at. Full HD is offered and, thanks to the hybrid AF, it also delivers continuous focus when shooting (subject to the lens that’s being used). A stereo microphone is built in, and there’s also an external mic socket, with auto and manual level controls.

In the field, the camera was a joy to use. Image quality is superb, and detail is better than anything else available at 24MP when the Pixel Shift Resolution is used, although it’s really best suited to stationary subjects. The default JPEG settings are on the soft side, but with plenty of customisation available, sharper results can easily be achieved. It’s the Raw files that really excel, offering a large dynamic range and great noise control. The camera is available with an 18-135mm lens (kit price £799), which is also weather-proof, but it’s not Pentax’s best offering, being a little soft in the corners. A better option, in my opinion, would be the 16-85mm, although this would add an extra £150 or so to the kit price.

Image above: The Anti-Shake system performed well, giving reliably sharp shots at shutter speeds three to four stops slower than would be required
without it.
Pentax K-70 with DA 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at 135mm, ISO 800, 1/30sec at f/8, handheld

SPECIFICATIONS

Effective pixels 24 million

Sensor APS CMOS
(23.5mm x 15.6mm)

Viewfinder Pentaprism, approximately 100% view
at 0.95x magnification

LCD monitor Vari-angle,
Air-gapless glass, 3in 921k dots

File types Raw (PEF or DNG), JPEG, Raw+JPEG, MPEG4 (Movie), Motion JPEG (AVI) for Interval Movie Record

Movie recording 1920x1080, 60i/50i/30p/25p/24p, 1280x720, 60p/50p

Storage SD card slot supporting SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards (conforming to UHS-1 standards)

AF system Phase Detection SAFOX X, 11-point (nine cross-type), EV-3 to 18, Hybrid AF
(image plane phase-matching
and contrast detection) in live view/movie recording

Shutter speeds 30-1/6000sec, Bulb (timed exposure setting possible from 10 seconds to
20 minutes)

Metering system TTL open aperture, 77 segmented metering, centre-weighted and spot metering, EV0 to 22

Exposure compensation +/-5
in 1/3 or 1/2-stop increments

ISO 100-102400

Power Rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery D-LI109

Dimensions 125.5 x 93 x 74mm

Weight 928g (without battery
and memory card)

INTERVAL COMPOSITE MODE

The Interval Composite drive mode is an interesting one for photographers wanting the ‘Big Stopper’ look – extra long exposures in daylight scenarios – without the expense of a filter system, as it offers a similar look without any extra equipment. By taking up to 2,000 shots at regular intervals and combining them as the shots are taken, stationary objects remain sharp, and any movement gets progressively
more blurred.

LIKES

Excellent image quality

High ISO performance
and dynamic range

Weather-sealed body

Anti-shake system and associated features

Customisation available

Reasonable price

DISLIKES

Autofocus could be better

Battery life is a bit short

VERDICT

If you’re after a DSLR that you can take anywhere and that is capable of excellent image quality, with lots of control and customisation, there’s really nothing to compete with the K-70 at this price. Add a good range of weather-sealed lenses and you have a relatively low-cost, high-quality system that would suit many outdoor photographers. With features such as Pixel Shift Resolution, 100% pentaprism viewfinder, three user modes, twin control wheels, and a wide choice of drive modes, Pentax is clearly targeting this camera at photographers who don’t want to have to spend a fortune to get the most useful features.

RATINGS

Handling 92%

Performance 92%

Specification 95%

Value 95%

Overall 93.5%

Guide price £559 (body only)

Contact ricoh-imaging.co.uk