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My Photography with the Pentax K5

Jim Radcliffe

What? Another Camera?
March 2011

That's what she said when the Pentax K5 arrived.

I really did not intend to buy another camera other than the Panasonic GH2 this year but Panasonic forced me to do so. The GH2 I ordered three months earlier still had not arrived and I had a big trip planned for Mardi Gras in New Orleans. I didn't want to lug my Canon 5D II and L glass around so the GH2 looked like the perfect choice for Mardi Gras this year...and It might have been... had it arrived. I ordered the body only and it seems that Panasonic could not fill the demand for that type of order.... and I'm very glad they didn't, otherwise I might not have discovered this little jewel.

Five days prior to my departure for New Orleans I decided to buy something new. Something I had been hearing good things about, the Pentax K5. It arrived from B&H three days before my flight for New Orleans so I had little time to get used to using the camera. I ordered the body only along with the DA 18-135mm lens and the DA 35mm F/2.8 Macro Limited lens.

I Am Not A Camera Reviewer

I am a camera user and what I write here are my impressions of the camera as I use it and as I see it. If you want a real review, with all the GearHead stuff then be sure to visit any of the commercial, online sites like DPReview. If you want my personal feelings about this camera then read on.

First Impressions

Out of the box and into my hands... it felt great. It did not feel plastic like my Canon 5D II felt. The build is solid and a perfect fit for my hands. The ergonomics are great and I had little trouble mastering the basics of the K5 operation. The K5's weather sealing is evident almost everywhere and that turned out to be a blessing in New Orleans because it poured rain on a couple of occasions and the K5, although soaked, kept performing perfectly.

The build of the K5 is exceptional. Sturdy and feeling of quality. The doors and openings on the camera for memory card, etc. are tight and weather sealed. When you hold the K5 you get that feeling of holding something that is well made and built to last.

The ergonomics of the K5 are great.. control shutter speed with a knob on the front of the grip, aperture with a knob on the back. You can set the metering mode using a lever on the left side of the camera and once set you need not worry about it accidentally being moved or readjusted.

The AF control is a mechanical switch on the back and once you are used to the layout you can set it without looking. There is also a LV button on the back to easily switch to that mode.

To set the various modes such as Tv, Av, P, M and B.. there is a knob on the left top of the camera that requires you to push a button embedded in the knob to make the change. Once again, no accidental changes are insured by this design.

On the top right of the camera are two buttons for setting the ISO and the +or - EV.

The diopter adjustment, for those of us who require glasses, is just above the eyecup on the camera. it slides to the left or right for adjustment and once set you will not find it changing.

The viewfinder is bright and displays all the critical info... including a level indicator. Yep, the camera tells you if you are taking a shot with the camera level or not.

The LCD is bright and has good resolution. Like all LCDs displays it can be washed out in bright sunlight. One of the cool features is that if you are shooting in portrait mode rather than landscape, it automatically rotates the display for you to view depending on the camera's orientation.

One of the things I really like about the K5 is the ability to fine tune the camera setting in each mode. You can adjust sharpness, contrast, color saturation and more.

The K5 has a built in flash that is more than adequate for most users and you can throttle the flash output up and down. I'm not one that uses flash often but the inclusion of a built in flash is a big plus. When you need it, you need it and the K5 has a good one.

You can opt to have the camera display the current settings on the large LCD on the back of the camera. I find this to be handy. The info is large and easily readable... I don't need my glasses to read it.

The files are great. You have the option of shooting JPG only, JPG plus DNG (which I use) or Pentax RAW output. The RAW files allow a lot of latitude in post processing and you can really push them if needed.

The color quality is great. You can select from a number presets such as Natural, Vivid, Monochrome, Etc.. In addition the K5 has some very interesting in-camera processing capabilities. I've not used them so I will not comment on them other than to say that some of them I will never use and some I will.

Auto Focus is fast and accurate. It's not as fast as the Canon 5D MKII but fast enough for almost all of my needs. Low light AF is also quite good.

There were early reports of the K5 having issues focusing in low, artificial light. I never experienced this and the new firmware update appears to have solved this issue if you read the reports of users online.

The shutter... it is like a whisper. My Canon 5D MK II sounds like a mousetrap being triggered compared to the K5. Very, very quiet.

Battery life is good. I shot an entire day in New Orleans during Mardi Gras on one single battery... and I took a lot of photos and chimped quite a bit as well. Take my advice.. always have a spare battery even though the K5 battery seems to last forever.

I've only touched on a few aspects of the K5 here. I am sure I will discover more cool things about this camera. I will add to this section as I discover new things (and any warts) while using the Pentax K5.

I gotta tell you... bang for the buck.. this is an exceptional little camera. I use the term "little camera" because it is small and that is one of the reasons I chose it over anything else being offered at this time. The old saying that good things come in small packages truly applies to the Pentax K5. No regrets on my purchase.

So what don't I like about the Pentax K5? Well, so far, nothing.. but give me time. I'm sure I'll find something to gripe about.

April 22, 2011 - More Lenses

My love affair with the Pentax K5 continues. I still can't find anything not to like about the camera.

Lately I've been using the TAv setting and really like the results. Being able to control the shutter and aperture and let the camera set the ISO based on those settings is pretty cool. This is the first camera I have ever owned that had that capability and I honestly don't think I ever want another camera that does not have it.

I now have three primes for the K5. The DA 35mm macro, FA 31mm Ltd., and FA 77mm Ltd. I do love the build of the Limited lenses. They use the screw drive focus system and some have said they find the sound to be distracting. I do not, but i will admit they are noisy. I want to purchase one more of these Limited lenses, the FA 43mm. Can't seem to find one anywhere. I'm sure the stock will show up again in the near future.

I'm also looking at adding a telephoto/zoom to the bag, something with a little more reach than my 18-135mm. Notice I did not say "Kit".. for some reason I really hate that term and refuse to use it.

May 9, 2011 - Finally Found a 43mm Limited

I now have the 43mm Limited. Amazing little lens. It renders much like some of those Leica lenses that cost an arm and a leg. The 43mm Limited is definitely a keeper. Now I have what some refer to as "The Three Amigos": 31mm, 43mm and 77mm Limited Lenses... and I love them all.

May 18, 2011 - Strange Focus Issue with the FA 77

Not sure what was going on with the FA 77 Limited today. I was focusing on little green frogs and while the K5 indicated focus lock the resulting photo was not in focus. However, I could point the camera at a different subject, get a focus indicator and the focus was spot on. Back to the green frog and the shot was out of focus. If I used live view and pressed the shutter half way for focus.. the shot was in focus. Not sure what was/is going on with this. It does not make sense that the same shot taken without live view was out of focus while every live view shot taken was in focus. I'll have to read some more.. could be operator error. Could there be a "Green Focus Issue"? Up until today the FA 77 and the K5 have performed flawlessly but the focus issues on the frogs today has me perplexed.

May 22, 2011 Answer to the above issue. Turns out this is not a problem with the FA 77 but with the AF system of the K5. AF Focus boxes/areas are apparently larger than they appear in the K5 viewfinder. Focus lock was probably on something other than the frog. Live View focus uses a different focus method which resulted in much slower but more accurate focus. I don't like it but that's the way the camera works. I knew I would find something I didn't like about the K5. The size of a focus box should be fully evident in the viewfinder. It's easy to understand how this "feature" of the K5 could become a point of frustration as it did for me. Now that I am aware of this feature I can work around it.

July 3, 2011 Some more thoughts on the K5
I have to say that all in all I really like the K5 but it does have room for improvement. The auto-focus is the main area, in my opinion. The AF on the K5 could stand improvement in speed. I know this tends to vary from lens to lens and it is NOT a major issue but if I had to pick one area of improvement, this would be it. Also, the AF focus points need to be shown in their true size in the viewfinder.

Lens Issues
Lenses I have purchased for use with the K5 (all Pentax) are all over the spectrum in back and front focus with only one or two of them being spot on out of the box. My DA * 50-135 needed a +10 adjustment in order to be on target when used wide open.. and let's face it, we buy f/2.8 lenses so we can use them at f/2.8, not f/4.5. Better QC on the lenses is a must. While we are not paying Leica prices we should have a right to expect the lenses we purchase to need nothing more than very minor adjustments if any at all. Having to dial in +10 or -10 seems to be extreme... but that's just me. Others may find that degree of adjustment to be expected and acceptable. I don't.

Houston, we have a problem!
July 11, 2011 - Mirror Flop & Self Actuation

Not long ago, during and outdoor concert, my K5 began to self-actuate. The shutter or the mirror seemed to be firing on its own. I would press the shutter and the photo was taken.. followed by what seemed to be a few more actuations of the shutter. It was driving me crazy... and yes, I had it in single shot mode.

A few days ago this same thing happened while I was shooting outside. At first I thought this might be a problem created somehow by using the DA * lenses I own. It has only happened when I was using those lenses but then I realized that I was using those lenses only when outside and in very hot weather.

What I believe is happening is related to heat. In both cases the camera was being used outside in 90 to 100 degree temperatures. Who knows how hot the black, heat absorbing body of the K5 actually approaches internally when it is used in direct sunlight.

July 14, 2011 - Update On Mirror Flops
This may not be a heat issue after all. After several days of reading similar reports in various Pentax forums many have indicated the problem shows itself after a fully charged battery is installed in the K5. As I think back to the beginning of my problems I had just inserted a fully charged battery during that concert shoot.

The mirror flops begin and settle down after the battery discharges a bit. Some report this happening no matter what the ambient temperature.

My original thoughts on this being a heat related issue may or may not be correct.. or it could be a combination of heat and battery conditions. I've been using fully charged batteries for months and this issue did not show itself until a few weeks ago when serious 100 degree weather was encountered here in Texas.

July 15, 2011 - Results of My Mirror Flop Investigation
It's related to the battery and or the voltage the battery is putting out. Read my full test report on this issue by clicking here.

Is this issue bad enough to sour my opinion on the K5? No. The camera is good and provides me with what I need at a reasonable cost. This is a bump in the road that will be taken care of. Pentax/Ricoh have too much at stake not to find the problem and eliminate it.

August 16, 2011 - I Can't Take It Anymore!
The mirror-flops are driving me crazy so today I sent my K5 off to be repaired at the Arizona Repair Center. Who knows when it will return. I had to insure it for cost and that along with shipping cost me $50.

August 29, 2011 - My K5 Returned from C.R.I.S. today
The UPS guy arrived around 6:30PM this evening with my K5 back from repair in Arizona. I have not opened the box yet due to my current workload at the office. I will soon let you know if the mirror-flops (mirror overrun problem) has disappeared.

It took 13 days from the day I sent it in to its return today. Not bad in my opinion. Just hope the problem is gone for good so I can get back to enjoying using the K5. More to come...

September 27, 2011 - So Far, So Good
My K5 has been performing flawlessly since it returned from CRIS in Arizona. I wish I had a definitive answer as to what they had to do to repair it but I know that will not be disclosed. Mirror Flops are gone and I am enjoying using the K5 again.

Here is the repair status they posted on their website for my camera.

For GearHeads Only!

If you want the GearHead Cliff Notes on this camera here is a link to one page that that should make your mouth water and provide you with all the tech stuff you desire... GearHeads Click Here.

 

Kermit

 

 



To View The Images
Click on any thumbnail image on this page to view a larger image.   Return to this page by clicking on the larger image.

A Note About The Images
I post process all images in Photoshop CS5.  I tweak contrast and saturation.  I dodge and burn.  I adjust curves and I do BW conversions. I correct for lens distortion and more.  In short, I use a digital darkroom.  I am not one of those who believes that  what comes out of the camera is the final product.  There is nothing you can do in-camera that can not be done better and with greater control in Photoshop. The digital darkroom let's me do everything I used to do in the wet darkroom but without the chemistry, paper safes, print dryers, and working under safe lights. 

Let's Look At Some Photos From The K5

Road Trip to Amarillo, Texas - July 14, 2012
I took a road trip to Amarillo to shoot the Cadillac Ranch and Palo Duro Canyon. Here are a few shots from that trip.


Better than Yesterday - April 1, 2012
I went back to shoot more wildflowers this morning and as long as I was up before dawn I thought I would try to catch another sunrise. I did not even realize I had this shot because I was shooting and adjusting shutter speed and focal length so fast as these sunrises don't give you a second change. I wasn't chimping and did not see this shot until I began to download the photos to my computer. Wow!.. and that not a Wow at my work but a Wow at the beauty of the planet we live on. This is a prime reason I don't sleep in.



Sunrise & Later - March 31, 2012
I got up before sunrise and decided to explore a new area for sunrise shots. I had never been to this area and did not know what to expect. Glad I decided to check it out. I know sunrise shots are considered cliche but at my age, seeing the sunrise is not to be taken for granted, cliche or not.

Dallas Skyline - Trinity River Flood
Well, I finally did it.. I used my tripod for the shot below. I hate tripods but sometimes you just gotta use them.

When the Trinity River floods photographers from all over Dallas flock to it to shoot the Dallas skyline reflecting on the river... I was one of them.

Waiting For The Light
The shot below was taken with the Pentax K5 and the DA* 16-50 at sundown on March 17, 2012. A friend and I had shot this diner earlier in the day but decided to double back to shoot it at sundown. It was well worth the trip back. The lights of our vehicle are on the dining car. I also shot this with the GH2 and a wider lens. You can see the GH2 version here.

Another Abandoned Cafe - Ranger, Texas
This was shot with the K5 and the DA* 16-50. It looked so surreal when I began reviewing the photos I had taken. This was one of the first I worked on.

New Orleans - February 2012

On my latest trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and other fun I wanted to shoot a number of different things: night shots, graveyards, people and more. Below are just a few of the over 3000 shots I took while I was in New Orleans for five days. Still sorting through all the shots. This time I had the DA* 16-50, DA* 50-135 and the 31mm Ltd. with me. Glad I brought them all. Hope you enjoy these. The K5 continues to impress me. No regrets after owning it for a year.

January 23, 2012

During my lunch hour today I visited Grapevine, Texas to see if any new train related photo-ops might present themselves. I was in luck. The old steam locomotive has been down for repair for almost two years now. The doors of the shed that houses her were open and one of the workmen let me in for a few pictures. Here is one that I really like.

Willie Nelson Concert Shots

On January 6, 2012 I had the opportunity to attend and shoot Willie Nelson in Concert. I used the K5 and the DA* 50-135. Here are my two favorites from that concert.

Cowtown Rodeo - January 6, 2012

A Quick visit to California - August 2011

 

 

 

More to come... Thanks for looking!