As we wrapped up our best-of-year 2013 finalists, we got an unexpected wave of cameras that didn't quite make it in time to qualify. One of those anticipated models is Pentax's K-3 (MSRP $1299.99 body-only). Even though the Pentax rumor mill has long rumbled about a full frame offering bearing the same name, as it turns out, it's been attached to yet another APS-C DSLR.
But that's not such a bad thing. The leap from the K-5 II/IIs to this camera seems minor but in reality, the K-3's a thorough refresh. Far as we can tell, the tried-and-true K-5 design has been tweaked in most ways here. The button layout is different, but not wildly so. A new locking mechanism lets you choose whether the mode dial locks or not. A gapless, higher-resolution LCD makes the traditional Pentax menu system look new again.
All but the Pentax faithful will fail to notice this camera's most controversial addition—the brand silkscreened beneath the LCD now bears the wordmark of Ricoh. Like it or not, Pentax's new owners are here to stay and they're not ashamed to mark their territory.
Oh, and how could we not mention the new sensor tech Ricoh's using here? Not only is it the first Pentax DSLR to pack a 24-megapixel sensor, it's also the first to utilize the Shake Reduction in-body image stabilization to simulate an AA filter. So, unlike the prior K-5 II/IIs models, this single K-3 goes without a low-pass filter and allows the user to pick a type of antialiasing depending on the need. You can get maximum sharpness and protection from moiré in one camera. Finally, a new SAFOX11 module should boost AF speed—not exactly Pentax's strongest suit in the recent past.
We had a chance to put this new flagship through its paces along with Pentax's long awaited HD DA Limited Zoom lens—a formidable ally for this new, super sharp K-mount body. Unlike the other DA Limited lenses, this new 20-40mm f/2.8-4 zoom is weather sealed and uses Pentax's DC focusing motor, instead of the old-school noisy screwdrive we've seen on prior Limited lenses.
Without going into our lab results (wait for our full review!), we can say that, to our eyes, those extra pixels jammed into the K-3's sensor makes photos from this camera look darn sharp.
This combo is impressive to say the least, but we'll reserve final judgement for once we've had a chance to analyze the data from our labs. For now, enjoy 19 fresh, straight-out-of-camera JPEGs.