Pentax K-3 vs K-3 II
The Pentax K-3 and the Pentax K-3 II are two enthusiast cameras that were announced, respectively, in October 2013 and April 2015. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with an APS-C sensor. Both cameras offer a resolution of 24.1 megapixels.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Pentax K-3 and the Pentax K-3 II? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
The physical size and weight of the Pentax K-3 and the Pentax K-3 II are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
Both cameras are available in two different colors (black, silver).
In this particular case, the Pentax K-3 and the Pentax K-3 II have exactly the same width and height, and, thus, have identically-sized bodies. Moreover, the two cameras also share the same weight. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.
The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.
|1.||Pentax K-3||131 mm||100 mm||77 mm||800 g||560||Y||Oct 2013||1,299|
|2.||Pentax K-3 II||131 mm||100 mm||77 mm||800 g||720||Y||Apr 2015||1,099|
|3.||Nikon D7100||136 mm||107 mm||76 mm||765 g||950||Y||Feb 2013||1,199|
|4.||Pentax K-3 III||135 mm||104 mm||74 mm||820 g||800||Y||Mar 2021||1,999|
|5.||Pentax KP||132 mm||101 mm||76 mm||703 g||390||Y||Jan 2017||1,099|
|6.||Pentax K-70||126 mm||93 mm||74 mm||688 g||410||Y||Jun 2016||649|
|7.||Pentax K-S2||123 mm||91 mm||73 mm||678 g||410||Y||Feb 2015||749|
|8.||Pentax K-S1||121 mm||93 mm||70 mm||558 g||410||n||Aug 2014||749|
|9.||Pentax K-50||130 mm||97 mm||71 mm||650 g||410||Y||Jun 2013||599|
|10.||Pentax K-5 II||131 mm||97 mm||73 mm||760 g||740||Y||Sep 2012||1,099|
|11.||Pentax K-5||131 mm||97 mm||73 mm||760 g||740||Y||Sep 2010||1,099|
|12.||Sony A77||143 mm||104 mm||81 mm||732 g||470||Y||Aug 2011||1,399|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The K-3 II was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 15 percent) than the K-3, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Both cameras under consideration feature an APS-C sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 1.5. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the medium-sized sensor cameras that aim to strike a balance between image quality and portability. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
The two cameras under review do not only share the same sensor size, but also offer an identical resolution of 24.1 megapixels. This similarity in sensor specs implies that both the K-3 and the K-3 II have the same pixel density, as well as the same pixel size. It should, however, be noted that the K-3 II is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 6 months) than the K-3, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that neither of the two cameras has an anti-alias filter installed, so they are able to capture all the detail the sensor resolves.
Unlike the K-3, the K-3 II has the capacity to capture high quality composite images by combining multiple shots after shifting its sensor by miniscule distances. This multi-shot, pixel-shift mode is most suitable for photography of stationary objects (landscapes, studio scenes).
The Pentax K-3 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 51200. The Pentax K-3 II offers exactly the same ISO settings.
Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar imaging performance. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.
| DXO |
|2.||Pentax K-3 II||APS-C||24.1||6016||4000||1080/60i||23.6||13.6||1106||80|
|4.||Pentax K-3 III||APS-C||25.6||6192||4128||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|10.||Pentax K-5 II||APS-C||16.1||4928||3264||1080/25p||23.8||14.1||1235||82|
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, and both provide the same movie specifications (1080/60i).
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The K-3 and the K-3 II are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (100%), as well as the same magnification (0.63x). The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Pentax K-3 and Pentax K-3 II in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
|2.||Pentax K-3 II||optical||Y||3.2||1037||fixed||n||1/8000s||8.3||n||Y|
|4.||Pentax K-3 III||optical||Y||3.2||1620||fixed||Y||1/8000s||12.0||n||Y|
|10.||Pentax K-5 II||optical||Y||3.0||921||fixed||n||1/8000s||7.0||Y||Y|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The K-3 has one, while the K-3 II does not. While the built-in flash of the K-3 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.
The Pentax K-3 and the Pentax K-3 II both have an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.
Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the K-3 and the K-3 II write their files to SDXC cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. Both cameras can use UHS-I cards, which provide for Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Pentax K-3 and Pentax K-3 II and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|2.||Pentax K-3 II||Y||mono||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|4.||Pentax K-3 III||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.2||Y||-||Y|
|10.||Pentax K-5 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.
Travel and landscape photographers will find it useful that the K-3 II has an internal geolocalization sensor and can record GPS coordinates in its EXIF data.
Both the K-3 and the K-3 II have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The K-3 was replaced by the Pentax K-3 II, while the K-3 II was followed by the Pentax K-3 III. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Pentax website.
So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Pentax K-3 or the Pentax K-3 II – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Reasons to prefer the Pentax K-3:
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in October 2013).
Advantages of the Pentax K-3 II:
- High quality composites: Can combine several shots after pixel-shifting its sensor.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (720 versus 560) out of a single battery charge.
- Easier geotagging: Features an internal GPS sensor to log localization data.
- More affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (15 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 6 months) more recently.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the K-3 II emerges as the winner of the match-up (5 : 2 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision. A professional wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Pentax K-3 and the Pentax K-3 II place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the K-3 or the K-3 II. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.
This is where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
|1.||Pentax K-3||4/5||..||83/100||5/5||5/5||Oct 2013||1,299|
|2.||Pentax K-3 II||4.5/5||..||..||5/5||5/5||Apr 2015||1,099|
|3.||Nikon D7100||5/5||+ +||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2013||1,199|
|4.||Pentax K-3 III||..||..||..||..||..||Mar 2021||1,999|
|5.||Pentax KP||4/5||..||82/100||5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2017||1,099|
|6.||Pentax K-70||4.5/5||..||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2016||649|
|7.||Pentax K-S2||4.5/5||..||..||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||749|
|8.||Pentax K-S1||4/5||..||..||4.5/5||4/5||Aug 2014||749|
|9.||Pentax K-50||5/5||..||..||5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2013||599|
|10.||Pentax K-5 II||5/5||..||80/100||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||1,099|
|11.||Pentax K-5||4/5||..||83/100||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2010||1,099|
|12.||Sony A77||5/5||91/100||81/100||..||5/5||Aug 2011||1,399|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
Other camera comparisons
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Specifications: Pentax K-3 vs Pentax K-3 II
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Pentax K-3||Pentax K-3 II|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Pentax K mount lenses||Pentax K mount lenses|
|Launch Date||October 2013||April 2015|
|Launch Price||USD 1,299||USD 1,099|
|Sensor Specs||Pentax K-3||Pentax K-3 II|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||23.5 x 15.6 mm||23.5 x 15.6 mm|
|Sensor Area||366.6 mm2||366.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||28.2 mm||28.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||24.1 Megapixels||24.1 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||6016 x 4000 pixels||6016 x 4000 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||3.90 μm||3.90 μm|
|Pixel Density||6.56 MP/cm2||6.56 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/60i Video||1080/60i Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 51,200 ISO||100 - 51,200 ISO|
|Image Processor||PRIME III||PRIME III|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||80||80|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||23.7||23.6|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||13.4||13.6|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||1216||1106|
|Screen Specs||Pentax K-3||Pentax K-3 II|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||100%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.2inch||3.2inch|
|LCD Resolution||1037k dots||1037k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Pentax K-3||Pentax K-3 II|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||Focus Peaking||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/8000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||8.3 shutter flaps/s||8.3 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||200 000 actuations||200 000 actuations|
|Time-Lapse Photography||Intervalometer built-in||Intervalometer built-in|
|Image Stabilization||In-body stabilization||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||Built-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Dual card slots|
|UHS card support||UHS-I||UHS-I|
|Connectivity Specs||Pentax K-3||Pentax K-3 II|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 3.0||USB 3.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||External MIC port|
|Headphone Socket||Headphone port||Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Geotagging||no internal GPS||GPS built-in|
|Body Specs||Pentax K-3||Pentax K-3 II|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||560 shots per charge||720 shots per charge|
131 x 100 x 77 mm
(5.2 x 3.9 x 3.0 in)
131 x 100 x 77 mm
(5.2 x 3.9 x 3.0 in)
|Camera Weight||800 g (28.2 oz)||800 g (28.2 oz)|
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