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Pentax K-3 vs K-S2

The Pentax K-3 and the Pentax K-S2 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in October 2013 and February 2015. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The K-3 has a resolution of 24.1 megapixels, whereas the K-S2 provides 20 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Pentax K-3
versus
Pentax K-S2
Pentax K-3 Pentax K-S2
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Pentax K mount lenses Pentax K mount lenses
24.1 MP, APS-C Sensor 20 MP, APS-C Sensor
1080/60i Video 1080/30p Video
ISO 100-51,200 ISO 100-51,200
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
3.2 LCD, 1037k dots 3.0 LCD, 921k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Swivel screen (not touch-sensitive)
8.3 shutter flaps per second 5.4 shutter flaps per second
In-body stabilizationIn-body stabilization
Weathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
560 shots per battery charge410 shots per battery charge
131 x 100 x 77 mm, 800 g 123 x 91 x 73 mm, 678 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Pentax K-3 and the Pentax K-S2? 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.

Body comparison

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Pentax K-3 and the Pentax K-S2 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The K-3 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the K-S2 is available in six color-versions (black, grey, pink, orange, green, white).

Size Pentax K-3 vs Pentax K-S2
Compare K-3 versus K-S2 top
Comparison K-3 or K-S2 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Pentax K-S2 is notably smaller (15 percent) than the Pentax K-3. Moreover, the K-S2 is markedly lighter (15 percent) than the K-3. 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.

Concerning battery life, the K-3 gets 560 shots out of its D-LI90 battery, while the K-S2 can take 410 images on a single charge of its D-LI109 power pack.

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.

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Body Specifications
    Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Pentax K-3 131 mm 100 mm 77 mm 800 g 560 Y Oct 2013 1,299 i
2.
 
Pentax K-S2 123 mm 91 mm 73 mm 678 g 410 Y Feb 2015 749 i
3.
 
Nikon D7100 136 mm 107 mm 76 mm 765 g 950 Y Feb 2013 1,199 i
4.
 
Pentax KP 132 mm 101 mm 76 mm 703 g 390 Y Jan 2017 1,099 i
5.
 
Pentax K-70 126 mm 93 mm 74 mm 688 g 410 Y Jun 2016 649 i
6.
 
Pentax K-3 II 131 mm 100 mm 77 mm 800 g 720 Y Apr 2015 1,099 i
7.
 
Pentax K-S1 121 mm 93 mm 70 mm 558 g 410 n Aug 2014 749 i
8.
 
Pentax K-50 130 mm 97 mm 71 mm 650 g 410 Y Jun 2013 599 i
9.
 
Pentax K-5 II 131 mm 97 mm 73 mm 760 g 740 Y Sep 2012 1,099 i
10.
 
Pentax K-5 131 mm 97 mm 73 mm 760 g 740 Y Sep 2010 1,099 i
11.
 
Sony A77 143 mm 104 mm 81 mm 732 g 470 Y Aug 2011 1,399 i
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 listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The K-S2 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 42 percent) than the K-3, which puts it into a different market segment. 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.

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Sensor comparison

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels 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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to 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.

In terms of chip-set technology, the K-3 uses a more advanced image processing engine (PRIME III) than the K-S2 (PRIME MII), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.

Pentax K-3 and Pentax K-S2 sensor measures

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the K-3 offers a higher resolution of 24.1 megapixels, compared with 20 MP of the K-S2. This megapixels advantage translates into a 10 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the K-3 has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 3.90μm versus 4.28μm for the K-S2). Moreover, it should be noted that the K-S2 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 4 months) than the K-3, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of individual pixels. 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.

The resolution advantage of the Pentax K-3 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the K-3 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 30.1 x 20 inches or 76.4 x 50.8 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 24.1 x 16 inches or 61.1 x 40.6 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 20.1 x 13.3 inches or 50.9 x 33.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Pentax K-S2 are 27.4 x 18.2 inches or 69.5 x 46.3 cm for good quality, 21.9 x 14.6 inches or 55.6 x 37.1 cm for very good quality, and 18.2 x 12.2 inches or 46.3 x 30.9 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Pentax K-3 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 51200. The Pentax K-S2 offers exactly the same ISO settings.

K-3 versus K-S2 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

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Sensor Characteristics
    Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
1.
 
Pentax K-3 APS-C 24.1 6016 40001080/60i23.713.41216 80
2.
 
Pentax K-S2 APS-C 20.0 5472 36481080/30p...... ..
3.
 
Nikon D7100 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.213.71256 83
4.
 
Pentax KP APS-C 24.1 6016 40001080/60i...... ..
5.
 
Pentax K-70 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60i...... ..
6.
 
Pentax K-3 II APS-C 24.1 6016 40001080/60i23.613.61106 80
7.
 
Pentax K-S1 APS-C 20.0 5472 36481080/30p23.513.01061 78
8.
 
Pentax K-50 APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p23.713.01120 79
9.
 
Pentax K-5 II APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/25p23.814.11235 82
10.
 
Pentax K-5 APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/25p23.714.11162 82
11.
 
Sony A77 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.013.2801 78

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the K-3 provides a higher frame rate than the K-S2. It can shoot video footage at 1080/60i, while the K-S2 is limited to 1080/30p.

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Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The K-3 and the K-S2 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-S2 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.

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Core Features
    Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
(000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Pentax K-3optical Y 3.2 1037 fixed n 1/8000s 8.3 Y Y
2.
 
Pentax K-S2optical n 3.0 921 swivel n 1/6000s 5.4 Y Y
3.
 
Nikon D7100optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n
4.
 
Pentax KPoptical n 3.0 921 tilting n 1/6000s 7.0 Y Y
5.
 
Pentax K-70optical n 3.0 921 swivel n 1/6000s 6.0 Y Y
6.
 
Pentax K-3 IIoptical Y 3.2 1037 fixed n 1/8000s 8.3 n Y
7.
 
Pentax K-S1optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 1/6000s 5.4 Y Y
8.
 
Pentax K-50optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 1/6000s 6.0 Y Y
9.
 
Pentax K-5 IIoptical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 7.0 Y Y
10.
 
Pentax K-5optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 7.0 Y Y
11.
 
Sony A772359 Y 3.0 921 full-flex n 1/8000s 12.0 Y Y

One feature that is present on the K-3, but is missing on the K-S2 is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.

The K-S2 has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies. In contrast, the K-3 does not have a selfie-screen.

The Pentax K-3 and the Pentax K-S2 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-S2 write their files to SDXC cards. The K-3 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the K-S2 only has one slot. Both cameras can use UHS-I cards, which provide for Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s.

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Connectivity comparison

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-S2 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
    Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Pentax K-3YmonomonoYYmini3.0---
2.
 
Pentax K-S2YmonomonoY-micro2.0YY-
3.
 
Nikon D7100YstereomonoYYmini2.0---
4.
 
Pentax KPYstereomonoY--2.0Y--
5.
 
Pentax K-70YstereomonoY-mini2.0Y--
6.
 
Pentax K-3 IIYmonomonoYYmini3.0---
7.
 
Pentax K-S1Ystereomono--micro2.0---
8.
 
Pentax K-50Ymonomono--micro2.0---
9.
 
Pentax K-5 IIYstereomonoY-mini2.0---
10.
 
Pentax K-5YstereomonoY-mini2.0---
11.
 
Sony A77YstereomonoY-mini2.0---

It is notable that the K-3 has a headphone jack, which is not present on the K-S2 This port makes it possible to attach external headphones and monitor the quality of sound during the recording process.

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Pentax K-3 (unlike the K-S2) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

The K-S2 is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Pentax. In contrast, the K-3 has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the K-3 was succeeded by the Pentax K-3 II. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Pentax website.

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Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Pentax K-3 better than the Pentax K-S2 or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


Advantages of the Pentax K-3:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (24.1 vs 20MP) with a 10% higher linear resolution.
  • Better jpgs: Has a more modern image processing engine (PRIME III vs PRIME MII).
  • Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60i versus 1080/30p).
  • Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
  • Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1037k vs 921k dots).
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/6000s) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (8.3 vs 5.4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (560 versus 410) on a single battery charge.
  • Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.0 vs 2.0).
  • Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in October 2013).


Reasons to prefer the Pentax K-S2:

  • More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
  • More compact: Is smaller (123x91mm vs 131x100mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 122g or 15 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
  • Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (42 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 4 months) more recently.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the K-3 is the clear winner of the match-up (14 : 8 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

K-3 14:08 K-S2

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Pentax K-3 and the Pentax K-S2 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 the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the K-3 or the K-S2. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.

Expert reviews

This is why expert reviews are important. 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.

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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Pentax K-34/5..83/1005/55/5 Oct 2013 1,299 i
2.
 
Pentax K-S24.5/5....5/54.5/5 Feb 2015 749 i
3.
 
Nikon D71005/5+ +85/1004.5/54.5/5 Feb 2013 1,199 i
4.
 
Pentax KP4/5..82/1005/54.5/5 Jan 2017 1,099 i
5.
 
Pentax K-704.5/5..79/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2016 649 i
6.
 
Pentax K-3 II4.5/5....5/55/5 Apr 2015 1,099 i
7.
 
Pentax K-S14/5....4.5/54/5 Aug 2014 749 i
8.
 
Pentax K-505/5....5/54.5/5 Jun 2013 599 i
9.
 
Pentax K-5 II5/5..80/1005/54.5/5 Sep 2012 1,099 i
10.
 
Pentax K-54/5..83/1005/54.5/5 Sep 2010 1,099 i
11.
 
Sony A775/591/10081/100..5/5 Aug 2011 1,399 i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Pentax K-3:
Check Ebay offers
Pentax K-S2:
Check Amazon price

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just make your choice using the following search menu. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Pentax K-3 vs Pentax K-S2

    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 Specifications
    Camera Model Pentax K-3 Pentax K-S2
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Pentax K mount lenses Pentax K mount lenses
    Launch Date October 2013 February 2015
    Launch Price USD 1,299 USD 749
    Sensor Specs Pentax K-3 Pentax K-S2
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    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
    Crop Factor 1.5x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 24.1 Megapixels 20 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 6016 x 4000 pixels 5472 x 3648 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 3.90 μm 4.28 μm
    Pixel Density 6.56 MP/cm2 5.45 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter no AA filter
    Movie Capability 1080/60i Video 1080/30p Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 51,200 ISO 100 - 51,200 ISO
    Image Processor PRIME III PRIME MII
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 80 ..
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 23.7 ..
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 13.4 ..
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 1216 ..
    Screen Specs Pentax K-3 Pentax K-S2
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.63x 0.63x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel no Top Display
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.2inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 1037k dots 921k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Swivel screen
    Shooting Specs Pentax K-3 Pentax K-S2
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Manual Focusing AidFocus PeakingFocus Peaking
    Max Shutter Speed (mechanical) 1/8000s 1/6000s
    Continuous Shooting 8.3 shutter flaps/s 5.4 shutter flaps/s
    Time-Lapse PhotographyIntervalometer built-inIntervalometer built-in
    Image StabilizationIn-body stabilizationIn-body stabilization
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash Built-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots Single card slot
    UHS card support UHS-I UHS-I
    Connectivity Specs Pentax K-3 Pentax K-S2
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket no PC Sync
    USB Connector USB 3.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI micro HDMI
    Microphone Port External MIC port External MIC port
    Headphone Socket Headphone port no Headphone port
    Wifi Support no Wifi Wifi built-in
    Near-Field Communication no NFC NFC built-in
    Body Specs Pentax K-3 Pentax K-S2
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
    Battery Type D-LI90 D-LI109
    Battery Life (CIPA)560 shots per charge410 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 131 x 100 x 77 mm
    (5.2 x 3.9 x 3.0 in)
    123 x 91 x 73 mm
    (4.8 x 3.6 x 2.9 in)
    Camera Weight 800 g (28.2 oz) 678 g (23.9 oz)

    Did you notice an error on this page? If so, please get in touch, so that we can correct the information.

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