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Pentax K-3 versus Sony A6500

The Pentax K-3 and the Sony Alpha A6500 are two enthusiast cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in October 2013 and October 2016. The K-3 is a DSLR, while the A6500 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The Pentax has a resolution of 24.1 megapixel, whereas the Sony provides 24 MP.

Body comparison

The physical size and weight of the Pentax K-3 and the Sony A6500 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the K-3 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Pentax K-3 vs Sony A6500 front
K-3 versus A6500 top view
K-3 and A6500 rear side
Body view (K-3 on the left)

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A6500 is considerably smaller (39 percent) than the Pentax K-3. Moreover, the A6500 is substantially lighter (43 percent) than the K-3. Cameras intended for semi-professional or professional use tend to be a bit bulkier in order to give them the necessary ruggedness. 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 the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
Camera Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Pentax K-3 (⇒ rgt) 131 mm 100 mm 77 mm 800 g 560 YES 2013 1,299discont. check
Sony A6500 (⇒ lft) 120 mm 67 mm 53 mm 453 g 350 YES 2016 1,399 latest check
Canon 70D (⇒ lft | rgt) 139 mm 104 mm 79 mm 755 g 920 YES 2013 1,199discont. check
Nikon D7100 (⇒ lft | rgt) 136 mm 107 mm 76 mm 765 g 950 YES 2013 1,199discont. check
Olympus E-M1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 130 mm 94 mm 63 mm 497 g 350 YES 2013 1,399discont. check
Olympus E-M5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 122 mm 89 mm 43 mm 425 g .. YES 2012 1,299discont. check
Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt) 133 mm 78 mm 63 mm 487 g 330 YES 2015 1,199 latest check
Pentax K-3 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 131 mm 100 mm 77 mm 800 g 720 YES 2015 1,099 latest check
Sony A9 (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 96 mm 63 mm 673 g 650 YES 2017 4,499 latest check
Sony A6300 (⇒ lft | rgt) 120 mm 67 mm 49 mm 404 g 400 YES 2016 999discont. check
Sony RX10 III (⇒ lft | rgt) 133 mm 94 mm 127 mm 1051 g 420 YES 2016 1,499discont. check
Sony RX10 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 129 mm 88 mm 102 mm 813 g 400 YES 2015 1,299discont. check
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 96 mm 60 mm 599 g 350 YES 2014 1,999 latest check
Sony A77 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 143 mm 104 mm 81 mm 647 g 480 YES 2014 1,199 latest check
Sony RX10 (⇒ lft | rgt) 129 mm 88 mm 102 mm 813 g 420 YES 2013 1,299discont. check

The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The K-3 was somewhat cheaper (by 7 percent) than the A6500 at launch, but both cameras fall into the same price category. 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.

Sensor comparison

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the 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.

Pentax K-3 and Sony A6500 sensor measures
Sensor size

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the K-3 offers a higher resolution of 24.1 megapixel, compared with 24 MP of the A6500. This megapixel advantage translates into a 0 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 3.91μm versus 3.92μm for the A6500). However, it should be noted that the A6500 is much more recent (by 3 years) than the K-3, and its sensor will 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 the K-3 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

K-3 versus A6500 MP
Sensor resolution

For most cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. Of the two cameras under consideration, the A6500 has a markedly higher DXO score than the K-3 (overall score 5 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 0.8 bits higher color depth, 0.3 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.2 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Pentax K-3 (⇒ rgt) APS-C 24.1 6016 4000 1080/60i 23.7 13.4 1216 80
Sony A6500 (⇒ lft) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 4K/30p 24.5 13.7 1405 85
Canon 70D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 20.0 5472 3648 1080/30p 22.5 11.6 926 68
Nikon D7100 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.2 13.7 1256 83
Olympus E-M1 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/30p 23.0 12.7 757 73
Olympus E-M5 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 1080/60i 22.8 12.3 826 71
Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 4K/30p 23.5 12.6 806 75
Pentax K-3 II (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.1 6016 4000 1080/60i 23.6 13.6 1106 80
Sony A9 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 4K/30p 24.9 13.3 3517 92
Sony A6300 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 4K/30p 24.4 13.7 1437 85
Sony RX10 III (⇒ lft | rgt) 1-inch 20.0 5472 3648 4K/30p 23.1 12.6 472 70
Sony RX10 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 1-inch 20.0 5472 3648 4K/30p 23.0 12.6 531 70
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.9 13.6 2449 90
Sony A77 II (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p - - - -
Sony RX10 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1-inch 20.0 5472 3648 1080/60p 22.9 12.6 474 69

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the A6500 provides a better video resolution than the K-3. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/30p, while the Pentax is limited to 1080/60i.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the A6500 has an electronic viewfinder (2300k dots), while the K-3 has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Pentax K-3 and Sony A6500 along with similar information for a selection of comparators. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Pentax K-3 (⇒ rgt) optical YES 3.2 1037 fixed no 8000 8.3 13 YES
Sony A6500 (⇒ lft) 2300 no 3.0 922 tilting YES 4000 11.0 6 YES
Canon 70D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 1040 swivel YES 8000 7.0 12 no
Nikon D7100 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1229 fixed no 8000 6.0 12 no
Olympus E-M1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1037 tilting YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Olympus E-M5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1440 no 3.0 610 tilting YES 4000 9.0 no YES
Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1040 swivel YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Pentax K-3 II (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1037 fixed no 8000 8.3 no YES
Sony A9 (⇒ lft | rgt) 3686 no 3.0 1440 tilting YES 8000 20.0 no YES
Sony A6300 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2300 no 3.0 922 tilting no 4000 11.0 6 no
Sony RX10 III (⇒ lft | rgt) 2359 YES 3.0 1229 tilting no 2000 14.0 10.8 no
Sony RX10 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2359 YES 3.0 1229 tilting no 3200 14.0 10.2 no
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 no 3.0 1230 tilting no 8000 5.0 no YES
Sony A77 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2359 YES 3.0 1229 full-flex no 8000 12.0 12 YES
Sony RX10 (⇒ lft | rgt) 1440 YES 3.0 1229 tilting no 3200 10.0 10.2 no

The A6500 is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the K-3 has been discontinued (but it 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.

Summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Pentax K-3 and the Pentax K-3? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


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Reasons to prefer the Pentax K-3:

  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • Easier setting verification: Has 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 922k dots).
  • Faster shutter: Has a higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (560 versus 350) on a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in October 2013).

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Advantages of the Sony Alpha A6500:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (5 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/60i).
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (11 vs 8.3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (120x67mm vs 131x100mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 347g or 43 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
  • More modern: Reflects 3 years of technical progress since the K-3 launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A6500 emerges as the winner of the match-up (11 : 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.

K-3 08:11 A6500

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the K-3 and the A6500 in practical situations. 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. This is where reviews by experts come in. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites. The detailed reviews can be accessed, respectively, on the websites of cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
dp
review
ephoto
zine
imaging
resource
photography
blog
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Pentax K-3 (⇒ rgt) - 83/100 Gold 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2013 1,299discont. check
Sony A6500 (⇒ lft) HiRec 85/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 1,399 latest check
Canon 70D (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 83/100 Gold 4.5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2013 1,199discont. check
Nikon D7100 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2013 1,199discont. check
Olympus E-M1 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 84/100 Gold 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2013 1,399discont. check
Olympus E-M5 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 80/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2012 1,299discont. check
Panasonic GX8 (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 82/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2015 1,199 latest check
Pentax K-3 II (⇒ lft | rgt) - - 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2015 1,099 latest check
Sony A9 (⇒ lft | rgt) .. 89/100 Gold 5/5 5/5 5/5 2017 4,499 latest check
Sony A6300 (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 85/100 Gold 5/5 5/5 5/5 2016 999discont. check
Sony RX10 III (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 84/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2016 1,499discont. check
Sony RX10 II (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 82/100 Gold 4.5/5 4.5/5 4/5 2015 1,299discont. check
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 82/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2014 1,999 latest check
Sony A77 II (⇒ lft | rgt) - 80/100 Silver 4.5/5 4/5 5/5 2014 1,199 latest check
Sony RX10 (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 80/100 Gold 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2013 1,299discont. check

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Other comparisons

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. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, kindly get in touch, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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