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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 announced, 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. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Pentax K-3 vs Sony A6500

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Pentax K-3 and the Sony A6500. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left side – the K-3 – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Pentax K-3 vs Sony A6500
Compare K-3 versus A6500 top
Compare K-3 and A6500 rear

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. 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.

Concerning battery life, the K-3 gets 560 shots out of its D-LI90 battery, while the A6500 can take 350 images on a single charge of its NP-FW50 power pack.

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 camera comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Pentax K-3» 5.2 in 3.9 in 3.0 in 28.2 oz 560 Y Oct 2013 1,299- i Pentax K-3
Sony A6500« 4.7 in 2.6 in 2.1 in 16.0 oz 350 Y Oct 2016 1,399 i i Sony A6500
Canon 70D« » 5.5 in 4.1 in 3.1 in 26.6 oz 920 Y Jul 2013 1,199- i Canon 70D
Nikon D7500« » 5.4 in 4.1 in 2.9 in 25.4 oz 950 Y Apr 2017 1,299 i i Nikon D7500
Nikon D7100« » 5.4 in 4.2 in 3.0 in 27.0 oz 950 Y Feb 2013 1,199- i Nikon D7100
Olympus PEN-F« » 4.9 in 2.8 in 1.5 in 15.1 oz 330 n Jan 2016 1,199 i i Olympus PEN-F
Panasonic GH5« » 5.5 in 3.9 in 3.4 in 25.6 oz 410 Y Jan 2017 1,999 i i Panasonic GH5
Panasonic GX8« » 5.2 in 3.1 in 2.5 in 17.2 oz 330 Y Jul 2015 1,199- i Panasonic GX8
Pentax KP« » 5.2 in 4.0 in 3.0 in 24.8 oz 390 Y Jan 2017 1,099 i i Pentax KP
Pentax K-70« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 2.9 in 24.3 oz 410 Y Jun 2016 649 i i Pentax K-70
Pentax K-3 II« » 5.2 in 3.9 in 3.0 in 28.2 oz 720 Y Apr 2015 1,099 i i Pentax K-3 II
Pentax K-5« » 5.2 in 3.8 in 2.9 in 26.8 oz 740 Y Sep 2010 1,099- i Pentax K-5
Sony A9« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.5 in 23.7 oz 650 Y Apr 2017 4,499 i i Sony A9
Sony A6300« » 4.7 in 2.6 in 1.9 in 14.3 oz 400 Y Feb 2016 999- i Sony A6300
Sony A7« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.7 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 1,699- i Sony A7
Sony RX10« » 5.1 in 3.5 in 4.0 in 28.7 oz 420 Y Oct 2013 1,299- i Sony RX10
Sony A99« » 5.8 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 28.6 oz 500 Y Sep 2012 2,799- i Sony A99

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch 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: Pentax K-3 vs Sony A6500

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the 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.

Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors.

Pentax K-3 and Sony A6500 sensor measures

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the K-3 offers a slightly higher resolution of 24.1 megapixel, compared with 24 MP of the A6500. This megapixel advantage translates into a 0.3 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 3.91μm for the A6500). Moreover, 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

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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 table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
Pentax K-3» APS-C 24.1 6016 40001080/60i23.713.4121680Pentax K-3
Sony A6500« APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.513.7140585Sony A6500
Canon 70D« » APS-C 20.0 5472 36481080/30p22.511.692668Canon 70D
Nikon D7500« » APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.314.0148386Nikon D7500
Nikon D7100« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.213.7125683Nikon D7100
Olympus PEN-F« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38881080/60p23.112.489474Olympus PEN-F
Panasonic GH5« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/60p23.913.080777Panasonic GH5
Panasonic GX8« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/30p23.512.680675Panasonic GX8
Pentax KP« » APS-C 24.1 6016 40001080/60i----Pentax KP
Pentax K-70« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60i----Pentax K-70
Pentax K-3 II« » APS-C 24.1 6016 40001080/60i23.613.6110680Pentax K-3 II
Pentax K-5« » APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/25p23.714.1116282Pentax K-5
Sony A9« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.913.3351792Sony A9
Sony A6300« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.413.7143785Sony A6300
Sony A7« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.814.2224890Sony A7
Sony RX10« » 1-inch 20.0 5472 36481080/60p22.912.647469Sony RX10
Sony A99« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p25.014.0155589Sony A99

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. 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: Pentax K-3 vs Sony A6500

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 table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Pentax K-3 and Sony A6500 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or in the dpreview camera hub.

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)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec)
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Pentax K-3»optical Y 3.2 1037 fixed n 8000 8.3 Y Y Pentax K-3
Sony A6500«2300 n 3.0 922 tilting Y 4000 11.0 Y Y Sony A6500
Canon 70D« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 8000 7.0 Y n Canon 70D
Nikon D7500« »optical Y 3.2 922 tilting Y 8000 8.0 Y n Nikon D7500
Nikon D7100« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n Nikon D7100
Olympus PEN-F« »2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 10.0 n Y Olympus PEN-F
Panasonic GH5« »3680 n 3.2 1620 swivel Y 8000 12.0 n Y Panasonic GH5
Panasonic GX8« »2360 n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 8000 10.0 n Y Panasonic GX8
Pentax KP« »optical n 3.0 921 tilting n 6000 7.0 Y Y Pentax KP
Pentax K-70« »optical n 3.0 921 swivel n 6000 6.0 Y Y Pentax K-70
Pentax K-3 II« »optical Y 3.2 1037 fixed n 8000 8.3 n Y Pentax K-3 II
Pentax K-5« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 8000 7.0 Y Y Pentax K-5
Sony A9« »3686 n 3.0 1440 tilting Y 8000 20.0 n Y Sony A9
Sony A6300« »2300 n 3.0 922 tilting n 4000 11.0 Y n Sony A6300
Sony A7« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n Sony A7
Sony RX10« »1440 Y 3.0 1229 tilting n 3200 10.0 Y Y Sony RX10
Sony A99« »2359 Y 3.0 1229 full-flex n 8000 6.0 n Y Sony A99

One feature that is present on the K-3, but is missing on the A6500 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-3 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the A6500 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The K-3 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the A6500 only has one slot.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
Pentax K-3»YmonomonoYYmini3.0---Pentax K-3
Sony A6500«YstereomonoY-micro2.0YY-Sony A6500
Canon 70D« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0Y--Canon 70D
Nikon D7500« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0Y-YNikon D7500
Nikon D7100« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0---Nikon D7100
Olympus PEN-F« »Ystereomono--micro2.0Y--Olympus PEN-F
Panasonic GH5« »YstereomonoYYfull3.1Y-YPanasonic GH5
Panasonic GX8« »YstereomonoY-micro2.0YY-Panasonic GX8
Pentax KP« »YstereomonoY--2.0Y--Pentax KP
Pentax K-70« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0Y--Pentax K-70
Pentax K-3 II« »YmonomonoYYmini3.0---Pentax K-3 II
Pentax K-5« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0---Pentax K-5
Sony A9« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YYYSony A9
Sony A6300« »YstereomonoY-micro2.0YY-Sony A6300
Sony A7« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7
Sony RX10« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony RX10
Sony A99« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0---Sony A99

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.

Review summary: Pentax K-3 vs Sony A6500

So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Pentax K-3 or the Sony A6500 – has the upper hand? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Advantages of the Pentax K-3:

  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • 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 922k dots).
  • Faster shutter: Has 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.
  • Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.0 vs 2.0).
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in October 2013).

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Reasons to prefer 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.
  • Easier file upload: Has wifi build in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
  • Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
  • 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 (13 : 11 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.

K-3 11:13 A6500

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 handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the K-3 or the A6500. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased. This is why expert reviews are important. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). You can find the full text of the reviews by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Pentax K-3»-83/1005/54.5/55/5 Oct 2013 1,299- i Pentax K-3
Sony A6500«HiRec85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Oct 2016 1,399 i i Sony A6500
Canon 70D« »HiRec83/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Jul 2013 1,199- i Canon 70D
Nikon D7500« »HiRec86/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Apr 2017 1,299 i i Nikon D7500
Nikon D7100« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2013 1,199- i Nikon D7100
Olympus PEN-F« »-82/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Jan 2016 1,199 i i Olympus PEN-F
Panasonic GH5« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2017 1,999 i i Panasonic GH5
Panasonic GX8« »Rec82/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2015 1,199- i Panasonic GX8
Pentax KP« »-82/1005/5-4.5/5 Jan 2017 1,099 i i Pentax KP
Pentax K-70« »-79/1004.5/54/54.5/5 Jun 2016 649 i i Pentax K-70
Pentax K-3 II« »--5/54.5/55/5 Apr 2015 1,099 i i Pentax K-3 II
Pentax K-5« »-83/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2010 1,099- i Pentax K-5
Sony A9« »HiRec89/1005/55/55/5 Apr 2017 4,499 i i Sony A9
Sony A6300« »Rec85/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2016 999- i Sony A6300
Sony A7« »HiRec80/1005/54.5/55/5 Oct 2013 1,699- i Sony A7
Sony RX10« »Rec80/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,299- i Sony RX10
Sony A99« »-84/1004.5/5rev4.5/5 Sep 2012 2,799- i Sony A99

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please send me an email, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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