DxOMark review for the Pentax K5

Friday November 05 2010

Camera Review

From the outside, the new Pentax K5 looks exactly the same as the K7. The main differences lie inside: the K5 uses the brand-new 16.3 MP sensor (able to operate between ISO 80 and 12800, extended to 51200), an improved SAFOX 9 AF system, a higher burst speed, and a much better video mode that can record 1080p footage at 25 fps.

The best APS-C in all tested fields

No need for suspense: this new 16.3 MP sensor is simply the best APS-C we have tested so far, sometimes able to compete even with very high-end full-frame cameras.

The overall score of the K5 puts it in the lead with 82 points — more than 9 points better than the D90 or the Alpha 55, and 16 points ahead of the Canon 7D or 60D. The K5 is literally the best APS-C performer for each segment, even in low ISO.

Wonderful Dynamic Range performance

Dynamic range is clearly where the K5 struts its stuff. The scores it reaches at ISO 80 are simply impressive: at 14.1 Ev (print mode), even the D3X’s full-frame sensor is not that good. Smoothing appears at ISO 3200 but does not impact the metrics.

K5 vs D3x – Dynamic Range: the $1300 APS-C Pentax has a better dynamic range than Nikon’s $9000 full-frame flagship.
K5 vs D90 – Dyamic Range: The APS-C sensor in the K5 surpasses that of the D90 and shows impressive figures between ISO 80 and 200.
K5 vs Alpha 55 – Dynamic Range: the K5 is always at least 1 EV above the A55.
K5 vs EOS 7D – Dynamic Range: at ISO 100, the K5 is above by 2 EV, and stays ahead by almost 1 EV all across the range.

Improved high ISO performance ...

The biggest weakness for the K7 was its average high ISO performance. The K5 addresses this by reaching a solid 1162 ISO.

K5 vs K7 – SNR: The difference is obvious — and consequential. For a 32 dB result, the K5 can climb to ISO 800, while the K7 stops at ISO 400. The K5 still shows a very good SNR at ISO 1600.

… But full-frame sensors remain the best for high ISO operation

While the K5 may be the best APS-C competitor, its excellent "small" sensor does not manage to close the gap with the good 24x36 models in area where size still matters.

As good as it is, the K5 sensor isn’t still quite up to its solid full-frame competitors, being roughly one stop behind a D700 or a 5D MkII.

But just imagine how promising the K5 technology could be in a full-frame body: increased picture quality associated with solid high ISO performance —a dream!

K5 vs D700 – SNR: the best APS-C sensor versus a strong full-frame. ISO 3200 on a D700 gives the same SNR value as 1600 on the K5.

Disclaimer: This dxomark review evaluates only the selected camera’s RAW sensor performance metrics (i.e., Color Depth, Dynamic Range, and Low-Light ISO), and should not be construed as a review of the camera’s overall performance, as it does not address such other important criteria as image signal processing, mechanical robustness, ease of use, flexibility, optics, value for money, etc. While RAW sensor performance is critically important, it is not the only factor that should be taken into consideration when choosing a digital camera.