Pentax K-5 with 18-55mm lens review

The video mode is disappointing but photo quality is marginally the best we’ve ever seen. Rival cameras offer better value, though.

28 Jan 2011
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT


23.7x15.7mm 16.0-megapixel sensor, 3.0x zoom (27-82.5mm equivalent), 740g

The Pentax K-r is our favourite SLR for those who don’t need 1080p video, so the more expensive K-5 has a lot to live up to. It has a modestly specified kit lens - pairing it with a Pentax 18-135mm lens pushes the price to around £1,500.

Pentax K-5 with 18-55mm lens front

The K-5 differentiates itself from its peers with a weather-proof body and kit lenses. Along with the magnesium alloy shell, this is a camera that’s built for an outdoor life. It’s smaller than some rivals, but barely any lighter. The indentation in the handgrip helps balance its weight nicely in the hand. There’s a passive LCD screen and lots of buttons and dials for adjusting settings without resorting to the menus.

Pentax K-5 with 18-55mm lens top

Internally, it’s bursting with features and options, including HDR capture, the ability to set noise reduction for each ISO speed and masses of bracketing modes. Autofocus in live view is faster than on Canon and Nikon’s SLRs, and an animated digital magnify function inspires confidence. Lens-distortion and chromatic-aberration correction is built in, but activating them crippled performance.

1080p videos displayed crisp details, remarkably little noise and less moiré interference than the competition. However, exposure control is limited to aperture priority, exposure compensation and lock, and autofocus was unavailable once recording had commenced. Sound quality was only passable but there’s a mic input to override the built-in mono mic. We also found that the soundtrack was three frames late compared to the picture when viewing clips in video-editing software. The biggest limitation was the Motion JPEG compression, which produced enormous files consuming over 500MB per minute. This in turn limited clip lengths to just five minutes and 23 seconds. The manual warns that video recording is limited to 25 minutes due to “automatic overheat shutdown protection”. A thermometer icon appeared on screen after 30 minutes but the camera kept going for 167 minutes in our battery test.

Pentax K-5 with 18-55mm lens back

Photo tests gave us far less to worry about. The K-5 has the widest ISO range we’ve ever seen, peaking at a staggering 51,200. That was backed up by incredibly low noise. Automatic exposures were sometimes a little under-exposed, but this is easier to fix in software than over-exposed photos. Otherwise, image quality was exceptionally high, with clever Auto ISO options making the best of tricky lighting conditions. It’s a fast camera, too, with 6.6fps continuous shooting lasting for 32 JPEG or 24 RAW shots before slowing down.

While the K-5 excels for stills photography, it can’t quite compete on value with the Canon 60D and Nikon D7000. Its weather proofing is useful but we’d rather take its competitors’ larger zoom ranges, more capable video modes and the Canon’s articulated screen or the Nikon’s superior autofocus.

Basic Specifications

Rating ***
CCD effective megapixels 16.0 megapixels
CCD size 23.7x15.7mm
Viewfinder optical TTL
Viewfinder magnification, coverage 0.92x, 100%
LCD screen size 3.0in
LCD screen resolution 921,000 pixels
Articulated screen No
Live view Yes
Optical zoom 3.0x
Zoom 35mm equivalent 27-82.5mm
Image stabilisation optical, sensor shift
Maximum image resolution 4,928x3,264
Maximum movie resolution 1960x1080
Movie frame rate at max quality 25fps
File formats JPEG, RAW; AVI (M-JPEG)


Memory slot SDXC
Mermory supplied none
Battery type Li-ion
Battery Life (tested) 980 shots
Connectivity USB, AV, mini HDMI, DC in, remote, mic input
HDMI output resolution 1080i playback and live view, NTSC video record
Body material magnesium alloy
Lens mount Pentax K mount
Focal length multiplier 1.5x
Kit lens model name Pentax DA 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 AL
Accessories USB and AV cables, neck strap
Weight 740g
Size 97x131x73mm

Buying Information

Warranty one-year RTB
Price £1,029

Camera Controls

Exposure modes program, shutter priority, aperture priority, manual
Shutter speed 30 to 1/8,000 seconds
Aperture range f/3.5-22 (wide), f/5.6-40 (tele)
ISO range (at full resolution) 80 to 51200
Exposure compensation +/-5 EV
White balance auto, 10 presets with fine tuning, manual, custom
Additional image controls contrast, saturation, sharpness, hue, high/low key adjust, contrast shadow adjust, contrast highlight adjust, highlight correction, shadow correction, noise reduction, colour space
Manual focus Yes
Closest macro focus 25cm
Auto-focus modes 11-point
Metering modes multi, centre-weighted, centre, face detect
Flash auto, forced, suppressed, slow synchro, rear curtain, red-eye reduction
Drive modes single, continuous, self-timer, interval, HDR, remote, AE bracket, extended bracketing (white balance, saturation, hue, high/low key adjustment, contrast and sharpness bracketing)