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Pentax K-S2 review

Pentax K-S2
Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £649
inc VAT

Superb ergonomics and features, minor image quality niggles keep the Pentax K-S2 from top marks


Sensor resolution: 20 megapixels, Sensor size: 23.5×15.6mm (APS-C), Focal length multiplier: 1.5x, Viewfinder: Optical TTL, LCD screen: 3in (921,000 dots), Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths): 2.8x (27-75mm), 35mm-equivalent aperture: f/6-8.4, Lens mount: Pentax KAF2, Weight: 847g, Size (HxWxD): 94x123x116mm


One feature where the K-S2 is lagging behind its rivals is autofocus. There are 11 autofocus points, arranged in a three-by-three grid of cross-type points, plus an additional pair to the left and right. It’s not bad but it’s not as flexible as the Nikon D5500’s 39 points or the Canon 750D’s 19. Then again, the Canon EOS 700D only has nine and that didn’t stop us giving it a Best Buy award.

Continuous performance has slipped a little, with the 16-megapixel Pentax K-50 delivering 6fps but the 20-megapixel K-S2 only managing 5fps. This slowed further to 4.5fps when continuous autofocus was enabled. It kept going for 30 JPEGs or 10 RAW frames before slowing, which puts it slightly ahead of the D5500. It was extremely quick in normal use, capturing a shot every 0.3 seconds. 1.6 seconds between shots in live view mode is the best result we’ve seen from a true SLR (not counting Sony’s SLT cameras). The EOS 70D with its innovative live view-friendly autofocus system only managed 2.1 seconds.


Video mode is the K-S2’s weakest area. Details looked distinctly soft compared to the Nikon D5500’s output, and a pronounced rolling shutter effect produced skewed geometry in fast-moving scenes. Autofocus is fixed for the duration of clips. Manual exposure control is available but the ISO speed is limited to 3200 and clips at that setting were quite noisy. It’s fine for the occasional casual clip but keen videographers should look elsewhere. It’s surprising, then, that Pentax has included a microphone socket. We don’t envisage it’ll see much use.

Our photo tests gave much less cause for concern, but we had some minor reservations here too. The kit lens performed well but handling of dense textures in JPEGs was good rather than great. Noise levels were a little higher than from the D5500 at fast ISO speeds, with some grain and false colour at ISO 6400. We also noticed a tendency to over-expose highlights in high-contrast scenes, possibly due to the relatively course 77-segment metering sensor. The D5500 has a 2,016-pixel metering sensor, making it easier for the camera to identify small areas of highlight in a scene.

Most of these complaints are trivial, though – the poor focus from the D5500’s kit lens was much more noticeable. However, it’s particularly worthwhile shooting in RAW mode with the K-S2 in order to recover clipped highlights and take advantage of Lightroom’s superior noise reduction.

^ Faithful colours and excellent corner-to-corner focus from the kit lens. Fine details in the distant trees is a little vague though. (1/250s, f/7.1, ISO 100, 27mm equivalent)

^ Focus is spot on in this shot, and the metering has done a fine job of handling the highlights and shadows. (1/200s, f/8, ISO 100, 45mm equivalent)

^ Focus is a tad soft here, and the daffodil flowers have been overexposed. (1/125s, f/7.1, ISO 100, 51mm equivalent)

^ These skin tones are overexposed too. (1/125s, f/6.3, ISO 100, 27mm equivalent)

^ We set the ISO speed to 3200 to freeze motion in low light. There’s a bit of noise on close inspection but it’s an excellent result. (1/250s, f/4.5, ISO 3200, 51mm equivalent)

^ This shot at ISO 6400 isn’t so flattering. Skin tones are grainy and the wall and sofa shows some purple and yellow blotches. (1/60s, f/4.5, ISO 6400, 42mm equivalent)

^ This subject matter is more forgiving at ISO 6400 – a decent result. (1/50s, f/4, ISO 6400, 31mm equivalent)

We expect superb image quality from any camera that costs over £500, and so our small concerns – and the basic video mode – keep the K-S2 from top marks. We’re being pretty fussy, though. By any normal measure the K-S2 does deliver superb image quality, and it’s only by direct comparison with its rivals that we can spot a few places where it could do even better. Arguably, the differences in image quality are insignificant compared to the benefit of the KS-2’s big viewfinder, elegant controls and weather sealed design. Its fast performance in live view mode is another major perk for some people. So while it narrowly misses out on full marks, this is a camera that deserves to be hugely successful. If it’s not quite your thing then check out our regularly-updated Best Cameras list and buying guide.

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Sensor resolution20 megapixels
Sensor size23.5×15.6mm (APS-C)
Focal length multiplier1.5x
Optical stabilisationSensor shift
ViewfinderOptical TTL
Viewfinder magnification (35mm-equivalent), coverage0.63x, 100%
LCD screen3in (921,000 dots)
Orientation sensorNo
Photo file formatsJPEG, RAW (PEF, DNG)
Maximum photo resolution5,472×3,648
Photo aspect ratios3:2
Video compression formatQuickTime (AVC) at up to 22Mbit/s
Video resolutions1080p at 24/25/30fps, 720p at 24/25/30/50/60fps
Slow motion video modesN/A
Maximum video clip length (at highest quality)25m 0s
Exposure modesProgram, shutter priority, aperture priority, sensitivity priority, shutter-and-aperture priority, manual
Shutter speed range30 to 1/6,000 seconds
ISO speed range100 to 51200
Exposure compensationEV +/-5
White balanceAuto, Multi Auto, 10 presets with fine tuning, manual, Kelvin
Auto-focus modes11-point (9 cross type)
Metering modesMulti, centre-weighted, centre
Flash modesAuto, forced, suppressed, slow synchro, rear curtain, red-eye reduction
Drive modesSingle, continuous, self-timer, interval, multi-exposure, interval composite, AE bracket, HDR
Kit lens
Kit lens model namePentax 18-50mm f4-5.6 HD DA DC WR RE
Optical stabilisationNo (in camera body)
Optical zoom (35mm-equivalent focal lengths)2.8x (27-75mm)
Maximum aperture (wide-tele)f/4-5.6
35mm-equivalent aperturef/6-8.4
Manual focusYes
Closest macro focus (wide)30cm
Closest macro focus (tele)30cm
Lens mountPentax KAF2
Card slotSDXC
Memory suppliedNone
Battery typeLi-ion
ConnectivityUSB, micro HDMI, 3.5mm microphone
GPSVia optional O-GPS1 unit
HotshoePentax TTL
Body materialPlastic
AccessoriesUSB cable, neck strap
Size (HxWxD)94x123x116mm
Buying information
WarrantyOne year RTB
Price including VAT£649
Part code13955

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