My fascinating two-week trial of a Pentax K5, thanks to the generosity of RW (Pentax had nothing to do with it) has gathered enough data and real pictures to reach a conclusion.
The K5 (I never used a K7) presents substantial improvements over the K10/20 platforms on a whole slew of parameters. The train-wreck shutter sound has become very soft, less obvious than the sharp snapping sound of my GF1, which doesn’t have to contend with a flapping mirror. The AF is better than before. It is much less prone to skip over a subject you expect it to focus on (previous Pentax models, pointed at a bicycle, invariably focused on the wall behind it, while this sort of target had never presented a problem for AF systems I first began to use with Nikon in the mid-80s). To be more specific about it, if I held up one finger of my extended left hand and asked the camera to focus on it, it could not, in the field of view of the 21mm lens. It went for the background. Bunch two or three fingers, and it suddenly could find the target. My Olympus E1, a vintage getting pretty old now, could focus on a length of string at that distance. So could ancient Nikons. The K5 can focus on one finger, though not a piece of string.
Tonal range, SBR—the brightness range of the subject you point at that can be recorded with full data—is significantly improved.
The camera feels nicer in your hand...well, my long thin hands, it might not be the same for someone who doesn’t need XXL Playtex gloves for film development.
AE and AWB are both better, though if you shoot RAW files and then use ACR (the RAW converter for both Photoshop and Lightroom) the camera’s histograms may throw you off until you adapt to them. They seem to reflect a serious highlight recovery effort on the part of the internal software, and shots that are exposed “to the right” according to the camera’s histogram are apt to come into Adobe RAW conversion with highlight clipping. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. The difference between the paradigm the in-camera JPEG/histogram is using and the default in ACR seems highly variable. If you use the histogram features, either in digital preview or after the shot, you’ll need to learn how much headroom to allow. Good luck.
The camera was utterly unable to interface in an effective way with a Pentax flash it is supposed to support. The previous cameras performed great in this interface. This would be a major issue if you need to use intelligent-flash features.
I won’t be acquiring one of these. The improvements over the K20D are substantial, but the astonishing thing is, they don’t come up to the level of the Lumix GF1.
Apples and oranges? Of course that’s a problem. But the improved AF of the K5 is sluggish and erratic compared to the GF1. The improved SBR doesn’t impress me except in comparison with earlier Pentax dslr cameras, not the GF1, despite the sensor size difference. Whatever DxO says, I see an improvement over what earlier Pentax bodies did, but precious little over what I’ve grown used to, shooting with the GF1 for over half a year. It wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve found supposedly rigorous technical test parameters don’t actually relate to using equipment in the real world.
The resolution of the K5 files is, well, nice. Nothing to write home about. The problem is, the GF1 files make better 20” wide prints because the superiority of the 14 and 20mm lenses, handled by reliable AF, coupled to the incorporated-into-ACR corrections, beat the hell out of the Pentax 21mm lens (using the latest ACR-incorporated Profile). The Lumix 14mm also surpasses the Pentax 21, and the Pentax 15mm just looks pathetic in comparison to either of them. The 35mm Macro from Pentax remains spectacular, when the camera focuses it correctly.
When I interpolate similar files from the GF1 and the K5 up to around twenty inches to make a print the GF1 wins every time, despite the greater degree of enlargement it needs. What can I say? It’s the print that counts.