Pentax Ricoh K-3 DSLR Review

DSLRs have been making waves in the world of HD video production for quite some time now. With the ability to produce high quality imagery at a lower cost, the PENTAX K-3 DSLR is no exception. Designed to compete with top DSLR camera manufacturers, this rugged and weather-sealed camera’s features pack a punch. Equipped with exceptionally user-friendly controls and HD video recording capabilities, the K-3 DSLR from PENTAX is ready to be your dependable workhorse. For low-budget professional videographers and amateur filmmakers looking to advance to the professional level, the K-3 is simply a great camera that shouldn’t be overlooked. 

Above Par Features

When comparing top DSLRs, it is sometimes difficult to see the differences. The K-3 might be going up against some heavy lifters from Canon, Nikon and others, but with an additional SAFOX11 autofocus module and real-time scene analysis with an 86,000 pixel sensor, the competition is close. Other built in features ideal for videographers include levels and identifiers that make shooting video as painless as possible. With both vertical and horizontal levels, visible audio levels, and a temperature warning, you’ll have all the information you need to record professional video and audio. At a price of $1,099.95 and with an impressive 24 effective megapixel APS-C sized CMOS sensor, the PENTAX K-3 begins to stand out.

The K-3 is simply a great camera that shouldn’t be overlooked.

The external features worth extra attention include the magnesium alloy body with stainless steel chassis. Just by holding the K-3 you can tell how rugged this camera really is, creating a sense of fearlessness while you are working in the field. Speaking of fearless, the K-3 is also fully weather sealed with 92 seals placed on an already rugged camera so you’ll be able to take the K-3 into situations where the weather wouldn’t be kind to most cameras.

Photo of the side of the Pentax Ricoh K-3 showing inputs and outputs
Photo of the side of the Pentax Ricoh K-3 showing inputs and outputs
With dual SD cards slots, you also have the ability to shoot more without the strain of having to replace a card every time one becomes full. Lastly, it wasn’t until recently that manufacturers started putting headphone jacks in DSLRs and the PENTAX K-3 has one built right into the side exactly where a videographer needs it. No more using separate audio capturing devices just to hear the audio tones. It is obvious that the internal and external features on the K-3 were designed with video professionals in mind. 

Put to the Tests

The main goal for our PENTAX K-3 test was to see how well the K-3 held up when using the bare essentials, meaning no external microphone or lens filters. We tested the sound controls, the exposure controls and how well the K-3 could handle everyday maneuvers that amateur videographers would have to make during any given session.

The first thing we noticed about the PENTAX K-3 when we took it out of the packaging was the weight and how durable it feels. At about 28oz. with the lens, battery and memory cards in place, the K-3 felt sturdy but wasn’t too heavy. The next thing we noticed was the position of the switches and buttons, especially the photo to video switch located next to our right thumb, which made the switch from photo to video quick and painless. After switching to video we immediately recognized that the image exposure needed to be adjusted so we began to figure out the dials for f-stops and ISO.

Photo of the rear of the Pentax Ricoh K-3 showing configurable controls
The luxury of the PENTAX K-3 is that you can customize the controls to your own liking. There are other cameras on the market that can do that as well, but with the placement of the K-3’s buttons, it was easy. The dial at our right index finger was set to f-stops and the ISO was set to the dial at the back of camera above our right thumb. With this arrangement, the main controls needed to shoot video were right there — and we were off and running. One of the only downsides to the PENTAX K-3’s video controls is that the autofocus didn’t seem to work as well as we would have hoped. The AF worked very well when it came to taking pictures but we were a little bit bummed when we wanted to perform a follow focus using AF. We quickly adjusted to manual focus pulling.

When it came to the audio there were a few things we were looking for. We wanted to see how well the K-3’s built-in microphone held up against different sorts of audio recording. We tested the K-3 next to loud and quiet sounds to test a wide range of audio levels. We also wanted to see how well the audio level identifiers worked and how well we could control the incoming sound in both auto and manual modes. Since the K-3 includes a headphone jack and an audio level display indicator, we could easily identify the captured audio as it was being recorded. With wind and higher tones, we noticed that the sound levels were peaking tremendously and we immediately determined that the built-in stereo microphone wasn’t going to capture the highest quality audio. As with most cameras, it is best to use a separate audio capturing device, or at least an external microphone. Once we attached an external microphone we didn’t seem to have any more issues. This better sound mixed with the quality of the imagery increased the value of our video tremendously. 

Summing It Up

The PENTAX K-3 DSLR is a great camera for a multitude of users. Professionals can enjoy customizing the controls to their favorite settings. Amateurs are offered the ability to produce high quality content for their demo reel presented to future clients. If you’re an adventure seeker, you can depend on the ruggedness of the K-3’s magnesium alloy body and 92 weather seals. One thing that you will need to consider when purchasing the K-3 DSLR is the need for an external microphone to capture quality sound. Another consideration is that PENTAX uses the K mount for all of their lenses on their DSLRs. Therefore, you will need to be dedicated to purchasing only PENTAX K mount lenses, which could limit your selection. On the other hand, with the availability of some pretty high quality, third party lenses, you’ll still be able to find a lens that will capture some amazing images. All in all, the PENTAX K-3 camera is one of the most solid, user-friendly DSLRs on the market. It is apparent; the PENTAX K-3 is a great DSLR and a competitor for the attention of amateur filmmakers and professional videographers alike.

Ricoh Imaging Americas Corp.

Tech Specs

Sensor type: CMOS w/ primary color filter and integrated shake/dust reduction
Sensor Size: 23.5mm x 15.6mm
Effective Pixels: 23.4MP
Total Pixels: 24.7MP
Lens Mount: PENTAX KAF2 bayonet stainless steel mount
Shutter Speed: Electronically controlled, vertical-run, focal plane
Shutter Speed Range: 1/8000 to 30 sec (1/3 or 1/2 EV steps)
White Balance: Auto/Manual
LCD Screen: 3.2”
Focus System: SAFOX11 TTL phase-matching
Focus Modes: AF Single, AF Continuous, Manual
Frame Rates: Full HD 1920×1080, 60i/50i/30p/25p/24p; HD 1280×720, 60p/50p/30p/25p/24p
Interface Ports: USB 3.0, DC in, 1/8” stereo microphone, X-sync Socket.
Video Out: HDMI, NTSC, PAL
Headphone Jack: Yes
Speaker: Yes
Flash: Yes
Viewfinder: Yes (stills only)
Storage Media: SD, SDHC, SDXC, Eye-Fi, FLU (2)
File Formats: MPEG-4, AVC/H.264, (MOV) – JPEG(AVI) for internal movie record
Custom Functions: Yes (27 available)
Battery Type: Li-Ion battery D-LI90
Movie Recording Time: Approximately 25min (automatic overheat shutdown protection)
AC Adapter: Optional
Body Weight: 25.2oz – 28.2oz (with batteries and memory cards)
Water Resistant: Yes
Operating Temperature: 14 F-104 F (-10 C to 40 C)


  • Great image quality
  • Rugged build
  • Water-resistant


  • Insufficient autofocus for video

Zac Fernandez is a freelance videographer and photographer and worked as director, editor and cinematographer on numerous international documentary films.

Related Content