DSLR


Hands-on With Ricoh’s Pentax K-70

July 18, 2017

By Greg Scoblete

The K-70 sits just above the K-S2 in the Pentax pantheon of entry-level DSLRs. While it doesn’t share the steeper price tag of its higher-end siblings, it’s still generously apportioned with a number of novel Pentax features found on those pricier bodies.

Features

The K-70 sports an APS-C-sized 24-megapixel sensor with a maximum ISO of 102,400. It employs a new Hybrid AF system that uses both image-plane phase-matching and contrast-detection autofocus technology to keep pace with moving subjects. As a result, the K-70 is actually the company’s first DSLR to support continuous AF during video recording.

There are 11 focus points with nine cross-type points in the center of the frame. You can focus in low light down to -3 EV.

While the K-70 isn’t a flagship, it has many of the signature features found on higher-end Pentax models. Among them is the Pixel Shift Resolution System that uses the camera’s shifting sensor to create an ultra-high resolution, low noise image from a compilation of multiple exposures, each with the sensor moved by a tiny increment. For the K-70, Pixel Shift has been updated with a motion correction function that detects minute motion in an object in the scene to prevent blur. When not providing for sharper images, the shifting sensor helps combat camera shake for up to a CIPA-rated 4.5 stops.

There’s also an AA Filter Simulator that effectively eliminates moiré without the need for an anti-aliasing filter. The simulator is available in three strengths (including off) and you can bracket all three for comparison’s sake.

There’s also Wi-Fi but no GPS. However, if you spring for an optional GPS unit, you can enable another signature Pentax feature—ASTRO TRACER—to take tack-sharp long exposures of the night sky.

Design

The K-70 continues the Pentax tradition of highly ergonomic, button-endowed bodies. It’s comfortable to shoot with, though we do wish the front dial was a tad larger.

There are three user-programmable slots on the mode dial and a pair of customizable function buttons on the body to map to the camera setting of your choice. The 3-inch display swings out from the camera body and is great when angling for those tough-to-reach shots.

The K-70 delivers the goods when it comes to image quality.

Image Quality

The K-70 delivers a pleasing JPEG image and its 14-bit DNG RAW file offers a fair degree of latitude when it comes to purging noise in post-processing software. We found noise to be well contained in JPEGs through ISO 3200. There’s no quibbling with the color reproduction, either.

As we’ve noted in our reviews of other Pentax models, the Pixel Shift Resolution mode does indeed coax out more fine details, slightly better color and a tad less noise than a standard capture. Be warned, it will devour your memory card—while the camera’s typical RAW file weighs in at around 30MB, our Pixel Shift files were 140MB. Even with the motion-correction function enabled, this mode is strictly for photographing completely stationary objects with the camera locked down on a tripod.

It’s a measure of how low video ranks in Ricoh’s priorities that the K-70 is the first model to offer C-AF in video. Not surprisingly, it’s not nearly as seamless or responsive as Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF or the performance you can expect from a Sony or Panasonic mirrorless camera, but it’s adequate in a pinch. However, it’s very noisy when paired with the DR18-135mm kit lens. The K-70 doesn’t record 4K video, but full HD/30p video. You can adjust ISO during video shooting. You can also set a color profile beforehand.

Performance

The K-70 clocks in with a respectable burst mode of 6 fps with focus fixed on the first frame—that’s one frame-per-second faster than both the Canon Rebel T6i and Nikon’s D5600. You can burst for about 12 RAW frames and well over 50 JPEGs but it took us over a 10-count to clear the buffer.

Focus locks quickly in single point mode and is able to lock on rather reliably in low light. We found continuous AF performance to be mostly up to the task of freezing fast-moving objects, though the camera did appear to struggle with objects moving toward the lens. While image stabilization was rated for 4.5 stops by CIPA, we had less luck keeping images steady below 1/45th sec. shutter speeds.

You’ll enjoy 480 shots per battery per CIPA standards, which is fairly modest by DSLR standards. By comparison, you’ll get over 900 shots on Nikon’s D5600.

Bottom Line

The K-70 compares favorably to its comparably priced DSLR peers, particularly if capturing blazing-fast action or high-quality video isn’t a top priority. If that’s your mandate, Nikon’s D5600 has a similar resolution but more than three times the number of AF points and full HD recording to 60p. The K-70 is a fair amount heavier than both the D5600 and Rebel T6i but we think that’s a worthwhile trade-off for its durable, rugged build.

PROS: Weather-sealed; Pixel Shift Resolution mode; AA filter simulation mode, good value.
CONS: Sluggish and noisy AF in video; C-AF can be slow; video features trail competitors.
PRICE: $650