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The Pentax K-70 Is The Feature-Rich & Robust DSLR Many Asked For, But Won’t Buy

By Kishore Sawh on June 9th 2016

Pentax has been such an interesting company to track over the years because it seems so unfocused and unsettled. Their history stemming from Japanese optical lens-maker origins has generally been regarded well and of quality, and their medium format 645 line is evidence of that. But much else just seems rather odd, and has left the modern consumer wondering where exactly Pentax fits in the modern photography mix.

The name, for one, isn’t Japanese at all. In fact, it’s as German as it gets. ‘Pentax’ was formally a Zeiss Ikon trademark, a portmanteau word that’s part ‘Pentaprism’ part ‘Contax’. The defeat of Germany in WWII annulled its patents and thus ‘Pentax’ was swiped up by Asahi Optical. And this is just part of the strange odyssey out of which has emerged Pentax current.


When we consider what’s what in today’s camera world, you have to think about what is wanted, what’s needed, who’s making it, and overall systems, and none of that really leaves you wanting of Pentax. And that’s rough, because they make better-priced cameras that are feature-full compared to their contemporaries, and the new K-70 exemplifies this.

It has a small form-factor, an APSC sensor with on-chip Phase-detection (I believe plucked from Sony in the vein of the a6300), weather sealing, ISO over 100k facilitated by the Prime MII processor, and more. In fact, its autofocus system is a hybrid that gives phase-matching and contrast-detection focus, and continuous focus for video – video that’s 1080P. There’s also no anti-aliasing filter so it’s as crisp as a winter morning, and has an AA filter simulator when you don’t want moire associated with the lack of such filter. Furthermore there’s the LCD that tilts and rotates and can be hidden, a built-in anti-shake system, 1/6000 shutter speed, and a special motor for smooth aperture changes for video…and wi-fi, and all for $649. Keep in mind too, that the K-mount is compatible with over 200 lenses.


So with all this, for that price, compared to the rest, you may be thinking, should I buy one? Well, I write this because that is precisely what I was asked by someone today (and have been asked a few times this week), to which I responded with an unsatisfactory, “That depends.” This is because we have to think of the reasons why Pentax doesn’t even blip on the current marketshare pie radar: Unfocused, camera bodies that look like toys, lack of mirrorless, and nothing really proprietary that we yearn for. All that and yet they’ve made something like this, which in all sensibility is a great camera for a bargain price. So why don’t people buy them?

[REWIND: Father’s Day 2016: Photography Gift Ideas For Dad]

The K-line is, historically, largely appealing to enthusiasts, and I assume this has something to do with it, as they think going with Canon or Nikon is just the right thing to do – probably because they’ve heard of them. But, as we all know, popularity isn’t necessarily an indicator of value. The K-70 is, on paper, one of the most impressive cameras to be announced/released in recent memory (considering the price), and I can’t think of a solid enough reason you should not consider it if you’re in the market – not in the face of all the obvious reasons why you absolutely should.

But history suggests, you’ll probably get a D5500 instead…

Those that can flow against the current, well, you can order the K-70 here.

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Christian DaWeb

    I don’t know why and cannot understand why you said in your title ‘wont buy’. As in here (Germany) we had 3 pre-orders of Pentax K-70 and sold another 2 in the first 3 days since it was delivered to us two weeks ago.
    Anyway, assuming stuff is easier than talking about facts.
    It’s VERY important how the salesmans are schooled from different companies/brands and how a Brand can or cannot amaze the customer.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Christian, the reason I said this is because, frankly, in terms of volume of demand, it’s just not there when compared the the other brands. I’ve spoken with one of the two major retailers here in the US about sales and consumer demand for this camera, and it was verified that it’s just not there. When Canon or Nikon builds a body they are looking to move hundreds of thousands of them. Will this shift for Pentax? Perhaps, and it would likely be deserved, but it’s just not the case right now.

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  2. Bob Ell

    I been using Pentax since I went digital and presently have a K3II. A week ago I was crossing a creek, slipped on some rocks broke my tripod and landed with my upper body including camera and lens in the water. Camera and lens were fine (both water sealed) while my tripod leg and my arm suffered damage.

    A friend of mine who shoots Nikon and recently was the recipient of some minor water spray. His camera is no longer working.

    I spend a lot of my time hiking up creeks in search of waterfalls etc. and I won’t even consider shooting with anything else other than with Pentax.

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  3. Peko Wallsend

    When Pentax put some of these K-70 features in the K-1ii along with a touch screen then Pentax will be back on the SLR radar.

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  4. Mike Cassity

    I think this is a great article and I get Kishore’s point. In every market there’s usually two big players and that leaves a bunch of ankle biters picking up the scraps.

    I shoot Pentax because it’s not like all the other cameras. I’m bold enough to be different and I do plan to buy the K70 and the new Pulse/300mm lens. I think many Pentax loyalists will choose between the k3ii and the K70 when replacing bodies.

    From a photography perspective I like Pentax for the price, shutter, frame rate, lens choices, and the cutesy filters you can add in-camera. Canon has better AF but I’m eager to see what the K70 can do here.


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    • Kishore Sawh

      Hi Mike, and thanks for the generous words. I’m not sure if we’ll get one in house to review, but if you end up getting one, let us know how you got on with it. There are a few Pentax guys within SLRL. Cheers

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  5. Deirdre Ryan

    My very first film body was a black Pentax MX. I prefered it over the K1000 because I’m only 5’0 and very petite, and back then in art college, I wanted something that I could hold easily. The MX fit me perfectly. I still have it :)

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  6. Dave White

    As an admitted Pentaxian, and as most of us are, pretty biased… I have to say that your article left me looking for an argument to back up your title. As one other commenter mentioned, it seems you ended just as you were about to make your point. I agree that the overwhelming trend for buyers is to follow the canikon herd, but short of saying “buy this camera”, I think the point is that buyers should consider the options… Not “great gear, too bad it’s not a canikon”.
    I won’t jump up on my Pentax soap box today, but as a Pentax shooter for decades, I’ve considered the switch to something else on numerous occasions and just can’t do it. The K-70 looks to be another stellar value… For anyone willing to go against the herd.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Hi Dave, I think if you read it again, or perhaps my other responses, you’ll find I’m saying essentially what you are: that there is more value here than in the more major brands. However, as good as it is, it’s just historically proven that people to whom this is markets will still not buy it, even in the face of how good it is.

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  7. Andrew Leinonen

    I recently purchased a Pentax K-S2 + 18-135WR as a cheap and cheerful weather-sealed kit. Canon and Nikon literally don’t offer a weather-sealed camera with a fully articulated screen (which was on my wish list), and the IBIS is just a cherry on top. Even to get the same level of direct controls and a similar quality OVF I’d be spending twice as much as I paid for the K-S2.

    Really, the only other camera to offer something similar would be the Olympus E-M5 II and the newer WR 14-150 II, but that setup would cost at least $1000, even used or refurbed, whereas I got my Pentax kit for $600.

    Honestly, there just isn’t anything on the market that approach the value for money that Pentax gives you. If you are interested in a DSLR for anything except fast action like sports and bird-in-flight photography (where Pentax undeniably lags the competition), you’re doing a huge disservice to yourself if you don’t consider the Pentax options.

    I’m not sure there’s ever been a camera that offers the same level of bang-for-buck as the K-70. It’s pretty absurd, really. The only thing that it really lacks is a touchscreen, which would put it over the top.

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  8. John Cavan

    Pentax has managed to stay because they do the Photographer’s camera so well. By that I mean that they handle the little touches almost perfectly, putting in those features that photographers tend to like and ignoring those that don’t matter too much. For example, video. I get that people like that, but for me, I couldn’t care less. I simply don’t use it. I’m not interested in video because I can’t frame and hang it on my wall, amongst other reasons and I’m enough of a realist to know that I’m very unlikely to watch a video I make more than once. So, if a camera dropped the feature, it wouldn’t factor in my buying decision. I’m not unique there.

    A lot of people don’t realize that Pentax was THE dominant player in the camera market at one point. The M42 mount was called the Pentax mount because Pentax made it huge. A couple of things killed that domination:

    1. Bayonet mounts. Pentax was slow to this world, having so much invested in the M42 mount, they just couldn’t see the advantages until too late.

    2. Ignoring the pro market in 35mm. For way too long, Pentax was stuck on the idea that medium format was for real pros, that 35mm was an amateur market. Nikon and Canon ate their lunch for that.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Thanks for that input, John, I appreciate it. You’re totally right about both M42 as a mount, and professional 35mm systems.

      It seems that cameras like the K-3 and K-1, plus lightweight yet rugged options like this, make it clear that Pentax is still very good at making killer cameras, they just have to play third fiddle to a two-party system, so to speak. Very few tech industries survive with more than two major players these days. (Mac vs PC, Apple vs Android, etc.)

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  9. Colin Woods

    I used Pentax for many years, I loved them. The all manual K1000 was indestructible and its simple match needle meter routinely gave me some of the best exposed slides I ever got (once you learnt how to interpret it). Likewise the LX. When I wanted to go to an AF system Pentax had all gimmicky stuff and Nikon had the F4. If I were starting out again without so much invested in Nikon lenses I could easily be tempted by them.

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  10. Andy Shrestha

    If I had not invested on lenses for my canon bodies…

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  11. Kyle Stauffer

    IMO, the “rather invest in lenses” argument is precisely a good reason to go Pentax.

    Take the K1 for example where a buyer could save a lot of money on the body compared to the NiCanon competitor. That said buyer who is going to possibly be buying Sigma Art glass anyway could put that extra dough into lenses.

    The following professional lenses are all available for Pentax.
    Sigma Art 35 1.4
    Pentax 50 1.4
    Sigma 85 1.4
    Pentax 24-70 2.8
    Pentax 70-200 2.8
    Pentax 100 mm 2.8 macro

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    • Matthew Saville

      Plus, the Nikon-like compatibility and support of thousands of old manual focus lenses, all which will still work amazingly well for landscape folks who don’t care about autofocus, nor about ultra-fast wide-open sharpness. I look forward to reviewing the K-1 as both a landscape and astro-landscape photographer.

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  12. Paul Empson

    It’s quite a set of features.. just very late to the party: VHS v Betamax springs to mind.. to really stand out and make a place in the market you have to offer both something different and with quality…… Fuji-X claimed a nice & growing following..

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  13. William Irwin

    Pentax’s issue is marketing and company focus.

    Sony has both in spades but their cameras are still awful, but they fly off the shelves.

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  14. Valters Pelns

    My first Dslr was Pentax and it’s outperformed Canon/Nikon bodys at that price range, but then I wanted to start working, and then there wasn’t FF body, so there was no potencial. Went Nikon way.

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  15. Orion Hunter

    The fact is that the vast majority of casual shooters who have made the various models of Rebel the best-selling DSLRs ever arguably would be better-served by the equivalent Pentax offering. Pentax has always offered more features than CaNikon at a given price point.

    “B-But, CaNikon has so many more lenses!”–which most shooters will never buy. Despite those marketing photos with CaNikon’s lens library arranged 5-6 rows deep on a platform, most CaNikon shooters end up with a small kit comprised of inexpensive lenses. Given what lenses most people *actually* buy, as opposed to what they theoretically *could* buy, they’d never come close to exhausting their lens options with the Pentax system.

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  16. Ryan H

    **Bias warning: I’ve had 5+ Pentax cameras over the years and always hated the lack of love** I am curious, and your article just ended before you seemed to get to it, but what exactly is it that makes you say “it depends?” The only negative thing you listed have to do with Pentax as a company. I agree that it’s unlikely people will buy it, but whether by luck or whatever else, they have produced what seems like a great product here. “You’ll probably just buy the D5500” hardly seems like a reason not to say “definitely buy it.”

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Hi Ryan, thanks for commenting. I rarely ever, if ever, tell anyone to definitely buy something, and certainly won’t give my word to something I’ve never held and used myself. That was part of the reason, and also, that you’d have to be ok going against the grain. When I mentioned you’ll likely just buy a D5500, all I meant was that even if I sat there and sung the Pentax’s praises all night, those in the market with this budget, will likely go with a more major player – despite the fact this may very well be a better camera. Familiarity, and all that…

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    • Ryan H

      Totally get it. The title of the article was spot on…people won’t buy this camera. Coming from a country where Pentax actually gets a little more credit in the marketplace I’ve always found it strange how far behind they are in the US. It’s like being a sports fan though….I gotta defend my team.

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  17. Matthew Saville

    Pentax has always been a favorite of those who go against the current. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. :-)

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Not at all. I think today, when bodies are becoming outdated so quickly, it’s even more compelling now.

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    • William Irwin

      I personally don’t buy for camera body. As you and others pointed out they become outdated quickly and people move on to the next best thing, especially if you are a pixel peeping photog. Lenses are where you should really focus selling points since lenses will outlast your digital camera body.

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    • John Cavan

      Makes Pentax a bit of a plus really, I’m not sure that anyone else can boast the consistent support for lenses over time in the manner Pentax has. Even ancient M42 lenses, with very inexpensive adapters, can be put on Pentax bodies and, even better, supported with anti-shake and, using the catch-in-focus feature, a form of basic AF support. I mean, if you’re going to argue on the basis of getting value out of a lens over time…

      In any event, the lens argument always made me smile. When I was shooting Pentax, I had 10 lenses and covered 8mm to 500mm with some overlap. I also had one of the sharpest, albeit manual focus, macro lenses ever made in the Lester Dine. I got to couple these with some of the best APS-C bodies made and I only moved off the platform a few years ago when I gave up on a Pentax full frame for the Nikon D800. Kind of wished I had waited, the new K-1 is looking pretty killer, but the D800 is still a great camera and I don’t suffer from buyer’s remorse.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Do you still have any old Pentax K-mount lenses? I’ve actually been scooping up a few for dirt-cheap here and there, in anticipation of reviewing the K-1.

      It all started when I inherited a K1000 from a grandfather. It had a super-lightweight old 50mm f/2 on it, and I googled a few other lenses and found out that I could acquire quite a few misc. hidden gems for well under $50 each. (Then again, some of the other hidden gems are over $300!)

      All in all, I’m not brand-loyal, yetI am a camera / enthusiast, and have a soft spot for nostalgia. I think I’ll always own at least one Nikon and one Pentax camera. (My other grandfather left me a Nikon FG, haha.)

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    • John Cavan

      @Matthew – I have a Vivitar 70-210mm (series 3, the good one), but that’s about it really. Not much of a market for that lens, it’s quite good, but heavy and all manual, so not a lot of uptake. I also have the older Sigma 120-400mm which, in my opinion, is actually pretty decent, but has been superseded by so many options now. I may look at picking up the K-70 and slapping that lens on it for wildlife, just for fun.

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