Two years in the past, Ricoh Imaging launched the Pentax Ok-3 Mark III, a high-end APS-C DSLR aimed squarely at fanatic photographers. It turned out to be a really succesful digicam certainly, combining fantastic dealing with, sturdy construct, and spectacular picture high quality to make it the most effective Pentax DSLRs ever. Now the agency has determined to do one thing extra left-field and produce a model that solely shoots in black & white – the aptly named Pentax Ok-3 Mark III Monochrome.
Pentax Ok-3 Mark III Monochrome at a look:
- $2200 / £2249 body-only
- 25.7MP APS-C sensor
- ISO 200-1,600,000
- 12fps steady taking pictures
- 0.7x pentaprism viewfinder
- 3.2in, 1.62m-dot touchscreen
- 5-axis in-body picture stabilisation
This isn’t the primary black & white solely digicam we’ve seen, however it’s the primary to not originate from the hallowed halls of Leica, and the primary DSLR, too. Whereas it instructions a premium over the inventory Pentax Ok-3 Mark III, at $2200 / £2249 relatively than $2000 / £1899 body-only, it’s dramatically cheaper than both of Leica’s present choices, the Leica Q2 Monochrom ($6200 / £5200) and Leica M11 Monochrom ($9200 / £8300). It’s nonetheless not fairly a digicam for the plenty, however it makes the thought of a devoted mono-only device extra accessible than ever earlier than.
After all, you’ll be able to convert any color photograph to black & white, so it’s completely cheap to ask why you’d use a specialist digicam as an alternative. The obvious motive is technical. With the standard color filter array eradicated, and no demosaicing course of required to create the ultimate picture, every sensor pixel immediately measures the sunshine depth at its location – no extra, no much less. In precept, this could lead to sharper element, smoother tonality, and decrease noise. As we’ve seen from these Leicas, monochrome sensors ship pretty picture information.
Nonetheless, there’s one other, extra refined argument too. By eliminating any chance of manufacturing color pictures, the digicam forces you to suppose purely when it comes to mild and tone. So by focusing your mindset whereas taking pictures, it would simply enable you to to make higher black & white images. However does this distinctive DSLR ship on its promise?
Word – this evaluate was primarily based on taking pictures with a pre-production digicam.
Pentax Ok-3 Mark III Monochrome: Options
In most respects, the Pentax Ok-3 Mark III Monochrome is similar to its mum or dad digicam. Nonetheless, with the color filter array eliminated, extra mild is ready to attain the sensor. This ends in the one apparent change of specification, with the lowest out there sensitivity rising from ISO 100 to ISO 200.
A detailed take a look at the menus and settings reveals that, unsurprisingly, every little thing regarding white steadiness or color output has additionally been eliminated. Externally, all of the buttons and dials at the moment are marked in gray, relatively than white, whereas the onscreen consumer interface is nearly solely monochrome. However that’s in regards to the full extent of the variations.
In different respects, we get all the identical options as the usual Ok-3 Mark III. This implies the digicam is constructed round a 26MP APS-C sensor that employs a backside-illuminated design to scale back noise and enhance dynamic vary. Its sensitivity stretches all the best way as much as ISO 1,600,000 and optimistically, it ought to give a lot better outcomes that the color sensor at such super-high settings.
For steady taking pictures, the promised velocity of 12 frames per second is spectacular for a DSLR that has to flip its mirror up and down, whereas the 32-frame uncooked buffer may be very respectable, too.
Autofocus utilises a SAFOX 13 sensor, which incorporates no fewer than 101 focus factors, of which 25 are cross-type and 41 are user-selectable. The digicam is claimed to be able to focusing in mild as little as -4 EV, whereas a 307,000-pixel metering sensor aids with topic identification for focus monitoring functions. Swap to reside view, although, and the digicam falls again onto a contrast-detection AF system, which feels distinctly outdated in comparison with the on-sensor part detection now discovered on nearly all mirrorless cameras.
For composition, you get the biggest viewfinder ever seen on an APS-C DSLR, with its 0.7x equal magnification offering an analogous dimension view to most full-frame fashions. Nonetheless, that is barely tempered by the truth that a number of high-end APS-C mirrorless cameras boast digital viewfinders which might be even bigger. On the again you get a 3.2in touchscreen that’s fastened, relatively than articulated, which nowadays is uncommon (and disappointing).
5-axis in-body picture stabilisation (IBIS) is inbuilt and works with nearly any lens you should utilize, promising as much as 5.5 stops shake discount. The system additionally affords some helpful options which might be unique to Pentax. It will probably simulate the impact of an optical low-pass filter in suppressing sampling artefacts, mechanically appropriate angled horizons (which is basically helpful for hand-held taking pictures), and be used to fine-tune your composition when utilizing a tripod. Nonetheless, the Ok-3 Mark III’s pixel-shift multi-shot operate has gone, as Pentax solely makes use of this for full-colour sampling at every pixel location.
Recordsdata are recorded to twin SD card slots, one in every of which helps high-speed UHS-II media. The 2 playing cards can both be used sequentially, or in backup mode with information saved to each. Alternatively, it’s attainable to ship uncooked information to 1 card and JPEGs to the opposite.
Each Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are included for smartphone connectivity, which utilises the free Picture Sync app. This gives a standard set of options, permitting distant management of the digicam out of your telephone both with or and not using a reside view feed, and facilitating picture sharing on social media. It’s additionally attainable to geotag your pictures utilizing your telephone’s GPS. A properly carried out in-camera uncooked converter means that you can experiment with completely different processing results earlier than sharing your pictures.
The digicam is able to recording 4K video, full with built-in microphone and headphone sockets for capturing and monitoring higher-quality sound. Nonetheless, the fastened display screen, contrast-detect autofocus, and lack of superior video options restrict the digicam’s capabilities on this regard.
Pentax Ok-3 Mark III Monochrome key options:
- Markings: All of the buttons at the moment are marked in gray as an alternative of white. This suits the monochrome idea properly, however they’re much less simple to learn at a fast look or in low mild
- Energy: The D-LI90 battery guarantees a powerful 800 photographs per cost. It’s charged internally utilizing the USB-C port.
- Distant: A 2.5mm digital launch socket is discovered on the facet of the handgrip, whereas infrared receivers are paced on each the back and front.
- Lock button: Urgent this button and spinning the rear dial permits the publicity settings to be locked for a sequence of photographs
- Inexperienced button: This has an array of useful capabilities, starting from participating auto ISO to activating stop-down metering with manual-focus lenses. Confusingly, it’s nonetheless referred to as the ‘inexperienced button’, regardless of now being colored gray.
- Flash: There’s no built-in flash, however a scorching shoe permits use of exterior models such because the AF 540 FGZ II (£449), whereas a PC sync connector facilitates use with studio strobes
- Battery grip: The Pentax D-BG8 (£329) screws onto the bottom and gives a replica set of controls for portrait-format taking pictures, whereas accepting an extra battery
Pentax Ok-3 Mark III Monochrome: Construct and Dealing with
Pentax DSLRs have historically been extraordinarily well-built, and the Ok-3 Mark III Monochrome is not any completely different. Its sturdy magnesium alloy physique is dustproof and climate resistant, and positively feels prefer it ought to stand up to loads of abuse. The dials all have textured rubber grips, whereas the buttons are massive and have respectable journey, which makes the digicam fairly simple to make use of whereas carrying gloves.
The digicam suits properly in your hand, although, due to the massive, rubberised grip and well-defined resting area on the again to your thumb. Crucial controls are properly positioned for operation by your proper forefinger and thumb, whereas an extra column of buttons on the facet of the lens throat is positioned inside simple attain of your left thumb. It’s a hefty beast although, measuring 134.5 x 103.5 x 73.5mm and weighing in at 820g, which is bigger and heavier than any APS-C mirrorless digicam.
Current Ok-3 Mark III homeowners will discover an similar management format, with twin management dials at the back and front used to vary shutter velocity and aperture respectively, and a pair of buttons behind the shutter launch for ISO and publicity compensation. The ability swap encircles the shutter button; pulling it to a sprung place past the On mark stops down the aperture for depth-of-field preview. A distinguished dial beside the viewfinder selects between viewfinder, reside view and film taking pictures.
A standard publicity mode dial is positioned on the digicam’s left shoulder. Along with the standard set of PASM modes, this consists of Pentax’s signature TAv and Sv choices. The previous means that you can specify each the shutter velocity and aperture, with the digicam adjusting the ISO to compensate, whereas the latter does exactly the alternative. In Program mode, spinning the entrance or rear dial means that you can briefly choose a selected shutter velocity or aperture respectively for a sequence of photographs, which is extra subtle and helpful than the standard program shift operate.
There’s additionally a Good Perform (S.Fn) dial on the highest, which can be utilized to vary 5 user-defined capabilities, chosen utilizing the S.Fn button alongside. I usually used it for ISO management, however different choices embrace publicity compensation, drive mode, or shortly switching between autofocus set-ups optimised for static and shifting topics.
A joystick on the again is used for positioning the main focus level. Nonetheless, not like with different cameras, it isn’t absolutely built-in into the remainder of the interface. For instance, it could possibly’t be used to scroll by pictures in playback, or to navigate menus and alter settings. As an alternative, it should typically push you again into taking pictures mode.
In the meantime, the d-pad buttons are devoted to altering drive mode, LCD brightness, and picture processing settings. For the latter, the digicam affords a alternative of Normal, Arduous, and Mushy monochrome appears to be like rather than the standard color choices, with loads of management over detailed settings. Urgent the Data button on the again provides fast entry to much more options, through a neatly laid-out onscreen management panel. Because of this, nearly each taking pictures setting might be modified with out having to make use of the menus.
Practically each button and dial might be customised, and it’s additionally attainable to retailer 5 completely different setups for fast recall through the U positions on the mode dial. Because of this, it ought to be attainable for customers to configure the digicam to function precisely as they’d like. So whereas the sheer array of controls can look daunting at first, with observe the digicam turns into fast and intuitive to make use of.
Pentax Ok-3 Mark III Monochrome: Utilizing guide lenses
One of many massive sights of Pentax DSLRs is the large vary of Ok-mount lenses out there, relationship again to 1975. This consists of the most effective vary of devoted APS-C format lenses produced for any DSLR system. There’s additionally an unlimited vary of older film-era lenses, though the smaller sensor imposes a 1.5x area of view crop.
When you’ll get full performance with trendy AF designs, the digicam nonetheless works properly with manual-focus lenses. You could enter the focal size for the IBIS system to work accurately, and the digicam might be set to request this when it’s switched on. The AF system will point out when the topic is in focus, however for probably the most dependable outcomes you’ll want to make use of magnified reside view on the rear display screen.
With the oldest fully-manual lenses, you should shoot in M mode and allow use of the lens’s aperture ring within the menu. Uniquely, you’ll be able to inform the digicam the aperture you’ve set by spinning the rear dial, which might be recorded within the EXIF knowledge. To verify the metering, you should activate the depth-of-field preview utilizing the facility swap. Alternatively, should you press the ‘inexperienced button’ on the again, the digicam will choose the proper shutter velocity and/or ISO setting itself. I used a Eighties-vintage Tamron 90mm F2.5 Macro with good outcomes.
Pentax Ok-3 Mark III Monochrome: Viewfinder and display screen
One standout characteristic of the Ok-3 Mark III design is the viewfinder, which might be the best of any APS-C DSLR. Given its dimension, it’s nonetheless impressively brilliant and clear. An info panel beneath the focusing display screen shows detailed publicity settings, together with metering and drive modes. Due to a clear LCD overlay, you additionally get a alternative of gridlines and a dual-axis digital degree, whereas a sequence of small icons assist you to change the S.Fn dial operate with the digicam as much as your eye. It’s as shut as you may realistically anticipate to get to the degrees of knowledge offered by the digital viewfinders of mirrorless cameras.
That is nonetheless an optical viewfinder, although, with all the standard drawbacks. It will get darkish while you interact depth of area preview, making the impact tough to evaluate. The focusing ‘snap’ with guide lenses is fairly good, however for really correct outcomes you’ll want to change to reside view. Clearly, it could possibly’t present any indication of how your pictures will end up when it comes to publicity, and nor can it preview the digicam’s black & white output. Certainly, I typically discovered myself wishing that that digicam had an digital viewfinder as an alternative.
Assistance is at hand right here, to a level, by switching to reside view utilizing the three.2in rear display screen. It’s sharp and clear and previews your processing and publicity settings, which implies you may get a good suggestion of whether or not your photographs are more likely to work in black & white. It additionally provides a a lot better illustration of what’s occurring while you interact depth of area preview. Sadly, the shortage of a tilting display screen is an actual disadvantage right here, because it makes for awkward dealing with when taking pictures hand-held, or while you wish to work at low or excessive angles from a tripod.
Pentax Ok-3 Mark III Monochrome: Autofocus
As DSLRs go, the Ok-3 Mark III Monochrome’s autofocus system is fairly spectacular. It employs 101 focus factors overlaying about two-thirds of the body width, however solely a 3rd of its peak, with 25 being of the extra correct cross-type. Solely 41 factors are user-selectable, with the rest getting used to maintain observe of shifting topics. Nonetheless, you don’t get anyplace the identical sort of subject-tracking efficiency as the newest mirrorless cameras, which might determine and maintain deal with topics nearly anyplace inside the body.
Along with having the ability to specify a single focus level manually, a number of space modes can be found that adjust when it comes to what number of factors they use, and throughout how a lot of the body they are often positioned. These are helpful with erratically shifting topics that may be tough to comply with utilizing a single focus level; certainly a few of them are solely out there in AF-C.
You too can enable the digicam to decide on the main focus space itself, and on this case, it makes use of topic recognition to assist determine the optimum level. Most clearly, the system will try and deal with faces even when one other object is nearer to the digicam, which older, much less subtle methods wouldn’t do. I used the HD-Pentax DA* 16-50mm F2.8 ED PLM AW zoom for this evaluate. Because of this, I wasn’t actually in a position to push the AF system to its limits, in the identical approach as utilizing a protracted telephoto lens would. Nonetheless, I discovered the digicam usually did a very good job of focusing shortly and precisely.
Swap to reside view, although, and AF is relatively slower with a bent to hunt for focus, particularly when mild ranges drop. The saving grace, although, is that distinction detection AF is inherently very correct, and the main focus level might be positioned throughout a bigger space of the body. It’s excellent for taking pictures static topics on a tripod, however much less so for dynamic conditions.
Pentax Ok-3 Mark III Monochrome: Efficiency
General, the Pentax Ok-3 Mark III Monochrome is fast and responsive, and received’t get in the best way of your taking pictures. By DSLR requirements, it’s fairly unobtrusive too, with each the mirror and shutter mechanisms being comfortable and well-damped. Nevertheless it’s not as quiet as most mirrorless fashions.
Should you do must shoot silently, then it’s attainable to allow the digital shutter choice in reside view. Nonetheless, this comes with vital rolling shutter results, so it’s finest used with static or slowly shifting topics solely. The digicam can even disengage reside view after a minute’s inactivity, with the mirror dropping again down once more audibly.
It’s additionally essential to know that the digital shutter setting additionally applies to viewfinder taking pictures; first the mirror flips up, then the image is taken after a brief however noticeable delay. This has the good thing about extending the quickest shutter velocity to 1/16,000sec, however means you get each the noise of the mirror and shutter mechanisms, and the danger of rolling shutter distortion. So you should bear in mind to disable the setting everytime you don’t want it.
Whereas the spec sheet guarantees the flexibility to shoot at 12 frames per second, I used to be by no means in a position to coax this velocity from the digicam in my testing. As an alternative, I measured 10fps for regular viewfinder taking pictures, and 11fps in reside view, with a decent 37-frame uncooked+JPEG buffer. Thoughts you, this could nonetheless be fast sufficient for nearly any function.
Metering is usually dependable, however in no way fool-proof. The usual multi-segment mode generally is a little liable to underexposure in boring, gray circumstances, whereas typically blowing out highlights in high-contrast conditions. So you should get used to anticipating this and pre-emptively making use of publicity compensation. That is particularly essential with the monochrome sensor, as there’s no approach of retrieving clipped spotlight element – as soon as it’s gone, it’s gone.
On this regard, I used to be shocked to search out that highlights clip a cease earlier at ISO 200 in comparison with ISO 400 and better settings, in each JPEG and uncooked information (the digicam doesn’t point out this in any approach). Because of this counter-intuitively, there’s a robust case for utilizing ISO 400 as your base setting in brilliant mild. Alternatively, you may use the spotlight spot metering mode in live performance with the AE-L button to keep away from blowing out essential element. Nonetheless, because the studying is taken within the centre of the body, this may often require recomposing every shot.
Fortunately, the flip facet of the sensor’s intolerance of over-exposure is a really phenomenal dynamic vary in uncooked information. At low ISOs, you’ll be able to delve virtually as deep as you want into the shadows and convey up exceptional ranges of element. In ISO 200 photographs uncovered to retain brilliant highlights, I used to be in a position to push Adobe Digicam Uncooked’s publicity slider as much as +4 and even +5 stops with out spoiling the picture. Even when some noise does begin to seem, the truth that it has a granular, pixel-level sample implies that it’s under no circumstances objectionable.
The monochrome sensor responds to color filters in entrance of the lens in a lot the identical approach as black & white movie, which lets you manipulate the tonality of your picture information. For instance, an orange or purple filter will darken blue skies relative to clouds, giving a extra dramatic look – you’ll be able to see this within the composite picture under. The large benefit in comparison with taking pictures movie, although, is that you just don’t want to fret in the identical approach in regards to the impression of the filter in your shutter velocity – you’ll be able to both enhance the ISO to compensate or depend on stabilisation to provide sharp pictures.
The person information that make up this comparability can be found from the next hyperlinks: • No filter • Orange filter, Hoya O (G) • Crimson filter, Hoya R (25A).
On this notice, I discovered that the in-body picture stabilisation labored fairly properly. Utilizing the 16-50mm zoom in the direction of its extensive finish, I used to be in a position to get some usable pictures hand-held at shutter speeds as gradual as 0.5sec utilizing the 16-50mm zoom at its wider settings (though not each single shot). The one catch is that IBIS isn’t as efficient with telephoto lenses, the place many customers will really feel they want it most, and the viewfinder picture isn’t stabilised both, so that you get no really feel for the way properly it’s working. You additionally want to make sure stabilisation is disabled when taking pictures on a tripod, otherwise you’ll danger getting blurred pictures. The digicam will do that mechanically should you both interact the self-timer or use the elective infrared distant management.
One characteristic that does appear barely redundant is the anti-aliasing filter simulator. This makes use of the IS system to barely blur the picture, which in precept helps cut back picture sampling artefacts. On the usual digicam, that’s nice for suppressing distracting color moiré on materials, for instance. On the Monochrome, although, it’s a lot much less helpful. In precept it would sometimes nonetheless cut back potential false element with very fantastic repeating patterns. However largely, it barely softens the whole picture for no clear achieve.
Pentax Ok-3 Mark III Monochrome: ISO and Noise
One space the place the monochrome sensor positively shines lies with high-ISO noise, or relatively, the shortage of it. At low sensitivities, the 26MP sensor resolves fantastic element exceptionally cleanly, with barely any seen noise, and that is maintained proper by to ISO 3200. The best texture begins to blur away at ISO 6400, nonetheless the sensor continues to provide solely usable pictures proper as much as ISO 102,400, which is a way past any color APS-C digicam.
Even increased settings may be workable should you don’t thoughts a tough, grainy aesthetic. I’m under no circumstances satisfied by the very highest settings past ISO 409,600, however then once more, I can’t actually envisage any scenario while you’d presumably want them.
Under are 100% crops from our normal studio take a look at scene. Click on on any thumbnail to see the full-size picture. Shot utilizing the HD-Pentax DA* 16-50mm F2.8 ED PLM AW lens at 50mm, DNG uncooked, processed utilizing Adobe Digicam Uncooked.
Pentax Ok-3 Mark III Monochrome: Our Verdict
In a approach, the Pentax Ok-3 Mark III Monochrome is precisely what I anticipated it to be. It combines the sturdy, enthusiast-friendly design of the Ok-3 Mark III with all of the established benefits of a monochrome sensor: excessive pixel-level sharpness, low noise, finish wonderful dynamic vary. Should you’re a Pentax consumer with a pleasant set of APS-C lenses, who loves taking pictures in black & white and has the cash to spare, it’s a straightforward advice. It’s a fantastic digicam that can repay you with very good outcomes.
For anybody else, although, I’m not so positive. Whereas $2200 / £2249 is a dramatically lower cost for a specialist mono digicam than Leica’s choices, I simply don’t suppose the Ok-3 Mark III Monochrome has the identical aspirational attraction. A chunky APS-C DSLR merely isn’t the identical object of want as a wonderful minimalist rangefinder, and it doesn’t supply such a particular taking pictures expertise, both. If we have been a compact, tactile full-frame DSLR that would use all these film-era Ok-mount lenses with out cropping, it may be a unique matter.
This, in flip, highlights one other elephant within the room. Should you’re a Pentax consumer who desires black & white information with increased decision and decrease noise than the Ok-3 Mark III, why not simply purchase the full-frame Pentax Ok-1 Mark II as an alternative, which prices relatively much less at $2000 / £1699? You can put the additional cash in the direction of a lens or two. In the meantime, anybody else who desires to discover ways to shoot in black & white may purchase a mirrorless digicam, swap to B&W mode, and get a reside preview within the viewfinder of how their pictures will end up within the absence of color.
I don’t wish to sound too essential of the Pentax Ok-3 Mark III Monochrome, although. It’s nonetheless a fantastic digicam that succeeds by itself phrases, and I used to be happy by the picture information it gave me. It’s additionally nice to see an organization apart from Leica proving the benefits of the monochrome sensor; I simply want extra would comply with.
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