If you're looking for the best Pentax camera, you've come to the right place. We've tested and compared all the Pentax digital cameras you can buy right now, and in this guide we've ordered them according to which ones we reckon are going to offer the best bang-for-buck for most people.
We should mention that in this guide we're dealing with digital cameras – Pentax does of course have an illustrious history of film SLRs, such as the enduringly popular Pentax K1000 (opens in new tab). If this is the sort of thing you're interested in, then our guide to the best film cameras (opens in new tab) is where you want to be.
Pentax was once the third camera manufacturer mentioned in any conversation, a credible rival to the likes of Canon and Nikon. This isn't quite the case these days; while most firms are moving firmly into the mirrorless revolution, Pentax remains resolute in its commitment to DSLRs (opens in new tab). But they're fantastic DSLRs, which many photographers recommend highly, and if you pair one with some of the many excellent Pentax lenses (opens in new tab) available for K-mount, you start to see that it's a highly capable system, especially for photographers on a budget.
And DSLRs aren't the only option on the table! If you need more megapixels, the luxury of medium format may call to you, and the Pentax 645Z is one of the most user-friendly medium format cameras around right now.
We mentioned medium-format cameras already, but it's worth noting that Pentax is not just about DSLRs! If you need more megapixels and commercial-grade image quality, then the Pentax 654Z is one of the most user-friendly and affordable medium format cameras available right now. And Pentax's parent company, Ricoh, also produces compact cameras of its own, like the street-shooting Ricoh GR III (opens in new tab), and the waterproof WG-70 (opens in new tab).
However, in this guide, we're sticking with Pentax cameras, and that means DSLRs and medium format cameras. We've ranked these cameras using a number of criteria, including price, so you can be sure you'll be getting value for money with our recommendations.
Best Pentax cameras in 2022
A classic DSLR option for those looking for the best Pentax digital camera to buy, the K-1 Mark II packs in a lot of features while handling in a familiar manner for photo enthusiasts.
This being a Pentax, we get built in shake-reduction (something you'll see a fair amount on this list, but the real selling point here is the full frame sensor with its 36.4 million pixel resolution. Something else we found impressive when we reviewed the camera was the ‘scissor action’ articulating rear screen and extended exposure modes, along with two SD card slots.
It’s not all great news; the camera offers only a modest 4.4 fps maximum burst speed when shooting in full frame, which, while adequate, won’t impress sports or action photographers. There’s also no hybrid phase detection AF system for its live view mode and ‘only’ Full HD video capability rather than 4K, but we are blessed by the same accurate and well-performing 33-point AF system as its predecessor.
Ultimately though, excellent image quality at an affordable price is what you’ll be buying this flagship Pentax DSLR for, and that makes it our top pick for the majority of photographers.
Read more: Pentax K-1 Mark II review (opens in new tab)
Launched in March 2021, the Pentax K-3 III is the first DSLR to be launched for a while by any manufacturer – and is yet more proof that Ricoh is stick to its word of not making the switch to mirrorless cameras. The camera gets a new sensor that pushes up the resolution very slightly from 24MP to 25.7M – and this is powered by a new processor that offers an unbelievable high ISO rating of 1,600,000. The in-body image stabilization promises 5.5 stops of shake compensation - and there are two SD memory card slots (one of which is UHS-II compatible).
This is the first K-series camera to feature a touch-sensitive screen - but unlike some of its siblings this is fixed and can not be swung or or rotated. It is also the first Pentax DSLR to offer 4K video shooting.
On first review, we were distinctly unimpressed with the launch price of the Pentax K-3 Mark III, which was set at a decidedly ambitious $2,000/£1,900. This is pretty ludicrous for an APS-C DSLR, so we're pleased to see it has generally come down even in the relatively short time since the camera's release.
Read more: Pentax K-3 Mark III review (opens in new tab)
Rugged of build to a semi pro standard plus smart of design, the K-70 is probably the best all-round Pentax cameras enthusiast photographers can buy, by virtue of its weather resistant exterior being a rarity at its price. Also handy is an in-body image stabilization (IBIS) system with an equivalent performance of 4.5EV stops, and, for traditionalists, the fact that its optical viewfinder features a near 100% field of view. With an 11 point AF system offered, the Pentax uses a hybrid combination of phase detection AF and contrast detection AF when shooting using live view.
We’re used to mirrorless cameras offering a modest battery life, so the 480 shots delivered here seems fair, though it’s a little disappointing for a DSLR. Still, combine this with a variable angle LCD and pictorial output that requires very little in the way of adjustment, if any, and the K-70 reveals itself as one of the more reliable and consistent DSLRs you can buy.
Compact, sturdy and feature packed, like the less expensive K-70 this angular DSLR option offers up body integral image stabilisation, a rugged weather proofed construction with 67 seals, plus a maximum ISO 819,200 light sensitivity setting to aid low light performance.
Like the K-70, the KP offers a relatively modest battery performance of 390 shots, but unfortunately doesn’t offer its sibling’s hybrid AF functionality. Still, it does however boast an interesting range of photographic options, including depth of field bracketing and motion bracketing, along with a generous trio of control dials for those of us who enjoy getting hands on.
Like other Pentax cameras you can buy, the KP consistently delivers some good-looking images with great contrast and good exposure, making it ultimately a good alternative to the usual suspects.
The Pentax KP has been officially discontinued, but that doesn't mean it's impossible to find. Some UK retailers are still stocking it, and there are a fair few sellers on eBay, so it's definitely still worth tracking down.
Read more: Pentax KP review (opens in new tab)
If it’s a high resolution Pentax camera you need above all else, you’ll be pleased to learn that this medium format option handles a bit like a bigger version of Pentax’s K-3 DSLR – which means it’s not overly daunting for those making the step up.
The 645Z, which replaced the earlier 645D, is solid in feel and weather-proof in build, so it doesn’t mind a spot of rain, while it is also one of the more affordable MF cameras available. It's flexible too, allowing for up to 10 Raw files or 30 high quality JPEGs to be shot at its maximum capture speed of 3fps. While that’s not match for a high end DSLR, most people won’t be buying a medium format camera with speed as a priority, but rather resolution.
Creative flexibility extends to being provided with a tilting 3.3-inch screen here, which is both capable of live view capture and aiding and abetting the recording of Full HD movies, for which a stereo microphone port is provided.
There are also, usefully, two SD card slots for dealing with all that data. If it’s a more approachable and slightly more affordable medium format camera you’re after, the well-received 645Z ticks many boxes.
How we test cameras
We test DSLR cameras both in real-world shooting scenarios and in carefully controlled lab conditions. Our lab tests measure resolution, dynamic range and signal to noise ratio. Resolution is measured using ISO resolution charts, dynamic range is measured using DxO Analyzer test equipment and DxO Analyzer is also used for noise analysis across the camera's ISO range. We use both real-world testing and lab results to inform our comments in buying guides.
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