The sensor in the new Pentax K-5 has taken over the #1 ranking for APS-C sized sensors on DxOmark.com, and not by a small margin. DxOmark is unambiguous in its praise: under the heading "The best APS-C in all tested fields," they write, "No need for suspense: this new 16.3 MP sensor is simply the best APS-C we have tested so far, sometimes able to compete even with very high-end full-frame cameras." It comes in sixth overall—nestled in between the Nikon D3s and D3 and surrounded by nothing but full-frame and medium format cameras. You have to go all the way down to #19 on the list to find the next APS-C sensor camera.
Calling its dynamic range performance "wonderful," DxOmark says this area is "clearly where the K5 struts its stuff...even the [Nikon] D3X’s full-frame sensor is not [as] good."
Where high ISO is concerned, being a "small" sensor, the K-5 is still "roughly a stop behind" the $780-more-expensive Nikon D700 and $900-more-expensive Canon 5D Mark II*. However, the K-5's overall sensor score of 82 trounces the APS-C competition, "more than 9 points better than the D90 or the Alpha 55, and 16 points ahead of the Canon 7D or 60D," and is top-ranked for high ISO among its same-size peers. (Note that the scores for the new Nikon D7000 are not posted yet, so Nikon still has a shot to retain the high-ISO crown.)
(Thanks to Iñaki Arbelaiz and Chris Nicholls)
*Prices per B&H Photo
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Original contents copyright 2010 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Adam Maas: "Samsung made the 14-MP sensor used in the K20D and K-7; all other Pentax DSLRs except the MZ-D prototype use Sony sensors. The K-5 in fact shares its sensor with the Sony A55, A580 and most likely the Nikon D7000. (The reason the K-5 outperforms the A55 is the light losses due to the pellix mirror and Sony's processing chain being a bit behind state of the art.) The MZ-D used the same Phillips sensor as the Contax N Digital—Pentax simply chose not to ship the camera when it became clear the sensor could not deliver the performance Phillips promised.
"Pentax's struggles to get good performance from the Samsung sensor (something Samsung itself has been unable to do—the NX cameras, which also use this sensor, lag behind 4/3 in performance) resulted in the PRIME II engine being the current best processing chain on the market in terms of IQ. When coupled with the much better-performing Sony CMOS sensors, this results in class-leading performance. The K-x was the first PRIME II/Sony CMOS camera, and its performance is stunningly good for a camera you can buy for $500."
Featured Comment by Kent Phelan: "The K-5 is the big Inside Secret in the DSLR world. Compact, magnesium chassis, weatherproof, 100% viewfinder, 14 bit DNG RAW capture, and the fabulous DA Limited compact lenses. It covers all the checkpoints of my previous Nikon D700 in a significantly smaller and (IMO) ergonomically friendlier package. Did I mention it has the quietest shutter I’ve ever used—Leicas and Mamiya 7 included? For a certain type of photographer this is the perfect camera. I believe it was John Camp who once compared the Pentax K-7 to a Leica M digital. I’m sure many thought that was an odd statement. Not me. I use my K-5 as I used my M8, with much of the automation turned off and with fixed DA Ltd lenses. I have been a Nikon/Leica person my whole life, but I find this camera quite compelling.
"Regina Carter, taken two nights ago. K-5 with DA70 lens, ISO 2000, RAW capture re-sized in post (LR3) but nothing more."
Featured Comment by Dan Bridges: "The DxO DR tested performance of the K-5 is amazing. It has the same DR at ISO800 that my K20D has at ISO100. If you use the 'Print' tab on the DxO charts to get a normalised 8 MP result which is useful for comparing sensors with dissimilar MP, at ISO80 there is an impressive 14.1 stops of DR.
"This enormous DR will not mean much for JPEG shooters, but for the raw shooters the dark shadowy waters to that can be dredged for submerged details are very deep and rich indeed. It also will significantly reduce the need for HDR in landscape shooting.
"The knee at ISO3200 and up is on-sensor NR designed by Sony. (DxO now indicates any sensor that has this in part of its ISO range with the label 'smoothed' on its charts. Nikon has it.) It is non-defeatable. Its effect on the published shots so far seems mild. If you are going to have NR, on-sensor is the place for it since it can be tuned to the sensor's characteristics and it can be performed before Bayer filter demosaicing so it is less visible."