Pentax has a reputation for delivering features reserved for premium models in its entry-level and midrange SLR lines. The K-70 ($649.95) is no exception, boasting full weather sealing, a glass pentaprism viewfinder, and in-body image stabilization. Its autofocus system isn’t on the same level as the K-3 II , but it inherits many of the technological advances found in the outgoing premium APS-C model, including high-resolution Pixel Shift imaging. Video is underwhelming, despite the addition of on-sensor phase detection, but if that’s not a big concern for you, the K-70 is a solid option. If you want a more well-rounded camera, look to our Editors’ Choice SLR, the Canon EOS Rebel T6s ($849.99 at Office Depot® & OfficeMax®) , or the mirrorless Sony Alpha 6000, both of which offer a better autofocus experience when recording video.
The K-70 ($546.95 at Amazon) is a compact, solidly built SLR. It measures 3.7 by 4.9 by 2.9 inches (HWD) and weighs about 1.5 pounds. That’s a wee bit smaller than the Rebel T6s (3.9 by 4.9 by 3 inches), but the Rebel is lighter at 1.1 pounds. The denser K-70 sports in-camera weather sealing and a larger, brighter glass pentaprism, both of which contribute to its weight—the T6s isn’t as extensively sealed (though still usable in light precipitation), and has a pentamirror finder that, while lighter, doesn’t match the quality of a glass prism.
Ricoh, the company behind the Pentax brand, sells the K-70 as a body only in black or silver. The silver version, which we received for review, is a two-tone design with a black covering over the front of the camera and handgrip. The silver finish is fairly dark, making it closer to a gunmetal gray in my eyes, and is quite attractive without being flashy.
The camera sports a comfortable, contoured handgrip. It features an indentation for your middle finger, as well as an infrared sensor for a wireless remote control. The lens release button is in the normal place, on the front next to the lens mount, and the left side houses the focus mode switch, Raw/Fx1 button, and the flash release button.
All of the top controls are situated to the right of the hot shoe and pop-up flash. There’s a standard Mode dial and three buttons—Wi-Fi/Fn2, EV, and Green—as well as the three-stage power switch, with settings for Off, On, and Video, which surrounds the shutter button. The forward control dial sits ahead of the shutter, angled on the top of the handgrip.
The Live View (for stills) button is at the rear corner, to the left of the eyecup. To the right you’ll find the rear control dial and AF/AE-L button. Play, Info, and Menu buttons are to the right of the rear display, along with a four-way controller (ISO, Drive, White Balance, Flash) with a center OK/Focus Select button. There’s no dedicated joypad to select the active focus point, like you get with the Nikon D5500 ($719.99 at eBay) . That’s a shame, as using the center button to change the function of the rear control pad is a bit of a pain. But it’s something Pentax owners are used to at this point—the K-3 II and the flagship full-frame K-1 ($1,599.00 at Amazon) use the same type of button system to toggle the rear four-way button system between focus point selection and marked function.
The rear display is a vari-angle design. It’s mounted on a hinge so it swings out to the side of the camera and turns to face all the way forward through straight down, about a 270-degree range of motion. The 3-inch LCD is acceptably crisp at 921k dots, but it’s not a touch screen—not a huge deal, as the K-70 isn’t a strong performer in Live View. The Canon T6s is a better choice for video and Live View autofocus, and its vari-angle LCD does support touch input. Still, the vari-angle LCD is always welcome when setting up low-angle shots on a tripod.
Wi-Fi is built in. You can transfer images and video clips to an Android or iOS device via the Ricoh Image Sync app. It’s not the fastest transfer we’ve seen—it takes about 15 seconds to copy a single image to your phone—and the interface leaves a lot to be desired. If you shoot in Raw+JPG mode, you’ll see separate thumbnails for each file format, but there’s no way to tell which is which from the thumbnail view. That makes bulk transfer of JPG images a bit tricky.
Remote control is a stronger aspect of Wi-Fi. The app shows a live feed from the lens and gives you full manual control over functions, depending on which shooting mode is active. You do need to use the physical dial on the K-70 to change modes, however. Selecting a focus point is easy—just tap on the part of the frame you want in focus and it will trigger the autofocus system.
The K-70 has a single memory card slot that supports SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards, with support for UHS-I speed. The memory card door is on the side of the camera, separate from the bottom battery compartment. A rubber flap covers the micro HDMI and micro USB ports, both situated on the right side below the memory card door. A similar flap covers a 3.5mm microphone jack, located on the left.
Performance and Image Quality
The K-70 is a little slow to power on, focus, and fire, requiring about 2.4 seconds to do so with default settings enabled. Those default settings slow things down, as part of the process is devoted to shaking the image sensor to remove dust. You can disable this, which cuts the time to 1.4 seconds. The K-70 will still shake the sensor to remove dust when you power it down.
Ricoh states the K-70 can fire off shots at up to 6fps. It didn’t manage to hit that mark in our continuous shooting test, topping out at 4.8fps in AF-S mode. I was only able to push the shutter speed to 1/100-second, which might play a factor in that result. I typically test burst speeds at fast 1/250-second or 1/500-second shutter speeds, depending on the maximum burst rate of the camera, but when paired with an 18-135mm zoom, keeping the shutter that short pushed the ISO to 3200. At that high sensitivity the camera’s burst rate is a modest 3.8fps. Slower results at higher ISOs are something we’ve seen from other Pentax cameras, but it’s not an issue that has reared its head when we’ve tested models from other brands.
The K-70 supports UHS-I memory cards, but I tested speeds with the fastest card I had on hand, a SanDisk UHS-II card that is rated at 280MBps. The K-70 nets just 10 shots in Raw+JPG and 14 Raw shots before its capture rate slows, but it does net 66 JPG images at 4.8fps. Regardless of file format, about 15 seconds is required to clear the camera’s buffer to memory.
The camera sports a modest 11-point autofocus system. When using the viewfinder to focus, the K-70 locks onto subjects very quickly, within 0.1-second in bright light. In typical indoor home lighting that slips to about 0.8-second, and in very dim conditions the camera can take 1.5 seconds to lock focus and capture an image.
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The K-70 slows down when shooting with continuous focus (AF-C) enabled. I clocked it at 4.2fps in our standard test, which involves focusing on a target that moves in a straight line toward and away from the lens. The focus hit rate was decent, as it was in field conditions, but there were definitely situations where the K-70 couldn’t quite keep up with the action—eagles flying toward the the lens proved a challenge, but I still managed to get usable images out of sequences. For the money, the best autofocus system you can get is in a mirrorless camera, the Sony Alpha 6000 ($549.99 at Dell Technologies) . It shoots at 11.1fps while tracking moving subjects with a strong rate of in-focus images.
As a mirrorless camera, the Alpha 6000 focuses in Live View full-time. Like the K-70, it features on-sensor phase detection. But the K-70 doesn’t match the Alpha’s near-instant focus speed when working in Live View. It requires about 0.7-second to lock focus and capture an image when using the rear display to frame a shot.
The K-70 features a 24MP sensor, the same resolution you get with the K-3 II, which is stablized using a sensor-shift system. Basically, the image sensor moves to compensate for camera shake, so any lens you attach is stabilized. This is the reason that Pentax lenses don’t include stabilization, the function is handled by the camera body.
I used Imatest to check the image quality that the sensor delivers at each full-stop ISO setting. The K-70 supports a range from 100 through 102400, in both JPG and Raw format. When shooting JPGs at default settings, the camera keeps noise under 1.5 percent through ISO 6400. The Rebel T6s, also a 24MP camera, shows about 1.8 percent noise at ISO 6400, and a side-by-side comparison of images from our test scene shows that the Pentax manages to eke just a little bit more detail out of photos at that setting when compared with the Rebel.
The K-70 allows you to adjust noise reduction settings, but out of the box it does a decent job shooting JPGs. Images are crisp and rife with detail through ISO 800, and there’s only modest blurring through ISO 12800. Photos are noticeably rough and fine lines have disappeared at ISO 25600, and you should think of ISO 51200 and 102400 as emergency settings only, as they are very blurry.
If you want to control noise reduction yourself, after an image is captured, you can shoot in Raw format. (Working in Raw has other benefits, notably expanded latitude to adjust exposure and color.) You’ll need to use a software application like Adobe Lightroom ($9.99/Month at Adobe) to process images, but serious shutterbugs may also look to Lightroom as a tool to organize and tag photos. But you can see more detail in Raw images, especially those shot at higher ISOs. Moving beyond ISO 12800 is still asking a lot from the camera. ISO 25600 images are grainy and rough. At ISO 51200 the grain overtakes detail, but not in the same blurry manner as JPGs. ISO 102400 is just there so that Pentax can boast it has a camera that shoots at ISO 102400—it’s barely useable for photography.
The in-body Shake Reduction has a couple benefits beyond keeping your images sharp. It can be used to add a slight blur, simulating the effects of an optical low-pass filter (OLPF) to eliminate color moiré if it does show up in photos. The sensor doesn’t have a physical filter, so getting the rainbow effect can happen when shooting certain fabrics.
The other boon is Pixel Shift Resolution. It’s a feature that has worked its way down from the K-3 II, with some improvements. First, it works pretty quickly. The K-70 captures four images in rapid succession, each with the sensor in a slightly different position.
To understand why this is a good thing, you have to understand how a Bayer image sensor works. The K-70’s sensor is sensitive to light, but is inherently monochrome. A color filter array, a Bayer filter, sits on top of it, capturing red, green, and blue light in a tight four-by-four pattern. If a color is missing from one pixel, its existence is interpolated from the pixels that surround it.
Shifting the sensor to sample colors at each spot in the array eliminates the K-70’s need to guess about which color exists at which pixel. Resulting images show a little bit more detail when examined very closely, and do a better job at capturing the texture of a subject. You can see the results above—very fine threads on the piece of string on the left blend together, but are visible when the same scene is captured using Pixel Shift. Even though the K-70 has a mode to compensate for slight motion, you’ll get the very best results with a static subject and a sturdy tripod, so it’s not something you can use for every photo.
The on-sensor phase detection feature promises to improve autofocus when recording video. Indeed, focus is faster than in previous models—the entry-level K-S2 ( at Amazon) doesn’t support continuous autofocus for video at all—but you still get the back-and-forth effect of going in and out of focus before the camera locks on.
Pentax states that you’ll get the best Live View focus experience with a lens with a pulse motor. Currently the only choice is the HD DA 55-300mm f/4.5-6.3 ED PLM WR RE ($449.95), but Ricoh wasn’t able to provide one for us to review along with the K-70. If it works in the same manner as Canon lenses with STM motors, the focus experience for video will be similar in terms of speed, but noticeably smoother.
There is a microphone input, but there isn’t an SLR or mirrorless camera on the market with a built-in mic that’s good for anything but casual use. There’s little chance that professional videographers will look to the K-70 as a video solution. It only supports a few frame rates at 1080p—24, 25, and 30fps. If you want to shoot at 60fps or 50fps (either to capture fast-moving action or with the intent to slow down footage in post-production), you’ll be limited to 1080i or 720p quality.
Video is better for casual use than with previous Pentax SLRs by a good margin. But you will get smoother focus from a mirrorless camera like the Sony Alpha 6000. If you’re really serious about video capture, you can shop around for a mirrorless model that shoots in 4K, like the Panasonic G7 ($597.99 at Amazon) .
The Pentax K-70 is an appealing SLR for photographers who don’t often dabble in video capture. Its all-weather design is appealing for nature and landscape work, especially when coupled with the Pixel Shift Resolution feature. Action photographers will probably want to look at a model with a more robust autofocus system and faster frame rate, like the forthcoming KP ($1,049.95 at Amazon) or the older K-3 II.
Veteran Pentax owners looking for a compact SLR, and without the need for dual memory card slots or other advanced features of a higher end model, should take a look at the K-70 as it does deliver excellent images. It’s also backed by the strongest library of APS-C lenses, including not only the standard array of zooms, but also the HD DA Limited series of compact primes. Designing small lenses matched to APS-C bodies is something that Nikon and Canon have only dabbled in, with the former boasting a small DX 35mm f/1.8G prime and the latter the EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM ( at Amazon) pancake lens.
But if you’re not yet committed to a camera system, and don’t plan on stocking up on a lot of lenses, consider a mirrorless model as an alternative to an SLR. Many deliver the same image quality advantages over a smartphone or point-and-shoot, and are built to work just as well for video as they are for stills. The Sony Alpha 6000 is our favorite in this price range, and delivers an autofocus system that is beyond what SLRs in this price range can match. If you prefer an optical viewfinder to an EVF, our Editors’ Choice SLR in the sub-$1,000 class is the Canon EOS T6s. It features a stronger autofocus system for both stills and video.