Two years after launching its flagship K-5 DSLR camera, Pentax has announced a successor. The Mark II features the company's latest generation image sensor, an LCD display with no air gap between the panel and glass, and a newly-developed low-light-friendly autofocus sensor that promises increased AF accuracy when using fast lenses.

Pentax introduced the very first Japanese 35 mm SLR camera in 1952 and broke into the digital camera market in 1996 with the somewhat unique EI-C90. The company produced its first DSLR in 2003 in the form of the small and light Pentax *ist D and has never been one to shy away from bold design statements, like the robot-inspired Korejanai K-x DSLR for instance.

The K-x went on to be named best entry-level DSLR in 2010's Technical Image Press Association Awards. The Pentax Imaging Corporation was bought by Ricoh in the second half of 2011 and has now unveiled the next advance in the evolution of its flagship K-5 model – the K-5 II and K-5 IIs DSLR cameras.

The two new models are essentially the same, the only difference being that the K-5 IIs comes without an anti-aliasing filter, which increases detail resolution at the risk of increased moiré patterns. Both feature a 23.7 x 15.7 mm 16.28-megapixel CMOS image sensor and the Pentax PRIME II imaging engine for ISO 100 to ISO 12800 sensitivity in standard and from ISO 80 to ISO 51200 in extended modes. They also offer 1/8000-second shutter speed, and up to seven images per second continuous shooting (with as many as 30 images in a single sequence being possible).

The K-5 II has magnesium alloy casing around a stainless steel chassis with 77 special seals for resistance to dust, weather and low temperatures. Ultrasonic vibration helps keep dust off the sensor, and Pentax says that its in-house SR (Shake Reduction) mechanism is capable of reducing the effects of camera shake by about three shutter steps and works with a number of Pentax lenses, including those designed for film format cameras.

The big news for this release is the newly developed 11-point SAFOX X AF sensor that operates in low light situations unmatched by rivals, going right down to -3 EV. It includes an upgraded AF algorithm in addition to the Select-Area Expansion feature that Pentax says "automatically tracks the subject when it deviates from a pre-assigned selection point, by assessing data from neighboring sensors."

There's a 3.0-inch, wide-view LCD display to the rear which boasts a resolution of 921,000 dots. Pentax has included a resin layer between the outer tempered glass panel and the LCD display to cut out ghost imaging and maintain image brightness. As well as framing shots in Live View (which features an electronic level with a tilt scale display), there's a glass pentaprism viewfinder with 100 percent field of view and 0.92-times magnification, and which includes a Natural-Bright-Matte III focusing screen to help with manual focus operation.

The K-5 II supports both RAW and JPEG image file formats, and includes a RAW data retrieve function that saves the original RAW data of a just-captured JPEG image. There's a built-in pop-up flash with a hot shoe mount for external options, and the camera's Li-ion battery is claimed to be good for up to 980 images between charges.

Rounding off the specs is 1080p video recording at 25 frames per second in Motion JPEG format, with a mono microphone capturing the audio (although there is a 3.5 mm jack for plugging in an external stereo mic). An included HDMI-out port allows users to view recorded content on a big screen TV or monitor, direct from the camera.

The K-5 II will be available from October for a body-only suggested retail price of US$1,199.95. There are two kit lens options, the DA 18-55mm WR zoom lens for $1,349.95 and the DA 18-135mm WR zoom lens for $1,549.95. The K-5 IIs has a body-only price of $100 more than its sibling.

Product pages: K-5 II, K-5 IIs

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