Pentax K-S2 DSLR Review


The Pentax K-S2 is an entry-level SLR system. It offers 20MP resolution, a built-in image stabilizer, a Wi-Fi module, and is able to record Full HD videos.

The camera offers a three-inch LCD with 921,000 RGB dots. A four-way cursor field and two setup dials (one on the back, the second on the front) allow for comfortable selection of all image parameters.



(Editor's Note: Lab Review lab tests and comments are supplied by BetterNet, Shutterbug’s TIPA-affiliated testing lab and edited by George Schaub. Shutterbug is the sole US representative within TIPA, a worldwide association of photo and imaging magazines.)

The K-S2 is the newest SLR system from Pentax. The new camera is an entry-level system, but not as gimmicky as the LED light show provided by the Pentax K-S1.

Camera Build & Layout
The Pentax K-S2 offers a more classical handling and design concept than its predecessor with a standard mode dial on the top and two setup dials for exposure parameters (one near the shutter release button, the second on the back of the camera). For menu navigation, it offers a standard control field, which uses four buttons to navigate or to select functions such as white balance, ISO speed, and shooting mode.

Just like all Pentax cameras, the K-S2 offers a function button with a green dot, which allows the user to reset parameters to a default setting. An additional button on the left-hand side of the body allows for switching into Raw mode directly without using the menu, plus the image size and quality settings, all very handy features.

The camera is protected against dust and humidity, which allows use even if it is raining. The body is well balanced for steady handling. The K-S2 offers an internal image “shake reduction system” based on sensor shift technology. Pentax specifies a 3 EV compensation for this stabilizer system, which was confirmed during our tests.

In contrast to many other entry-level systems, the Pentax K-S2 offers an optical viewfinder with 100 percent field of view. This is helpful for image composition. The LCD monitor can also be used as a viewfinder (100 percent field of view as well). It is fully articulated and useful for both video and for making stills at ground level.

The camera offers an integrated Wi-Fi module. This is more convenient than the previous “Pentax FluCard” or Eyefi system offered by other Pentax cameras. The Wi-Fi module supports NFC, which allows the user to establish a quick and easy connection between smartphone and camera.

The Pentax K-S2 has a fully articulated LCD monitor, helpful when taking photos or recording videos.

Comments On Image Quality
Color: The Pentax K-S2 showed an ambivalent behavior in our color tests. By default, the camera is set to “Vivid” colors, which causes a very high saturation of all colors, noticeable in red and especially in blue nuances. The mean saturation in this mode is 118.9 percent, which is extremely high for an SLR system and would even be very high for a compact system. The high saturation is noticeable in our test shots, especially in the color of the red spool and the red T-shirt of our model. Using the “Natural” mode in the color settings (offered in the image menu) substantially reduces the exaggerated saturation and produces very natural-looking colors. Using the Natural setting produces colors with a perfect saturation (99.2 percent) and a very low color error level.

However, all TIPA tests and evaluations are done for all cameras in default color modes: this skews the results and should be considered accordingly.

The image of the test box was taken with standard settings of P mode at ISO 100. The automatic exposure system caused slight underexposure. Some colors, as seen in the red spool, are highly saturated. The overall look of the image is a bit softer than images taken with other SLR systems.

Sharpness: The Pentax K-S2 showed an average performance in our resolution tests. The K-S2 reproduced the ISO 12.233 chart with 2,894 lines per picture height (nominal sensor resolution: 3,648 lines per picture height). Images have a somewhat softer look than images taken by other cameras with 20MP resolution, noted in our test shots. The differentiation of fine details is good: only red elements have a blurry look because the color saturation is extremely high. The softer reproduction of fine details combined with an intense sharpness filtering causes a slight artificial look of details, noted in the structure of the model’s hair in our portrait shot.

Noise: Up to ISO 1600, the new Pentax showed a very good performance in the noise tests. The luminance noise does not cross the 1.0 percent line before ISO 3200, and the images look crisp and clean. In images taken with ISO 3200, the color noise becomes visible even though the anti-noise filtering gets very intense (and reduces image details). This combination of anti-noise filtering and color noise artifacts gets quite annoying at the highest ISO speed settings, especially in images taken at ISO 12,800 and higher. At ISO 51,200 the gray patterns of the Stouffer 4110 chart are blurred to a white to black gradient and the figures on the chart show a kind of “color noise halo” on the contrast lines between black and white. (We note that Pentax might consider offering the highest ISO speed modes as additional “High Modes” like nearly all other manufacturers of SLRs, mainly as an option for images made in extremely low-light intensity.)

The dynamic range results are very good: The camera achieved a maximum of 11.3 f/stops and keeps a high level of more than 10 f/stops up to ISO 1600.

By default, the camera is set to “Vivid” colors, which causes a very high saturation of all colors, noticeable in red and especially in blue nuances. The mean saturation in this mode is 118.9 percent, which is extremely high for an SLR system. (Switching to Natural mode will alleviate this oversaturation.)

Comments On Video Functions
The camera offers video in Full HD mode with 1920x1080 pixels. Using Full HD mode restricts the frame rate to a maximum of 30 frames per second. By reducing video resolution to 1280x720 pixels the camera is able to record with up to 60 frames per second. All videos are taken in progressive mode and are recorded as MOV files with a H.264 compression.

To switch into video mode the photographer has to use the on/off switch and toggle into “movie mode.” Pressing the shutter release button will start video recording: there is no second video recording button, which is usually offered by many other cameras.

The camera allows for use of a magnifier function for manual focusing, but a “focus peaking” function is missing. The Pentax also allows the user to shoot in manual exposure mode. In manual exposure mode, the camera allows the ISO speed to be set manually, but is restricted to ISO 3200 when recording video.

The Pentax also allows the user to set sound level manually and to make use of an external microphone.

Skin tones and red nuances in the portrait test are a bit oversaturated. The intense sharpness filtering causes a slightly artificial look in fine details, noted in the hair structure of the model.

Comments On Video Quality
The camera reproduced the ISO 12.233 resolution chart with only 350 lines per picture height (in 1080p mode), which is very low. The look of the videos is much more softer than the look of still images produced by the K-S2. We also noted that even though the video look is extremely soft we noticed moiré effects in our sample shot.

The color reproduction in video mode is similar to the color reproduction in photo mode. The camera uses the “Vivid” color setting as the default color mode and creates highly saturated images. Again, switching to “natural” mode will mollify this situation. The dynamic range results do not reach the high level of the photo mode. The camera achieved a maximum of 6.12 f/stops when recording videos.

The color reproduction in video mode is similar to the color reproduction in photo mode. The camera uses the “Vivid” color setting as the default color mode and creates highly saturated images. (As noted in still quality comments, switching to Natural mode is suggested.)

+ APS-C SLR with good image results
+ Optical viewfinder with 100 percent field of view
+ Built-in image stabilizer works with every lens system
+ Wi-Fi and NFC system

- Poor video results
- Missing GPS system

The Pentax K-S2 has a list price of $699 (body only). For more information, visit

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