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The Pentax K3-mark III monochrome

1/320 f/6.3 +1/3 @ISO6400 230㎜ - PENTAX K-3 Mark III Monochrome - DFA 150-450mm f/4.5-5.6

About the Pentax K-3 mark III system

As a Pentax brand ambassador I have been fortunate enough to spend some time with the newly launched Pentax K-3 mark III monochrome earlier this year. I'm very familiar with the regular K-3 mark III as that was the camera that I used 90% of the time during the photo tours that I hosted in Botswana.
The original Pentax K-3 mark III is known for it's excellent viewfinder, giving this APS-C camera the field of view of a full frame camera. Working with this camera model while viewing through the viewfiner is therefore outstanding.
The autofocus is very responsive and it's 10 frames per second drive speed comes in handy during situations where you want to make the most of the action in front of your lens. For any outdoor photographer, Pentax's acclaimed weather sealing is a big plus as well.

1.0sf/9 +2/3 @ISO500 16㎜ - PENTAX K-3 Mark III Monochrome - DFA* 16-50mm f/2.8

Working with the Pentax K-3 mark III monochrome

I'm best described as a photographer who seeks tools that aid me to capture the best images possible. That means that the camera should produce RAW files with excellent dynamic range, perfect sharpness and the ability to push the ISO high to capture wildlife around dusk and dawn when lighting conditions are often dim. Secondly the camera should be easy to operate with an easy menu structure and a lot of ergonomically placed buttons to speed up most operations. And last but not least it must be able to withstand a fair around of professional “abuse”.
From my previous experiences with the Pentax K-3 mark III, I knew that the last points are well covered by this system, so I was mainly interested in the capabilities of the monochrome sensor.

I'm not a studio photographer, where I would or could test the sensor in a fixed environment, nor did I have the intention to test the camera in said controlled environment. That's simply not a place where great images are made ;-). So I took it out into nature and used it as my everyday camera. I only had the camera for a few days and conditions were ratgher dull and not so contrasty unfortunately, but by carefully selecting some of my favorite spots here in Holland I was able to test the Pentax K-3 mark III monochrome quite extensively.

1/320 f/5 @ISO4000 70㎜ - PENTAX K-3 Mark III Monochrome - DFA* 70-200mm f/2.8

The lenses I used during the various sessions were the regular lenses I would use during my daily operations. The DA* 16-50/2.8, the DFA* 70-200/2.8 and the DFA 150-450/4.5~5.6 were used mostly. If I needed to balance out the foreground with the sky, I would use one of my NiSi graduated ND filters and for ocean dynamics I would use a NiSi ND filter. The original qualities of the RAW files were respected in post processing, but if needed I would add some contrast and/or minor exposure corrections.

1/640 f/7 +2/3 @ISO8000 450㎜ - PENTAX K-3 Mark III Monochrome - DFA 150-450mm f/4.5-5.6

About the Pentax K-3 mark III monochrome sensor.

The new model's design is based on the PENTAX K-3 Mark III — the flagship model of PENTAX's APS-C-format series that integrates remarkable imaging performance and a host of advanced features in a compact, durable body — while adding a new, monochrome specific image sensor. The camera is the only monochrome-specific digital SLR camera currently on the market.

The monochrome sensor, of approximately 25.73 effective megapixels, of the Pentax K-3 monochrome is a type of image sensor that captures only black and white information. Unlike a color sensor, which uses a filter array to separate the incoming light into red, green, and blue channels, this monochrome sensor has no color filter array and captures all the light as luminance data. A monochrome sensor typically consists of a grid of pixels, each of which contains a photodiode that converts incoming light into an electrical charge. The amount of charge generated by each pixel is proportional to the intensity of the light falling on it. Once the charge has been generated, it is read out from each pixel and converted into a digital signal, which can then be processed to create a digital image. The digital signal is typically amplified, digitized, and then processed to correct for any noise or other artifacts that may be present.

1/640 f/7 +2/3 @ISO2500 410㎜ - PENTAX K-3 Mark III Monochrome - DFA 150-450mm f/4.5-5.6

The image quality produced by the original PENTAX K-3 Mark III was thoroughly re-evaluated and totally redesigned to optimize the imaging characteristics of the new monochrome-specific image sensor. The result are according to Pentax images with a natural bokeh effect, rich gradation and extra-fine sharpness — an image only the monochrome-specific image sensor can deliver.

Of course I needed to test this statement myself to see if the K3 mark III monochrome would indeed give me images with better detail, gradation and ISO characteristics. Below you see a comparison of the same scene with identical settings from a color file from the K-3 mark III converted to black and white and a file straight out of the new K-3 mark III monochrome. There is just soo much more fine sharpness and such a gorgeous flow of tonality in the images from this new camera. It really yields results that can't be achieved by converting color images to black and white!

Left: Pentax K3 mark III - Right: Pentax K3 mark III monochrome

Experiences in the field

After using the camera for a few outdoor sessions, the main features I noticed are the excellent detail, sharpness and gradients in the blacks, the grays, and the whites. Awesome! Like I said before; It is unlike any black and white conversion from a full color image.
High ISO (and I mean 10,000 and higher) is no problem with this camera. It's soooo light sensitive! The K-3 mark III monochrome is a true joy to use, but also unforgiven. If your composition and exposure is off, the images lack impact. It requires the most of the photographer and therefore it shines in the hands of a good photographer. This is one of the main reasons I like shooting with it; it requires all your attention when you work with it, but when everything falls into place the results will be spectacular!

As a photographer I always seek new ways to improve myself and I need challenges to bring the best out of myself. I enjoyed the mindset needed for monochrome work so much that I decided to devote at least a year to this art form. Gone with color, in comes black and white!
I will be using a mix of cameras for this project; my trusty K-1, the phenomenal 645Z, but because of it's monochrome qualities, the new K-3 mark III monochrome will be the star of the show. I can't wait to get a copy of the camera myself!

You can follow the development of the project on a newly launched website:

While I was using the camera in the field I made some on the fly comments about working with this camera. The results can be seen in the Youtube video below this post.

1/5 f/20 -1 @ISO200 115㎜ - PENTAX K-3 Mark III Monochrome - DFA* 70-200mm f/2.8

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Comments (8)

Pictures to enjoy Mike! I immediately signed up for the newsletter and will definitely follow your black and white adventures!!

Good luck!

Hi Wouter, thank you for that nice compliment!

Hi Mike, thanks for the nice article. One Question – Is the Base-Iso 200 of this camera? Best Regards Stephen

Hi Stephen, base ISO is indeed 200. Best regards, Mike

Thank you for this interesting review. Have a nice and pleasant day! Pierre Bouillon (Quebec, Canada).

Thanks So much Pierre, and have a great day yourself as well 🙂

After seeing your video on the camera I have made up my mind to purchase the camera. Thanks for the information.

Dear Manuel, that is so nice to hear. Thank you!
I'm positive that you will love working with it :-).

Vriendelijke groeten,

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