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The K-S2

The Pentax K-S2 doesn’t look all that different from most of the other DSLRs out there when you first give it a look. It takes a little time for it to grow on you and then you start appreciating it for what it is.

One of the first things you have to realize here is that it’s a weather-sealed number. This is an aspect that should be more important for Filipinos but currently isn’t probably because we all just take it for granted that a camera that’s better protected against the elements would normally cost so much more and not be in the same price range as most other DSLRs. Think about all the street photography you can do without always having to be afraid that your precious camera may be getting wet. That, in itself, frees you to do a lot of photography. Big selling point for the K-S2.

It’s very compact and it doesn’t call attention to itself, perfect for when you want to be inconspicuous. It’s so much more compact than say, its huge stablemate, the medium format 645Z (of course), and it hardly puts pressure on your hand allowing you to shoot more without getting tired.

This is also where the kit lens comes in. It looks like a 50mm lens and almost like a pancake lens. There is a caveat though: It only looks likes that when it is retracted.

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  • Just another DSLR? Hardly. Weather-sealed and compact, it is so easy to take anywhere.
  • The kit lens in retracted position
  • Special buttons but of note here is the Wi-Fi button
  • Plus, it’s a handsome beast

Retracted? Yes. It has a “stored” position that makes it short but before you start getting all happy about that, take note that you can’t shoot when you’re at that position. There’s even an error message that tells you so. You have to get the lens to its shooting position before you can do anything. You release this lock on the lens and you’re in business. Once you do, it’s the same length as any other kit lens. You also lose that compact look. One last complaint about this is that when you want to retract the lens to its stored position or extend it to shoot, the locking mechanism is fiddly. You get this annoying feeling that you may break something. While the short setting does allow you to save space in your camera bag, personally, I would prefer that my lenses are ready to shoot as soon as they’re mounted.

That aside, there’s so much more to be excited about.

Unlike most other cameras, there is a Wi-Fi button right on the top plate where you can’t miss it. You can easily connect to a tablet, phone, or computer and no more need to buy one of those Wi-Fi cards to transfer images to your mobile device especially if it’s just to go to social media anyway. One thing that everybody should try though is controlling the camera from a mobile device. This is interesting for taking self portraits at least and does have some practical applications when shooting in the field or when you want to control things away from the camera. The system is quite simple. You just need to download an app, connect to the camera’s Wi-Fi network, and then you’re good to go.

There’s also Near Field Communication (NFC) if you want another way to wirelessly connect your phone to your camera. Personally though, Wi-Fi is more than enough.

One more “nifty” feature of that Wi-Fi button is that when you want to take pictures of yourself and your group and you decide to flip the movable LCD screen to face you, the button transforms into an extra shutter button. This is a big deal when you consider that holding the camera in that position forces your thumb to reach for the shutter button—something that isn’t easy to do for most people. Pressing the Wi-Fi button to take the shot is so much easier.

When you shift to regular camera duties, things get interesting as well. The auto focus system is quite responsive but if you’re the type of person who likes to shift auto focus points for different shots, there’s a little finger dance you have to do. Looking at the back of the camera, you don’t see buttons dedicated to changing the focus point. That’s because it’s on the OK button. You have to press long on that button so that you get access to those changes—single focus point and area focus. It seems daunting at first but you have to remember, you normally set things like ISO and White Balance before you start shooting anyway and then you start thinking about whether you want the camera to control focusing over a wide area or if you want a specific focus point to be active.

If you’re a Canon user shifting to this camera, things are a bit familiar since Pentax refers to its exposure modes the same way Canon does—P, AV, TV, and M—and then it adds a few interesting others like Sensitivity Priority (SV) and Shutter and Aperture priority (TAv). It seems excessive at first until you realize that when you already know just what ISO you really want to use with your camera (given its performance in low light, for example, when noise becomes a problem), telling the camera to prioritize an ISO over shutter speed or aperture can come in really handy. TAv follows pretty much the same line of thinking but this time preserving a shutter speed and aperture combination. For either, best to have a tripod handy.

Since this is an entry-level offering, there are Auto and scene modes to keep things interesting especially for those just starting out.

Something interesting here is that the USB port is the more common micro-USB that you would find on an Android phone. This is unlike what you’d find in most Canon phones that still use the older, trapezoidal mini-USB port. This makes things a but simpler since you wouldn’t need to bring an extra cable at all when you have to connect to your computer.

All in all, the Pentax K-S2 is a very welcome camera in this segment. It has more than just the basics and has features you really wouldn’t expect at this price point like Wi-Fi connectivity and NFC (if you want to use it). Shooting is easy to do once you get that lens ready at its shooting position. Besides, there are so many older Pentax lenses out there that you can mount on this thing to keep things more than interesting.