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Pentax K3 II: Does it Have an Electronic First Curtain Shutter (EFC Shutter)? what about K1?

See my Pentax K1 wish list at B&H Photo.

Update Sept 2016: Pentax adds EFC shutter firmware update.

Pentax K3 II

See my review of the Pentax K3 II in DAP.

Update 29 Feb: Pentax USA via Pentax Japan confirms that there is no EFC shutter option in the Pentax K3 II or Pentax K1. See table below discussing behavior with SuperRes mode.

An electronic first curtain shutter (EFC shutter) allows zero vibration exposures*. While an EFC shutter offers little or no benefit over the mechanical shutter for shorter focal lengths, it becomes critical for telephoto lenses, where the shutter itself will blur the image. For example, the Leica M240 mechanical shutter causes severe blur.

Both Nikon and Canon have EFC shutter options as options for Live View shooting, once enabled (Nikon also requires the use of MuP mode and 1/2000 sec or slower).

Search for: EFC shutter or shutter vibration, or for more on EFC shutter and shutter vibration, see Making Sharp Images:

* In theory there could be a vibration issue when the shutter starts to close if the camera requires closing the shutter to finalize the exposure, but in practice I’ve not seen any issues even with the 50-megapixel Canon 5DS R.

K3 II EFC shutter behavior

NOTE: see also checkerboard problem, which is related.

See the table below. Operationally, Ricoh-Pentax cameras are usually very well thought out, but this lack of EFC shutter support is a head-scratcher. While it appears that the Pentax K3 II shutter is very well damped, this does not make it immune to shutter vibration issues, particularly given the 3.9 micron precision used for SuperResolution pixel shift mode.

The Pentax K3 II (firmware v1.0) has no explicit EFC shutter option. This does not bode well for the Pentax K1, but we can hope. With all the camera systems I’ve used, lack of an EFC shutter always shows up as a problem in at least some real-world shooting situations.

That the self timer with or without Live View cannot use the EFC shutter is a headache for field work with longer lenses, particularly with the tiny 3.9 micron pixels of the K3 II.

This table from hands-on testing today of the K3 II.

EFC Shutter Usage in
Pentax K3 II v1.00
Live View ON +
Self Timer ON
Live View ON +
Self Timer OFF
Live View OFF +
Self Timer ON
Super Resolution EFC* mechanical** EFC*
Standard Resolution mechanical mechanical mechanical

* EFC shutter in Live View with SuperResolution mode with self timer is disconcerting: upon pressing the shutter release, the camera bangs down the shutter, bangs it up, then waits for the self timer, then makes the image. In less stable setups (teles), one might thus need to use a 10 sec self timer in order to allow vibrations to die down.

** The K3 II shoots SuperRes pixel shift mode in Live View using the mechanical shutter when the self timer is disabled, in effect, because it does not insert an appropriate delay. Thus even if a remote is used there can be vibration which dissipates across the 4 pixel shift exposures, making the image at risk of checkerboarding.

Testing for an EFC shutter

First, configure the camera appropriately; this varies widely. Some cameras have no EFC shutter option at all.

Confirming EFC shutter using Live View view mode:

  1. Using manual exposure, set 2 sec or so shutter speed (long enough to observe behavior).
  2. Remove the lens off so that the activity can be seen in the sensor area.
  3. Press the shutter release, observe.

Watch what happens: if the shutter immediately bangs closed/open to make that 2 second exposure, then the EFC shutter is not in use. What should happen is the shutter stays open for that 2 seconds, then it bangs shut when done (and then with most cameras, reopens to resume Live View).

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