2012-09-07

Pentax K-30 review


It’s been nearly two years since the launch of the much praised and class leading Pentax K-5, and since the demise of the excellent entry level K-r there was a rather large gap in Pentax’s DSLR line-up. The arrival of the Pentax K-30 has at last provided a junior partner to the K-5. However, the K-30 is not an entry level replacement for the K-r. Indeed it shares many of the capabilities and functions of its big brother, competing effectively against pricier models from Canon, Nikon and Sony.

Features

The K-30 uses an updated version of the 16.2 megapixel sensor found in the K-5, and the same Shake Reduction system (SR) to provide image stabilisation. It uses the new SAFOX IXi+ auto focus system, featuring 11 AF points, nine of which are cross type and a new wide-area AF mode to improve subject motion tracking. The camera shoots in RAW (DNG) and or JPEG at up to 6 frames per second. The ISO range is 100-12800, which can be extended to 25600 if required. It has nine white balance preset modes and allows for up to 3 custom white balance settings to be stored. There is no top mounted LCD, as on the K-5, but the rear LCD is a good quality 3” screen with 921,000 pixels. The optical viewfinder provides 100% coverage with a magnification of 0.92x. Metering can be chosen from Spot, Centre-weighted or Multi mode. The K-30 has exposure compensation - ± 5EV in either ⅓ or ½ EV steps, also features auto exposure bracketing – 3 frames at ± 2EV in either ⅓ or ½ EV steps. Other features include the ability to shoot HDR, with processing in camera, and time lapse shooting up to 999 images.

Video is recorded at 1080p at 30, 25 or 24 fps in either MPEG-4 or h.264 format. The microphone is mono and there is no jack for an external microphone and no HDMI port.

Form

To look at, the K-30 is aggressively styled with a pentaprism / flash housing that protrudes out over the lens. The body is a similar size to the K-5’s but is made of polycarbonate rather than magnesium alloy, making it a tad lighter as well. The control buttons and layout are sensibly placed and easy to use. There are two selection wheels, one at the front and one on the rear allowing fast and easy changes to shutter speed and aperture in the semi-manual modes.

The K-30 has a rechargeable lithium battery which should provide around 400-450 shots in normal usage.  However the battery compartment is also shaped to take four AA batteries (with a cradle adapter – not supplied), so provides the ability to carry on shooting when there is nowhere to recharge the lithium cell. Finally the body is weather and dust sealed, with the option of choosing lenses from Pentax’s WR and DA* range to provide all weather shooting capability. This is unique to Pentax at this price point.

Image Quality

Shooting JPEGs, especially at lower sensitivity settings, produces images with plenty of detail and very little noise. Image quality and detail remains good through to ISO 3200 which means you can safely set your automatic ISO upper range to 3200 with confidence. Swapping to RAW reveals this camera’s full capabilities, the dynamic range at the lowest ISO settings almost manages 13EV, exceptional for a camera at this price point. The auto white balance handles different light conditions, rendering colours accurately and with good levels of saturation, requiring infrequent recourse to the presets or custom values even in artificial lighting conditions.

Conclusion
After the niche markets of the K-01 and “Q”, Pentax are right back on form and have produced an outstanding DSLR with mass appeal. There may be some comments about the body’s styling but once the cameras is in your hands you feel the build quality, get confidence from the weather sealing and delight at the images.

CLICK HERE to view the Pentax K-30's full specifications and to purchase >>

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