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Pentax K-30 Digital SLR Review

Pentax K-30 Digital SLR Review - Joshua Waller reviews the new weather sealed Pentax K-30 Digital SLR with 16.2 megapixel sensor and 6fps continuous shooting.

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Category : Digital SLRs
Product : Pentax K-30
Price : £429
Rating :
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Features
Handling
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Pentax K-30
It's been nearly 2 years since the last new Digital SLR introduced by Pentax, with the Pentax K-5 announced in September 2010, and since then, a lot has happened. Pentax was sold by HOYA to Ricoh to become Pentax RICOH Imaging. Pentax also announced and released two new mirrorless cameras, the compact camera sensor based Pentax Q with all new Q-mount, and the APS-C sensor Pentax K-01 with K-mount. The Pentax K-30 features the same APS-C sensor made by Sony as the Pentax K-01, and with a weather sealed body sits somewhere in between the Pentax K-r and Pentax K-5. It's also the last HOYA developed camera.

Pentax K-30 Features

Pentax K-30

The Pentax K-30 is described as a mid-level Digital SLR, designed to be the perfect outdoor camera, with a weather sealed body and rubber grip it should work in a variety of situations, from hot sunny weather to the much more common rainy day. The camera features Pentax' Shake Reduction (SR) sensor to enable sharp shots even when the skies are clouded over, this has the benefit of working with any lens attached to the camera, for both stills and video.

The camera records RAW photos as AdobeDNG files meaning that it will work straight away with Adobe's popular photo editing applications such as Lightroom and Photoshop.

A built in electronic level and horizon correction can help produce perfectly level landscapes with the horizontal level visible in the optical viewfinder, and both horizontal and vertical visible on the rear screen.

Pentax K-30

On the main mode dial, the camera features: AUTO, Video, P, Sv (Sensitivity priority), Tv (Shutter priority), Av (Aperture priority), TAv (Shutter and Aperture priority), Manual, Bulb, User2, User1, and Scene. Unlike the Pentax K-5 the K-30 does not feature a mirror lock up mode, except for sensor cleaning.

Key Features

  • 16.2 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor
  • Pentax K-AF2 mount
  • Shake Reduction (SR) sensor-shift image stabilisation
  • 3 inch screen, 921k dots
  • Glass penta-prism optical viewfinder with nearly 100% field of view
  • Weather, Dust, Cold resistant
  • Full HD Video, 30/25/24fps
  • ISO100 to 12800, expandable to 25600
  • New SAFOX IXi+ AF module, 11 points (9 cross-type)
  • 77 segmented metering
  • 6fps continuous shooting
  • Available in white, blue, and black
Pentax K5 Side By Side With Pentax K30 (1)

Features compared Pentax K-r, Pentax K-30, Pentax K-5:

Pentax K-r Pentax K-30 Pentax K-5
12.4 megapixel sensor 16.28 megapixel sensor 16.3 megapixel sensor
3 inch screen, 921k dots 3 inch screen, 921k dots 3 inch screen, 921k dots
Penta-mirror, approx. 96% field of view Penta-prism, 100% field of view Penta-prism, 100% field of view
11 AF points (9 cross type in the center) 11 points, Select (Expanded Area AF available, 9 cross type) 11 AF points (9 cross type in the center)
16-segment metering 77 segment metering 77-segment metering
ISO100 - 25600 ISO100 - 25600 ISO100 - 51200
N/A Weather, Dust, Cold resistant, 82 seals Weather, Dust, Cold resistant, Stainless steel chassis, 77 seals
720p video at 25fps Full HD at 30/25/24fps Full HD at 25fps
6fps continuous shooting 6fps continuous shooting 7fps continuous shooting
Battery Life: 470 shots 410 shots 740 shots
Dimensions 97 x 125 x 68mm 96.5 x 128.5 x 71.5mm 97 x 131 x 73mm
Weight 544g body only 590g body only 660g body only
Price: £429 with kit lens £599 body only £693 body only

Looking at the specifications of the Pentax K-30 compared to the K-r and K-5, there is not a huge difference between the cameras, yet the K-30 offers weather sealing, upgraded video, focus and metering at a more entry level price.

Pentax K-30 Handling

Pentax K-30

Handling - The Pentax K-30 has a large handgrip with a deep recess for your fingers and on the left of the camera body is another rubberised area for additional grip. This is where the rubber stops, with the rear of the camera lacking a rubber thumb rest instead featuring a dotted area with little grip (if they were raised dots they would have provided more grip), and on the white and blue versions of the camera, the glossy finish doesn't help with grip. Instead the thumb can grip onto the corner of the camera that sticks out noticeably above the SD card cover. On the left and right surrounding the lens mount is a set of ridges which could be used as another point of contact for additional grip, particularly if wearing gloves, however without gloves they weren't very comfortable to hold.

The body of the camera feels extremely solid with a reassuringly rigid construction. The battery compartment, SD card slot cover and pop up flash are made out of thick plastic, with metal hinges and their own weather seals. SD card removal can be a bit tricky, but once you get used to it becomes easy enough. The ports (video/USB/remote) are covered with thick rubber covers that fit firmly into place. Metal strap loops are built into the body of the camera. The optical viewfinder is bright and clear, with a comfortable rubber surround and dioptre adjustment.

Pentax K-30

The camera has a number of useful buttons giving you quick access to common settings, without the need to delve into the menus, with further buttons on the left of the camera letting you set the focus mode, RAW/fx as well as pop up the flash. This is a mechanical button so the flash can be opened with the camera still switched off. Pressing the INFO button brings up the rear control panel where photo settings can be altered quickly. The RAW/fx button can be customised to set: File format, exposure bracketing, optical preview, digital preview, composition adjust, and AF active area. AF/AE-L can be customised to: Enable AF1, Enable AF2, Cancel AF and AE lock for both photo and video.


Menus – The Pentax menus will be familiar to anyone who has used a Pentax Digital SLR over the last few years, with clear separated areas (Photo, Video, Playback, Setup and Custom). The first item in the photo menus is the custom image setting where you can choose from 11 presets, as well as customise each one. When you customise these you can set saturation, hue, high/low key, contrast and sharpness, as well as preview each preset. The camera features copyright information that is embedded into the EXIF information for each photo when enabled. The custom menus have a total of 23 additional settings, each of them numbered, including expanded ISO range (3), AF fine adjustment (22), Save menu location (20), AWB in tungsten light (11, subtle/strong), to name a few. Pressing the INFO button gives you a control panel on the back screen of the camera letting you change settings quickly and easily. The menus can be viewed above in the menu walk-through video, to read through the options the video can be paused if needed.

Pentax K-30

Battery life - CIPA test results say the battery should be good for 410 shots. We were able to take over 600 shots before the battery went flat. This is impressive, although the majority of our shots were taken without flash. The K-30 can accept AA batteries with an optional AA battery holder (D-BH109).

Pentax K-30

Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.

  Pentax K-30 Sony Alpha A37
Shutter Response (Live view) <0.1 (0.2-0.6) <0.05
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response (Live view) 0.125 (1.0) 0.15
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response (Live view) 0.175 (1.0) 0.15
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 1.2 0.9
Shot to Shot without Flash 0.2 0.5
Shot to Shot with Flash 0.8 0.8
Continuous Shooting
(shots before slow down)
6fps (40 shots) 6fps (11 shots)
Continuous Shooting - Flash 0.6-0.7s 0.7s
Continuous Shooting - RAW 6fps (9 shots) 6fps (7 shots)

Focusing and continuous shooting was very quick with impressive focus speeds when shooting using the optical viewfinder. Live view shutter response and focus speeds are noticeably slower, and therefore it's best to avoid using live view unless using the camera for still life or static subjects, live view focusing can also make the camera seem much louder due to the focus hunting more. The camera will shoot at 6fps in JPEG or RAW shooting modes, with the number of shots before slowdown being quite impressive. Switch on time is quite rapid. Shot-to-shot is excellent, although slower with flash.

Pentax K-30 Performance

Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, sample photos and product ratings.

Pentax K-30 Sample Photos


Sample Photos - Colour reproduction is very good with strong saturation and particularly impressive  flesh tones. Detail can be very good. Exposure and focus are reliable, with the camera producing bright punchy images. Shake Reduction allows shots to be taken at shutter speeds as slow at 1/10 with sharp results for a good number of the shots.

Pentax K-30 Lens test images


Lens Performance - Dynamic range is very good with a number of options to increase or adjust the levels recorded (examples are shown below). The 18-55mm AL WR lens appears to be resistant to lens flare, although some barrel and pincushion distortion is visible at the wide and telephoto ends of the lens respectively. This can easily be resolved by switching on lens distortion correction in the camera. Purple Fringing was visible in areas of very high contrast, but chromatic aberrations were generally very low (again CA correction can be switched on in camera). The kit lens is capable of quite close focus at the telephoto end, producing decent macro shots.

Pentax K-30 ISO test images


ISO Noise Performance - Noise is very low from ISO100 through to ISO400. At ISO800 / ISO1600 noise starts to creep into the image. At ISO3200 noise becomes more noticeable again. At ISO6400 noise grain becomes more prominent although lighter colours are quite clean. Noise begins to dominate the image at ISO12800, and it's at this setting that you may decide that it's the highest ISO setting you want to use. ISO25600 shows the highest levels of noise, as it expected, however colour saturation is still very good. Images taken with the smc PENTAX-DA 40mm f/2.8 Limited lens.

Pentax K-30 White-balance test images


White Balance Performance - AWB (Auto White Balance) produces a warm image under tungsten lighting - this was with correction set to subtle in the custom menu. The tungsten preset gives a much more neutral result. AWB under fluorescent lighting gives a slightly amber cast to the image. Using the fluorescent preset (of which there are four) produces a more neutral result. Images taken with the smc PENTAX-DA* 16-50mm f/2.8ED AL [IF] SDM.

Pentax K-30 Other sample images


Other sample photos - Highlight Correction has three options: Auto, On, and Off, while Shadow Correction has five options: Auto, Low, Mid, High, and Off, both of these settings can greatly improve dynamic range recorded in an image. Alternatively the camera has a built in HDR mode with five options: HDR Auto, HDR1, HDR2, HDR3 and off - the HDR mode takes 3 photos at different exposures and combines them in camera to give an image with much higher dynamic range.

Pentax K-30 Digital filters


Digital Filters - Scene modes / Digital Filters: Monochrome, Extract Color, Toy Camera, Retro, High Contrast, Shading, Invert Color, Color, Tone Expansion, Sketch Filter, Water Color, Pastel, Posterization, Miniature, Soft, Starburst, Fish-eye, Slim, Base Parameter Adjustment. These are also available in playback as well. Panoramic mode not available.

Video - The video options are the same as the K-01, with P/AV/M, Full HD/HD/VGA, 30/25/24fps, quality 3/2/1 star, 5 audio levels, Movie SR (On/off). You can also set custom image (Bright, Natural, Portrait, Landscape, Vibrant, Radiant, Muted, Bleach Bypass, Reversal film, Mono, cross processing), Digital Filter, Metering, Focus (Contrast AF: Face detection, Tracking, Select, Spot), as well as shadow and highlight correction. ISO can't be adjusted unless you are in full Manual mode. In manual mode shutter speed and ISO can be adjusted while recording. Exposure compensation is available while recording video in any mode. White balance can be selected prior to recording but not during. SR is very effective at stabilising hand-held videos.


Value For Money

The Pentax K-30 is available for £599 body only making it excellent value for money for a weather sealed Digital SLR. Alternatives to consider include the Nikon D5100 (£429 body only), Canon EOS 650D (£699 body only), Sony Alpha A57 (£519 body only) / A65 (£685 body only), and the Pentax K-5 (£693 body only), although only the Pentax K-5 has weather sealing. For other weather sealed cameras, the next closest priced model is the Sony Alpha A77 (£909). You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.

Pentax K-30 Verdict

The Pentax K-30 offers a vast array of features including 6fps continuous shooting, built-in HDR creation, electronic level, and a weather sealed and compact Digital SLR body, all for a very reasonable price, making it the cheapest weather sealed Digital SLR available. The camera has a slightly un-conventional design for a Digital SLR, and being available in glossy white or blue, may not appeal to some, although it's also available in the more traditional black.

Images from the K-30 have excellent colour and dynamic range, with a number of options to tailor the results to your liking whether you want to adjust the colour or the dynamic range recorded. Detail can be very good with the right lens, and the Pentax K mount ensures that there is a vast array of lenses to choose from. Currently, while more advanced photographers may be better off with the Pentax K-5, this would make an excellent upgrade from the Pentax K-r or a great choice for someone looking for a camera that can withstand the great British weather, while still being able to shoot great shots.

 
  The weather sealed Pentax K-30 produces bright colourful images and offers excellent value for money.

Pentax K-30 Pros

Excellent colour
Adobe DNG RAW files
Low noise
Weather sealed
Shake Reduction
6fps continuous shooting
Improved video recording
Can take AA batteries (with adapter)
Focus peaking available in live-view
Good price for weather sealed DSLR

Pentax K-30 Cons

Lacks HDMI out / Mic socket
Difficult to remove memory card
Tethering not possible
Slow live view focusing

FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
VERDICT  

Pentax K-30 Specifications

ManufacturerPentax
Lens
Effective Magnification1.5x
Image Sensor
CCD pixels16.2Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4928
Pixels (H)3264
Sensor TypeCMOS
Sensor SizeAPS-C
Sensor Size (width)No Data
Sensor Size (height)No Data
Aspect Ratio
  • 3:2
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution921,000
Touch ScreenNo
Focusing
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Manual
  • Spot
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/6000sec
Shutter speeds longest30sec
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
Metering
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Multi Pattern
  • Spot
ISO sensitivity100 - 25600
White balance
  • Manual
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Shade
  • Flash
  • Auto
Exposure Comp+/-5
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting6fps
Video
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080
  • 1280x720 720p
  • 640x480 VGA
Video FPS30/25/24
Stereo SoundNo Data
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationYes
Interface
HDMINo
USBUSB 2
Storage
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • SDXC
File Type
  • RAW
  • JPG
  • RAW + JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeD-LI 109
CIPA Rating480
Box Contents
Box ContentsLi-ion battery DLI-109, Battery charger D-BC109, AC plug cord D-CO2E, USB cable I-USB7, Strap O-ST53 , Eyecup , Hot shoe cover FK (already mounted) , Body mount cover
Dimensions
Weight650g
Width128.5mm
Height96.5mm
Depth71.5mm

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Photographs taken using the Pentax K-30

Kjosfossen WaterfallDandylionCornish sunsetMeadow BrownThere Once Was An Ugly DucklingAquilegiaFungusSummer RugbyPeacockSpeckled WoodMeadow hayDrying outChancers car IIMG TKWVR
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Comments


Alan_Baseley e2
13 320 2 England
26 Jul 2012 5:56PM
Looks like I'll have to be getting the hammer to the piggy bank.

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Thanks for the review, but I was surprised to see live view focus speed as a con. I find the speedy focus speed in live view to be one of the best features of this camera. In addition to the K-30, I also have an Olympus E-P1, and I find the K-30 to be almost as quick to focus. Maybe the E-P1 is quicker, but they're both fast enough that the difference is not anything to worry about.

I don't get to use other DSLR's often, but are there a lot of competitors that focus quicker in live view?
joshwa e2
3 596 United Kingdom
27 Jul 2012 8:03AM

Quote: I don't get to use other DSLR's often, but are there a lot of competitors that focus quicker in live view?

Hi Indianapolis, generally the traditional DSLRs are quite slow to AF in live view, while the Sony A37 shown in the comparison is very quick as it's constantly in "live view" (lacking the optical viewfinder and traditional focusing methods). Mirrorless cameras have come a long way since the E-P1 (the newer lenses have also helped), with 0.2 sec focus speeds common.
Thanks for the response. We all know the Sony SLT cameras pays a price in light gathering ability for using their translucent mirror, so it's probably not fair to penalize the K-30 for not being as quick in live view. A much more useful comparison would be against other traditional DSLR's, such as the Canon t4i or Nikon D5100. Have you had a chance to compare the live view of those cameras?
27 Jul 2012 2:21PM
"Slow live view focusing"
this judgement would misleading people
you can compare k-30 live view focus speed to other traditional dslr
it is by far the fatest one
even the new canon t4i is slower than k-30 for live view focus
here is a test video I found on youtube
it is really fast for traditional dslr
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1GwD1XMtnU
joshwa e2
3 596 United Kingdom
27 Jul 2012 2:27PM
The 600D (T3i) live-view is slow:
http://www.ephotozine.com/article/canon-eos-600d-digital-slr-review-16086
As are the Nikon cameras:
http://www.ephotozine.com/article/nikon-d3200-dslr-review-19230
http://www.ephotozine.com/article/nikon-d5100-digital-slr-review-16109

I haven't yet tested the 650D/T4i in the office, so have not been able to test the speed, but it is said to be improved.

For anyone coming from a compact camera or mirrorless camera, taking 1 second to focus in live view mode is considered slow, so it is worthwhile it being pointed out as a negative.
The following video shows how the K-30 focuses almost instantly in live view:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1GwD1XMtnU

That video is one of the things that helped me decide to buy the K-30 now, instead of waiting a few months for the price to fall. Now that I've had the chance to use the K-30, I can confirm that it focuses as quickly as shown in the video.
Here's a video of the t4i focusing in live view.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7euJW3W2Wg

It looks to me like even with Canon's new hybrid phase/contrast detect sensor, the K-30 still kicks its butt in live view. The speed of the K-30 in live view should clearly be listed as a pro, rather than a con.
joshwa e2
3 596 United Kingdom
27 Jul 2012 2:39PM
Our focus speed test includes the time it takes for the camera to focus and then take the photo, as the K-30 takes between 0.2 and 0.6 seconds for the shutter to respond in live-view, this adds to the total time for focusing and taking a photo. A video showing quick focus isn't particularly useful if it then takes another 0.2 to 0.6 seconds to take the photo. (The Nikon's are equally slow for shutter response on live view, while the Canon's shutter response in live view mode is as quick as normal mode).

It's still a negative compared to other cameras that focus and take the photo in
If that's the case, then that makes more sense. But you may want to change the wording in the bullet list, since it states "Slow live view focusing".

I don't have my K-30 to play with right now since I sent it to Sigma in New York with four of my Sigma lenses to be calibrated to the body, but when I get it back I'll do some more tests. I was very impressed with the speed in live view, but then again I'm coming from a Pentax K-x which took ages to focus in live view.

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