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Pentax K-50 Digital SLR Review

Pentax K-50 Digital SLR Review - John Riley reviews the new weather sealed Pentax K-50 Digital SLR to see how it performs.

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Category : Digital SLRs
Product : Pentax K-50
Price : £530
Rating :
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Features
Handling
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Pentax K-50 White Large (3)

The K-50 is one of new pair of twin DSLRs from Pentax, the other being the lower priced K-500. We have the same specification, the same quality of construction, the same basic layout, but with weather resistance and a choice of 120 colours. The version provided for review was a rather cool looking white, with even the lens being made the matching colour to the body.

Let us see if the K-50 is different enough to make us want to pay the higher price.

Pentax K-50 Features

Pentax K-50 White Large (2)

The K-50 on the face of it looks pretty much identical to the K-500, so apart from anything else it will need to justify its higher price tag. It does this by adding to the specification dust proof and weather resistant construction, with 81 seals throughout the body. Also, the lens provided is a weather resistant version of the DAL plastic mount lens. This shares the design of the DA metal mount WR lens, but lacks the QuickShift feature.

The K-50 instantly feels good in the hand, a solid, rugged looking DSLR. A development from the K-30, an already proven design, the K-50 builds on that model's fine reputation.

The same 16.28MP CMOS sensor delivers punchy, realistic results and a wide range of custom image options mean the camera can certainly be adjusted to individual taste. An even wider choice of digital filters offers further styles and creative options.

Pentax K-50 White Large (4)

In body shake reduction (SR) is also well proven and can be used with any accessory or lens. This also potentially reduces the cost of new lenses, compared to systems where shake reduction is built into the lenses.

AF has been upgraded with this new range and is distinctly faster than previous models. Low light performance is also enhanced, now enabling focusing to an impressive -1EV. The ISO range is extended and spans ISO100 to ISO51200.

The maximum frame rate is 6fps. Also on offer are the Full HD Movie Mode, 19 Scene Modes, all the usual standard modes plus two user modes and a green modes for beginners. The scene modes will also guide beginners through the maze of options, hopefully guiding them if they examine the settings that these modes employ. The selection dial has no lock, so care should be taken to ensure it is not inadvertently moved.

Pentax K-50 White Large (9)

It is a delight to find that Pentax use a glass pentaprism with a 100% field of view. This gives a beautiful clarity and makes the Pentax viewfinder one of the best available.

Key Features

  • 16.28 megapixel CMOS Sensor
  • Dustproof construction
  • Weather resistant with 81 seals
  • Shake reduction by sensor shift
  • ISO 100 to 51,200
  • 6 fps continuous shooting
  • 100% view glass pentaprism finder
  • Full HD Movie Mode
  • Pentax KAF2 Metal Mount
  • SAFOX IXi+ AF system with range -1EV to 18EV
  • 12 bit DNG RAW
  • Option of using AA batteries
  • Shutter speeds 30sec to 1/6000sec + B
  • Large range of Digital Filters and Custom Image modes
  • 120 colours available

Pentax K-50 Handling

Pentax K-50 White Large (6)

Pentax ergonomics and the “Pentax Feel” are still very much in evidence. A well sculpted body fits the hand securely and the overall impression is of a rugged and well constructed camera. Controls operate smoothly and all parts fit together with precision. Another well made Pentax DSLR. The use of plastics does not mean it feel cheap, it actually looks and feels very solid. The stainless steel chassis helps ensure a rigid construction.

We still return though to the SD card door, which shows some improvement but still remains quite tight in terms of access to grip and remove the card. It looks as though making that door open wider is a technical problem, so the fiddly nature of removing cards remains, albeit it being something Pentax users will be getting used to by now. The cards fit securely and smoothly and there are no issues in that respect.

The screen has 921,000 dots and is sharp and clear. The menu system is also very clear and everything is logically grouped. I format the card every time it is reused so to arrive at the format option does take quite a few button presses. Not a huge deal but it would be convenient if the option was closer to the top of the menu selections.

One useful feature is the back screen option for accessing many functions. A press of the info button activates the screen, which can be scrolled around to select and adjust many commonly used functions. This gives a means to not only check the current set-up but also to correct it as required.

Pentax K-50 White Large (7)

The battery supplied is a DLI109 and it seems perfectly up to delivering almost 500 shots on one charge. An optional AA battery insert is available and with Lithium AA cells the battery life will comfortably exceed 1000 shots. However, for convenience using two DLI109 batteries and rotating them should be more than enough to cover any day's shooting.

Pentax still supply a proper battery charger, which is so much more convenient than charging batteries in the camera as some manufacturers expect us to do. Full marks for that and also for providing a proper printed instruction manual.

Shutter response    0.05 sec
Focus/shutter response (wide)   0.1 sec (0.7 sec LV)
Focus/shutter response (full-zoom)   0.15 sec (0.7 sec LV)
Switch on time to taking a photo   1.0 sec
Shot to shot without Flash   0.2 sec
Shot to shot with Flash   0.7 sec
Continuous Shooting   6 fps (33 shots)
Continuous shooting RAW   6 fps (8 shots)

Pentax K-50 White Large (10)

Pentax K-50 Performance

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

Pentax K-50 Sample Photos


Out and about with the K-50 was as much a pleasure as its sibling. The field test shots were mainly done at Haddon Hall in Derbyshire. Solid blue skies and harsh sun were handled very well by the K-50 metering. Clearly the dynamic range was up to the job and the images obtained were excellent. The exposure compensation was left at zero for this review and after examining the shots carefully there seems little need to adjust this routinely. The K-5, for example, needed a minus value for much of the time to prevent blown out highlights, but the K-500 is spot on. Matrix, centre-weighted and spot options are available, with my preference being for centre-weighted plus use of exposure compensation as required.

Focusing continues to be improved in increments and the latest module is faster and locks on more reliably. This makes the K-50 faster than the K-5, the performance just getting better and better with every new model.

LV mode is probably still not ideal for a DSLR, but never will be because of the mechanical complexities with the mirror. However, it is very good and does allow practical use when required. If I wanted to use LV all the time, I would not choose any DSLR, although the Sony SLT models would be an obvious contender.

Pentax K-50 Lens test images


The lens provided is the SMC Pentax-DAL 18-55mm f/3-5-5.6 AL WR. The lens has good contrast and a typical rise-and-fall performance, peaking between f/8 and f/16 where a high level of sharpness is achieved. This is a good introduction to the Pentax lens range and serves to whet the appetite for more. Pentax kit lenses have a well deserved good reputation.

The DAL lenses have a plastic mount and no doubt this helps to reduce costs. More importantly, the ability to manually focus whilst in AF mode is also lost as there is no QuickShift on these lenses. However, optically the lenses are the same as theire more expensive DA versions, so the images won't suffer.

Distortion and chromatic aberration can be controlled by in-camera processing. For architectural images this should be very useful, but processing times will slow down operation of the camera.

Pentax K-50 ISO test images


Noise seems to be a thing of the past in many respects. The K-50 is excellent in terms of noise control and I would be happy to use up to ISO400 routinely, up to ISO3200 as necessary and above that in extremis. Even ISO 51200 gives us a result that can be used, even if there is severe softening of the image. This could never be achieved with film, and the memories of high speed, very grainy and low contrast films have been left far behind us.

Pentax K-50 White-balance test images


White Balance performs well. AWB will suffice for most circumstances, delivering a neutral-warm image that looks right. The various presets can offer advantages and seem reliable. My general preference is for using Daylight setting, to preserve the quality of the ambient light. Pictures were sharp and realistic, standing happily beside the K-5 series images for quality. JPEG output is of a very high standard and for most purposes will serve very well. The shutter is not as smooth and quiet as the K-5 series, but it does the job and is not too obtrusive. I did wonder if the K-50 would be quieter than the K-500, but it seems they are exactly the same.

Pentax K-50 Digital filters


As well as custom image styles such as Bright, Natural, Landscape, etc., including a good Monochrome setting, there is a huge range of Digital Filters. Experimentation with these is well worth the effort and there are examples of each setting provided here. It is worth bearing in mind the the various modes can also be adjusted with a wide range of options, so the total variation available is vast.

HDR Auto | 1/60 sec | f/16.0 | 18.0 mm | ISO 100
HDR Auto | 1/60 sec | f/16.0 | 18.0 mm | ISO 100
HDR1 | 1/60 sec | f/16.0 | 18.0 mm | ISO 100
HDR1 | 1/60 sec | f/16.0 | 18.0 mm | ISO 100
HDR2 | 1/60 sec | f/16.0 | 18.0 mm | ISO 100
HDR2 | 1/60 sec | f/16.0 | 18.0 mm | ISO 100
HDR3 | 1/60 sec | f/16.0 | 18.0 mm | ISO 100
HDR3 | 1/60 sec | f/16.0 | 18.0 mm | ISO 100

In camera HDR is also provided, with three presests and an auto setting provided. These do not give the same control as a program such as Photomatix, but there is potential.

Video – Video mode is easily accessed via the control dial and works well. Full HD is available and the result is smooth. Microphone noise does not seem to be a problem.



Value for Money

The K-50 sits very comfortably in its niche as a mid-level DSLR, offering a vast array of colour options, a 100% pentaprism finder and weather and dust resistance. Coupling this to a very high level of performance and we have a winning combination of features. Value for money is in no doubt.

Pentax K-50 Verdict

The Pentax K-50 is a very strong offering from Pentax, with a few unique bonuses such as weather resistance and even the range of colours. The idea of personalising a camera is something relatively new in the UK, but why not? It adds a certain something and takes nothing away. A rugged and reliable all weather DSLR that is well worth a look.

   
  The Pentax K-50
delivers excellent
image quality in a
weather sealed body.

 
 

Pentax K-50 Pros

Excellent image quality
Dustproof and weather resistant
Fast operation including upgraded AF
Glass pentaprism viewfinder
In body shake reduction
Backwards compatibility with thousands of lenses
Wide ISO range
Excellent ergonomics
Excellent build quality
AA Battery option
120 colour options

Pentax K-50 Cons

No QuickShift on DAL Lenses
Loud focus on DAL lens

FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
OVERALL  

Pentax K-50 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 - 51200
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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Comments


josa 2 25 Czech Republic
25 Jul 2013 5:07PM
What happened to WB test images?Sad The lesns is so, so in the midle, corners are plain bad!

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johnriley1uk e2
10 26 4 United Kingdom
26 Jul 2013 10:35AM
Bear in mind the images are provided unsharpened, just straight out of camera. If you put them through Photoshop, or a similar program, you should be able to see how they perk up with your own workflow. In general, the Pentax 18-55mm lenses provide nice crisp images when used a stop or two down and when sharpened appropriately.

I can't throw any light on where the WB outdoor shots went, they were provided IIRC, I'll check and see for sure.
joshwa e2
3 600 United Kingdom
26 Jul 2013 11:00AM
Hi js12,

The WB studio test shots were shot at the brightest aperture. If you compare the macro watch photo taken with the K-50 at f/5.6 (wide-open), and the same watch shot with the K-500 at f/8, the image is much sharper, so as John says, the kit lens is much sharper when stopped down.

Cheers, Josh
ElSid 6 5 United Kingdom
1 Aug 2013 11:12AM
Even allowing for the unsharpened nature of the images I must say those taken at f16 don't flatter the lens too much - looks like diffraction softening has set in...
jetable 5 2
2 Aug 2013 4:36PM
Is the low light AF performance better than the K-5-II or just the K-5? There is a substantial difference between the two:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2dJak8e5Kk

And any idea if it has caught up at all with Canon or Nikon?
johnriley1uk e2
10 26 4 United Kingdom
2 Aug 2013 5:12PM
I don't think it's anywhere near as simple as that. It depends upon the subject matter, brightness level, even sometimes on the colour of the light, whether or not one camera is faster than another. I tried a Nikon D7000 and found it really quite slow with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens under dull interior lighting. On the other hand, those who want to use focus tracking on fast moving subjects are the ones to whom it seems to be far more critical.

I'm not sure that in practical use, using centre point focus in a wide variety of lighting that I would notice any difference between the K500, K50 and K-5 II variants, but I feel they are all slightly faster to lock on than the K-5.

In terms of being able to focus in very dull light, then the K-5 II and IIs are the winners by some 2EV.
Hi, I am planning to purchase my first DSLR and have narrowed down to Pentax K50 and Canon T4i. The only two advantage I see in canon is the video is better (which I am not going to use, so not worried about it) and the canon lenses are cheaper than the Pentax. Could you please let me know if the huge price difference between the canon and Pentax is justified?

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Thanks,
Yeshwanth
johnriley1uk e2
10 26 4 United Kingdom
26 Dec 2013 4:14PM
I think you need to handle both cameras if you can and see which fits you best. My usage of Canon is relatively limited, but I do think the Pentax build and viewfinder system in particular are much better at the lower cost end of both ranges.

There are various price levels of lenses in both ranges, so maybe the best buy for you would be to look at what kits are available.

I'm sure that both systems will offer you the opportunity to make some fantastic images.

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