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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
Adobe DNG RAW files
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