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Pentax K-30 Review

October 2012 | By Lars Rehm, Richard Butler


Review based on a production K-30 with firmware 1.01

Pentax has a long tradition of making very photographer-focused DSLRs, often eschewing the latest fashions to concentrate on providing cameras with well-sorted ergonomics and a focus on core photographic features such as good viewfinders. This trend appeared to reach its peak with the K-5 - arguably one of the best APS-C DSLR currently on the market. With the mid-range K-30, it looks like the company, now owned by Ricoh, is aiming to bring this capability to a wider audience.

The first thing you're likely to notice is its rather aggressive, angular styling but what's really interesting is what's going on inside. The K-30 is built around the updated 16MP CMOS sensor and processor used in the K-01 - one of the only APS-C cameras we've seen to exceed the K-5's low light performance. And that's promising, even before you venture further into the specifications.

Despite playing second-fiddle to the K-5 and the updated K-5 II, the K-30 borrows a great many of these cameras' flourishes. It's weather sealed. It features the same 0.92x magnification viewfinder with 100% coverage - meaning you can compose your image knowing that you'll get exactly the framing you thought you would. It also sports twin control dials and a not-dissimilar degree of external controls. It doesn't come with the K-5 II's Safox X AF-system which allows you to focus in very dark scenes down to -3EV, but with a starting price of $899 with the 18-55mm kit zoom, the K-30 is significantly more affordable.

Nevertheless the camera's SAFOX IXi+ AF system is an advance over the original K-5 and features 11 AF points, 9 of which are cross-type (sensitive to vertical, as well as horizontal edges). The major difference to the K-5 is that the lenses in front of the AF sensor have been improved - promising more consistent autofocus performance (what Pentax is calling a diffusion lens is designed to prevent chromatic aberrations confusing the AF system). A wide-area AF mode promises to improve focus tracking if the subject strays from a user-selected AF area to a neighboring point. To make use of this AF capability, the K-30 can shoot at up to 6 frames per second (just shy of the the K-5 II's 7fps).

Next to the K-5, you can see how unusual the K-30's styling is. It's a similarly-sized camera, though. Its polycarbonate, rather than magnesium alloy construction also helps keep it a touch lighter. Not visible in this shot is the K-5's top-plate LCD panel, which the K-30 lacks.
From the back you can see that the K-30 has lost a couple of controls, compared to the K-5 (the K-30 doesn't have an AF mode switch or separate AF and AE-L buttons), but has retained a lot, given how much less expensive it is.

There are a few odd quirks in the K-30's feature set. The first is the AA-cell-shaped battery compartment. This is clever in the sense that, once you've bought the optional adapter, you can use AA batteries if you want (a constituency Pentax has long courted), or when the supplied Li-ion battery pack runs out. The downside is that the design only leaves enough room for a 7.8Wh battery, which can only motivate itself to produce 410 shots, using standard CIPA methodology. This puts the K-30 in Canon Rebel territory (The T3i is rated at 440 shots per charge), rather than EOS 60D territory (1100 shots per charge).

The other oddity is that, while the K-30 offers the very fashionable 'focus peaking' manual focus aid that highlights high-contrast edges, it can't do so while shooting video. And, while part of its current popularity comes from its use for focusing manual focus lenses on mirrorless cameras, its original purpose (at which it excels), is focusing in video. Losing a key focus aid just when you need it is a perverse limitation, to say the least.

And this omission, along with the lack of external microphone socket leaves the K-30 looking somewhat lacking when it comes to video capture. But, as a stills camera, its feature set looks very promising. Read on to see how it performed in our studio and real-life testing.

Pentax K-30 specification highlights

  • 16.1MP CMOS sensor
  • In-body image stabilization
  • Weather-sealed polycarbonate body
  • ISO 100-12800 (expandable to 25,600, with user-defined Auto ISO range)
  • 1080p HD movie recording at 24, 25 or 30 frames per second
  • 920,000 dot LCD
  • Per-lens AF fine adjustment


If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of the image, clicking on the image will display a larger (typically VGA) image in a new window.

To navigate the review simply use the next / previous page buttons, to jump to a particular section either pick the section from the drop down or select it from the navigation bar at the top.

DPReview calibrate their monitors using Color Vision OptiCal at the (fairly well accepted) PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the (computer generated) grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally A,B and C.

This article is Copyright 2011 and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.

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Comments

Total comments: 7
adrianconst
By adrianconst (8 months ago)

When I compare the dynamic range of K30 against D7000 and T5i, it looks like K30 under performs. However, that might be because the K30 default contrast in all modes is pretty high compared to the other two. Maybe dpreview should mention that when it presents dynamic range results.

0 upvotes
oldnoob
By oldnoob (9 months ago)

In the RAW Standard studio scene comparison, the k-30 appears to be back-focusing a bit. look at the small writing on the Kodak grey scale

0 upvotes
JustSomeOldDude
By JustSomeOldDude (6 months ago)

And the "Q" on the queen card is sharper than anything

0 upvotes
ebaker
By ebaker (10 months ago)

I called the corporate office myself and spoke with Joe Virgil, who was apologetic, but insisted he couldn’t do anything because the part was being shipped from the Phillipines and there were 65 other service orders suffering from the same problem. I explained that his supply problem was now a customer service problem as we had reached the 7th week of this ordeal. After ordering a part, if it has not arrived in 5 weeks, they are supposed to provide a replacement and this has yet to happen.
When you purchase a camera, you also purchase warranty and customer service with it. This has now past over two months since I initially sent off my camera for repair and the company is refusing to honor its warranty. I have bought a DSLR from one of their competitors and am completely disgusted with Pentax — DO NOT GIVE THEM YOUR BUSINESS. I’ve yet to receive my camera back (10 weeks and counting!) or any kind of a firm timeline of when that might happen.

0 upvotes
A1200
By A1200 (1 month ago)

Hi ebaker,

Did you get the repaired camera from them?

0 upvotes
ebaker
By ebaker (10 months ago)

I actually liked the camera…. until it didn’t perform as promised. I bought this camera because I work at an aquarium and need to take photos for our marketing. A month after purchase, the telephoto lens drew humidity into the body and condensation formed, thus killing the LCD screen.
While it claims to be weather resistant, it couldn’t even handle humidity.
What is worse is that after sending the camera in on July 6 for repair under the warranty, I have yet to get any kind of a realistic timeline of when I would receive my camera back. After the fifth week of hearing, “Call back next week” I requested a replacement. This caused the customer service rep to become extremely rude and tell me that they were in the midst of a corporate merger so he couldn’t help me. I requested to speak with a manager, he refused to give me their name or number. He insisted he needed to call the corporate office and said he would call me back by the end of the week. Of course, that never happened.

0 upvotes
Take5
By Take5 (10 months ago)

“…the only major barrier to fast and efficient operation is the relegation of movie shooting to the exposure mode dial.” Seriously is the time difference between turning the mode dial and pressing a button to enter the movie function all that relevant – you are talking about an extra second at the most !

0 upvotes
Total comments: 7