Performance

Overall Performance

The K-30's overall performance does not leave many reasons to complain. As with most modern DSLRs general operation, navigation of the menus and use of external controls is very swift and responsive, with a pretty much non-existent shutter lag. Image review and magnification are very quick as well. You only ever have to wait for the camera when a large burst of images or a video file are being written to the memory card.

Like on the K-5 and other previous Pentax models the only major barrier to fast and efficient operation is the relegation of movie shooting to the exposure mode dial. Dedicated movie buttons are now pretty much standard on all DSLRs, as they allow faster access to movie recording.

In terms of continuous shooting the Pentax K-30 is doing a very decent job and on par with or faster than cameras that are nominally categorized in a higher class such as the Canon EOS 60D or the Nikon D7000. In addition to operational and continuous shooting speed, the basic camera systems are very reliable. Metering and white balance are both very capable, with good results in mixed light and difficult contrast situations. Pentax' AWB system works impressively reliably and generates good results in bright daylight and low, fluorescent light alike. Only when shooting in very warm artificial light can it be beneficial to intervene manually and use a custom white balance setting.

Like the Auto White Balance the camera's metering is quite difficult to fool. In good light the metering system is pretty much spot-on all the time, without any over- or under-exposure issues. And for difficult high-contrast scenes the Shadow and Highlight Correction systems (which we've had a closer look at in the features section of this review) come in very handy.

Continuous Shooting and Buffering

The Pentax K-30's continuous shooting performance is quite impressive for a camera in its class. At approximately 6.0 frames per second in Continuous High mode is faster than the Canon EOS 60 (5.3 fps), on the same level as the Nikon D7000 and only a little bit slower than the Pentax K-5. All these cameras are significantly more expensive than the K-30. How many frames you can fit into a burst depends to a large degree on the file format. 45 frames in one burst is quite impressive but this numer decreases significantly when switching to Raw mode. If you want to get the most out of the K-30s continuous shooting mode you should also make sure to use the fastest cards available as both the number of frames in a burst and the buffer full rate go down with slower cards. The same happens when you have the Distortion Correction feature activated, as you can see in the tables below. Make sure to switch it off for maximum performance.

Continuous High

Timing
JPEG Large/Fine
RAW
RAW+JPEG Fine
Frame rate 6.0 fps 6.0 fps 6.0 fps
Number of frames 45 9 7
Buffer full rate 2.4 fps 1.7 fps 0.9 fps
Write complete 13 sec 13 sec 14 sec

Continuous Low

Timing
JPEG Large/Fine
RAW
RAW+JPEG Fine
Frame rate 3.0 fps 3.0 fps 3.0 fps
Number of frames unlimited 13 7
Buffer full rate n/a

1.6 fps

0.8 fps
Write complete n/a 10 sec 9 sec

Continuous High - Distortion Correction On

Timing
JPEG Large/Fine
RAW
RAW+JPEG Fine
Frame rate 6.0 fps 6.0 fps 6.0 fps
Number of frames 6 5 4
Buffer full rate 0.9 fps 0.9 fps 0.8 fps
Write complete 7 sec 7 sec 9 sec

Continuous Low - Distortion Correction On

Timing
JPEG Large/Fine
RAW
RAW+JPEG Fine
Frame rate 3.0 fps 3.0 fps 3.0 fps
Number of frames 7 5 4
Buffer full rate 1.0 fps 0.9 fps 0.8 fps
Write complete 6 sec 6 sec 9 sec

All timings performed using a 64GB SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-I SDHC card (90MB/s)

Autofocus speed / accuracy

The K30's SAFOX IXi+ AF system uses 11 AF points (9 of which are cross-type), and comes with some improvements over the K-5's SAFOX IX+ system. Pentax claims the wide-area AF mode improves focus tracking if the subject strays from a user-selected AF area to a neighboring point and a more consistent AF performance. This is achieved through improvements in the design of the lenses in front of the AF sensor which reduce chromatic aberrations confusing the AF system.

As you can see in the 100% crop on the right, the K-30's AF-system does not have any trouble with subjects that move at moderate speed or at a larger distance from the camera. When shooting similar subjects to this one we regularly had very good hit rates of around 7-8 out of 10 shots.

It's very difficult to measure or even notice these differences in everyday shooting. But we have used the K-30 extensively while working on this review, in both bright natural and low artificial light, and found the camera's AF system to be very capable in most situations. Autofocus acquisition is usually extremely fast and positive, with both Pentax' SDM models and conventional lenses.

Out of the more than 1000 frames we have shot of static of slow-moving subjects only a handful showed marginal focus errors. That said, as you would expect, things are a little different when shooting fast-moving subjects. The hit-rate decreases in those situations, as the camera finds it more difficult to predict subject movement. Nevertheless, for everyday shooting the Pentax' AF system does a very decent job, down to very low light levels.

As usual contrast detect AF in live view mode is not on the same speed level as the phase-detect system used for viewfinder-shooting but the system has been improved considerably over early camera generations with this feature and offers a good alternative for live-view shooters. In live view mode you can also choose from various AF modes including face detection and a new tracking mode.

Battery life

In terms of power supply the Pentax K-30 offers a rather unusual approach. It comes with a rechargeable Li-Ion battery D-LI109 which is good for approximately 410 exposures (CIPA standard) or 270 minutes of movie recording time. However the battery compartment is AA-battery shaped and therefore allows you to use four AA-batteries with an adapter.

The unusually shaped battery compartment means that the Li-Ion battery has to be comparatively small and some users might prefer a larger capacity battery over the option to use AA-batteries. The latter can be useful in power emergency scenarios but there is of course also the option to simply carry a second battery. In normal use the K-30's battery would take us through a day of shooting, but other cameras in this class offer better battery life, and you'll want to make sure you've got access to a power-outlet in the evening for re-charging.