The K-30's grip is covered with a comfortable rubber material, but for photographers with large hands it could be a little beefier. At 650g with battery and card the camera isn't unusually heavy for its class, but we found that the camera begins to feel heavy on longer shoots, especially with heavier lenses such as the 18-135mm or the 16-50mm F2.8. That said, how comfortable the camera feels in your hands will to a large degree depend on your hand size and, as always, we would recommend trying it before you buy.
In terms of operation the camera is quite similar to its bigger sibling K-5/K-5 II. It offers a good number of external buttons and dials which, in combination with the camera's Control Panel, means that you'll rarely have to dive into the K-30's menu system after an initial setup. Users who are new to DSLRs might find the amount of options and parameters a little intimidating, but a seasoned DSLR user will find their way around the camera relatively quickly, even if they haven't worked with Pentax bodies before.
Most buttons on the camera rear are located to the right of the large 3" LCD screen and easily reachable with the thumb of your right hand; only the combined live view/delete button has been placed to the left of the viewfinder. The rear of the K-30 also plays host to the secondary control dial and AE lock button. Like on the K-5 all of these buttons have a relatively shallow travel, but without the dry 'click' which characterizes control points on lower-end Pentax DSLRs such as the K-r. If we have one criticism it would be that the buttons themselves are rather small, and as such, can be hard to manipulate precisely with cold or gloved fingers.
Both front and rear control dials can be customized, but by default, the rear dial is the primary control input for aperture in manual exposure, Av and TAv modes, as well as the zoom control in image playback mode. The front dial controls shutter speed in manual exposure, Av and TAv modes and let you browse through your images in review mode.
The K-30 has lost the K-5's AF mode switch. You'll have to enter the Control Panel to change the AF Area mode, but once you are in AF Area Select mode you can open and close an AF-point selection 'sub-screen' by 'long-pressing' the OK button. You can then easily change the active AF point with the camera to your eye, simply by using the 4-way controller. A quick press of the OK button flicks the AF point to the centre of the 11-point array, while a longer press closes the sub-screen and locks the AF-point at its current position.
Status Screen and Control Panel
The K-30 offers a good number of external buttons and dials, but the Control Panel allows access to a lot more settings which are not changed as frequently as the basic shooting parameters. This means that, after an initial setup, you'll only have to enter the camera's menu system very sporadically. When the Control Panel is not needed you can choose to display a Status Screen, Electronic Level or Electronic Compass (with optional GPS unit) on the rear LCD, or simply switch it off.
|Pressing the INFO screen on the back of the camera cycles between the Control Panel (see below), the 'Shooting Info Display selection' screen (left) and the screen you have selected on the 'Shooting Info Display selection screen'. You can choose between the Status screen (bottom of this table), the electronic level (right) or an electronic compass if you've got the optional GPS unit attached to the camera. You can also opt to switch the screen off instead.|
|The Control Panel can be navigated using the four-way controller. Clicking 'OK' on one of the settings brings up a sub-screen, on which you can alter the corresponding parameters. Here, we've shown you the Custom Image option. Some of the options on the Control Panel can also be reached via the menus or a hard button but once you've familiarized yourself with it, the Control Panel is a good alternative, and very quick to use.|
|The K-30's Status Screen gives you a good overview of all relevant shooting settings but is not really interactive. However, you can activate the AF-point selection by long-pressing the OK button. It's not as nice as the K-5's AF-mode switch, but works pretty well once you get used to it.|
Like on the K-5 the button customization on the K-30 is a little limited. It is not possible to assign direct video shooting to one of the camera's external buttons, and the 'AF' button customization only extends to AF on/off and AE Lock. However, you can customize the function of the dials and green button for each shooting and video mode.
|On the K-30 the function of the RAW/Fx and AF/AE-L buttons can be customized, as can the function of the camera's front and rear dials. Here you can see the functions that are available on the RAW/Fx-button (left) and the programming of the dials and green button in P mode (right).|
The 'Hyper' in Hyper Program and Hyper Manual refers to the function of the green dial in program and manual exposure modes. In P (Hyper Program) mode, rotating the front or rear dial quickly switches the camera into shutter priority (front dial) or aperture priority (rear dial) modes. To return back to full Program mode just press the green button on the back of the camera. This simple but effective method of going between the three exposure modes is very clever, and unique to Pentax.
Despite the slightly unusual styling the Pentax K-30 handles pretty much like previous Pentax DSLR models and, by extension, most current mid-level DSLRs. It feels reassuringly weighty in the hand, and the rubberized surfaces are comfortable to hold. But if you have large hands, you might prefer a slightly more substantial grip.
The camera is easy and intuitive to use in both viewfinder and live-view operation. The camera's ISO and exposure compensation controls are well-placed for quick adjustment, and despite the loss of the K-5's AF-mode switch, changing AF points is quick and easy too, thanks to the AF-point 'sub-screen' on the camera's Status Screen. Other key shooting controls are arranged on the four-way controller and easily reachable by your thumb.
Compared to the K-5, the K-30 has also lost the lockable mode dial. I'd imagine that relatively few users will miss this feature, as we hardly ever turned the dial accidently while working on this review. On the other hand having to unlock the dial every time before turning it can be a bit of a pain, especially if you're coming from a camera without this function and are not used to it.
To DSLR novices the camera menu system can appear a little complex, but considering the K-30's relatively comprehensive feature set the menus are logically structured and the options intuitively labeled. After a few days of shooting and playing with the available options and parameters, you'll easily find your way through the menu system and around the camera in general.
Our only real gripe with the K-30's user interface is the same as it was on both the K-5 and K-7 - the lack of a direct movie button. The camera offers decent movie specifications (although there's no socket for an external microphone), but the lack of a movie button means you cannot record a video as spontaneously as you can capture a still-image. Turning the mode dial into its movie position only takes a second a two but this can easily be enough to miss a crucial moment. Ideally, we would like the green button on the camera top to be customizable to be a video button, but this option is not on offer.
Overall the K-30 is a nicely handling camera that feels comfortable and solid in your hands. The extensive weather-sealing is unique at this price point and can be very useful in adverse weather conditions. The option to use AA batteries (with an optional adapter) is perhaps not something many users will use, but could be a life-saver when traveling away from civilization. In combination with the sealing, this makes the K-30 a bit of a 'budget adventurer DSLR'.