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Conclusion - Pros

  • Easy-to-use on-screen control panel
  • Compact size with good build-quality
  • Good high-ISO performance
  • Plenty of features for the first-time user (Auto Pict mode/Help button)
  • Efficient image stabilization
  • Reliable flash exposure
  • Wireless flash
  • Good viewfinder for its class
  • In-camera RAW-development (but limited options only)
  • Good range of image parameters (see reservations below)
  • Shadow compensation
  • White Balance fine-tuning
  • User-controllable High ISO noise reduction (4 levels)
  • Customizable Auto ISO (100 - 800/400/1600/3200)
  • Sensitivity Priority shooting mode
  • Good white balance presets (but poor Auto WB results in tungsten light)
  • Efficient long exposure noise reduction
  • Color tunable LCD
  • Excellent, sharp and clean image results when shooting RAW
  • D-Range gives you about one stop additional highlight range (ISO 200 - 3200 only)
  • Occasionally useful 'digital preview' allows you to take a test shot which isn't saved
  • Mirror lock-up implemented as part of the self-timer
  • Comprehensive software package (Silkypix RAW converter and browser)

Conclusion - Cons

  • Default JPEGs too contrasty and poorly sharpened
  • JPEG engine not making the most out the camera's RAW data (regardless of settings)
  • Unsophisticated, uninformative AF system with no indication of chosen point in viewfinder
  • No orientation sensor (get used to landscape images)
  • Dynamic range in the highlights slightly below average (but efficient D-Range option)
  • Limited continuous shooting capability, slower than average and small buffer
  • Flash must be raised for AF assist (although AF improved in low light)
  • No Kelvin white balance option

Overall conclusion

The entry-level DSLR sector has become argue ably the hardest-fought camera sector over the past year. Reduced-spec, cheaper DSLRs have appeared from all the major camera companies, looking to tempt compact camera users across to the 'will it fit in my pocket?' divide. Pentax has responded to this with the K2000/K-m. In most respects it's a smaller, friendlier K200D with a little less mass and a little more mass-appeal.

And, to Pentax's credit, they've taken very little away from the K200D and clearly spent a lot of time making it as user-friendly as possible. The on-screen control panel is very well done, making it easy to find and change all the key shooting settings and meaning the top LCD (one of the few K200D features that has been removed), is unlikely to be missed by many. The automatic scene mode selection feature (which is becoming increasingly common on compacts), is a nice touch, too.

So our first impressions of the K2000 were very positive - it's a well designed little thing with some of the best build quality in its class and a level of accessibility that makes it probably the best beginners DSLR Pentax has yet made.

However, the thing we liked least about the K200D - its JPEG engine - appears to have been inherited, unchanged from the old model, which is quite a drawback for a camera aimed at the first time user. The default bright, high-contrast and saturated look makes sense for this target audience (though they're a bit much for our tastes), but the poor level of fine detail if you examine the images closely puts the K2000 at the bottom of its class for image quality. We're also not convinced that the same users who want those punchy colors will be best served by the low levels of noise reduction (or that they'll find custom setting 12 to change it), and rather conservative metering. This isn't a problem for the more experienced user, of course, who is more likely to apply exposure compensation and be happy to shoot in RAW and process the images later to get the best out of them.

There is another cloud on the horizon, though. As well as the slightly infuriating removal of the orientation sensor, that means you have to manually rotate any images taken in the portrait format, Pentax also appears to have cut costs with the autofocus system. Five AF points sounds promising (especially in a sector with several 3 AF-point cameras), but the active point is always automatically selected without any indication given as to which one has been used. The only alternative is to lock the camera to use its central AF-point, so you're left either with an AF system that won't tell you what it's doing or a single AF-point camera. While this is delightfully unthreatening to newcomers, it's a system that most people will quickly out-grow and one that is likely to make many experienced users simply walk away.

And that's a problem - the entry-level DSLR market is now a fiercely competitive place - the difference between the best and worst is slight and there's no one camera that stands out entirely from its peers. Unfortunately, the K2000, while very likeable in many respects, simply has a few more flaws than any of its opponents and those weaknesses are likely to mean that, whatever your needs, there's a better camera out there for you.

For all the reasons above the K2000 is a difficult camera to rate, combining as it does an excellent feature set with a fairly fundamental flaw (the inability to easily check or select the focus point being used) that we consider to be serious enough to be a deciding issue. The lack of focus point indication is also, crucially, something that we feel the target market (the first time buyer) would benefit from (small viewfinders and slow zooms don't make it easy to spot when the camera hasn't focused where you want it to). The target user is also much more likely to shoot JPEG than to process raw files in ACR, and the difference between the K2000's raw and JPEG output is so great that we've been forced to split the image quality score in the table below.

And so, despite scoring well in virtually all areas, on balance the K2000 is a difficult camera to wholeheartedly recommend, certainly in the face of such stiff competition. The fact that it gets so much right makes the bits it gets wrong especially disappointing, and means our final rating ends up far more lukewarm than we'd like it to be.

Pentax K-m (K2000)
Category: Entry Level Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Value
PoorExcellent
Good for
Pentax users on a tight budget
Not so good for
Absolute beginners or JPEG shooters
Overall score
65%
Although the overall specification is pretty good for this level of camera, the K-m/K2000 struggles to stand out from the crowd given the mediocre JPEG quality and poorly implemented autofocus system.

Original Rating (Jan 2009): Recommended (Just)
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean

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