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Pentax K20D Review

June 2008 | By Richard Butler
Buy on From $860.00

Review based on a production Pentax K20D using V1.01 firmware

Having risked being left behind by the speed at which the 'affordable' DSLR market developed, Pentax showed how serious its intentions were with the K10D, a semi-pro-level DSLR with a features list to humble the competition at a very attractive price. Having added so many bells and whistles to the K10D, it's not much of a surprise to find that its successor, the K20D, is essentially a refinement of the same design. But, even though it can't quite boast the same novel-feature-count as its predecessor, the K20D still finds room for some interesting changes.

The stand-out feature of the K20D is undoubtedly its 14.6MP CMOS sensor, co-developed with the giant South Korean conglomerate Samsung. The companies claim the design reduces the amount of circuitry around each photosite, offering a similar light-sensitive area, per pixel, to a 12MP chip of conventional design. The other major change is the addition of a live-view mode that provides a zoomable, live preview directly from the imaging sensor.

Pentax has also tweaked the default settings of the camera's JPEG output (our biggest gripe about the K10D), so does the K20D offer enough to play with the big boys?

Key feature changes

The feature changes between the K10D and K20D are subtle but this is mainly because there was little that the K10D needed adding to its pretty formidable features list. The changes that have been made are:

  • 14.6 megapixel CMOS sensor
  • Live view mode
  • 2.7 inch 230,000 dot LCD (up from 2.5 in. 210,000)
  • Burst mode, allows 21fps shooting at 1.6MP resolution (up to 115 frames)
  • Dynamic range expansion mode
  • X-sync flash socket
  • Image parameter settings (Custom image), enhanced
  • Color adjustable LCD monitor
  • Compare mode in playback
  • 32x zoom in playback
  • Adjustable levels of High ISO noise reduction
  • Senstivities up to ISO 3200 (extendable to 6400), rather than ISO 1600
  • Dust alert for locating particles on the sensor
  • Pixel mapping to identify and correct for dead pixels
  • AF fine-tuning (for all lenses or up to 20 chosen lenses)

14.6 megapixel APS-C CMOS
The Pentax/Samsung
co-developed CMOS chip is the major new feature of the K20D. Building the most pixel-dense APS-C chip yet seen as a first attempt at designing a sensor this big shows a remarkable degree of ambition.

Weather sealing
Rubber seals protect the closures all around the K20D. No claims are made about the level of proofing this offers but it should help prevent dust and moisture ingress in most shooting situations.
X-sync socket
Pentax has added a flash sync socket to the left-hand side of the K20D body, allowing the use of external flashes and lights that aren't compatible with Pentax's wireless flash system.

Color adjustable monitor
In addition to being able to adjust its brightness, the LCD display on the K20D can be adjusted to ensure a neutral color representation.

This increases the use of the K20D's ability to fine-tune white balance on-screen, since you can be fairly confident that the screen is color-accurate.

The similarity of the K10D and K20D bodies means there is some use of the same text in parts of this review covering features and behavior common to both cameras.

Foreword / notes

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read some of our 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 author, we recommend that you read the entire review before making any decision. Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of them, click to display a larger image in a new window.

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Dpreview use calibrated monitors at the PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the 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 also A, B and C.

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