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Pentax K-7 Review

October 2009 | By Lars Rehm, Don Wan, Richard Butler
Buy on Amazon.com From $599.00

Review based on a production Pentax K-7, firmware V1.01

Pentax is a name that will evoke fond memories for the many photographers whose first SLR experience was with a Spotmatic, KM, K1000 or ME Super. Although the company's market position isn't as well entrenched as it was during its halcyon days in the analog era, it continues to attract a devoted following of enthusiasts. And that following isn't just based on nostalgia - Pentax is alone in having developed a comprehensive range of prime lenses for the APS-C format that dominates modern DSLR photography, while most of its competitors concentrate on offering a selection of zooms.

Pentax's cameras have also catered well for this market in the shape of the competitively-priced K20D, a very likeable, solid upgrade to the K10D. Both cameras offered robust semi-pro build quality and a fairly advanced degree of environmental sealing, combined with a good level of customizability and well worked-out handling. But it's now been over two-and-a-half years since the K10D appeared and, as it tends to, the market has moved on. The K20D's live view system was not exactly class leading, and the camera was starting to look a little long-in-the-tooth when compared to the video-shooting Canons and Nikons that have started to appear, with their VGA screens and polished interfaces.

So here we have the K-7, Pentax's latest enthusiast/semi-pro level DSLR. And a handsome creature it is, too - gone is the K20D's slightly pudgy utilitarianism, to be replaced by a sleek, pared-down elegance. But it's not just on the outside that things have changed: although the megapixel count remains the same, just about everything that matters has been replaced, revised or spruced-up.

The headline changes:

  • 720p/1536 x 1024 HD video recording
  • Smaller magnesium/steel alloy body
  • Revised viewfinder (less magnified but with greater coverage)
  • Updated sensor with four-channel readout
  • 3.0" VGA (920,000 dot) LCD
  • New shutter mechanism with 1/8000th shutter speed
  • Faster continuous shooting (up to 5.2 fps)
  • 77 segment exposure metering sensor
  • Revised autofocus algorithms
  • AF illumination lamp
  • New dust removal system
  • HDMI output

And that's just the big stuff. The implications of some of these changes are almost as significant as their obvious effects - as well as allowing faster frame rates and video, the reworked, four-channel sensor promises to generate less noise than the version used in the K20D. There are also lots of more subtle additions that show just how fundamental a change this camera is from its predecessor.

  • New dedicated ISO button
  • Distortion and chromatic aberration correction for DA and DFA lenses (also available in RAW conversion using supplied software)
  • Adjustable dynamic range highlight and shadow correction
  • Three-shot in-camera HDR capture
  • Electronic level indicator
  • Composition adjustment (Uses the SR system to reposition the sensor to fine-tune composition)

Weather sealed lenses

To allow the K-7 to make the most of its weather sealing, while still allowing it to be sold as part of relatively inexpensive kits, two weather-resistant kit lenses have also been introduced. The optics are based on the existing DA lenses but with what the company describes as 'simplified weather-resistant construction' that offers greater protection against moisture and dust ingress than the older designs.

The new DA 18-55mm WR and DA 50-200mm WR lenses are being offered as kit lenses with the K-7. Both include a series of seals to offer a similar level of environmental sealing as the new body.

Compared to K20D - key differences

 

Pentax K-7

Pentax K20D
Body material Magnesium/steel alloy, stainless steel chassis, weather-sealed Plastic, stainless steel chassis, weather-sealed
Sensor • 23.4 x 15.6 mm CMOS sensor
• 15.1 million total pixels
• 14.6 million effective pixels
• 4-channel data readout
• 23.4 x 15.6 mm CMOS sensor
• 15.1 million total pixels
• 14.6 million effective pixels
• 2-channel data readout
Image sizes • 4672 x 3104 pixels
• 3936 x 2624 pixels
• 3072 x 2048 pixels
• 1728 x 1152 pixels
• 4672 x 3104 pixels
• 3872 x 2592 pixels
• 3008 x 2000 pixels
• 1824 x 1216 pixels
AF-System • 11-area AF (SAFOX VIII+)
• TTL Phase matching AF system
• Focus point selectable
• AF illuminator light
• 11-area AF (SAFOX VIII)
• TTL Phase matching AF system
• Focus point selectable
Exposure metering • 77 segment
• 16 segment
Viewfinder • 100% coverage
• 0.92x mag (50mm lens, ∞, -1m-1)
• 95% coverage
• 0.95x mag (50mm lens, ∞, -1m-1)
Dust reduction Low-pass-filter-shake Sensor-shake
Image stabilization Sensor-shift Sensor-shift
White balance • 10 presets
• Auto
• Kelvin
• Manual
• All with fine tuning
• 8 presets
• Auto
• Kelvin
• Manual
• All with fine tuning
D-Range • Separate Highlight and Shadow compensation
(Highlights at ISO 200 and above)
• 200%
( at ISO 200 and above)
Continuous shooting • 5.2fps 40 JPEG/15 PEF/14 DNG
• 3.3fps unltd. JPEG/17 PEF/17 DNG
• 3.0fps 38 JPEG/14 PEF/16 DNG
• 2.3fps unltd. JPEG/14 PEF/16 DNG
Movies • Yes, 720p HD (Motion JPEG) • No
LCD monitor • 3.0" TFT LCD
• 920,000 dots
• 2.7" TFT LCD
• 230,000 dots
Dimensions 131 x 97 x 73mm
(5.1 x 3.8 x 2.9 in)
142 x 101 x 70mm
(5.6 x 4.0 x 2.8 in)
Weight 754g (26.6oz.)
With battery and SD card
802g (28.3oz.)
With battery and SD card

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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