The K-r is arguably one of the faster entry-level cameras. Its general speed of operation feels snappy and is very similar to the K-x. The area the K-r really excels in is continuous shooting. Six frames per second (vs 4.7 fps on the K-x) is quite impressive for a camera in this class. The AF system is not the quickest but roughly on a par with other cameras in the entry-level sector.
Continuous Shooting and Buffering
At 6 frames per second the Pentax K-r delivers a very quick continuous shooting performance for this class of camera (only the Sony SLT-A33 is quicker at 7 fps). Crucially not only is the frame rate very high, but the buffer is also large enough to sustain the high speed for a useful number of frames (29 frames in JPEG mode). And even when the buffer is full the camera continues shooting at a reasonable frame rate (at least in JPEG mode). All in all, if you're in the market for an entry-level DSLR and continuous shooting speed is high up your priorities, the Pentax K-r should be high up on your short-list.
In continuous mode we measured the Pentax K-r's frame rates as follows:
- JPEG (Superfine): around 6 fps for 29 frames, then 3.5 fps
- RAW: around 6 fps for 12 frames, then around 1.8 fps
- RAW + JPEG: around 6 fps for 10 frames, then about 1.2 fps
- Recovery time: 12 seconds
Autofocus speed / accuracy
One of our main points of criticism of the Pentax K-x (and K-m) was the lack of visible focus points in the viewfinder. The K-r's SAFOX IX AF system finally comes with visible AF points which means you now always know which of the 11 AF points is active. Apart from this (for some users at least) quite important improvement the SAFOX IX system's AF points are also spread more widely across the frame than on the previous cameras. Both systems come with 11 AF points, 9 of which are cross-type. You can choose between manual and automatic AF-point selection and 1, 5 or 11 active AF-points. The K-r also offers AF fine-adjustment but doesn't have the K5's light wavelength sensor.
The K-r's AF performance is unsurprisingly very similar to the K-x. The Pentax 18-55mm kit lens uses a 'screw-drive' connection driven from the camera body rather than the in-lens ultrasonic technology that is being implemented by some competitors, and as a consequence AF performance can occasionally feel just a tad slower (and noisier) than some of its peers, although the differences are marginal. For some users the faster, but more expensive SDM lenses might be a sensible investment, as with the K-r's excellent continuous shooting speed and the right set of lenses the camera could be a good option for sports/wildlife/action shooters on a budget.
Focus accuracy did not leave any reason for complaint and is, in decent light, generally spot on. In low light and low contrast situations the focus can slow down and occasionally hunt a little, but it's all well within acceptable limits and on a par with the direct competition.
Focusing in live view is one aspect that has clearly improved over the K-x. It's noticeably quicker now, there's less hunting and the performance in low light is better. None of the DSLR contrast detect AF systems on the market are really very good, but the K-r's is one of the better ones. It's not as quick as the camera's conventional phase detection system, but certainly quick enough for it to be useful in certain shooting situations. Alternatively you can still switch to phase detection AF in live view as well. However, this requires flipping the mirror before an image can be captured, with the consequent interruption of the live view feed.
Pentax is one of the manufacturers that provide image stabilization in the camera body rather than making it a feature of lenses. The system automatically detects the focal length of the attached lens and optimizes for it. This does not work for some older lenses in which case the focal length can be entered manually.
The K-r features the same IS mechanism as the K-x and Pentax claims it gives you an approximately four stop advantage. Our real-world results weren't as impressive and in our tests we found the K-r's anti-shake system to generate an advantage of between one and two stops. The system appears to be slightly more efficient at very slow shutter speeds, where it significantly increases your chances of getting a usable shot, and therefore certainly provides a real benefit in many shooting situations.
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