Pre-PMA 2008: Pentax has been kind enough to let us spend a little time with an early sample of its latest DLSR, the K20D. It'll be familiar to anyone who's held a K10D but has a number of added features to keep it competitive in its increasingly crowded market segment. We run down the changes and that Pentax has wrought.

Pentax K20D brief hands-on

The K10D has, since its launch in September 2006, offered a compelling compromise between features and cost, winning plenty of fans along the way and re-establishing Pentax as a force to be reckoned with in the enthusiast digital SLR market. The K20D answers the question of how Pentax can add to a camera with an already bulging list of features - through subtle adjustments, rather than wholesale reworking.

The biggest new feature to appear on the K20D is the upgrade to a new 14.6MP CMOS sensor co-developed with Samsung (and manufactured by Samsung). The companies claim that by minimizing the circuitry around each photo site, they have been able to keep the light-sensitive area of each pixel to the same size as other companies manage on 12MP sensors. Whether this really results in an extra 2.4 million pixels without the penalty of increased pixel density is something we'll see when the K20D is subjected to our usual testing protocols. Pentax appears suitably emboldened to have added an ISO 6400 mode.

Side-by-side K20D and K10D

The larger screen on the back of the K20D is the only obvious external change from the K20D's predecessor.

The other headline feature change is the addition of a live view mode, displayed through a larger 2.7" screen. This, along with the dynamic range expanding processing system, means the K20D keeps pace with most of the industry's latest trends. The only other change that leaps out at us is a cute-looking dust alert system that identifies the location of dust building up on the sensor, before displaying it on the screen (and retaining that display while the mirror is up for sensor cleaning).

The K20D is a mid-sized DSLR K20D adds an X-sync socket

The Pentax K20D is the first DSLR we've encountered that offers the ability to adjust the representation of color on its screen, allowing the user to calibrate the screen to more accurately reflect the output or the user's tastes. This is typical of the sort of high-level touches that cropped up all over the K10D and shows Pentax taking the same attitude towards the K20D. Another instance is the addition of an X-sync socket that will really benefit studio shooters.

The two cameras are pretty-much indistinguishable from above. Which is a good thing, because it means Pentax hasn't tried to mess with the ergonomics of the K10D, which we rather liked. And, sure enough, it is still a comfortable camera to hold. Whether the changes that have been made are enough to keep Pentax up with the increasingly widespread competition is something we'll see when we put it through our full tests.