Live view

The K-7 is the second Pentax to include live view. As with most manufacturers, Pentax's system seems primarily suited to tripod work, whether that is for studio work or macros (the magnified view is much improved for fine focusing, compared to the K20D). Like many other contemporary DSLRs, the live view offers the ability to use contrast detection AF (CDAF), the system used in most compact cameras that uses the imaging sensor to assess focus. Like many of the recent DLSR implementations of CDAF, the K-7 includes features such as face detection that simply weren't possible with conventional DSLR phase-detection AF. However, in common with the majority of DSLR CDAF systems, it is unpleasantly slow.

If you want live view for considered composition and focus confirmation then, like the systems currently used by Olympus, Canon and Nikon, the K-7's implementation is perfectly pleasant. However, if you're looking for the immediate accessibility and fast live view shooting of a compact camera then you'll have to look elsewhere. There is still an option to use the camera's phase-detection sensor, though it does mean the camera has to flip its mirror down, focus, then flip the mirror back up again when you hit the shutter button.

The K-7's standard live view display A live histogram helps you choose an appropriate level of exp. compensation
As with several recent DSLRs the K-7 has face detection AF in live view.  

Magnified live view

Live view can be zoomed 2, 4 or 6 times and, at the greatest setting, provides a good degree of clarity for fine focusing.

Live view on the K-7 can be magnified by up to 6x for manual focus accuracy. To do this press the INFO button while in live view mode to enter 2x magnified view, and then press the rear control dial to adjust the magnification.

Changing settings in Live View

Changing settings in live view is a little inconsistent. Some settings such as aperture or ISO speed simply change on screen as you move the dial. Other, such as the image styles or white balance are laid over the image once you press the corresponding button (see below). Flash mode and drive mode do the same thing as in viewfinder mode. You simply change the setting on a screen with a black background.

Electronic level

The K-7 comes with an electronic level like we've first seen it on the Nikon D700. In live view the green bars in the top right of the frame indicate that the camera is level. The color then changes to yellow and red as you tilt the camera. Once activated the electronic level is also visible in the viewfinder and on the top LCD.

Composition adjustment

The K-7 is the first DSLR to come with composition adjustment. The camera uses the anti-shake system to move the sensor and thereby slightly adjust the composition of the frame. You enter the mode through the shooting menu and then adjust the frame using the four way controller for left/right and up/down movements and the rear dial for tilting. A press of the green button takes you back to the center position. Depending on the lens this composition adjustment can cause vignetting. The left image shows the original framing, on the right you can see the same scene after maximum downwards and to the right adjustment.

Overall handling and operation comments

Despite the K-7's relatively small dimensions and weight the camera always feels stable and solid in your hands. This is due to the camera's excellent build quality but also the hand grip whose design ensures safe handling even with large hands.

The camera sports an excellent selection of external controls with pretty much all important shooting settings accessible without diving into any menus. The ISO and exposure compensation buttons are ideally located behind the shutter button and focus point selection is very straightforward as well.

The menu system is, due to the camera's comprehensive feature set, naturally a little longwinded but the designers still did a good job in sorting and grouping all the options. Add the K-7's customizability to the mix and it's difficult to see how any photographer could, after some familiarization time, not be happy with the camera's handling and operation.

The only point of slight criticism in the user interface department is the lack of an 'interactive' status display. While the K-7 shows you most important shooting settings on its rear LCD it is not possible to change them directly on screen. Considering the K-7's number of external buttons this is not much of a problem but cameras such as the Nikon D300s or EOS 50D simply give you an additional option for changing your settings.

Other than that there's only one more minor detail detail we weren't too happy with. The slot in the SD-card compartment is placed so closely to the door itself that inserting and removing cards can be a slightly fiddly affair and certainly not something you'd want to do wearing gloves.

As with most systems, the K-7's live view mode seems primarily suited to tripod work, whether that is for studio work or macros. Live view operation is very straightforward but as with almost all the current systems the contrast detect AF is simply too slow for most day-to-day photographic tasks.