Pentax K-30 Review: Tough Body, Sensitive Soul

A DSLR camera in the $1,000 range isn't usually as quick and rugged Pentax K-30. That solid performance inside a well-built shell has had us excited since we first got our hands on its weather-sealed body. This camera is clearly the competitor to Canon's new T4i—can its photos and videos hold up?

What Is It?

A tough, low-to-midrange DSLR with a 16.3-megapixel, APS-C sensor.

Who's it For?

Accident-prone beginner photographers looking for their first DSLR.

Design

Made of thick polycarbonate and rubber, with a deep grip and pop-up flash, the stocky K-30 is heavier than comparable DSLRs.

Using It

Handles beautifully. Plenty of buttons and switches on the camera body adjust ISO, white balance, focus mode, and exposure compensation. Two adjustment dials—one for aperture, the other for shutter speed— make it easy to shoot in full-manual mode.

The Best Part

Getting great photos out of this camera is easy.

Tragic Flaw

The HD video is a mess compared to the competition.

This Is Weird...

It's easy to find the cheaper $900 kit, which comes with a non-weather resistant 18-55mm lens. Hunt around for the better $1200 package, which includes an 18-135mm lens.

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Test Notes

  • Even with all processing turned off, the camera's sensor records glorious photographs. We were particularly impressed with its handling of detail and its excellent dynamic range. Darkness is no problem for the image sensor, and the camera's photos stay relatively noise free even at higher ISOs. (Click here to view full size samples on Flickr.)
  • We got trapped in a brutal, soaking thunderstorm, and the K-30 survived.
  • The camera's not just easy to use on the outside—its menus are refreshingly simple and well-designed. A dashboard behind the menu button lets you adjust every other shooting setting you could want to tweak.
  • The optics on the more expensive telephoto lens are excellent. It zooms all the way to 135mm without noticeable distortion. It's also weather-resistant. Sadly, the bundle with this lens costs $200 more than the 18-55mm counterpart.
  • The K-30's performance is impressive across the board. The autofocus system is fast and accurate even in darker conditions. The light metering is very smart and the camera does a great job calculating automatic exposures even in high-contrast situations. The shutter responds very fast—if loudly—and the 6 fps continuous shooting mode is the quickest in its class.
  • For all the camera's excellent image quality, its video leaves us wanting more. The camera's image stabilization causes noticeable distortion and without stabilization, the video quality is unusable. The upside is that the camera can shoot video at higher ISOs with relatively low noise.

Should You Buy It?

Maybe, especially if you're planning to wander into a hurricane or a blizzard. (That's probably a bad idea, and even if you're going to do it, you should bring something that shoots better video.)

This camera's image quality is impressive. It shot still photos beautifully. To get the most of out of it, you need to spring for the pricier glass—the cheap kit package looks attractive, but it's too limited.

There's one other factor to consider—upcoming changes in the product category. If you're planning a purchase in this class of camera, wait on the reviews of the new Canon T4i, and the anticipated update to Nikon's two-year-old D7000, before buying anything. Once they arrive, it will be much clearer idea which entry-level DSLR is the best product—and which is the best deal.

Pentax K-30

• Price: $900 w/18-55mm or $1200 with 18-135mm weather-resistent lens
• Sensor: 16.3 megapixel, APS-C 23.7 x 15.7mm, APS-C
• Max ISO: 12800
• Image: Up to 4928 x 3264
• Video: 1920 x 1080 30/25/24 and 1280 x 720 24/255/30/50/50
• Screen: 921,000 dot, 3" LCD
• Weight: 23 ounces w/o lens
Gizrank: 3.5

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