Pentax K-30 Hands-On: The Fastest, Toughest Inexpensive DSLR We've Ever Used

Illustration for article titled Pentax K-30 Hands-On: The Fastest, Toughest Inexpensive DSLR Weve Ever Used

The promise of the new Pentax K-30: The toughest, fastest DSLR that won't break your bank. We just tried it out for the first time, and so far we're impressed. An $850 DSLR body shouldn't feel this good.


Lower-end DSLRs can take great photos, but the build quality's usually pretty cheap, and their performance on can be a little sluggish. If you drop them they'll break, and don't expect respond to your every desire.

The Pentax K-30 is weather-sealed for "all weather conditions." The company told us it'd be good to go in a monsoon. We didn't get a chance to put the camera under water, but it does feel a lot sturdier than the Nikon D3200 we used to take pictures of it. One detail we didn't notice before is that the cheaper 18-55mm kit lens isn't actually fully weather-sealed—Only the special 18-135mm lens is. Packaged together the lens and camera will run you $1100. That's cheap considering DSLRs can get ridiculously expensive, but it's not $900 like the cheaper kit package.

Illustration for article titled Pentax K-30 Hands-On: The Fastest, Toughest Inexpensive DSLR Weve Ever Used

What's really impressive is the camera's performance. It's the fastest we've used in its price range. The camera's autofocus locks on instantaneously, and in continuous mode the camera peels of shots at 6 fps, which is faster than the 5 fps Canon T4i.

And make no mistake, the T4i is the K-30 main competitor. Its brand new Live View autofocus should make shooting video a breeze. Plus the T4i's touchscreen controls are the first of their kind on a DSLR. The K-30 and T4i come in at the exact same fully loaded $1100 price, so we'll see if the camera's ruggedness and speed are enough to counter Canon's innovations.


We haven't closely inspected the images from the Pentax K-30, so we don't yet know what kinda of image quality the camera's 16-megapixel APS-C sensor is good for. We'll let you know when we've spent more time with the camera.

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I've been on the Pentax bandwagon for a while now. I've had a K-x and now have a K-r.

To me, one of the biggest selling points with Pentax is all their DSLRs are fully backward-compatible with all Pentax K-mount lenses dating back to the 70s. You can even get a little bit of automatic exposure with fully-manual lenses, full AE with the A-series lenses from the 80s, and plenty of older autofocus lenses as well.

Also, the image stabilization is built into the camera body, so every lens you use is stabilized. With old manual lenses the camera prompts you to enter the focal length when you turn it on, so it still gives you IS.

Pentax makes some really nice lenses, and has a really unique selection of prime lenses. Their Limited series of primes are awesome, and even their cheap plasticky primes are still pretty great. I have the Pentax DA 35mm f/2.4 and it's a great little lens at $219 MSRP. It's not weather-sealed but if I were buying only one lens to go with the K-30, that would be it.

From there for "normal" (on crop sensor) lenses you can step up to the FA 35mm f/2.0 for a faster max aperture and just-as-great sharpness; the DA Limited 35mm f/2.8 macro for ridiculous sharpness, close focusing, and awesome fully-metal build quality; or the FA Limited 31mm f/1.8 for creamy-smooth bokeh, great low-light ability and a similar metal build. Those are just in one focal length category!

I much prefer carrying around a relatively small camera body with a nice small prime lens. I don't look like a paparazzi, and get amazing image quality. The K-30 looks really tempting, but I'm still building out my selection of lenses so I'm not going to upgrade to a nicer body until I already have all the lenses I want.

Because really folks, all DSLRs are capable of more-than-good image quality. The sensor technology is all good across the board. What makes for special pictures is great glass.

A couple other great things about the K-30...

It has a legit pentaprism viewfinder that is wayyyy nicer than the typical budget SLR pentamirror finders. You need to step up to a Canon 60D or Nikon D7000 (both of which are a higher class of camera) to get a prism on those brands.

It has TWO CONTROL DIALS. In program, aperture- and shutter-priority modes, you can assign the rear dial to adjust ISO on the fly. In manual mode you can adjust shutter & aperture without pushing a button to swap between them. That's huge, and is another feature that you'd have to step up to a 60D or D7000 to get.

OK, I'll step off my soapbox now...