Pentax K-30

Packed full of useful features, the K-30 will appeal to photographers who value bang for their buck. We do suggest investing in a better lens than the kit version for superior results.


8.0
CNET Rating

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Lexy spent her formative years taking a lot of photos and dreaming in technicolour. Nothing much has changed now she's covering all things photography related for CNET.


Borrowing bits and pieces from previous high-end Pentax cameras, the K-30 stands apart from plenty of other SLRs in this price-range, because of features like weather and dust sealing.

Design and features

Available in a glossy white, blue or classic black finish, the K-30 is a colourful addition to the world of SLR photography. Apart from the choice of colours, the next thing you notice about the K-30 is how compact it feels in the hand. It's not overly lightweight compared to other SLRs in this price range, at 650 grams (with battery).

When using the camera, all buttons and dials fall neatly underneath the appropriate finger, while the grip provides a deep recess for the right hand to hold. That said, it doesn't feel as ergonomically designed as some of its competitors because of its depth, though some may prefer this option.

Around the back is a 3-inch LCD (921,000 dots) screen, as well as a configuration of standard control buttons. A four-way directional pad gives access to self-timer, ISO, white balance and flash options, while an exposure lock button and playback button feature prominently.

What sets it apart from other SLRs in this price range and class is that it has the option to accept either four AA batteries (with an optional adapter) or a rechargeable lithium-ion unit (provided with the camera). The K-30 also has plenty of other useful features that are often reserved for higher-end cameras. For example, in Live View, photographers have the option of activating focus peaking. The optical viewfinder provides 100 per cent field of view, while a dual dial configuration makes exposure adjustments simple. The rear dial acts as an aperture control dial/magnification dial, while the front one is a shutter speed adjustment dial.

The mode dial on the K-30. Lucky the body is dust-resistant, because the glossy blue finish shows up all the dirt.
(Credit: CBSi)

The mode dial at the top of the camera gives access to full PASM control, as well as user-customisable settings, automatic, movie and bulb mode. There is also built-in HDR and interval shooting settings, as well as a range of creative filters. These include: extract colour, toy camera, retro, high contrast, shading and invert colour.

As touched upon earlier, the K-30 is weather and dust sealed, as well as being freeze-proof to -10 degrees Celsius. However, do be aware that there is only one kit 18-55mm lens that is weather sealed as well — the SMC Pentax DA 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL WR. The unit we received for testing with the camera was just the regular lightweight SMC 18-55mm DAL lens.

At the front of the camera, just to the side of the lens mount, a focus switch selector lets photographers change from single autofocus, continuous to manual focus mode.

The K30 uses SD cards and connectivity options of a remote port and micro USB out.

Compared to

Nikon D5100 Pentax K-30 Canon EOS 650D
16.2-megapixel APS-C CMOS 16.3-megapixel APS-C CMOS 18-megapixel APS-C CMOS
3.0-inch, 921,000-dot articulating LCD screen 3.0-inch, 921,000-dot LCD screen 3.0-inch, 1,04K-dot articulating touch LCD screen
Full HD video (1080p, 24/25fps) Full HD video (1080p, 24/25/30fps) Full HD video (1080p, 24/25/30fps)
No wireless flash control Wireless flash control Wireless flash control
11 AF points (1 cross-type) 11 AF points (9 cross-type) 9 AF points (all cross-type)

Performance

General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Start-up to first shot time
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • RAW shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
  • 1.30.20.30.04
    Pentax K-30
  • 0.30.40.50.1
    Canon EOS 650D
  • 0.30.40.40.2
    Canon EOS 60D
  • 0.30.60.70.3
    Nikon D5100
  • 0.30.20.30.1
    Nikon D7000

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Continuous shooting speed (in frames per second)

  • 7
    Nikon D7000
  • 6
    Pentax K-30
  • 5.3
    Canon EOS 60D
  • 5
    Canon EOS 650D
  • 3.8
    Nikon D5100

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Pentax rates the battery at 410 shots on the rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which is lower than average for a camera of this class.

The K-30 can take 6 frames per second in a continuous burst, but slows down after the first 15 JPEG frames, and stops completely after 8 RAW shots. The autofocus system is fast and responsive, resulting in very little shutter lag (that is, the time between pressing the shutter button and the camera focusing to take a shot).

Pentax is one of the only manufacturers to use Adobe's DNG format for its RAW images, something which makes the process of editing and archiving incredibly easy.

Image quality

The K-30 offers a robust shooting experience for the money. It delivers good quality images, however, we feel that the kit 18-55mm lens could be a lot sharper to make the most of what the sensor has to offer.

Colour rendition is very good on default JPEG settings, if a little oversaturated. RAW files provide a lot more latitude and colour accuracy, particularly when shooting natural subjects. The good thing about Pentax offering the DNG format is that, if you already have Adobe software such as Photoshop or Lightroom installed, you can very easily import these files into your editing program of choice, without a tiresome conversion process.

A comparison between the RAW and JPEG files produced by the K-30. As you can see, the noise profile is quite similar, however the colours are quite different. The JPEG file is a lot more saturated, while the RAW file looks natural.
(Credit: CBSi)

The K-30 can hit a maximum native ISO of 12,800, but photos suffer from a lot of noise at this extreme. Indeed, even at ISO 3200, images lose a lot of detail and become smeary from noise processing. Things are marginally better when shooting RAW, however the K-30 doesn't excel at high ISO, low-light photography. Dim conditions also cause the AF system to slow down considerably, taking much longer to hunt and lock focus, compared to bright situations.

In terms of video quality, the SLR offers full HD recording at 24, 25 or 30fps, plus adjustable audio levels. Exposure control in video mode is available in program, aperture-priority or manual mode. Picture style and filter effects are available when shooting video.

Video quality is fine, but suffers from a degree of rolling shutter and visible artefacts on the frame. This SLR is not designed for shooting high-quality video, especially if you value audio fidelity — there's no microphone input available. Nor is there a dedicated video record button, so you have to use the shutter button to begin and end recording. There is also no continuous autofocus available during recording.

Image samples

Exposure: 1/100, f/11, ISO 200

Exposure: 1/250, f/10, ISO 400

Exposure: 1/320, f/6.3, ISO 100

Exposure: 1/50, f/6.3, ISO 100

(Credit: CBSi)

Conclusion

Packed full of useful features, the K-30 will appeal to photographers who value bang for their buck. We do suggest investing in a better lens than the kit version for superior results. In addition, if you are buying the K-30 for its weather-sealed properties, make sure you double-check that the lens you buy is also able to withstand these conditions too.

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