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Product Review – K-30 From Pentax

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The K-30 is the latest offering from Pentax. It is the first DSLR from Pentax since the K-5 and it uses same 16-megapixel APS-C sized sensor that was shown to be one of the best sensors in terms of overall image quality – especially in the realm of high ISO performance.

The K-30 has a look reminiscent of the K-5 but does sport some differences especially in the fact that is much hardier with its 81 weather-seals to keep out the wet, the cold and the dust. It has the ability to operate in downpours, in temperatures as low as 14F (-10C), or in hot dusty or sandy environments. The kit I am using comes with weather-resistant (WR) 18-135mm f3.5-5.6. Other WR lenses available include a 50-200 f/4-5.6, 100mm f/2.8, and a 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6

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The Pentax K-30, along with having a sensor based on the Pentax K-5, is capable of capturing 16.3-megapixel images and as well as high definition video that shoots at speeds from 24-60fps. It has an APS-C sensor and it is able to use the standard Pentax K-mount lenses. It comes with a rechargeable li-ion battery that will give you 410-480 shots per charge.

The camera itself has a really good feel to it and it feels really comfortable in my hand. It is a little smaller than the K-5 measuring (W x H x D): 5.1″ x 3.8″ x 2.8″. Loaded and ready to go it weighs 22.9 oz. and can operate from 14°F to 104°F (-10 to 40°C) . It uses SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards. It can use the Li-Ion Battery or sold separately is a AA battery holder that takes 4-AA batteries.

Like the K-5, the K-30 has the same 0.92x magnification viewfinder with 100% coverage which means that what you see and compose for in the viewfinder is what you will see in the final capture. The focus system contains the SAFOX IXi+ TTL phase-detection 11 point (9 cross) wide autofocus system with light wavelength sensor and diffraction lens which is a step above the K-5 and for you this will mean better focus tracking.

Using the Pentax K-30

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As I said the feel of the K-30 is firm and solid and its angular shape grips well in your hand – even in rainy conditions, without fear of slippage. The body is made of a polycarbonate with a stainless steel chassis at the center so it is lighter than the K-5 but still has the same quality feel to it.

The K-30 It uses SD, SDHC, SDXC (UHS Speed Class 1 supported) memory and this is inserted on the right side of the camera by pulling open the cover to the memory slot, slide in the card, replace the cover and you’re good to go.

The back of the camera is very similar to the K-01 and there are a series of controls on the back including a menu button where you can manage most of your settings from the display. The menu contains five tabs with a varying amount of information to work with on each one. The first tab is the camera tab where you have the ability to set image capture settings, AE Metering, noise reduction, shake reduction, instant review, and more.

The second tab controls your movie capture settings, sound levels, and the type of exposure settings. The third tab controls your playback settings such as slideshow, zoom, rotation, and deleting of images. The fourth tab handles global setting such as language, time, LCD display, copyright information, power settings, and formatting of your card. The final tab manages custom function capabilities like EV steps, Bulb mode options, white balance when using flash, shake reduction options, and more.

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There are additional buttons on the back of the camera including the play back button which allows you to view your photos and videos on the LCD screen, the info button which displays the control panel with the first push and the type of info display on the LCD with the second push. There is a rear E-dial which sets the shutter speed, aperture, and EV, and there is a four way control which provides navigational movement as well as setting ISO, time delay, multiple shots, and more.

On the top of the camera are your shutter release mechanism, your main power switch, Front E-dial, green button and the EV compensation button. On the left side is the pop-up flash button, RAW/FX button that will let you assign a function to it, and a focus mode switch that lets you change the focus mode between AF.S (Auto-focus Single mode) AF.C (Auto-focus Continuous mode), and MF (Manual-focus mode).

The Internals of the Pentax K-30

As I said before, the sensor is based on the K-5 sensor which is a good thing since the K-5 provided really high quality photographic results. It is an APS-C sized (23.7 x 15.7 mm) RGB CMOS chip which is what is used in all of the Pentax DSLRs as well. The effective resolution is 16.3 megapixels and offers an image resolution of 4928 x 3264 pixels at 3:2 aspect ratios. There are also three other aspect ratios – 4:3, 16:9, and 1:1 which can affect the resolution as well.

The image processor is the same new processor that was used in the K-01 called “PRIME M” this is Pentax Real Image Engine which replaces the PRIME II which has been around for a while. This new engine was created to ensure high quality movie recording performance in a digital interchangeable lens camera while offering a very wide sensitivity range from ISO 100 – 12800 – even to 25600 when expanded to its max via a custom function.

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While slower than the K-5’s 7fps, the burst mode shooting is rated at six-frames per second in continuous high mode, three-frames per second in low mode. This means that with a class 10 SD card you should be able to get around 8 RAW+ JPEG shots in a sequence. This does slow it down a bit while it catches its breath, but you can still get a shot or two off while it is writing to the card.

The K-30 is a phase detect camera which provides reasonable speed for autofocus. It has an EV range of around 1 to 18 at ISO 100. It offers single, continuous, live view, multi-area, face detection, and tracking autofocus. You can also focus manually as well.

Other features that are included in the K-30 include shake reduction, sensor cleaning, and dust removal. There is also a TTL open aperture 77 segment metering system that has a working range of EV 0 to 22 at ISO 100. It can be center-weighted as well as used for spot metering. On the back there is a dedicated AF/AE-L button that allows you to lock the metered exposure.

The exposure modes offered contain the standard Program, Manual, Bulb, Aperture Priority, and Shutter Priority modes, but there are also and HDR mode, Flash off mode, and a Movie mode. Also included are a large number of scene modes including Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Sunset, Pet, Moving Object, Blue Sky, Forest, Night Scene, Night Scene HDR, Night Snap, Food, Kids, and more.

The shutter itself is an electronically controlled unit that is capable of up to 1/6000 of a second and a minimum of 30 second – there is also the bulb mode when longer times are required. White balance has a number of presets including Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Warm Florescent, Cool Florescent, Tungsten, and more.

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The movie capabilities are similar to the Pentax Q in that it records videos with the H.264/MPEG-4 AVC compression. It is able to capture full HD video 1920 x 1080 at a rate of 30 frames per second with the option to also capture at 25 (the rate of the K-5) as well as 24 fps. Two other resolutions are also available – 1280 x720 (60,50,30,25,24 fps), and 640 x 480 (30,25,24 fps).

You also have the ability to capture in program mode, aperture priority, or manual mode. You can create time-lapse movies where you can set the interval – 3, 5, 10, 30, 60 (1 min), 300 (5 min), 600 (10 min), 1800 (30 min), 3600 (1hr) seconds per frame and a recording time from 12 seconds to 99 hours. You can record audio from the built in microphone.

Conclusion

So what did I think of the Pentax K-30? Overall, I really liked it. I worked with it in the heat where the outside temperatures hit 112°F and had absolutely no problems, I worked with it in hot dusty conditions at a horse show, and I worked with it during torrential downpours. The camera just kept shooting along. One thing that I must say is care still must be used when changing lenses as that does open up the camera and expose the interior as well as the sensor.

The lens that came with the Pentax K-30 is the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 and it produces images that are sharp, crisp, and clear. The ISO levels using JPEG are really great all the way up to ISO 3200 with very little noise that is noticeable. At ISO 6400 you can begin to notice some noise and loss of detail. If you shoot RAW, this doesn’t happen until ISO 12800 which means that you can get really great images even in really low light.

The video and recording capabilities are really good as well. I shot video footage at a cross-country horse riding clinic during light, but steady rain and the video capture came out pretty good but there is a bit of saturation in the colors. It really needs to be on a tripod with a floating head otherwise you will see a rolling shutter effect. Trying to use autofocus – really the AF/AE-L button to refocus, makes things stutter too much and the noise comes through on the video.

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I was extremely pleased with the very high quality lens that comes with the kit and the overall performance of the K-30. With the new power of the Prime M processor, the camera really flies. Throughout the time that I tested it, it performed flawlessly. It could switch between Live View and viewfinder without hesitation, and the battery power did not give me much problem except when shooting a lot of video and there it was more inconsistent in the display. That is, it would show an amount that looked like ¼ was left, I would shut it off for a few minutes and when I turned it on it would show that ½ was left. This happened several times, but I never ran out on that outing and I shot about an hours’ worth of video.

The K-30 proved to be a rugged camera that performed solidly. And the quality of images was excellent. The fact that it uses the K-mount means that there are quite a number of lenses at your disposal. If you are looking for a reasonably priced DSLR that performs extremely well especially in rugged conditions and provides excellent image quality, then I can highly recommend the Pentax K-30.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.