The chunky K-30 is the latest DSLR from Pentax. Don’t be deceived (or put off) by its unusual looks – in use, it’s a fantastic general-purpose camera that produces high quality, color-accurate pictures. Cult of Mac took it for a spin.
Removing the K-30 from its box, I was immediately struck by its design. It’s all angles and lines. The pop-up flash housing, in particular, juts out above the lens mount like it has something important to say. The handgrip is deep and takes some getting used to. It has an unusually masculine feel to it – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just something you might find you have to adjust to if you’re used to the more curvaceous lines of Nikon and Canon cameras.
The angular design is mostly metal, which little decorative flanges and lugs poking out in some places. It has a tough, solid feel; like a camera that could take some knocks.
First, some specifications:
- Sensor: APS-C, CMOS, 16.3 megapixels, 23.7mm by 15.7mm
- Screen: 3 inch LCD
- Maximum image resolution: 4928 by 3264
- AF points: 11
- ISO range: 100 to 12800
- Viewfinder: 100%
- Lens mount: Pentax KAF2
- Video – H.264, up to 30fps (mono microphone only)
- Ports – USB, but no HDMI
I loved the K-30 for day-to-day snapping. Bought as a kit, it comes with Pentax’s very capable 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 standard zoom lens, which is a good companion for the camera body.
Together, they offer wonderful color reproduction and delicious sharpness. As with any digital camera, it’s not always perfect: but the good pictures were really good, leaving me with a smile on my face as I went through the edit process later.
The automatic white balance performed very well, too. White balance makes such a difference to photos, so it’s always a pleasure to use a camera that can detect and compensate for lighting conditions without requiring the photographer to squint over buttons.
The body is weatherproofed with rubber seals. You should be able to take it out in the rain and not worry about it. This, combined with the solidity of the build, makes it feel like a camera you could take into harsher environments, or perhaps on a round-the-world trip, and remain confident that it would survive.
The controls and on-screen instructions are sensibly laid out, making it easy to pick up and play without needing to read the manual first (although I’d encourage everyone to make time to read the manual sooner or later).
The handling feels odd at first. A lot of this is down to the deep hand grip, and the depth exists for a reason: the handgrip is where the batteries are kept, and Pentax has included a dual-purpose battery housing that takes a standard-looking battery pack or everyday AA batteries.
So there’s an upside and a downside here. If you’re travelling, having the freedom to switch to AAs for power means you’ll never have to worry about running out of juice, no matter where you go. But the larger housing results in the larger grip, and it might not feel comfortable to everyone. I found it odd to begin with, but actually got used to it very quickly.
Autofocus with the kit 18-55mm lens is very good most of the time, but can let you down when the light gets poor. Even then, you can still get decent results, but you’ll notice the autofocus struggling to get a lock. This is more down to the lens than the camera, but worth considering if you’re buying the kit.
The Pentax K-30 is an excellent mid-range digital DSLR. Although its exterior styling may not be your taste, it combines a good feature set with superb image quality, a sense of fun, and a reasonable price. Plus, the weatherproofing and tough-as-nails styling give it an edge over many competitors. Too many people taking their first steps into digital photography seem to think that Nikon or Canon are their only options, but I’d suggest that this Pentax is a good first camera for any beginner. You get great photos from the start using the default settings; but it also has enough power and flexibility to last for years, and accomodate the needs of much more experienced photographers too.