Pentax K-30 Review: Great Price, Great Features

by Jim Keenan Reads (3,142)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 8
    • Features
    • 8
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 8
    • Performance
    • 9
    • Expandability
    • 9
    • Total Score:
    • 8.40
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

Overview

  • Pros

    • Very good still image quality
    • Good continuous shooting speed and buffer capacity for JPEGs
    • Weather resistant
    • In-body stabilization 
  • Cons

    • No continuous AF during video capture
    • Video on the slow side to initiate
    • Might be too small for large hands

Quick Take

The little brother to the K-5II exceeds entry level price expectations with quick AF, 16.3 MP APS-C sensor and very good image quality.


Overview

Founded in 1919 as the Asahi Joint Stock Optical Company, Pentax launched its first film SLR in the early 1950s and is today a subsidiary of Japan’s Ricoh Company. The K-30 is one of two current offerings in the DSLR class and while Pentax describes the camera as a mid-level DSLR, it becomes the company’s de facto entry-level model owing to MSRP within the product line.

Pentax wasn’t kidding with that mid-level designation, however – the K-30 packs a wealth of features typically found on prosumer (and higher) class cameras. The camera is weather sealed to be water resistant and dust proof, able to operate in temperatures down to 14°F. The shutter has a top speed of 1/6000 of a second and there is a continuous shooting capability of up to six frames per second. Viewfinder coverage is 100% and 9 of the 11 focus points in that viewfinder are cross-type sensors (advantageous in that they offer two-dimensional contrast detection).

The K-30 offers a 16.3 megapixel APS-C sized sensor, 1080p HD video, 3 inch LCD monitor and, in a nice touch, can make use of either the supplied lithium-ion rechargeable battery or standard AA batteries (using an optional AA battery holder). The normal range of DSLR manual shooting modes is supplemented by automatic and 19 scene-specific shooting modes as well. There is in-body stabilization which Pentax claims offers up to four stops of shake reduction and the camera is compatible with every Pentax lens ever made: all K mount lenses install directly on the camera while the earlier screw mount and 647or 67 series lenses require adapters. The camera accepts SD/SDHC/SDXC memory media and Pentax includes a lithium-ion battery and charger, USB and A/V cables, camera strap, printed manual and CD-ROM software with each camera. Fashionistas take note: the K-30 body is available in Crystal White or Crystal Blue “…brilliant, glossy finishes reminiscent of the finish of an exclusive sports car …”  along with Henry Ford’s favorite (and only) color for his model T – black.

On its announcement date back in May 2012 the K-30 was listed with an $850 MSRP for the body only; it can currently (mid-February 2013) be purchased off the Pentax Americas website for $800 while reputable NY area internet vendors have it as low as $619. The camera is also available in kit form matched with Pentax18-55 or 18-135mm zoom lenses.

Build and Design
The K-30 fits the modern template for a DSLR, featuring a pronounced and sculpted handgrip on the right front of the body, which is topped with an elongated housing containing the viewfinder and built-in flash. Dimensionally, the K-30 body comes in towards the smaller end of the DSLR scale at 5.1 x 3.8 x 2.8 inches and 20.8 ounces without a battery or memory media. Our black review unit in shooting configuration (battery, memory media, camera strap, 18-135mm lens and hood) weighed in at 39.2 ounces. The camera is assembled in the Philippines with materials, fit and finish appropriate to its price point.

Ergonomics and Controls
The dimensions of the K-30 body might prove somewhat annoying to users with larger hands – the little finger of my right hand curled under the camera body and the second pad of my index finger fell squarely across the shutter button. Pulling the index finger back in order to activate the shutter with the tip of the finger produced a slightly uncomfortable grip. The grip on the camera body itself and the materials covering it are excellent; the camera was just a bit too small for my average size hands. The weather sealing on the memory card cover made for a tight squeeze trying to remove the card from the camera.

The lens unlock button is located at the lower right corner of the lens mount and took a little getting used to for someone who generally deals with that button on the left side of their camera body. With a bit of practice I quickly adopted a one-handed grip that allowed me to remove lenses with the right hand while cradling the camera body from below and activating the unlock button with the left hand.

Otherwise, control placement on the K-30 presented no real concerns, and offers the user quick external access to many shooting settings one might choose to change on the fly. The mode dial sits atop the camera body adjacent to the handgrip, which offers easy access for changes via the right thumb of the shooting hand while retaining the shooting grip on the camera. The front and rear e-dials are easily accessed by the forefinger and thumb, respectively, and may be used to change shutter and aperture settings along with exposure compensation, menus and menu items along with other camera settings depending on the individual shooting mode the camera is in at any particular time. Other external controls offer quick access to ISO, white balance, flash, single or continuous shooting, the self-timer and exposure bracketing. All these controls are positioned in such a way that inadvertent activations of them would be rare during shooting.

Menus and Modes
The K-30 has five main menus: record mode, movie, playback, set up and custom setting. I found the menus to be fairly simple and intuitive to use without reference to the camera user’s manual. The record menu consists of 4 pages; movie, 1 page; playback, 1 page; set up, 3 pages and custom setting, 4 pages.

Upon pressing the menu button on the camera back you’re taken to page 1 of the record mode menu. From this point you can scroll vertically through the items on the first page; horizontal scrolling brings up other pages of the record mode menu before moving on to the other main menus. If you scroll vertically through all of the items on any individual menu page you are then returned to that page number.

While the K-30 is designated as a midrange DSLR by Pentax, the shooting modes include a decidedly entry-level DSLR contingent to go along with the more traditional manual exposure modes. Here’s a more detailed look at the shooting modes:

  • Auto – an automatic mode with the camera automatically selecting an optimal shooting mode from the following capture modes: standard, portrait, landscape, macro, moving object, night scene portrait, sunset, blue sky or forest. The user retains control over ISO, exposure compensation, flash and single/continuous/self- timer operations while the camera controls aperture and shutter settings along with white balance.
  • Scene – allows the user to select from 19 scene-specific modes including: portrait, landscape, macro, moving object, night scene portrait, sunset, blue sky, forest, night scene, night scene HDR, night snap, food, pet, kids, surf and snow, backlight silhouette, candlelight, stage lighting, museum. As with the auto mode the user generally retains control over ISO, exposure compensation, flash and single/continuous/self- timer operations while the camera controls aperture and shutter settings along with white balance.
  • Program auto – an automatic mode with the camera automatically selecting shutter speed and aperture while the user retains control over a wide variety of camera settings. The user may select different combinations of shutter speed/aperture (consistent with what the camera determines to be a proper exposure) by rotating either of the e- dials.
  • Shutter priority (Tv) – user sets shutter speed, camera sets aperture and the user retains control over a wide variety of camera settings.
  • Aperture priority (Av) – user sets aperture, camera sets shutter speed and the user retains control over a wide variety of camera settings.
  • Manual – user sets aperture and shutter speed while retaining control over a wide variety of camera settings.
  • Sensitivity priority automatic exposure (Sv) – camera sets aperture and shutter speed while the user sets ISO and retains control over a wide variety of camera settings.
  • Shutter and aperture priority automatic exposure (TAv) – the user sets the aperture and shutter speed while the camera sets ISO; user retains control over a wide variety of camera settings.
  • Bulb – user sets the camera aperture and retains control over a wide variety of camera settings; as long as the shutter button is depressed the shutter stays open. This setting is typically used for time exposures longer than the 30 second maximum available with the shutter priority or manual settings.
  • U1/U2 – allows the user to save specific combinations of settings such as capture mode, sensitivity, white balance, flash mode//exposure/compensation, drive mode, exposure bracketing and others for quick retrieval by selecting either U1 or U2.
  • Movie – capture full HD, HD or VGA video. Capture may be initiated in program auto, aperture priority, or manual exposure modes; full HD and VGA may be captured at 30, 25 or 24 fps while HD is available at 60, 50, 30, 25 or 24 fps. File format is MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 with Mono sound via built-in microphone. Clip length is 4 GB or 25 minutes maximum.

Display/Viewfinder
The 3 inch LCD monitor on the K-30 has a 921,000 dot composition and is adjustable for 15 levels of brightness. There are also 15 levels of adjustment for monitor color along the blue/amber and green/magenta axes. The monitor performs fairly well in bright outdoor conditions but can still be overwhelmed at times by sun angles and reflections. Fortunately, the K-30 has a nice viewfinder, offering .92x magnification, 100% coverage and diopter adjustment for varying degrees of eyesight acuity.


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