The Pentax K-r follows the K-x with solid performance and image quality, adding a few more premium features. First-time DSLR buyers would be smart to consider this or its K-x predecessor.
The new Pentax K-r DSLR reminds me in some important ways of my first 35mm SLR, an old, basic Mamiya. The K-r is an interesting camera - it has a full complement of flashy features, but at heart the K-r is a fairly straightforward (and for today), fairly basic DSLR.
In 1976, Pentax introduced a new 35mm SLR called the K1000; a very simple single lens reflex camera designed to help neophyte shutterbugs learn basic photography skills. The K1000 enjoyed one of the longest production runs in camera history because it was cheap, dependable, tough as nails, easy to use, and capable of producing consistently excellent results. Generations of student photographers, yearbook staffers, high school photo-journalists, and college sports shooters learned their craft behind a K1000. By the time production stopped in 1997, Pentax had manufactured more than three million K1000's.
That's not how things are done in the digital era. Intense competition between Nikon and Canon is driving the creation of the most amazingly feature-rich cameras ever built. Second tier OEMs like Pentax, Sony, Panasonic, and Olympus struggle to compete with the industry giants. That bloodthirsty competition has been a real boon for consumers. Innovations like the 4/3 and micro 4/3 formats, live view LCDs, and HD video modes have expanded alternatives exponentially for DSLR/interchangeable lens camera purchasers.
Consumers like innovation, so camera makers come up with flashy new features for each new model - and new models are introduced at an almost daily rate. Innovation is a good thing, except when innovation becomes its own justification. Sometimes it really is better to just focus on the basics and manufacture the best camera you can build. Don't get me wrong, the Pentax K-r provides most of the features offered up by the top two marquees, it just doesn't let flashy features dominate - basic functionality, dependability, durability, and ease of use appear to be the Pentax K-r's stock in trade.
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