Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras and other interchangeable lens digital imaging devices are all the rage now. Canon and Nikon DSLRs dominate, but there is some serious (and interesting) competition from Sony and Pentax on the DSLR front and from Panasonic and Olympus in the Four Thirds format market niche. The new Pentax K-r is a bit larger than its little brother (the Pentax K-x) and it shares some components and a noticeable family resemblance with its bigger brother (and Pentax's flagship DSLR) the K-7.
The Pentax K-r features a new 12.4-megapixel APS-C sized (23.6x15.8mm) RGB CMOS image sensor, a six frames per second burst rate, ISO sensitivity ranging from ISO 100 to ISO 25600, in-camera HDR (high dynamic range) and a Night Scene HDR mode, and 720p HD (at 25 fps) video capture. The Pentax K-x features a 230,000k-dot, 2.7-inch LCD screen - the new K-r features the same 3.0-inch 921,000k-dot "live view" LCD as the K-7 and unlike the K-x, illuminated AF indicators in the viewfinder. The K-r's AF system utilizes 11 autofocus points, nine of them cross-type sensors.
The Pentax K-r stores images to SD and SDHC flash memory cards and after a firmware update with SDXC cards as well. While the K-r's LCD screen is not articulated like those of some of its competition it does feature a very wide 170-degree viewing angle (in both horizontal and vertical axes) that ought to help when shooting over a crowd, from the hip, or close to the ground.
The Pentax K-r provides a sensor-shift Shake Reduction (image stabilization) system to compensate for minor camera movement during exposure. The system also serves as a dust-reduction system, shaking the sensor (at start-up) to remove any dust that might have accumulated. The K-r also features a unique infrared data transfer method compatible with the IrSimple data transmission system - permitting wireless hi-speed image transfer from camera to camera, or from camera to a Web page via a cell phone. If all that isn't enough, the K-r features a nifty dual-power system that includes a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and (with a special battery holder) the ability to substitute available anywhere AA batteries. Like the K-x, the K-r is available in black, red or white. Unlike many current DSLR cameras, the K-r comes with a printed 350 page user's manual.
I've only had the camera for a few days, but I like it so far. My test camera was red - BRIGHT red. This DSLR (at least the red version) attracts attention, several people came up and asked about the camera while I was using it in walk-around mode. In hand, the K-r is nicely balanced with a substantial handgrip, so it is comfortable to carry - even for extended periods. All the K-r's controls are logically placed and easily accessed.
The camera appears to be sturdily constructed and operation seems straightforward - the K-r looks, feels, and handles like just about every other entry-level and mid-level DSLR out there, but (initially) the K-r's menu system seems to be overly complex. The Pentax K-r is available in several configurations, but the standard kit features an f/3.5-5.6 18-55mm SMC Pentax zoom. Our full review of the Pentax K-r will appear shortly.