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The Pentax K-7

01-02-2013 · By PF Staff in Influential Photo Gear

Although it wasn't my first DSLR, the Pentax K-7 had the biggest impact on my photography of any camera I've owned.  I bought the K-7 as a birthday present to myself at the end of March 2011, and since then I've managed to crank the shutter count on the K-7 up to 16,803 while my first DSLR, the K200D, languishes on a shutter count of 11,132.  That's an average of 28 photos a day on the K-7!  Why am I writing about the K-7 rather than the K-200D?  While the K-200D brought a massive change to the way I took photos being my first DSLR, the K-7 had the features I needed to be creative in ways that were much more challenging or impossible with the K-200D.

As mentioned in the review elsewhere on Pentax Forums, the K-7 was released in 2009, but I didn't get my hands on it until early in 2011. At 14 megapixels, it was a step up in resolution from my 10 megapixel K200D, but it was other aspects of the camera which I grew to appreciate. Most importantly, it was about creative control. What were the key features of the K-7 which improved my level of creative control over the feature set of the K200D?

1. The metering pattern selector

The ability to easily switch between metering modes on the K-7 was a huge advantage over the K200D.  The latter required digging through the camera menus, while on the K-7 the selector is easily accessible on the top left hand side of the camera.  The K-7 provides multi-segment, centre-weighted and spot metering modes.  For my favourite kind of photography - wildlife and aircraft - I tend to stick to centre-weighted and spot modes.  The metering mode can be critical when you have a dark subject and a bright background.

Click to enlarge

2. Weighting in Program mode

I confess to being lazy when it comes to using all the exposure modes available on the camera.  Most of the time, it's set to Program mode.  But there's a feature of Program mode on the K-7 which makes it much better than the K200D, and that's weighting.  If you have the Info display set to show the camera configuration, you can navigate the settings quickly on the display using the navigation buttons on the back of the camera, which are located conveniently near your right thumb.  If you go to the program line, you can change the Program weighting from the standard program to bias toward shutter speed, high DOF, low DOF or Modulation Transfer Function (MTF).  Of these, the ones I tend to use are to bias toward shutter speed (when I want to reduce camera shake or freeze something moving fast like a bird or a plane - I haven't spotted Superman yet) or bias toward DOF when I want a crisp scenery shot like the one below.  In contrast to the DOF weighting on the K-7, the sports mode on the K200 also sets the AF to continuous, which in my experience led to a lot of missed shots when the AF failed to lock.

Click to enlarge

3. The electronic level

I often find that my photos have an error in the horizon of up to two degrees.  Maybe one leg is shorter than the other, or my head is on a permanent two degree tilt.  This doesn't sound like a lot, but it's actually quite significant in a landscape shot.  The electronic level in the K-7 makes it much easier to get the camera level.

4. Dual scroll wheels

The single scroll wheel of the K200D drove me crazy.  In manual mode, I want to easily adjust both aperture and shutter speed.  The dual scroll wheels of the K-7 make this simple.

5. The EV adjustment and ISO adjustment buttons

Conveniently located near the shutter release, these buttons tend to get used a lot when you mostly use Program mode on the K-7.  Sometimes I want to under expose, sometimes, over expose - the EV adjustment makes that easy.  Similarly, convenient access to the ISO setting allows me to trade off speed and clarity.

6. Exposure bracketing

Accessible by the "self timer" button (actually the shutter mode selector) is exposure bracketing.  The higher FPS rate of the K-7 makes bracketing much more useful than the slower shutter on the K200D.  The button is also labelled on the K-7 but is blank on the K200D, requiring an on-screen prompt.  The great thing about a DSLR is that you can shoot lots of images and simply delete the ones you don't want, so there are times when exposure bracketing makes a lot of sense.  When travelling, I tend to use exposure bracketing a lot because it may be a very expensive trip to go back and photograph that place again.

7. Dust removal

Many of my photos on the K200D have been ruined by dust or lint - or at least required significant post editing.  On the other hand, I've had very few issues with dust on the K-7.  The upgraded dust removal system really works.

The bad stuff

Everything I've mentioned above about the K-7 is good and positive, because the main point of this blog post is to talk about why the K-7 had such a big impact on my photography.  However, I feel I should mention a couple of down sides to the K-7. 

First, the movie mode.  I thought that this would be a feature that I would use a lot, but the sluggish AF in live view and the lack of AF at all while actually shooting video took away a lot of its usefulness.  A shame, because the 720p quality is actually very good.  I had hoped to eliminate the need to carry a camcorder, but it wasn't to be. 

Second, the K-7 sensor noise.  There's been a lot of discussion about this, and I had to agree with a lot of what was being said until I turned off a couple of features I had switched on when I first got the camera - highlight correction and shadow correction in the dynamic range menu.  While these features are a great idea, in practice they significantly increased the noise in the photos I was taking.  I wish I had turned them off sooner! 

Third, the camera has developed AF issues recently, particularly in poor light. In good light however, I took the landscape shot above on the weekend, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with it.  It looks like the camera needs to be serviced, which is probably reasonable given the beating it has taken on various trips around Australia and overseas.

Conclusion

The K-7 gave me far more creative control over my photos through the use of easily accessible controls.  I can quickly adapt to the circumstances without having to dig through menus.  As a result, it allowed me to focus more on what I wanted to capture in an image, rather than waste time working out how to convince the camera to take the photo I wanted.  The feature set of the K-7 made the tool more transparent to the photographer, and at least in my opinion, that's what a good camera should do.

-RobG

Rating:
PF Staff's avatar
About the author: Various writers regularly contribute articles to the Pentax Forums homepage blog. More recent articles are published under each author's forum username. We hope you enjoy our guides and news coverage!

Tags: k-7, camera, shutter, k200d, program, mode, photos, exposure

More Posts in Influential Photo Gear | More Posts by PF Staff

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GODSPEED7 [Delete] Jun 28th, 2013 8:08PM

I'm also really enjoying this camera. I've just got a like new one a few weeks ago. Boy am I glad I got a Pentax.. the dual scroll wheels are always used. I'm not new to photogrpahy, but this is my first DSLR.. and I think I made a super choice! =]

ladybug36 [Delete] Feb 16th, 2013 8:30PM

The K-7 with the kit lens of 18-55mm w, was my first SLR, and with it learned a lot, and took some amazing pictures. Upgraded to the K-5 with the 18-135mm lens, and this gives me so much better low light capabilities. I also use the K-5 with the 55-300mm, great when reach is required. My sharpest combo is with the M 50mm 1.7 in manual mode.

cfugle [Delete] Jan 5th, 2013 9:49PM

Thanks zosxavius: I really feel comfortable with my buying decision of a used K-7 after your emotional connection to your K-7. Much appreciated.

zosxavius [Delete] Jan 5th, 2013 9:33PM

Cfugle: I have a k-7 and it really wowed me from day 1. The pentax colors are awesome. I have since upgraded to a k-5, but my k-7 is still used very often. Over 30,000 clicks and going strong after 12 months of being dropped, scraped, carried constantly. Its looking a little beat up, but that's just patina. Its earned its keep. For daylight and flash use, its perfectly wonderful.

cfugle [Delete] Jan 5th, 2013 2:47PM

I loved this article. I have ordered on eBay, a K-7 body and basic kit lens (first Pentax ever) and await it's arrival shortly. Backup batteries, charger, 16-45mm zoom and a couple older K-mount manual focus lens are rolling in as I wait patiently…. Love my Sony A33 for is focussing speed and accuracy but the menus and lock down on it can drive a person crazy. Superb photos in the article as well. The colours appear to POP without being phoney looking. Hope this is the Pentax thing I keep reading about.

RobG [Delete] Jan 5th, 2013 4:03AM

Thanks for all the feedback everyone! I wanted to add a postscript with respect to the focussing issue. I suspect that it may be the DA16-45 that has an issue rather than the camera, because sometimes even the K-5iis seems to have a challenge with that lens. The behaviour with my other main lens - the DA 55-300 - is more consistent with both the K-7 and the K-5iis.

Madaboutpix [Delete] Jan 4th, 2013 12:47PM

Deserved reminder of a great camera, despite the flaws you mentioned, given that the K-5 line shares so much of its DNA! A trusty and inspiring photographic tool with all its possibilities, which I have only begun to explore. Only limitations that make me wish for one of the latest K-5's are indeed the sluggish AF and the (by today's standard) poor high-ISO capabilities. Of all the cameras I've owned, the K-7 has taught me most about photography ...

PropFan [Delete] Jan 4th, 2013 6:49AM

ISO issues notwithstanding, the K-7 far exceeds my current photographic skills. I couldn't be happier with it.

tessfully [Delete] Jan 3rd, 2013 9:34AM

Well thought out, organized and superbly written!

dinneenp [Delete] Jan 3rd, 2013 5:48AM

It is a great camera alright even with the poor ISO levels. I'm selling my K7 (contact me if interested) and upgrading to a K5 for that specific reason. I would go for the K30 but I really like the external buttons/dials on the K7 and would miss them.

Scorg [Delete] Jan 3rd, 2013 12:32AM

Moved from the K100D I got in 2007 to the K-7 in June 2011. Was a bargain deal and has only now just been matched by the discounted sale prices SRS in the UK are doing on the K-5 now.
I'd agree pretty much that the body is just so much more and supperior, but the biggest issue I had was getting used to how the sensor produced its colours n comparison to the K100D. I still do now to a point.
The other was Noise issues, but after following some interesting tweeks I found last month those issues have been removed quite a bit so I am a lot happier.

sledger [Delete] Jan 2nd, 2013 10:29PM

+1 All of the above.
I've seen no reason for me to upgrade from the K7 to the K5.
I recently sold my *istDS and bought a 'Q' - so I think have a great PENTAX kit now :)

joey_kickass [Delete] Jan 2nd, 2013 9:34PM

I started with a K10, moved up to a K20 and now have started using my wife's K7 as she rarely shoots any more. I know the sensors are the same on the K20 and the K7 but I wasn't a fan of it initially. However once I started working with the K7 more I really liked it. The expanded ISO range, faster shutter speed and the dedicated ISO and exposure compensation buttons are great.

sam-joseph [Delete] Jan 2nd, 2013 9:17PM

This is almost exactly the same as my own story, only I upgraded from a K100D Super. The shutter of the K7 still brings a smile to my face, compared to the old banger on the K100D S.

Isaac71 [Delete] Jan 2nd, 2013 8:30PM

Great article, straight to the point.
I bought the k-7 after owing the k100d and you described exactly why I love it so much!

A Modest Mouse [Delete] Jan 2nd, 2013 7:36PM

Why is the K200D mentioned here as the previous flagship to the K-7? It wasn't ... the K20D was ... with dual scroll wheels.

phylej [Delete] Jan 2nd, 2013 7:33PM

Great review. The K-7 was my first DSLR, and still my only one. I now shoot almost totally in RAW and manual mode - and this is doable because of the dual scroll wheels and good layout of the control buttons.

Agree that the downside is the huge amount of noise at high ISO, but I guess we learn to live with the limitations.

Bruce Clark [Delete] Jan 2nd, 2013 5:02PM

Hear hear. My first serious digital camera was the K-7 and I have found it to be a superb machine, far surpassing my abilities. Sadly it gets little acclaim. It was great to read such a well thought out and well constructed appraisal. The point regarding turning off the some of the "features" is something I can vouch for after days of trying to photograph an 18% grey card. With these on it was anything but grey and full of noise. The K-7 may have been surpasse3d Turn them off and hey presto - grey. The K-7 may have been surpassed by its later cousins but it remains a fine camera and will reamin my favourite for some time to come.

hcc [Delete] Jan 2nd, 2013 3:17PM

Great honest and down to earth discussion of the impact of the K-7. One cannot forget that the K-7 body, view finder, design and handling has been used and re-used with the K-7, K-5, K-5II and K-5IIs. This is possibly a record and it demonstrates IMHO some advances of the K-7 camera at the time.