Pentax K-30 Review

Image Shooting Modes

The Pentax K-30 provides a variety of still image shooting modes suitable for different photographic situations. All but one of the shooting modes found on the K-5 have made their way to the K-30 (the exception being the K-5's X-sync mode). Also present are scene (SCN) modes a la the K-r and K-x, and two distinct User (U1, U2) modes. The K-5, in contrast, had a single USER setting on the mode dial and could store five User modes that could then be chosen using the d-pad. Pentaxian favorites like Sv and TAv are present and accounted for.

Automatic (AUTO) Mode

This mode is also known as Auto Picture and is a common feature on pretty much every non-pro digital SLR ever made. When the shutter is half-pressed the camera not only meters but it also analyzes the scene and selects the most appropriate scene mode from among Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Moving Object, Night Scene Portrait, Sunset, Blue Sky, and Forest. In our tests the camera did a great job of choosing the best scene mode, white balance, and exposure.

You can use either JPEG or RAW (or RAW+JPEG) in AUTO mode. This is a change from the K-5, which disabled RAW shooting when AUTO mode was selected. We're not sure if scene modes other than Standard are used when shooting RAW in AUTO mode, but it seems unlikely. You can also change ISO settings, use EV compensation, and use all of the available drive modes; the K-5 didn't let you change ISO or EV comp settings, and only allowed access to Self-Timer and Remote shooting (no Continuous).

Scene (SCN) Modes

There are 19 point & shoot-style scene modes available on the K-30. To select one, you simply turn the mode dial to SCN and then use the four-way pad to select the scene mode you want. A scene mode may shift the program line, deploy or suppress the flash as well as affect ISO range and image parameters like saturation, contrast, and white balance.

Available scene modes include:

  • Portrait
  • Landscape
  • Macro
  • Moving Object
  • Night Scene Portrait
  • Sunset
  • Blue Sky
  • Forest
  • Night Scene
  • Night Scene HDR
  • Night Snap
  • Food
  • Pet
  • Kids
  • Surf & Snow
  • Backlight Silhouette
  • Candlelight
  • Stage Lighting
  • Museum

User (U1, U2) Modes

The K-30 includes two dedicated User Mode settings on the shooting mode dial. With these modes, the camera owner can customize two profiles intended for specific shooting situations. For instance, one could be set up for high-ISO shooting in a bar or restaurant, and another for bright daylight shooting. Or one could be set up for capturing action, and another for portraiture.

There are a total of 25 settings that are saved in each User profile, ranging from capture mode, to ISO settings to drive mode, to noise reduction and dynamic range settings, and even to Custom Setting menu options. For a full list, reference page 168 in the K-30 manual.

To set up a User profile, the user simply has to set up the camera the way they want it, go to the Save USER Mode submenu on page 4 of the Record menu, select Save Settings, and choose the slot they want the settings to be stored in. USER1 and USER2 can also be renamed to give the user a visual reminder of which USER mode does what.

Note that AUTO, SCN, and Movie modes cannot be used as the basis for a User profile.

When U1 or U2 are selected from the mode dial, the LCD will display the detailed parameters the user has set for the given USER mode. You can press the OK button to dismiss this screen and return to the main status display.

Bulb (B) Mode

In this mode, the shutter stays open for as long as the shutter button is held down (or a remote shutter button is pressed). This mode of operation can be changed in a custom function (C7) so that the first press opens the shutter and the second press closes the shutter. It's very useful for shooting night skies, or when using a very dark neutral density filter.

Manual (M) Mode

Shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and pretty much everything else are adjusted manually. You can still select Auto-ISO in this mode, but when you do so, the mode effectively changes to TAv (which is then displayed in the upper left of the status screen, even though the mode dial still has M selected). See below for more information on TAv mode.

In this mode, the EV compensation scale doubles as an exposure meter, and the +5 or -5 on either end flash red if you go more than ±5EV away from an ideal exposure. This information is duplicated in the viewfinder's display; if you have the electronic level enabled, it's shown there as a number in place of the ISO setting, and if you don't it's shown on the electronic level/EV compensation scale.

Green button stop-down metering is available with M and K-series lenses, assuming Auto-ISO is not engaged and function C23 "Using Aperture Ring" is set to "Enable." When this is the case, pressing the green button will briefly stop down the lens to the selected aperture and set the shutter speed to obtain ideal exposure.

Shutter and Aperture Priority (TAv) Mode

This mode is a signature Pentax feature that we're happy to see included in the K-30. Much like M mode, it allows the user to select the aperture and shutter speed, but varies the ISO setting to achieve ideal exposure. As noted above, you can engage this mode even when the mode dial is set to M, by enabling Auto-ISO through the ISO submenu (up on the d-pad).

Aperture Priority (Av) Mode

Our go-to shooting mode, Av lets the user choose the aperture setting and calculates the shutter speed automatically. The user can also choose a specific ISO setting if they so desire, or leave it to Auto-ISO.

Shutter Priority (Tv) Mode

Much like Av mode, this mode lets the user set one setting (in this case, shutter speed) and the camera calculates everything else on its own. It's particularly useful for shooting action scenes, where you need to be sure you have a high enough shutter speed to freeze motion.

Sensitivity Priority (Sv) Mode

Another trademark Pentax mode, this one lets the user choose the specific ISO setting they want and calculates everything else on the fly.

Program (P) Mode (w/ Av Hyper and Tv Hyper Sub-modes)

In this traditional Program mode, the camera sets shutter speed and aperture to get the best result. Auto-ISO can be turned on or off in this mode.

Interestingly, turning either e-dial will engage one of the "Hyper" submodes. These are essentially Av and Tv modes that you don't need to change the mode dial to access. Turning the front e-dial puts the camera into Hyper Tv (Shutter Priority) mode, while the rear e-dial turns on Hyper Av (Aperture Priority) mode. When you're done with the "Hyper" modes, you can press the green button to return to normal Program operation.

With the inclusion of these signature Hyper Program modes, you can shoot 99% of your shots without ever leaving P on the mode dial.


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