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Pentax K-30 Review

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Movie/Video Mode

The K-30's Movie mode is pretty much a direct copy of the one found in the K-01. As such, it offers a number of improvements over the K-5. Namely, it provides a much more comprehensive set of FPS options at both full 1080p resolution and 720p. It also supports some manual control during video recording, which the K-5 did not. Finally, it allows for on-demand autofocus (non-continuous) during recording.

To enter Movie mode, the user simply turns the mode dial to the movie camera icon, half-presses the shutter release (or presses the AF/AE-L button) to focus, and presses the shutter release all the way to begin recording. Unlike the K-01, there is no "Red button" for dedicated movie access, but the K-01 was a hybrid camera with a focus on video, whereas the K-30 is a purebred digital SLR.

The K-30 uses the popular MPEG4 AVC/H.264 video format and produces .MOV files, which are much smaller than the K-5's .AVI files. It supports full 1080p video recording at 30/25/24 fps, 720p recording at 60/50/30/25/24 fps, and VGA recording at 30/25/24 fps. Recording is limited to 25 minutes or 4gb. In the course of our testing we let one recording (1080p/24fps) run for the full 25 minutes never encountered an overheating problem of the sort that was sometimes seen on earlier Pentax models.

Just like the K-01 and K-5, the K-30 is capable of making basic in-camera video edits, including splitting and trimming, as well as exporting frames as JPEGs. To trim movies, the user can press the down button when the video is selected (but not playing) in Playback mode. To extract a JPEG frame from the video stream, you need to play the video, pause it, and then press the EV compensation button, which will bring up a Save Image dialog.

Movie Shooting Modes

The K-30 features three movie shooting modes: P, Av, and M. You can select the mode via the main menu or, more conveniently, through the INFO screen. In P mode, the camera sets the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO for you, but you can adjust the exposure by up to two stops using EV compensation. In Av mode, the camera sets the shutter speed and ISO, while you choose the aperture and can also adjust the EV. If you choose an aperture setting that's too slow for the current lighting conditions, the aperture number will light up in red on the LCD.

In M mode, you control the shutter speed and aperture, and the settings will flash in red on the screen if you're under- or overexposing. You can also choose to manually control the ISO or leave it in auto-ISO mode. Note that if you set the ISO to auto before you begin shooting, you will not be able to change it during recording. Since the K-30 has dual e-dials, you can control aperture and shutter speed at the same time, unlike on the K-01. The shutter speed can be changed during recording, but the aperture setting cannot be changed once recording has begun. You can also select custom image settings and digital filters from the INFO menu before recording begins.

As first seen on the K-01, the K-30 also includes an "Interval Movie" mode that works similarly to interval stills shooting, but combines all the stills into a time-lapse movie file.

Microphone

The K-30 has a built-in monaural microphone, unlike the K-01 and K-5, which both offered stereo mics. Also unlike those two cameras, it does not include an input jack for external microphones. The microphone recording level can be set in five increments through the INFO menu or the Movie section of the main menu. It can also be adjusted during recording.

Autofocus

Autofocus can be used before and during recording. However, the feature that a lot of users are looking for—continuous AF during recording—is not available here. While recording, you can press the AF/AE-L button to force the camera to refocus, but once it locks onto a target it stops and you have to press it again to refocus a second time, etc. This is the same regardless of which Contrast AF mode you've selected, Face Detection and Tracking included.

On the whole, AF is nothing to write home about; we strong recommend pulling your own focus at all times. Autofocus during recording is slow, noisy, and jittery. SDM and DC lenses (those with built-in focusing motors) make less noise, but it's still plenty audible if you use the onboard mic.

Shake Reduction

Shake reduction works quite well during video recording, and is virtually silent. We've found that the SR system makes panning without a tripod much more stable, which many users will definitely appreciate.

Sample Videos

Below are two piss-poor sample videos (your humble reviewer is not much of a videographer) for your viewing pleasure, both involving animals. The first is with autofocus and using the M mode, outdoors in bright light. The second is with manual focus and using the Av mode, indoors, with poor light. 

The Bottom Line

Like the K-01, the K-30 possesses superb video capabilities (even if the videos above give you no hint of that fact). The new PRIME M processor opens up new framerate possibilities, which we know the videographers among us will appreciate. All the camera's movie settings are quite easy to access thanks to the INFO screen. Just as they do when shooting stills, the auto-exposure and custom image settings work perfectly in video mode.

However, there are a few software-related things that bug us about the K-30's movie mode. First, focus peaking is not available while a video is being recorded. It's there when you're framing your shot before you start recording, but the moment you hit the shutter release to start the camera rolling, it goes away. We can only assume this has to do with a lack of available processing power; otherwise its omission makes no sense whatsoever. Next, it's a little bothersome that the aperture setting can't be changed while recording, even in Av mode. We realize that doing so will cause a sudden change in exposure, but why not give the user the option? Third, there's still a decent amount of rolling shutter (jellyvision) present in clips, particularly those shot in low light. We understand that this is a fact of life with CMOS sensors, but it never fails to annoy.

All of our other complaints about movie mode on the K-30 are hardware-related. Only a monaural onboard mic, no external mic jack, no HDMI, and no articulating screen. As usual on a dSLR, the movie mode here, how ever advanced it might be, is secondary to the stills shooting experience. (And rightly so in our opinion, but these omissions will irk the more video-inclined among us.) 

Please note that we're primarily a photo site, and not a video site, and thus we may not evaluate all the criteria (such as video file formats or editing features) that pro videographers consider.

 
Buy the Pentax K-30