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Pentax K-30 Review

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New Features

Coming as it does on the heels of the K-01 and K-5, the K-30 combines a number of features from each to create an entirely new performance package. Read on to find out what's been included, what's been left out, and what's new entirely.

Performance

The K-30 features the same improved imaging processor found in the K-01, called PRIME M. It greatly improves overall camera performance compared to the K-5 and previous cameras. Images are displayed faster and can be cycled through more quickly in playback mode, instant preview has a shorter delay, and in-camera image processing has also sped up versus the K-5 and K-r. Most importantly, however, the new processor delivers a much smoother live view experience than in previous Pentax dSLRs--there is practically no latency at all unless you're shooting in extremely low light.

The K-30's contrast detect AF system has also been improved over that found in previous Pentax dSLR live view modes. We'll elaborate on this later in the review.

Record Menu

As in the K-01, Pentax has added a Focus Peaking feature for live view shooting, which we'll discuss in more detail on our autofocus page. Another addition is a "Radiant" Custom Image preset, which can be selected when shooting JPEGs (or used to develop RAWs in-camera).

Settings Menu

A few settings from the live view-centric K-01 have snuck into this menu. "Flicker Reduction" can be set to 50 or 60Hz, minimizing flickering from electrical light sources in various geographical regions. You can also control the hue and color balance of the live view image, rather than just screen brightness.

As on the Q and K-01, you can now check the firmware version and update firmware straight from the menu. You can also choose to perform dust removal at shutdown rather than only at startup. The shutdown option might come in handy if you're concerned about the noise distracting your subject when you quickly turn it on to shoot.

Movie Mode

The K-30 has inherited many of the K-01's movie-related improvements. In Manual (M) movie mode, users can now change shutter speed, aperture, and sensitivity prior to recording; during recording, they can change the shutter speed, ISO setting, and EV compensation. Pressing the ISO button (up on the d-pad) when recording in M mode switches the rear e-dial from controlling shutter speed to controlling the ISO setting. In Program movie mode, EV compensation can be changed before and during shooting. Finally, when using Av movie mode, the aperture can be set before shooting, and EV compensation can be changed at any time.

The new framerates from the K-01 have also been added to the K-30, and a movie-specific info screen has been added. Unlike the K-01, the K-30 is equipped with only a monaural microphone, positioned atop the pentaprism hump, and does not include a jack for external mics.

INFO Screen

The INFO screen remains your one-stop shop for most vital shooting functions. To bring it up, simply hit the INFO button. To change a setting, turn the rear e-dial or press the OK button to bring up a submenu. As on the K-01, the info screen now offers "Auto" settings for Highlight and Shadow correction, letting the camera decide when and when not to used them, based on the makeup of the scene. Pressing the INFO button twice brings up a submenu that allows you to choose between the standard status screen, the electronic level, and turning the screen off entirely. When the O-GPS1 GPS unit is attached to the K-30, a compass display can also be selected from this menu.

Image Playback

Playback mode now features faster image loading and practically instantaneous scrolling. As on the K-5, there are 4-, 9-, 16-, 36-, and 81-thumbnail display options, as well as a new "Calendar Filmstrip" display.

Missing or Removed Features

The K-30has suffered a few notable downgrades relative to the K-5:

  • First, the body shell is made of polycarbonate rather than the magnesium alloy of the K-5. Whether this makes a significant difference in the real world hasn't been proven; some may prefer the lighter weight of the plastic body, while others may be reassured by metal construction.
  • The K-30 lacks a DC power jack and a HDMI port. This means that it can't be externally powered for long periods of video shooting, and it also can't be used with an external HDMI-connected monitor. This mainly impacts studio shooters and videographers.
  • It's also missing both a stereo on-board mic and an external microphone input. The on-board microphone is monaural and located atop the prism hump. The speaker is located on the right-hand side of the hump.
  • The fastest shutter speed (1/6000sec) is lower than the K-5's (1/8000sec), the shutter sound is louder, and the sensor cleaning function is both louder and likely less efficient (it uses the same system found in the K-01). 
  • The color depth is lower (12 bits vs 14 bits) when shooting RAW. 
  • The shooting buffer is smaller and fills faster, and the maximum fps are lower (7fps vs 6fps).
  • For users who like to shoot using a remote control, the K-30 only has an infrared sensor on the front side of the camera, where the K-5 has them on both the front and rear.
  • Battery life is much shorter than the K-5's (CIPA-rated for about 410 shots vs 980 shots) and even slightly shorter than the K-r's (it was rated for 470 shots).
  • There is no dedicated optical depth of field preview function on the on/off ring, as on the K-5. However, the K-30 can assign this functionality to the RAW/Fx or AF/AE-L button via the Button Customization submenu.
  • Up top, the K-5's upper LCD display is also gone. This is unsurprising, since the top LCD has long since been a top-tier feature on Pentax dSLRs.
  • Finally, there is no possibility for an add-on battery grip, due to the lack of a connector port. As we've stated elsewhere, it's conceivable that a third-party company could produce a grip for ergonomic purposes only, but there's no chance of doubling up on battery life.  In addition, overall battery life seems to be a little bit worse.
 
Buy the Pentax K-30