Pentax K-30 Review

Conclusion

By now, our feelings about this camera should be crystal clear. While we harbor a few disappointments here and there about what might have been, we feel that the K-30 is simply the best dSLR that Pentax has ever made. (And we say that as loving owners of the last Pentax dSLR to hold that title, may it R.I.P.)

Pentax K-30

You might say, "Well, it's been two years since the last new dSLR came out of the Pentax design studios, so by this point the K-30 damn well better be the best ever." And you'd have a point. Still, we have to admire the job Pentax (and Ricoh) have done here. The K-30 draws together many of the company's strongest pointsweather sealing, compactness and light weight, reasonable price, sturdy build quality, and ease of use—and represents a pure expression of what they're all about.

The camera is an able, agile performer. The 16-megapixel Sony sensor is an APS-C monster that's been refined over the past couple years into a nigh-unbeatable powerhouse. Ergonomically it's a little marvel, losing out by just a hair's breadth to the Pentax K-5 for our all-time favorite honors. It's also inherited a great deal from the quirky Pentax K-01, including the PRIME M processor, improved video mode, and some very welcome UI enhancements. The brilliant INFO menu, subtly tweaked from its implementation on the K-5, kept us from missing the top LCD in all but a few circumstances.

Autofocus performance was extremely impressive to us. While it fares little better than the K-5 in extreme lighting conditions, in everyday use the new SAFOX IXi+ system is a knockout. The focusing action has a real confidence and decisiveness in use that inspires a similar feeling in the user, and the real-world results can't be argued with.

Image quality is right up there with the best in the APS-C class, certainly directly comparable with the K-5 and K-01. Out-of-camera JPEGs are very nicely rendered, and the .DNG RAW files are just as wonderfully malleable as those from the other 16-megapixel Pentax bodies. Dynamic range runs in lockstep with the K-5, as does high-ISO performance.  Some may complain about the lack of an increase in resolution compared to the other two bodies, but we believe that the other features that the K-30 boasts certainly make up for this.

In the end, the only real question left in our mind about the K-30 is: do we dutifully send our review copy back when the loan period is over, or do we abduct it and run away to Mexico to live happily ever after?

Are you already a Pentax K-30 owner?  If so, we'd love to see you post your thoughts about it in the user camera reviews section!  If not, then the K-30 is waiting for you at B&H Photo for $849 or less!

Pros

  • Excellent build quality
  • Small and lightweight
  • Weather sealing at an unusually-low price point
  • Generally wonderful ergonomics
  • The best Pentax UI thus far
  • Class-leading image quality
  • Remarkably sure-footed autofocus in most situations
  • Drastically improved contrast-detect autofocus speed and accuracy
  • Fluid operation thanks to the new PRIME M processor
  • Improved and expanded video mode
  • No evidence of tungsten-related focusing issues

Cons

  • No option for an add-on grip
  • Wasted space in battery compartment; AA adapter not included
  • Relatively short battery life
  • Continuous shooting buffer could be larger
  • Still no real predictive autofocus
  • Non-ultrasonic dust removal (DR I)
  • Video autofocus slow, noisy, and unreliable
  • Mono on-board microphone; no external mic jack
  • No HDMI out
  • Focus peaking unavailable when shooting video

Rating

All in all, the Pentax K-30 ended up scoring higher than any other Pentax DSLR that we reviewed to date, which is certainly a triumph for Pentax!  We hope that this camera ends up being the big success that it deserves to be.  It has been a while since we've seen such a well-rounded camera at such an attractive price tag!

Build Quality 
 9
Handling 
 9
User Interface 
 9
Image Quality 
 10
Autofocus 
 8
HD Video 
 8
Value 
 9
Overall 
 8.9 (Very Good)


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