Aug 18, 2013

Pentax K-500 Review

Introduction

The Pentax K-500 represents the return of Pentax to the entry-level DSLR market.  Pentax's previous beginner model, the K-r, was launched in late 2010 and discontinued a year later, meaning that for almost two years, no true entry-level Pentax DSLR was available.  We are very happy to see that Pentax is coming back to this important market segment, as their past offerings have been well-received and enjoyed by thousands of our forum members.

During this two-year gap, Pentax instead launched the K-30, an upper entry-level (or mid-range) DSLR with an unusual feature set.  We consider it unusual because some of its features, such as weather sealing and dual control wheels, are typically only found on advanced cameras with much higher pricetags. The K-30's initial price of $849 made it a bit too expensive for most beginners, but it was also the most affordable DSLR with weather sealing.  It went on to receive very positive reviews for its performance and image quality despite its somewhat unorthodox looks.

Pentax K-500
A Pentax K-500 with the DA L 18-55mm kit lens

Now, imagine taking a K-30, slashing its price, giving its body a facelift, and removing the weather sealing, electronic level, and viewfinder autofocus points (secondary features).  That's essentially what the K-500 is, and it's cheaper by over $250 at launch.  The K-500 is available for a very reasonable $599 with a 18-55mm kit lens in the US, which we believe is the best value in any Pentax DSLR to date.  This launch price is considerably lower than that of the Nikon D3200 or Canon SL1, current competitors of the K-500.

Note that alongside the K-500 Pentax also announced the K-50 (see our in-depth review here), which retains all of the K-30's features (including weather sealing, the electronic level, and viewfinder autofocus points) but is otherwise identical to the K-500.  The K-50 is available for $699 as a body-only, or $779 with a 18-55mm WR lens.

Although one might consider the K-500 to be nothing more than a stripped-down version of the K-50, the price difference between these two models is significant: approximately $150, if we assign a $50 value to the K-500's kit lens.  Therefore, if you do not need the weather sealing, and if you don't mind the lack of autofocus point confirmation in the viewfinder, you can opt for the K-500 over the K-50 without hesitation.

When taken on its own, the K-500 is quite a compelling camera.  It has a plethora of features typically reserved for high-end cameras, such as a 100%-coverage pentaprism viewfinder and dual control wheels.  It also incorporates a tried-and-tested 16.3-megapixel sensor with exceptional high-ISO performance for its class.  We invite you to read the rest of the review to find out if the K-500 is the right choice for you!  The K-500 is certainly not to be overlooked by first-time DSLR buyers.

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