Text and Images by Allison Gibson
Updated & Fuss-Free Entry-Level DSLR
The K-r falls into the PENTAX lineup as an entry-to-mid-range DSLR, most similar to last year’s K-x (reviewed here), with upgrades that bring it a few notches up toward the flagship K-7. The 12.4-megapixel K-r comes in red, white or black (I reviewed the red model, which attracted the attention and compliments of plenty of onlookers), and at $849.95 MSRP, the kit includes a DA L 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens.
Although the K-r is in fact feature-packed, there’s the sense that the camera is refreshingly gimmick-free and straightforward in its intention to be, first and foremost, a tool for capturing quality images. Its ease of use is just what a photographer might want when making the move from, say, a prosumer compact digicam to the world of SLR shooting.
Design & Ease of Use
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Despite its compact size and plastic body construction (the lens mount is stainless steel), the K-r feels like a serious piece of equipment in-hand; it is heavy enough to feel sturdy and yet light enough to hang from your neck for extended periods. Note that’s ever so slightly larger than the petite K-x. Another feature to make the shooting experience feel undoubtedly professional is the loud, satisfying click of the shutter release. The layout of menu buttons, the big wedge of a handgrip, the contoured thumb grip on the back, and the placement of the shutter release all align for shooting comfort. The 3-inch LCD with Live View is impressively bright and clear, having been bumped up in resolution from that of the K-x (921,000 dot versus 230,000). And then there’s the viewfinder, with its thick rubber padding—especially comfortable when standing with an eye smashed against it for long stretches of time while photographing surfers, as I did. Once again PENTAX has included the green button on the camera—this time right behind the shutter release where it can be accessed quickly and easily—which can be programmed to quick-jump to a feature of the photographer’s choice so as to bypass wading through many layers of digital menu.
The K-r shoots stills in JPEG and RAW and 720p High Definition video in .AVI format. Memory records to SD/SDHC memory cards, with the option now for SDXC memory card compatibility via a firmware update. Another smart upgrade is the fact that the camera is Li-Ion battery compatible and can also be adapted to use AA batteries, so that the photographer has flexibility—incredibly important for traveling to a place where you might not have access to outlets for charging.
Night Scene HDR versus Auto Picture Mode
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PENTAX has loaded the smallish, stylish K-r with options for advanced shooting—Manual, Program, Sensitivity Priority, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority—but they have also made it easy to capture in Auto Picture mode and through scene modes tailored for specific shooting situations, such as: sunset, surf & snow, night, and kids & pets for fast-moving subjects. New to the K-r is the built-in Night Scene HDR mode which captures three images, with exposure optimized for dim lighting, to generate a single HDR (High Dynamic Range) image. I actually found that the Night Scene HDR mode worked well in daytime shade, helping me to capture close-up shots of howler monkeys in the jungle of Costa Rica without a disturbing flash. In addition to scene modes, the K-r includes a similar menu of Digital Filters to that of the K-x. In reviewing the K-x last year I was slightly dismayed by the filter that tries to replicate the look of shooting with a Fish Eye lens, and had hoped that an upgrade would be made this time around, but unfortunately that isn’t the case. The other filters, Toy Camera in particular, are fun to use.
For shooting action, the fast 6fps burst capture capability was great, and the built-in optional Shake Reduction feature was extremely helpful in snapping sharp shots of fast-moving subjects when I didn’t have a tripod. The advanced 11 point SAFOX IX autofocus system tracked the subjects quickly as they sped across the frame, with additional aid from the AF assist lamp.
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Once again PENTAX has produced a stylish, intuitive mid-range DSLR that takes quality pictures, all for a very competitive price. With upgrades including a higher-resolution LCD, built-in HDR capability, faster 6fps capture, and an advanced autofocus system—all for under $900, including the lens (found for less than MSRP elsewhere), the K-r is a serious piece of equipment to consider as a first DSLR or even an upgrade.
- $849.95 (comes with a DA L 18-55mm lens)
- 4.9”W x 3.8”H x 2.7”D; 19.7 oz., loaded
- Image Sensor:
- 12.4-megapixels, CMOS, 23.6 x 15.8mm
- Maximum Resolution:
- 4288 x 2848
- Still Recording Format:
- RAW (PEF, DNG), JPG (EXIF 2.21), DCF 2.0 (design rule for camera file system), DPOF, Print Image Matching III Movie (compression): AVI (motion JPG)
- Video Recording Mode:
- HD: 1280×720 (16:9) at 25fps in .AVI format
- 3-inch TFT color LCD (921,000 dots), wide angle, Live View; Optical Viewfinder (96% Magnification)
- Exposure Modes:
- Program, Sensitivity Priority, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Metered Manual, Video; AutoPicture, Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Moving Object, Night scene portrait, Flash off; Scene modes: Night scene, Surf & Snow, Food, Sunset, Kids, Pet, Candlelight, Museum, Stagelight, Night snap, Night scene HDR
- ISO 200-12800, expand to 100-25600
- Exposure Metering:
- TTL open aperture, 16 segment metering Sensitivity range: EV 1-21.5 (ISO 200, 50mm F1.4); Multi-pattern, center-weight, spot
- Special Features:
- Built-in pop-up flash, Live View, Face Detection, Creative Filter Modes (Toy Camera, Monochrome, Retro, Color, High Contrast, Soft, Extract Color, Star Burst, Sketch, Water Color, Pastel, Miniature, Slim, HDR, Posterization, Base Parameter Adjustment, Custom)
- Lens Mount:
- PENTAX KAF2 bayonet stainless steel mount; Usable lenses: PENTAX KAF3, KAF2, KAF, KA (K mount, 35mm screwmount, 645/67 med format lenses useable w adapter and/or restrictions)
- Provided Accessories:
- Li-Ion Battery D-LI109, Battery Charge Cradle K-BC109, AC Plug Cord, USB Cable I-USB7, Strap O-ST53, Hotshoe Cover FK, Eyecup FQ, Body Mount Cover, Software CD-ROM S-SW110
- Power Source:
- Rechargeable Li-Ion battery D-LI109, AA BATTERY HOLDER D-BH109 (optional) for 4X AA