Pentax K-r review

15 Nov 2011

The price has come down considerably since its original launch, and at £400 this impressive all-rounder is now an unbeatable bargain

Price when reviewed 
400
5

The Pentax K-r isn’t the most handsome of cameras, and the choice of eight colours (including pink and yellow) doesn’t really help. It’s what’s inside that counts, though. While its price puts it in direct competition with the Canon EOS 1100D and Nikon D3100, some of its features are more in line with much pricier cameras.

For starters, the 3in screen’s 921k resolution is a big improvement over the 230k screens of the Canon and Nikon-branded rivals. Live view works extremely well, with fast contrast-detect autofocus and a temporary magnification while focusing that inspires confidence. The ISO speed goes up to 25,600, enabling fast shutter speeds in extremely low light. There’s automatic HDR capture and a range of customisable filters. It can correct lens distortion and chromatic aberration, although this takes a heavy toll on the camera’s continuous performance.

Pentax K-r - back

If you can live without these corrections, however, continuous performance is truly astounding for the price, running at 6fps and slowing to 3.7fps after 30 frames in our tests. The drop off was sharper and came sooner in RAW continuous mode, falling to 2.2fps after 14 frames, but that’s still seriously fast.

The K-r is quick in general use, too. There are dedicated buttons for the most important controls, and hitting the Info button brings up a grid of 15 further options. It isn’t so different to rival cameras’ control systems, but we found it slightly quicker to operate. For example, hitting the ISO button doesn’t only reveal the manual setting, but also lets the user adjust the automatic ISO range from 100-400 to 100-25600. Nikon’s automatic ISO mode is more flexible, but its options are badly presented.

The K-r’s performance is helped by its relatively modest 12-megapixel resolution. However, we have no reservations about this sensor in the face of 14-, 16- and 18-megapixel competition. There was slightly less detail in the centre of frames, but the 18-55mm kit lens’ sharp focus means the K-r beats many of its higher-resolution rivals for detail levels in the corners.

Pentax K-r - top

That relatively low resolution also helped keep noise levels down at high ISO speeds. There isn’t much to separate Pentax, Canon, Nikon and Sony’s consumer DSLRs in this respect, but the K-r sits towards the top of the pack, producing print-worthy photos with excellent detail retention at ISO 6400. JPEG output was a little gaudy at the default Bright picture preset, but switching to Natural gave much better results.

The video mode is basic, capturing 720p in Motion JPEG format without autofocus and for a maximum of 11mins 30secs, but video quality was otherwise up to scratch. The lack of an HDMI output is disappointing, though.

The choice of lenses isn’t as wide as for Canon and Nikon mounts, and there’s a notable lack of cheap fast primes. However, with stabilisation built into the sensor rather than lenses, telephoto lenses tend to be cheaper. A Canon or Nikon DSLR might feel like a safer bet, but the K-r’s competitive image quality, excellent controls, abundant features and outstanding performance make it a more than worthy alternative.

Details

Price ex VAT £333
Price inc VAT £400
Overall rating 6
Performance 6
Features & Design 4
Image quality 5
Value for Money 6

Basic specifications

Camera megapixel rating 12.0mp
Camera screen size 3.0in
Camera optical zoom range 3x
Camera maximum resolution 4228 x 2848

Weight and dimensions

Weight 798g
Dimensions 125 x 143 x 98mm (WDH)

Battery

Battery type included Lithium-ion or AA
Battery life (CIPA standard) 470 shots
Charger included? yes

Other specifications

Built-in flash? yes
Aperture range f3.5 - f5.6
Camera minimum focus distance 0.25m
Shortest focal length (35mm equivalent) 27
Longest focal length (35mm equivalent) 83
Minimum (fastest) shutter speed 1/6,000
Maximum (slowest) shutter speed 30s
Bulb exposure mode? yes
RAW recording mode? yes
Exposure compensation range +/- 3EV
ISO range 100 - 25600
Selectable white balance settings? yes
Manual/user preset white balane? yes
Progam auto mode? yes
Shutter priority mode? yes
Aperture priority mode? yes
Fully auto mode? yes
Burst frame rate 6.0fps
Exposure bracketing? yes
White-balance bracketing? no
Memory-card type SDHC
Viewfinder coverage 96%
LCD resolution 921k
Secondary LCD display? no
Video/TV output? yes
Body construction Plastic
Tripod mounting thread? yes
Data connector type proprietary USB

Manual, software and accessories

Full printed manual? yes
Software supplied Pentax Digital Camera Utility 4?
Accessories supplied none