Pentax K-r review
The price has come down considerably since its original launch, and at £400 this impressive all-rounder is now an unbeatable bargain
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.
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.
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.
|Price ex VAT||£333|
|Price inc VAT||£400|
|Features & Design||4|
|Value for Money||6|
|Camera megapixel rating||12.0mp|
|Camera screen size||3.0in|
|Camera optical zoom range||3x|
|Camera maximum resolution||4228 x 2848|
Weight and dimensions
|Dimensions||125 x 143 x 98mm (WDH)|
|Battery type included||Lithium-ion or AA|
|Battery life (CIPA standard)||470 shots|
|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|
|Secondary LCD display?||no|
|Tripod mounting thread?||yes|
|Data connector type||proprietary USB|
Manual, software and accessories
|Full printed manual?||yes|
|Software supplied||Pentax Digital Camera Utility 4?|