Pentax K-500 review

4 Oct 2013

The K-500 offers an amazing set of features for the price, but falls disappointingly short on some of the basics

Price when reviewed: 
349(£349 inc VAT, withmore
Buy it now for 
4

The K-500 may be the entry point into Pentax’s DSLR range, but nobody could accuse the company of skimping on features. It doesn’t have the weatherproofing of the more expensive models in the Pentax range, but little else is spared when it comes to shooting modes, buttons and dials. But we’re not convinced a bulging spec sheet makes a decent entry-level DSLR.

Take the K-500’s autofocus modes. There’s manual, standard autofocus, continuous or a fully automatic mode that overrides the body switch for flicking between those three modes. There are face- and motion-tracking modes. Then there’s focus peaking, which helps with manual focussing in live view, and also a mode that zooms in on the focus point so you can make sure it’s sharp.

Pentax K-500

If you have a compatible lens, there’s even a mode that wait for your subject to stroll into the focus point before firing the shutter. It’s an impressively long list of options for a camera in the sub-£500 price bracket, but then the K-500 inexplicably falls down on one of the staples.

Shoot through the optical, pentaprism viewfinder – which boasts coverage of 100% – and there’s absolutely zero indication of which of the 11 autofocus points are being used. You’re left to rely on memory (if you’ve manually selected a focus point) and the naked eye to determine if the desired areas of the frame are in focus, which is a major drawback. How Pentax could omit a feature that’s taken for granted on any other DSLR is a mystery.

The contradictions continue elsewhere. The K-500’s body design and button layout are excellent, with dual dial controls for independently setting shutter speed and aperture. There are dedicated buttons for adjusting exposure compensation, autofocus/exposure lock and selecting between RAW and JPEG, the latter of which is highly unusual on a camera in this price bracket. And despite the plethora of dials and buttons, the layout doesn’t feel cramped, with a deeply recessed handgrip making the K-500 comfortable to hold in one hand.

Pentax K-500

However, there are no touchscreen controls, and the on-screen menu system is bewilderingly complex, with settings buried in tabbed menus that are not easy to navigate, and options that are far too easy to select and deselect by accident. And, since the camera has no orientation sensor, portrait photos aren’t automatically displayed the correct way up when previewing images on the screen, although you can manually rotate individual images. We fear it would be brutally intimidating for digital SLR newcomers.

Details

Price ex VAT £291
Price inc VAT £349
Overall rating 4
Features & Design 3
Image quality 5
Value for Money 5

Basic specifications

Camera megapixel rating 16.0mp
Camera screen size 3.0in
Camera maximum resolution 4928 x 3264

Weight and dimensions

Dimensions 129 x 70 x 97mm (WDH)

Battery

Charger included? yes

Other specifications

Built-in flash? yes
Aperture range fUnknown - fUnknown
Minimum (fastest) shutter speed 1/6,000
Maximum (slowest) shutter speed 30s
Bulb exposure mode? yes
RAW recording mode? yes
Exposure compensation range +/- 5EV
ISO range 100 - 51200
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
Memory-card type SD
Viewfinder coverage 100%
LCD resolution 921k
Video/TV output? yes
Tripod mounting thread? yes
Data connector type USB

Manual, software and accessories

Full printed manual? yes

Price comparison powered by Reevoo

£380