DCRP

Pentax K-30 Review

Conclusion

The Pentax K-30 is a very capable digital SLR that arguably offers more bang for the buck -- including a weather-sealed body -- than any other camera in its price range. The K-30's design is a bit more angular than your typical D-SLR, and its composite body doesn't mind getting a little wet (just make sure you're using a WR lens, too). The body is easy to hold, thanks to a large, rubberized grip, and the most important controls are within easy reach of your fingers. Like all Pentax D-SLRs, the K-30 supports decades worth of K-mount lenses, and the sensor-shift image stabilization system means that nearly all of them will have shake reduction available. Flip to the back of the camera and you'll find a sharp 3" LCD, with offers good outdoor visibility. The K-30's optical viewfinder is larger than what you'd find on most D-SLRs in this price range, and the 100% coverage doesn't hurt, either. Naturally, the K-30 supports an external flash (via its hot shoe), and the built-in flash also has wireless control capabilities. Two things that are strangely missing on the camera are a stereo microphone (or support for an external one) and an HDMI port.

If there's one thing you can see about Pentax cameras, it's that they never skimp on features. Those seeking a point-and-shoot experience can use Auto Picture Mode, which will select a scene mode automatically. There are tons of scene modes, as well as an HDR feature that improves contrast (though I don't recommend cranking that feature up too high). Enthusiasts will find full manual controls, RAW (DNG) support, lots of custom functions and buttons, and Pentax's unique TAv and Sv shooting modes. There are also correction tools for highlights and shadows, purple fringing, and distortion. The live view feature on the K-30 is quite good by D-SLR standards, offering focus peaking, a live histogram and electronic level, and better-than-average AF performance. In movie mode you'll be able to record video at 1080p (24, 25, or 30 fps) with full manual controls. What you won't find is continuous autofocus or support for stereo sound recording. Video quality isn't the best, either. One last feature to mention is in playback mode, where you can edit RAW images, and save the results as a JPEG.

Camera performance is average in most respects, with a few exceptions (for better and worse). In terms of overall shooting speed, the K-30 is unremarkable. Startup, autofocus, and shot-to-shot speeds are right where you'd expect them to be. As I mentioned, the camera does focus a bit quicker than the competition when using live view. The K-30's burst mode allows you to shoot at nearly six frames/second, but only for JPEGs. The fastest you can shoot RAW images is at just above three frames/second. While I love how the K-30 supports both lithium-ion and AA batteries, battery life with the included D-LI109 rechargeable is the worst in its class.

Photo quality is definitely one of the K-30's strong suits. It produces photos with accurate exposure, and not a whole lot of highlight clipping (and remember you can reduce this using the d-range correction tools). Colors are quite vivid -- maybe too vivid for some -- though that's easy enough to fix if it bothers you. While some cameras struggle under artificial light (like in our studio), the K-30 handled those situations with ease. Sharpness is very lens dependent, and the lenses I receive with my review units never seem to be great. If you do better than me, then you'll probably be satisfied with both the level of detail and smooth appearance of the subjects in your photos. Pentax has done great things with the 16 Megapixel (Sony-made) sensor on the K-30, keeping noise away until you hit ISO 800 in low light and ISO 3200 in good light. If you're willing to shoot RAW and do some easy post-processing on your computer, you'll get even better results at high sensitivities. Redeye was not a problem, likely due to the fact that the flash pops up so far from the lens. Purple fringing is mostly lens dependent, and it was rarely an issue.

Overall, it's pretty hard not to like the Pentax K-30. For $850 (body only), you get a well-equipped, weather-sealed D-SLR that takes great photos. Sure, I wish it had better battery life, stereo sound recording, and HDMI output, but aside from those issues, there's little to complain about. Whether you're a Pentax enthusiast or someone looking for a first D-SLR, the K-30 is certainly well worth looking at.

What I liked:

  • Excellent photo quality, with low noise until the very highest sensitivities
  • Solid, weather-sealed body
  • Built-in image stabilization means decades worth of Pentax lenses will have shake reduction
  • Sharp 3-inch LCD offers good outdoor visibility
  • Optical viewfinder is larger and offers more coverage than competitors
  • Lots of manual controls and customizable features
  • Beginners will appreciate auto scene selection, tons of scene modes and special effects
  • Well-implemented live view feature offers live histogram, electronic level, focus peaking, and above average AF speeds
  • HDR and highlight correction features improve image contrast (though go easy on the former)
  • Time-lapse (still and movie) and multiple exposure features
  • In-camera RAW editing
  • Redeye not a problem
  • Records Full HD video (1080/24p or 30p) with manual exposure controls
  • Supports both lithium-ion and AA batteries (though you'll need a $30 adapter for the latter)
  • Full, printed manual in the box (a rarity these days)

What I didn't care for:

  • Video quality could be better
  • Below average battery life
  • Can't shoot RAW images at high speed in burst mode
  • White balance bracketing would've been nice
  • Lacks a stereo microphone, and does not support adding an external one
  • No HDMI output

Some other D-SLRs to consider include the Canon EOS Rebel T4i, Nikon D5100, and Sony Alpha SLT-A57. It may be worth looking at the Olympus E-P3, Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5, and Samsung NX20 mirrorless cameras, as well.

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera or electronics store to try out the K-30 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

Check out our K-30 photo gallery to see how the image quality looks!

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If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.