Cameras

Head to Head: Pentax K-30 Vs. Pentax K-5

We've put the weather-resistant K-30 through the ringer here at DCI. Now it's time to put it up against the Pentax K-5.

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For our full review of the Pentax K-30, please go here. For our full review of the Pentax K-5, please go here. Read on for our quick breakdown of the salient points of comparison between these two models.

While the Pentax K-30 was announced with some fanfare about its ability to survive inclement weather, it's hardly the first Pentax DSLR to be built to that standard. While not its direct predecessor, 2010's Pentax K-5 was also resistant to dust and moisture.

In our full review of the Pentax K-30, we noted that the weather sealing was fantastic, but it's a shame that the base kit for the camera at $899 doesn't include the weather-sealed variant of Pentax's 18-55mm lens. That's a huge oversight, meaning the only K-30 kit available that lives up to the weather-proof billing is one with the 18-135mm weather-resistant lens. At $1299 for that kit, the K-30 is competing directly with its own midrange K-5, with the K-5's price likely to drop fast as it has just been discontinued in the US.

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If you're in the market for a weather-resistant DSLR, these are both two fine choices, but they appeal to different kinds of users. The K-30 is aimed more at the amateur set, but with the benefit of two years development since the K-5 was announced before the last Photokina in 2010.

Despite that gulf in time, the main performance difference between the two cameras comes down largely to autofocus, with the K-30's AF sensor improving on the Achilles heel of the K-5: low light autofocus. Both are 11-point sensors with 9 cross-type sensitive points, but the K-30 is reliable if not terribly speedy in dim light, while the K-5 frequently locked up and refused to focus in limited light.

The K-5 largely gets the best of the K-30 on paper, though, offering 14-bit RAW shooting against 12-bit RAW, a magnesium alloy shell as opposed to reinforced polycarbonate, an older (though arguably just as good) 16-megapixel image sensor, a much higher capacity rechargeable battery, a secondary LCD on the top plate of the camera, a faster maximum shutter speed, and HDMI output.

Those are mostly enthusiast features, though, and the K-30 is lighter and smaller. It's also quite fast for its price point (roughly 6 frames per second at under $1000), but still slower than the K-5. The K-30's JPEG engine definitely outputs more vibrant images, but they're also less technically accurate as a result. If you shoot in RAW, that's not really a concern, but if you shoot in RAW, then we'd likely point you to the K-5 anyway.

Overall, the two cameras are very similar, but the K-5 is clearly the superior model for an enthusiast shooter. The performance gulf is not so massive that your average entry-level user should care one way or the other, however. If you're an enthusiast and consider photography a significant hobby then we'd say to go for the K-5, but if you merely want a DSLR that can take some abuse, create great photos, and don't want to break the bank, then we'd say the K-30 is a great choice.

A word of caution, though: putting a non-weather-resistant lens on either of these cameras will make them more susceptible to moisture and dust, so choose your glass carefully; the base-level kit (with 18-55mm lens) includes the WR variant on the K-5 but the non-WR variant on the K-30. We know it's confusing, but it's potentially a camera-killing mistake if you're taking these into the wild.

To read our full performance review of the K-30, please click here. If the K-5 is more your kind of camera, you can read our full review right here.