Cameras

Pentax K-30 Digital Camera Review

Read on to see if this intriguing weather-resistant DSLR has the performance to match the hype.

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Video Review

Introduction

The Pentax K-30 is the latest in a long line of Pentax DSLRs to feature weather-proofing, allowing users to take the K-30 into conditions other sub-$1000 DSLRs simply won't survive. The K-30 sports the excellent handling we've come to expect from Pentax cameras, a 16-megapixel APS-C image sensor, and an autofocus system that is designed to improve upon the questionable system used in the Pentax K-5. The K-30 is available now in black blue, and white colors for an MSRP of $899.95 with a standard 18-55mm kit lens.

Front

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Back

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Sides

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Top

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In the Box

Box Photo

In the K-30's box you'll find the camera, 18-55mm kit lens, and the following accessories:

• USB cable I-USB7

• battery charger Kit K-BC109

• hotshoe cover FK

• body mount cover

• focusing screen MF-60 frame matte

• Li-Ion Battery D-LI109

• strap O-ST53

• eyecup FR

• finder cap for ME

• software CD-ROM

Kit Lens & Mount

If you opt for the cheapest K-30 kit you'll get the Pentax K-mount 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens for a price of $899.99. For our testing we used the 18-135mm WR lens, which is available with the camera for a kit price of $1199.99 through various retailers. The Pentax K-30 can mount any lens that uses the K-mount system, however, giving it access to an incredible amount of current and older lenses.

The 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 WR lens we tested with is well-constructed, with a metal mount and rubber ring on the back offering a secure, stable, and sealed connection to the camera. The lens barrel itself has a nice rubber texture around the zoom and focus rings—great in wetter climates. Both are very stable and feel very tight, allowing for delicate adjustments. They do make some noise when moved, however, so for video you may want to opt for a different combination if budget and space permit.

Important Note: Pentax makes two 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lenses that can be mounted to the Pentax K-30. One is weather resistant and the other is not. It's important to know which lens you are purchasing if you're getting the kit and plan to take it into inclement weather. All of Pentax's weather-resistant lenses have a blue "WR" printed on the front of the lens barrel. The standard $899.99 kit does not come with the weather-resistant version of the 18-55mm lens. The camera body is still weather sealed, but you are less protected from dust and moisture at the lens mount than you would be with the "WR" version.

If you're caught in a quick shower or something the non-WR version could still be fine, but you're simply less protected than you would be if opting for the 18-55mm WR version. Optically the two lenses are identical (from what we can tell), with the only difference being the presence of the orange rubber seal around the lens mount on the WR version of the lens. When purchased separately from the body the two lenses are identical in price at $199.99, making it truly puzzling as to why Pentax wouldn't opt to include the WR version of the kit lens with the K-30.

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The lens mount on the K-30 itself is solidly built, with metal all the way around. The lenses slot securely into position, with the lens mount release located on the grip side of the lens. The Pentax K-30 is compatible with pretty much every lens Pentax has made since 1975, giving it a truly staggering amount of lens options. Many of those lenses will lack the features of modern lenses, but the K-30 can be used with any number of cheap, second-hand K-mount lenses that can be found.

Lens Mount Photo

Sensor

The image sensor in the Pentax K-30 is reportedly the same APS-C sensor found in their K-01 mirrorless camera. It features a gross pixel count of 16.5 megapixels, with a recorded resolution of 16.3 megapixels. That's large enough to print to some pretty large sizes, or crop and still print to standard 8x10'' photos. The APS-C image sensor found in the Pentax K-30 is about as large as you'll find in most consumer-level DSLRs. Pretty much the only larger sensors you'll find in cameras on the market today are full frame (35mm) and medium format digital sensors.

Convergence areas of different sensor sizes compared

Viewfinder

The viewfinder in the K-30 is a big upgrade over previous consumer-level DSLRs, on par with the Pentax K-5 and some of the other finders we've seen recently. It's large and bright, with the right amount of information readout available just below the frame. The autofocus points light up as red boxes in the finder when activated, which is nice to see, but can be a little bit distracting at times.

Display(s)

The rear monitor of the Pentax K-30 is a 3-inch TFT LCD monitor with brightness adjustments. It's fixed to the body of the camera and features a resolution of 921,000 dots. It has a decent viewing angle, though it offers a wider range of viewing angles horizontally than vertically. We found it to be able to reproduce fine detail very well (great for manual focus adjustments with the camera's focus peaking feature), but it lacked the contrast and range that we'd like to see from a camera of this type.

Flash

The built-in flash on the Pentax K-30 is a retractable unit with a guide number of 12 meters at ISO 100. That puts it among the more powerful flashes on cameras in this class, but that's a fairly low bar to beat. We found that it was useful mostly in select situations, rather than as a go-to part of your shooting repertoire. While there are some good quality built-in flashes on the market, your images will generally look better in either natural light or with an external flash where possible.

Flash Photo

Connectivity

The Pentax K-30, for some reason, seems to have neglected to include what is generally an industry standard for video-capable DSLRs: the HDMI port. The K-30 only includes ports for the Pentax proprietary PC/AV cable and remote release slot, with out either a mic or HDMI port. This all but cripples the K-30 for any kind of higher-end video production, regardless of the camera's actual abilities.

Battery

The battery in the K-30 is a standard removable, rechargeable Lithium-ion pack. It's got a capacity of 1050 mAh at 7.4V. It's model number D-Li109, which is the same battery that was used on the K-r. They're available for dirt cheap on the secondary market, which is good because it offers a fairly limited CIPA rating of just 410 shots. According to Pentax that expands to 480 shots when used without the flash, however. (CIPA testing calls for 50% of the shots to use flash, which is a ridiculous number) We still found it to be limiting when taking the camera out for a weekend, even when shooting in just natural light.

If you're going to pick up a K-30, we suggest grabbing an extra battery with it. You can also opt for the company's AA-holder adapter, which fits into the battery slot and allows you to use four AA batteries to power the camera. Pentax rates four AA lithium batteries to supply enough power for around 1600 shots (1000 shots by CIPA standard with flash), so it's not a bad investment if you travel extensively.

Battery Photo

Memory

The Pentax K-30 uses SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards that slot into their own dedicated compartment on the right side of the body. This is a pretty standard compartment, and you've probably got a few SD cards laying around already that will work just fine in the K-30.

Memory Photo

Durability

While the Pentax K-30 initially made a big splash (excuse the pun) with its fully weather-sealed body, it's hardly the first Pentax camera to go that route. The Pentax K-5, which the K-30 is undercutting slightly with its $899.99 kit price point, featured 77 weather seals along with a magnesium alloy body and stainless steel chassis. The K-30 has 81 such weather seals, providing a little more protection. The K-30 does lack the K-5's magnesium alloy shell, opting for a reinforced polycarbonate shell over stainless steel body, though the difference is largely confined to its lower weight. The result is a camera that is coldproof, dustproof, can be shot in the rain, and should be durable over the long haul.

A word of caution, however, as the least expensive kit at $899.99 does not include the weather-sealed version of Pentax's 18-55mm lens. The only difference is a rubber seal around the lens mount, but it's a failure point that seems to have gone overlooked both in Pentax's marketing. bnb

Image Quality

We typically rate cameras in four key performance areas: noise, dynamic range, color accuracy, and resolution. The Pentax K-30 does quite well in dynamic range and noise, but we found it was fairly average in the other two categories. That doesn't make it a bad camera by any stretch, but if you are looking for the sharpest possible combination of camera and lens, the K-30 and 18-135mm WR lens probably isn't it. Overall, the K-30 does well, producing pleasing images with solid low light performance that put it among better options under $1000.

Sharpness

We tested the Pentax K-30 with the weather-sealed 18-135mm lens, which is available kitted with the camera for a little over $1100 (as opposed to the $899 standard 18-55mm kit). The 18-135mm lens follows designs similar to those from other manufacturers, and we found some of the same problems. Its longer focal length exacerbates diffraction, especially at longer focal lengths and smaller apertures. At f/40 and 135mm, sharpness is practically nonexistant away from the center of the image.

If you're going to shoot with the 18-135mm lens, we suggest trying to keep the aperture around f/8-14, as wide open and closed down we found the lens had significant issues in the corners. This kept the K-30's sharpness score down, but we found the camera had no problems when shooting with a sharper lens, such as the 35mm f/2.4 prime lens. More on how we test sharpness.

Science Section 3 Images

Image Stabilization

Stabilization was quite good on the Pentax K-30, showing significant improvement with the feature activated as opposed to leaving it off. We tested stabilization with a repeated shake pattern at 1/30th of a second. With stabilization off the average image was not sharp at all, but that was relatively improved with the stabilization active. When shooting handheld in limited light at that shutter speed you should see similar results.

Color

In testing the Pentax K-30, we were surprised just how oversaturated the default settings were. Even with the camera's "natural" setting and saturation toned down, we found that the lack of accuracy—and worse, consistency—were troubling. This won't have any real effect if you're using the K-30 for most types of photography, or if you're willing to shoot in RAW, but for reproduction work or shots were color accuracy is paramount, the K-30 may not be the best bet. More on how we test color.

The K-30 separates its color modes into modes called "picture settings." These are the same as we've seen on other Pentax cameras, with options for "bright" as well as the usual natural, portrait, landscape, as well as vibrant, radiant, and muted. There are also options for monochrome and custom modes, but we did not test those.

Each picture setting offers a standard color accuracy algorithm, with specific sections of colors pushed or suppressed to achieve the intended effect. We found that "natural" was the best mode, but it still was only capable of color error of 3.22, which is quite a bit worse than we are used to seeing on cameras of this level. The main problem seemed to be oversaturation, as nearly every mode had issues keeping colors from coming back oversaturated. The camera does allow you to tone down saturation, but we found doing this in the most accurate modes (natural and portrait), only decreased the color error to 3.11.

NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.

White Balance

We found the Pentax K-30 offered superb white balance accuracy—at least in line with what we've seen from other DSLRs. We tested both the automatic and custom white balance settings using a GretagMacbeth ColorChecker chart, shot under various lighting conditions.

Automatic White Balance ()

When shooting using the automatic white balance mode, we found the Pentax K-30 was able to accurately assign color values (an error of less than 100 kelvin) under daylight and compact white fluorescent lighting conditions. We also test under tungsten lighting (2800 kelvin), but we found that the error there rose to an average of 1150 kelvin.

That's rather extreme, but it's in line with what just about every other camera is capable of, as most automatic white balance systems can only work within a set color temperature range, which usually doesn't include extreme warmth such as 2800 kelvin light. Of note: the Pentax K-30 offers a custom option that lets you "keep warmth" in automatic white balance shots under tungsten lighting. As this is a test for absolute accuracy, we turned this option off.

Custom White Balance ()

When you take the time to capture a custom white balance, the color temper error actually rose under daylight and compact white fluorescent lighting conditions, though only to around 100 kelvin. That's not really perceptible under most conditions, however, so it's not that notable. The one big improvement custom white balance affords is when shooting under more extreme lighting conditions, such as tungsten lighting. While the auto white balance left an error of over 1100 kelvin under tungsten lighting, we found custom white balance brought that error down to just 103 kelvin, which is quite good.

The Pentax K-30's white balance conformed to expectations of what we've seen with other high-end cameras. It struggled when automatically diagnosing white under tungsten lighting, but did well under fluorescent and daylight temperatures. In those easier conditions, your best bet is to use auto white balance. If you have to shoot under indoor tungsten lighting, we recommend taking the time to capture a custom white balance.

White Balance Options

The Pentax K-30 features custom white balance, automatic white balance, custom kelvin entry, as well as several white balance presets that you can select from. It has one of the easier custom white balance mechanics of a midrange DSLR, with a dedicated WB button on the rear control pad, three custom user-savable settings, and the ability to set a custom WB right from the on-screen menu. All the white balance options can be adjusted on a standard ABGM color wheel.

Noise Reduction

The Pentax K-30 offers four levels of noise reduction, as well as the ability to turn it off. The four levels include low, medium, high, as well as an automatic feature. The automatic setting returned noise results similar to the "low" and "off" settings, moving up to about a medium level at ISO 6400 and above. More on how we test noise.

Science Section 2 Images_2

Detail Loss

The detail loss up to ISO 12800 with noise reduction activated is not terribly significant, but setting noise reduction to the "off" setting in JPEG does result in sharper images. It didn't result in substantially better images in terms of print quality, however. One thing to note though is that noise reduction at any setting but "off" or "auto" smears detail out even at the minimum ISO of 100. Our recommendation is to stick to off or auto whenever you're shooting in JPEG.

Science Section 2 Images

ISO Options

The Pentax K-30 offers an ISO range of 100-12800, with the option to set ISO manually or automatically. You can also extend the ISO up to 25600, but you have to go into the custom menu to activate that first.

Dynamic Range

We found that the Pentax K-30 was able to return nearly 8 stops of "high" dynamic range in our testing at its minimum ISO of 100. "High" dynamic range is defined as stops in which the signal to noise ratio is in excess of 10:1. The K-30 was able to largely keep this under control as well through much of its ISO range. We found the high quickly fell off to between 6 and 7 stops, but stayed above 6.25 stops through ISO 1600, held on with 5.8 stops at ISO 3200, and fell to below 3 stops above that. More on how we test dynamic range.

The Pentax K-30 compares well to other cameras in its class. The K-30 has the same image sensor and processing as its compatriot, the mirrorless K-01. Its performance holds right in line with the K-01, with a performance pattern that is nearly identical. If you're deciding between just these two cameras, then you'll have to look at features and design, because dynamic range is practically a wash. The same also goes for the K-30 vs. the slightly older K-5, as both also perform nearly identically in our testing.

Noise Reduction

The Pentax K-30 offers four levels of noise reduction, as well as the ability to turn it off. The four levels include low, medium, high, as well as an automatic feature. The automatic setting returned noise results similar to the "low" and "off" settings, moving up to about a medium level at ISO 6400 and above. More on how we test noise.

ISO Options

The Pentax K-30 offers an ISO range of 100-12800, with the option to set ISO manually or automatically. You can also extend the ISO up to 25600, but you have to go into the custom menu to activate that first.

Focus Performance

Focus was a bit of a hang-up performance issue on the Pentax K-5, as it could really struggle under low light conditions. We found that indoor artificial lighting, especially. The camera would lock on, but it often took more than few seconds, even when using fast primes like the Pentax 35mm f/2.4, as we did in our time with the K-5. The K-30 is designed with a new autofocus system, but we put it to the test in low light to see if it offered much improvement.

Video: Low Light Sensitivity

The Pentax K-30 required only 11 lux to render an image that hit 50 IRE on a waveform monitor in our testing. 50 IRE is a standard for what is considered visually acceptable. That puts the Pentax among the middle of the pack as far as DSLRs are concerned. The K-30 gets that low as it's able to use up to ISO 3200 when recording video, while the cameras that perform better in this test have a wider range of ISO speeds to call upon.

Chromatic Aberration

The 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 lens that we tested the K-30 with struggled to corral chromatic aberration through much of the focal and aperture range away from the center of the image. When the aperture was as small as f/40 at 135mm the diffraction made the image look blurred near the edged while the center remained sharp. In addition, lateral chromatic aberration resulted in purple fringing when shooting wide open or close down, both at the telephoto focal length of 135mm and the wide angle 18mm focal length.

Distortion

Distortion was a pretty constant issue throughout testing with the 18-135mm WR lens. As with most zoom lenses that extend from wide to telephoto lengths, distortion ranged from extreme barrel warping at the wide end to a pincushion distortion in the middle and telephoto lengths. According to our testing the 18mm focal length resulted in 2.73% of barrel distortion, while the lens quickly switched that to more than 1.5% of pincushion distortion through the rest of the focal range. These are correctable flaws, but it's worth noting if you plan to photograph interiors or buildings for architecture photography.

Motion

The Pentax K-30 rendered motion fairly well, but it struggled with some artifacting and ghosting around select areas in our motion test. Sharpness also continued to be distractingly bad, with finer patterns seemingly fluxing as moire overpowered the image in parts of our motion test. More on how CamcorderInfo tests motion.

The Pentax K-30 doesn't perform a great deal worse than most DSLRs in our motion test. Its main issues are not related specifically to motion, but in terms of poor dynamic range and sharpness when capturing video. While motion isn't the culprit, this example just shows how poorly the K-30 fares compared to the high quality video-capable DSLRs on the market, some of which sit at similar sub-$1000 price points.

Video Sharpness

The Pentax K-30 struggled in our sharpness test, as it was unable to replicate more than 500 LW/PH of detail from our standard sharpness chart. Both horizontally and vertically, the sharpness of the final video image was limited by aliasing and averaging, resulting in heavy moire and gray beyond that point. More on how CamcorderInfo tests video sharpness.

Sharpness did not improve at all in low light either, with vertical sharpness falling slightly. We did notice somewhat less moire in the low light sharpness, but that's likely down to the difference in light level (60lux vs. a bright 3000 lux) on the chart itself. The K-30 also suffered from a rolling shutter effect, but that's expected with a large CMOS sensor and is common amongst all the DSLRs the K-30 would compete against.

Low Light Sensitivity

The Pentax K-30 required only 11 lux to render an image that hit 50 IRE on a waveform monitor in our testing. 50 IRE is a standard for what is considered visually acceptable. That puts the Pentax among the middle of the pack as far as DSLRs are concerned. The K-30 gets that low as it's able to use up to ISO 3200 when recording video, while the cameras that perform better in this test have a wider range of ISO speeds to call upon.

Usability

The Pentax K-30 offers a fairly standard set of usability features for a midrange DSLR. It lacks some of the in-camera help that some cameras have, but it does offer a full suite of scene modes. The K-30 is a great camera for someone not afraid to experiment with different shot types, customizable buttons, and some of the other features an enthusiast camera will be designed around. If you're very particular about your setups, the K-30 also offers two user-customizable shooting modes right on the physical dial that can be easily switched to at any time.

Automatic Features

As all DSLRs do, the Pentax K-30 comes with a full automatic mode for those who just want dead simple operation with as little fuss as possible. The camera also will automatically determine exposure in most other modes, including the camera's many scene modes. While most DSLRs include five or six scene modes, the K-30 includes 19 such modes, letting the user find an option that will work in some of the more difficult lighting conditions you may face.

Buttons & Dials

The K-30, despite its more angular body design, features a button layout that is very similar to past Pentax models. The K-30 features dual control dials—one on the grip and one on the back of the camera—along with a physical mode dial. The back of the camera has a four-way control pad with an OK button, with a customizable RAW/Fx button, Live View activation button, and info and menu buttons scattered around the body.

Effects, Filters, and Scene Modes

The Pentax K-30 offers the kind of effects you'd typically see on a point-and-shoot camera rather than a DSLR. In addition to a full suite of 19 scene modes, the K-30 includes seven digital filters (such as extract color), an adjustable HDR mode, several custom image presets (color modes), and options to correct for performance, such as distortion and chromatic aberration correction.

The menu on the Pentax K-30 is the same as we've seen on other Pentax cameras: a series of tabs aligned into groups horizontally along the top portion of the screen. Each tab is a single page of options, and a flick of the rear control dial moves between tabs. This makes it easy to navigate through the entire menu quickly, similar to how Canon and Samsung design their systems.

The Pentax menu includes groups of tabs for shooting settings, playback, setup, and custom. The custom settings include some of the more obscure settings that you might want to activate. Some of these are really out there, such as the option extend ISO to its maximum of 25600. Other options are less likely to matter to most users, such as whether in bulb mode the shutter is held open while the shutter button is being held, or whether it just takes a push to open it and another push to close it.

Handling

If you're familiar with the DSLR game these days, you'll likely know that Pentax cameras are known for their exceptional handling. The K-5, their last midrange model, did nothing to injure that reputation, and the K-30 continues the solid trend for Pentax's DSLRs.

The grip is a little deeper than the K-5, but that also makes it one of the most accommodating that you'll find on a midrange DSLR. It fit our hands perfectly, with the shutter button and front control dial falling right in line with your index finger. The buttons themselves are all placed quite well, though we would like the INFO button to have found a home closer to our main hand, given its importance in making multiple changes quickly.

Handling Photo 1

The K-30 lacks the top plate LCD of the K-5 and other prosumer-style DSLRs, which is a drawback for enthusiast shooters. The trade-off is that the K-30 is significantly lighter (22.9 oz fully loaded vs. 26.1 oz on the K-5) on longer shoots. Of course, this is also aided by the camera's switch from the K-5's magnesium alloy shell to one of polycarbonate. It does feel cheaper, but a combination of ridges, dimples, and rubber inlays around the grip areas make this barely noticeable while shooting. Altogether, we're extremely impressed with the K-30 and find that while it falls just short of the K-5's handling overall, the lower weight makes up for the difference.

Handling Photo 2

Buttons & Dials

The K-30, despite its more angular body design, features a button layout that is very similar to past Pentax models. The K-30 features dual control dials—one on the grip and one on the back of the camera—along with a physical mode dial. The back of the camera has a four-way control pad with an OK button, with a customizable RAW/Fx button, Live View activation button, and info and menu buttons scattered around the body.

Buttons Photo 1

The buttons themselves are pretty easy to use, with a solid snap to the dials and an audible response indicating when a button has been pressed. The buttons don't have much more travel than you'd see on any other DSLR, and you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the K-30's buttons and those on non-weather resistant Pentax cameras. Compare that to the Olympus E-M5, which is weather-resistant but has rubber buttons with long travels and little response when they've been pressed.

It's not a perfect setup, but the K-30 offers the advantage of weather sealing without the drawback of poor haptic response.

Buttons Photo 2

Display(s)

The rear monitor of the Pentax K-30 is a 3-inch TFT LCD monitor with brightness adjustments. It's fixed to the body of the camera and features a resolution of 921,000 dots. It has a decent viewing angle, though it offers a wider range of viewing angles horizontally than vertically. We found it to be able to reproduce fine detail very well (great for manual focus adjustments with the camera's focus peaking feature), but it lacked the contrast and range that we'd like to see from a camera of this type.

Viewfinder

The viewfinder in the K-30 is a big upgrade over previous consumer-level DSLRs, on par with the Pentax K-5 and some of the other finders we've seen recently. It's large and bright, with the right amount of information readout available just below the frame. The autofocus points light up as red boxes in the finder when activated, which is nice to see, but can be a little bit distracting at times.

Image Stabilization

Stabilization was quite good on the Pentax K-30, showing significant improvement with the feature activated as opposed to leaving it off. We tested stabilization with a repeated shake pattern at 1/30th of a second. With stabilization off the average image was not sharp at all, but that was relatively improved with the stabilization active. When shooting handheld in limited light at that shutter speed you should see similar results.

Shooting Modes

The Pentax K-30 includes a little bit of something for everyone: automatic and scene modes for beginners, exposure and manual modes for control freaks, and user-savable custom modes for true personalization. The mode dial on the top offers access to all of these, putting a high level of control at your fingertips.

Manual Controls

Exposure can be manually controlled in one of five shooting modes right on the dial: bulb, manual exposure, sensitivity priority, shutter-priority, aperture-priority, and shutter/aperture-priority. The manual and bulb modes let you set the three aspects of exposure (shutter speed, aperture, and ISO) manually (manual mode allows for auto ISO, bulb mode does not). Shutter-priority and aperture-priority grant you control over ISO as well as the shutter speed and aperture, respectively.

Sensitivity priority is a little more rare, as only Pentax DSLRs offer it. In this mode you manually set the ISO speed, letting the camera take over the rest, though you can shift exposure with the control dials. This is no different from shooting in program auto mode and setting ISO manually in any other DSLR, except it occupies a dedicated spot on the dial. Shutter/aperture-priority is the exact opposite, forcing you to set aperture and shutter speed manually while ISO is set automatically.

Focus

Focus was a bit of a hang-up performance issue on the Pentax K-5, as it could really struggle under low light conditions. We found that indoor artificial lighting, especially. The camera would lock on, but it often took more than few seconds, even when using fast primes like the Pentax 35mm f/2.4, as we did in our time with the K-5. The K-30 is designed with a new autofocus system, but we put it to the test in low light to see if it offered much improvement.

We tested the K-30 under two types of lighting conditions, 40 lux and 10 lux, from six feet using a portrait focal length of 85mm (35mm equivalent). With a high contrast target we found it was able to lock on with the center point, but it took a little less than a full second at 40 lux (typical of what you'd see in a low lit bar or restaurant) with a stationary target. In the 10 lux test we found the K-30 took a little longer, and around 20% of the time it took a substantial amount of hunting before locking on.

We tested in both contrast detection AF modes and phase detection, finding the contrast AF slightly more accurate, though a hair slower. The contrast detection mode matched phase detection for speed with a stationary target at 40 lux, but it began to have real problems at 10 lux (as expected). In the more extreme low light setting, contrast AF simply failed to find focus around 20% of the time. In all our AF tests we allow the camera to use its AF assist light, though the K-30 only activated it around 1/3rd of the time and it made no difference in our tests both in terms of speed and accuracy.

Recording Options

The Pentax K-30 captures images at a maximum resolution of 16 megapixels. Images can be recorded in RAW (DNG) or JPEG, with JPEG compression available in best, better, and good settings. You can shoot in sRGB color profile by default, or opt for the expanded AdobeRGB if you want something more expansive.

Speed and Timing

The Pentax cameras we've reviewed in the past have hardly been what you'd call speed demons, though they've generally been on par with the market. The K-30 pushes this a bit, with a maximum listed speed of 6 frames per second, with a limited buffer. The camera can also shoot continuously in RAW, but the buffer is even more limited, with just 8 shots allowed.

All the various speed and burst options on the K-30 are accessed by pressing the right button on the rear control pad, with the little stopwatch icon. This lets you select any self-timer delay (two or 12 seconds allowed), remote shooting (normal or with a 3-second delay), and exposure bracketing (adjustable from a difference of 0.3 EV to +/- 3 EV). You can also select single shooting or either a high-speed burst with a limited buffer or a low-speed burst capturing more shots over a longer period of time.

We found that the Pentax K-30 lived up to its 6fps billing—with a small caveat. The camera was able to capture full-resolution JPEG shots with a difference of 0.167 seconds (which equates to roughly 6fps) on occasion, but they were interspersed with shots that were 0.2 seconds apart, or 5fps. Over a normal 5-shot burst, we found the speed generally averaged out to around 5.7fps, which is closer to Pentax's mark than not.

We did find that their claims of a 30-shot buffer when shooting JPEGs were on the money, though it depended on the conditions. In bright light we found it hit close to 30, but in normal indoor lighting it struggled a bit as it slowed considerably after just 15 shots. That's still more than most people would ever need, as fast action is usually over after a few seconds anyway. Also of note, the RAW burst speed was almost exactly the same as the JPEG, though it stopped hard after 8 shots, recording all those to the internal buffer before transferring them to the memory card.

The K-30 includes the usual complement of self-timer options, but it also includes interval shooting, multi-exposure shooting, and a front-facing remote. These features will hardly appeal to everyone, but if you want to try your hand at light painting, timelapse shooting, or simply trying to get complicated effects done in-camera, they will seriously come in handy. If you're just looking for easy group portraits, the self-timer is likely going to be enough, though the lack of a custom self-timer is a bit of a let down.

Focus Speed

Focus was a bit of a hang-up performance issue on the Pentax K-5, as it could really struggle under low light conditions. We found that indoor artificial lighting, especially. The camera would lock on, but it often took more than few seconds, even when using fast primes like the Pentax 35mm f/2.4, as we did in our time with the K-5. The K-30 is designed with a new autofocus system, but we put it to the test in low light to see if it offered much improvement.

We tested the K-30 under two types of lighting conditions, 40 lux and 10 lux, from six feet using a portrait focal length of 85mm (35mm equivalent). With a high contrast target we found it was able to lock on with the center point, but it took a little less than a full second at 40 lux (typical of what you'd see in a low lit bar or restaurant) with a stationary target. In the 10 lux test we found the K-30 took a little longer, and around 20% of the time it took a substantial amount of hunting before locking on.

We tested in both contrast detection AF modes and phase detection, finding the contrast AF slightly more accurate, though a hair slower. The contrast detection mode matched phase detection for speed with a stationary target at 40 lux, but it began to have real problems at 10 lux (as expected). In the more extreme low light setting, contrast AF simply failed to find focus around 20% of the time. In all our AF tests we allow the camera to use its AF assist light, though the K-30 only activated it around 1/3rd of the time and it made no difference in our tests both in terms of speed and accuracy.

Features

In addition to its obvious features as a durable camera, the Pentax K-30 includes the usual complement of in-camera editing options, digital filters, scene modes, interval timers, multi-exposure shooting, and accessory functionality that we've come to expect from Pentax cameras. It's a level of functionality that exists in the higher-end models from Sony, Canon, and Nikon, but rarely makes it down into the sub-$1000 DSLR market. Again, many of these things will be beyond the pale for beginners (except for filters and scene modes, which would be at home on any point-and-shoot), but they're great things to learn and grow with and do set the K-30 apart somewhat.

Recording Options

The Pentax K-30 can record video in full 1080/30p, 720/60p, and VGA resolution. The camera allows for framerates of 30, 25, and 24fps in all modes, with 60 and 50fps in 720p HD mode. The camera features three "quality levels" of video capture, indicated by stars in the menu. Find out how the performed in our video image quality test./r:link_to_content

Video Controls

In the camera's video controls tab in the menu you are able to set what exposure setting you want for video capture. The options include auto exposure (program), aperture-priority, and full manual. When in the full manual control mode you can set aperture, shutter speed, and ISO manually, though aperture is locked in once you begin recording. You can still adjust ISO and shutter speed while recording, however. When using either of the other auto-exposure video modes, you can still adjust brightness using the exposure compensation button and the rear control dial.

Auto Controls

When shooting in video mode you can also apply any of the camera's "custom image" color mode presets (along with saturation, hue, contrast, and sharpness control) or any of the digital filters. This lets you capture video with colors extracted, inverted color, or even a retro filter applied during capture. None of these seemed to slow down video capture below 30 frames per second.

Zoom

When shooting video the Pentax K-30 doesn't feature any sort of digital zoom, requiring the user to use the manual zoom ring on the lens in order to change the field of view. The weather resistant 18-135mm lens we tested with has a solid amount of resistance as you zoom in and out, but it also pushes air in and out of the lens, resulting in some excess noise that can be picked up by the microphone.

Focus

The Pentax K-30 offers manual and autofocus when shooting video. The continuous autofocus works the best for AF, as the single-shot AF is painfully slow and only activated when holding down the AE-L button on the back of the camera. The continuous AF isn't all that fast, either, but it's better than the alternative.

You can also just manually focus in video, of course, except that Pentax hasn't allowed for the user to use the ever-useful focus peaking feature in video mode. Focus peaking highlights high-contrast (in-focus) areas in a bright color, making it easy to quickly move between focal points manually. Why you can invert all the colors in your video but not use a more useful feature like focus peaking is beyond us.

Exposure Controls

The Pentax K-30 allows for full control over shutter speed, aperture, and ISO when shooting video, with only a few exceptions. Shutter speed control is limited to 1/30th of a second and faster (1/60th of a second when shooting at 60p and 50p), aperture must be set prior to recording, and ISO is limited to the standard scale of 100-3200, which can be set manually or automatically by the camera.

If you're relying on automatic exposure for video you can adjust the brightness as we stated above, though you're limited to a +/- 2-stop scale, instead of the 5-stop scale allowed for when taking stills with the K-30.

Audio Features

The built-in monaural mic on the Pentax K-30 can be turned off or set to one of five levels of sensitivity. Again, there's no external mic port and no stereo microphone on the camera, so the usability of recorded audio for anything other than quick clips and Youtube videos is going to be fairly limited.

Conclusion

The Pentax K-30 made a splash—quite literally—when it was first introduced as a fully weather-resistant, budget DSLR earlier this year. While the marketing made it seem like some brave new innovation by Pentax, the truth is they've been making hardy, weather-resistant DSLRs for years.

Like the well-received Pentax K-5 last year, the K-30 combines great handling, solid design, and the ability to take on extreme environments, including common camera-killers like dust and moisture. The K-30 is the first Pentax camera under $1000 to feature that resistance, but this level of durability is hardly new territory for Pentax.

Look past the weather sealing for a moment, and you'll find the Pentax K-30 offers photography chops that rival midrange cameras like Nikon's D5100 and the Canon Rebel T3i. With shot-to-shot times of up to 6 frames per second, a solid all-around 16-megapixel image sensor, and heaps of control and features, the Pentax K-30 offers a little something for everyone at its base kit price of $899.99.

Shooting with the K-30, we found its grip to be slightly more awkward than the midrange Pentax K-5, as its body is slightly thinner and lighter. The camera is fairly responsive, with plenty of manual control and buttons that still have the same snap and feel of other DSLRs despite the rubber seals keeping out the elements. Photos weren't as crisp as we'd like with the 18-135mm WR lens, but the autofocus is better in low light, colors were vibrant, and overall image quality was still quite good.

One group that is going to be sorely disappointed with the K-30, however, is video shooters. The K-30 can capture full 1080/30p HD video, but it lacks anything resembling high-end video capability. With no mic port, no HDMI output, and only a monaural mic built into the camera, there's little to justify using the K-30 to capture video except in extreme circumstances.

We're also less than impressed with the company's choice of lens for the base $899.99 kit. All the kits we've seen online for the K-30 offer the standard, non-weatherproof 18-55mm kit lens. When you've got a weather proof camera that can possibly let dust and moisture in at the most crucial point in the camera—through the lens mount—then you don't really have a weather-proof camera at all. Even the standard 18-55mm lens won't let a great deal of dust in, but Pentax makes an 18-55mm weather-sealed lensand there's no reason for it to not be included here.

The K-30 offers a great deal of control, as well, though there's a steep learning curve associate with it. The camera comes loaded with more scene modes, filters, and editing effects than most other DSLRs, but there's little in the way of in-camera hand holding. A beginner can definitely pick up and shoot with the K-30, but it's not as simple to operate as the Canon Rebel cameras, for example.

We'd recommend the K-30 to anyone looking for a sub-$1000 model to take to an environment where dust or moisture are a constant concern. Even if that's not an issue, the K-30 still handles great and offers performance similar to its peers from Canon and Nikon at this price point. It's not for absolute beginners and it's certainly not for video shooters, but the K-30—when paired with an appropriate lens—can go places other DSLRs at this price simply cannot.

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