Cameras

Pentax K-r Digital Camera Review

The Pentax K-r may look like a stormtrooper, but this might be the DSLR you're looking for.

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Introduction

The Pentax K-r is an entry-level DSLR that is designed for those just getting into higher-end photography or those who have shot with another DSLR before. It features a stainless steel chassis beneath a mostly plastic body, a 12.4-megapixel CMOS sensor, and a 3-inch 921k-dot LCD display. It is designed to be simple to operate, but still perform at a level comparable to any camera at its sub-$700 price point. We found the K-r to offer enough great handling, very extensive menu options, and enough performance to make it worth a long look for anyone in the market for an entry-level DSLR. In typical Pentax fashion, the camera is available in a number of colors, including black, red, and classic white.

Front

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Back

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Sides

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Top

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Bottom

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In the Box

Box Photo

The Pentax K-r ships body-only or with 18-55mm kit lens and the following in-box:

  • Li-Ion battery D-LI109
  • battery charge cradle K-BC109
  • AC plug cord
  • USB cable I-USB7
  • strap O-ST53
  • hotshoe cover FK
  • eyecup FQ
  • body mount cover
  • software CD-ROM S-SW110

Lens & Sensor

The 18-55mm kit lens that comes with the K-r handles very nicely, with hard focus stops and a good measure of resistance on the focus ring. The zoom ring is made of rubber similar to the grip and it has a noticeably different texture from the focus ring. These small touches really stand out, though the performance of the lens was right around what we expect from an 18-55mm kit lens on an entry-level camera. It wasn't particularly sharp, and it suffered from multiple forms of chromatic aberration at smaller apertures. While not overly sharp in any one particular area, the camera didn't suffer from the dramatic sharpness falloff that plagues many kit lenses near the corners.

The K-r employs a 12.4-megapixel sensor that is similar to the one found in the older K-x, with what appears to be some minor tweaks and upgrades allowing for an expanded ISO range. Despite whatever changes Pentax may have made, however, we found noise performance to be right in line with what we saw with the K-x. The camera sports a typical APS-C sensor, with a sensor shift stabilization system to try and maintain sharpness when shooting by hand.

Viewfinder

The K-r's optical pentamirror viewfinder has approximately 96% coverage, with a Natural Bright Matte II focusing screen. The focusing screen on the K-r is replaceable, though even the most advanced users are going to have a difficult time with that procedure. Either way, the AF performance itself is not affected. As with several other K-series cameras, the points themselves are not constantly visible on the focusing screen, only lighting up red when activated. Direct comparisons to the pentaprism viewfinder on the K-5 did not reveal any differences in terms of brightness or sharpness, despite magnification/coverage differences.

Display(s)

The rear display on the K-r is a 3-inch fixed LCD. It has a resolution of 921k dots, which is beneficial for times when color grading in playback or making focus judgements on the LCD instead of through the viewfinder. There is a fair amount of information when in live view, though no more than is typical of other entry-level DSLRs, with options for different information layouts present in the live view menu.

Flash

The K-r features a built-in pop-up flash with a guide number of approximately 16. The flash can be raised automatically or by pressing the button on the rear left shoulder of the camera. As with most built-in flashes, this one's there mostly for emergencies, as it fires off a rather bright, harsh light. The K-r has a flash sync speed of 1/180s, a little slower than some of the competition, and also features a white balance setting tuned to built-in flash. If you need extra light, though, we'd recommend an external flash.

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Flash Photo

The camera's pop-up flash has average power, but a dedicated flash is a better option.

Connectivity

The K-r does lag behind some of the competition with regards to connectivity, featuring just a proprietary PC/AV jack on the side of the camera beneath a small rubber port. While the camera can shoot HD video, it does not feature HDMI out like some of its competition. There's also a hot shoe on top of the K-r, that can be used with external flashes and other accessories designed for it. The camera has the same 1/180 sync speed with an external flash and can also make use of wireless Pentax flashes.

Battery

The K-r can make use of either its included proprietary Lithium-ion battery or a set of four AA batteries. When you open up the battery compartment on the K-r, you might think you'll just be able to slot in some AA batteries and be on your way. Unfortunately, the use of AA batteries still requires an optional battery holder that will cost you. The battery life difference is quite remarkable, though, as Pentax reports the K-r gets a little more than double the battery life with Lithium AA batteries. We did notice a tendency for the proprietary rechargeable to register as "depleted" one minute and work fine after a few moments, though. This seemed to happen most frequently after a long burst of images.

Battery Photo

The K-r can make use of either AA batteries (with an adapter) or the included Lithium-ion battery.

Memory

The Pentax K-r has no internal memory to speak of, and it is compatible with SD/SDHC memory cards (as well as SDXC via a firmware update). The camera can fire without a memory card, so you'll want to check ahead of time. When using a class 10 SDHC card, we found the camera able to register around 30 shots on its buffer before running into delays. Sometimes these delays required the camera to completely stop firing, other times it merely slowed the shot rate to about three quick frames every other second.

Memory Photo

The K-r has a side-loading SD/SDHC card slot, for easily swapping cards on the fly.

Sharpness

The 18-55mm kit lens we tested with the K-r was not particularly sharp across the entire aperture range, but Pentax lenses do offer a minimum aperture of f/40, resulting in slightly softer images. As with most kit lenses, the results were sharpest in the middle of the aperture range, especially between f/8 and f/13. There is not much sharpness falloff as you approach the edges of the lens, which results in uniform image quality regardless of the composition. More on how we test sharpness.

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Image Stabilization

The K-r features a sensor-shift stabilization system that was very effective overall in our testing. It offered around a 25% improvement in sharpness across the board. The K-r offered improvement at every shutter speed we tested slower than 1/500 of a second. At that fast of a shutter speed, stabilization systems tend to overcorrect by the time the next shot is fired, resulting in a blurred image at both low and high shake testing.

Color

The K-r's color modes were more extreme than we've come to expect from other cameras, with its natural mode offering the most accurate color rendition. Natural had a measured color error of around 2.9, while most of the other modes had errors greater than four. The natural mode was held back by a severe color error in the yellow patches, though this is fairly typical as digital cameras tend to oversaturate yellows. Across the color gamut, the natural mode produced a spot-on saturation level that was 99.7% of the ideal. More on how we test color.

The other color modes in the K-r were less accurate, but intentionally so. The modes ranged from muted to "reversal," which offers much larger color errors due to more extreme saturation levels. We conducted our testing in natural because it was the most accurate mode, but we found portrait quite pleasing, as it offered decent color accuracy and good saturation.

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.

The K-r produced more accurate colors than the K-x, though it fell just behind the other cameras in our comparison group. We found it to be as good as the other entry-level cameras that we have tested, including options from Nikon, Panasonic, and Sony.

Color Modes

The color modes in the K-r sit in the "Custom Image" menu option, and can be quickly accessed by either the quick INFO menu, or if assigned to the programmable green button on the top of the camera. There are nine modes in total, including: bright, natural, portrait, landscape, vibrant, muted, bleach bypass, reversal film, and monochrome. Each mode can be tweaked extensively, with options for sharpness, contrast, hue, brightness, and/or tone. Most modes allow most or all of these settings to be adjusted, with an RGBCMY color wheel on the screen to better visualize the overall shift being applied.

White Balance

How a camera performs under the ultra-warm orange glow of incandescent light often swings this test in one way or another. In the K-r's case, its performance under this lighting condition was both its best and worst quality. While the camera's automatic white balance setting handled the indoor light poorly, its custom setting diagnosed it as accurately as just about any camera we've seen. While the camera performed well in other lighting condtions, it was this test that really determined where it placed among the competition.

Automatic White Balance ()

When relying on the automatic white balance, we found that daytime lighting conditions ended up being the K-r's best friend, as it had a color error of less than 90 kelvins—practically on the money. Under compact white fluorescent light, it was off by more than 580 kelvins, however. Under tungsten light, that error skyrocketed to more than 2000 kelvins, though the K-r does seem to favor keeping warmth in tungsten light specification, with a custom option to turn that off. That option only results in minimal improvement, though.

Custom White Balance ()

When taking the time to record a custom white balance, there understandably should be less tolerance for error from the user. We found that, even by that higher standard, the K-r performed very well. Under daylight and compact white fluorescent conditions the K-r produced a color error of between 200 and 260 kelvins on average—worse than the rest of the comparison group, but generally acceptable despite the extra effort required. Under tungsten light, that error dropped to less than 100, better than most cameras we've seen.

The Pentax K-r had an uncommonly accurate performance when setting a custom white balance under tungsten lighting conditions. It was so accurate that it made up for the fact that it's custom setting was less accurate under daylight and white fluorescent lighting than its competition. As a result, it had the highest scoring custom white balance, though we would suggest it's only worth the effort when time is ample or under the warmest lighting conditions. When looking at the camera's overall accuracy, especially its somewhat mediocre automatic white balance accuracy, it fell slightly behind the rest of the group.

White Balance Options

The Pentax K-r offers immediate access to the white balance settings with the rear d-pad. From there, users can select one of several presets or set a custom white balance. There is no option to set a specific kelvin temperature. When setting a custom white balance, you just have to have something white in the frame and can then move the cursor to select an area with white in it, rather than having to necessarily fill the entire frame.

Long Exposure

Noise did not rise at all during long exposure testing in shots ranging from one second to as long as thirty. Long exposure noise reduction seemed to have little impact on the results at all, with all shots showing noise totals ranging from 0.73% noise to 0.85% More on how we test long exposure.

Noise Reduction

The K-r offers three noise reduction settings: low, medium, high. The camera also allows you to turn noise reduction completely off. Unlike some cameras, the K-r doesn't go overboard with noise reduction, even when it is turned up to the highest setting, but it does apply it even at ISO 100. Some cameras only apply it at levels above 800, but we detected less noise across the board. At ISO 6400, the different levels really begin to separate, with low returning 2.62%, medium returning 2.10%, and high keeping just 1.53% noise. We'd recommend at least turning NR to low, but medium and high don't smear away that much detail and high is a necessity if shooting at anything higher than 6400 ISO. More on how we test noise.

One of the big changes touted by the K-r over the K-x was its expanded ISO range. While it’s true the K-r can shoot at ISO 25600, it does so at the expense of a great deal of noise. We found that when shooting at that speed, 5% of the image was noise. Typically, we don’t like to see higher than 2% noise, so this mode is only there for emergencies. Otherwise, the K-r returned results typical of our comparison group with just 0.53% noise at ISO 100, rising to 2.68% at ISO 6400. That total dropped to just 2% at ISO 12800 with noise reduction supposedly off, but we believe there’s some kicking in anyway though there’s little detail lost.

The K-r had more noise than most of our comparison cameras overall, but it was only becoming a problem at ISO speeds higher than 3200. Other than that, the performances were very similar. Noise reduction was more aggressive on some of our comparison models, especially the Panasonic G3 and its Micro Four Thirds sensor. With noise reduction completely off, the K-r had more noise than the other APS-C cameras, beaten handily by the Nikon D5100 and Canon T3i. The K-r did show some improvement over the K-x, but they use much of the same equipment, so the biggest differences were really only in terms of noise reduction performance.

ISO Options

The Pentax K-r offers a maximum ISO range of 100-25600, though only 200-12800 when the camera's ISO speed is set to auto. Why the camera doesn't make use of ISO 100 in auto, we can't guess. We would recommend only using ISO 12800 and 25600 when necessary, with noise reduction turned to the highest setting. The camera does allow users to set a maximum ISO speed in automatic lower than 12800, if they desire.

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Dynamic Range

The Pentax K-r offered decent dynamic range results, able to maintain nearly four stops of range (calculated using f-stop noise in Imatest) through ISO 3200. Range does not precipitously fall off after that, though it falls between two and three stops for ISO 6400 and 12800. At the camera's minimum default ISO of 200, the camera pushes just above seven stops. More on how we test dynamic range.

The K-r falls around the middle of our comparison group, able to preserve more dynamic range than the Panasonic G3, but less than the other APS-C sensor cameras in our group, including the older K-x. We'd have liked to have seen slightly better results out of the K-r, but it's worth mentioning we don't test with dynamic range expansion activated.

Noise Reduction

The K-r offers three noise reduction settings: low, medium, high. The camera also allows you to turn noise reduction completely off. Unlike some cameras, the K-r doesn't go overboard with noise reduction, even when it is turned up to the highest setting, but it does apply it even at ISO 100. Some cameras only apply it at levels above 800, but we detected less noise across the board. At ISO 6400, the different levels really begin to separate, with low returning 2.62%, medium returning 2.10%, and high keeping just 1.53% noise. We'd recommend at least turning NR to low, but medium and high don't smear away that much detail and high is a necessity if shooting at anything higher than 6400 ISO. More on how we test noise.

ISO Options

The Pentax K-r offers a maximum ISO range of 100-25600, though only 200-12800 when the camera's ISO speed is set to auto. Why the camera doesn't make use of ISO 100 in auto, we can't guess. We would recommend only using ISO 12800 and 25600 when necessary, with noise reduction turned to the highest setting. The camera does allow users to set a maximum ISO speed in automatic lower than 12800, if they desire.

Focus Performance

The K-r features an 11-point phase detection autofocus system with nine cross-type sensors. When in live view, autofocus can still take advantage of phase detection, as described above. The autofocus motor on the K-r is brutally loud compared to other cameras, and a little jarring to hear at first. The motor is clearly audible on the internal microphone when recording video, and tends to hunt when in live view or during video recording. When making use of the phase-detection autofocus, however, focus is as snappy as one expects from an SLR, though still quite loud.

Long Exposure

Noise did not rise at all during long exposure testing in shots ranging from one second to as long as thirty. Long exposure noise reduction seemed to have little impact on the results at all, with all shots showing noise totals ranging from 0.73% noise to 0.85% More on how we test long exposure.

Video: Low Light Sensitivity

How much light does a camera need to produce a usable image? That is the question we ask with our low light sensitivity test. For the Pentax K-r, the answer was very little light, or around 6 lux. This amount of light enabled the camera to record a video that was suitable for broadcast television (50 IRE on a waveform monitor). This is an excellent score that would best most consumer camcorders these days, except for some of the new Canon models (like the HF G10 or HF M41).

It's also a lot less light than the Pentax K-x needed in our testing last year (it needed 23 lux to reach the same levels). The Canon T3i and Nikon D5100 both also did a very good job in this test (the Canon needed a bit more light, while the Nikon needed a bit less than the K-r).

Chromatic Aberration

The main issue we saw with the K-r came in the form of blue-green fringing, which grew more apparent toward the outer edges of the frame. It showed up most on the left side of high-contrast areas, with the right side of high contrast areas suffering from purple fringing that is generally the result of more lateral chromatic aberration. This was apparent at most apertures and focal lengths with the 18-55mm kit lens. The K-r does feature an in-camera option to reduce this type of color fringing, but we found it barely effective in real-life examples.

Distortion

There's a fair amount of distortion at the wide angle of the 18-55mm kit lens, with about 1.97% barrel distortion measured at 18mm. At the midpoint and telephoto end of the lens, the resulting images showed a pincushion distortion, though we measured less than 0.75% in our tests.

Motion

In our testing, the motion video captured by the K-r looked very smooth. There was some blur in the pinwheels and some artifacting as well, but the moving images didn't appear choppy. That's the bottom line: the camera didn't produce the crispest or sharpest video, but it was smooth for the most part. More on how CamcorderInfo tests motion.

Video Sharpness

The Pentax K-r does not record Full HD at a 1920 x 1080 resolution. It does, however, record 1280 x 720 video, which is still considered HD (it's just lower res than Full HD). The camera didn't put up the best numbers in our sharpness test, particularly when compared to the Canon T3i and Nikon D5100—both of which record 1080p video. Overall, the K-r measured a horizontal and vertical sharpness of 550 lw/ph each. Even with a 720p record mode we expected the K-r to put up better numbers than this. This tells us that most consumer camcorders, particularly mid-range or high-end ones, will get you much sharper video than the K-r. More on how CamcorderInfo tests video sharpness.

Low Light Sensitivity

How much light does a camera need to produce a usable image? That is the question we ask with our low light sensitivity test. For the Pentax K-r, the answer was very little light, or around 6 lux. This amount of light enabled the camera to record a video that was suitable for broadcast television (50 IRE on a waveform monitor). This is an excellent score that would best most consumer camcorders these days, except for some of the new Canon models (like the HF G10 or HF M41).

It's also a lot less light than the Pentax K-x needed in our testing last year (it needed 23 lux to reach the same levels). The Canon T3i and Nikon D5100 both also did a very good job in this test (the Canon needed a bit more light, while the Nikon needed a bit less than the K-r).

Buttons & Dials

The buttons on the K-r are fairly low profile, but offer good travel and each offer a nice, audible click when depressed. The control wheel on the rear of the camera is well-weighted and firm enough for fine control, while not offering so much resistance that drastic swings can't be made. The mode dial does not feature a lock, but it also offers a nice click with each turn.

Effects, Filters, and Scene Modes

The K-r offers a great deal of customization as far as the application of color profiles and digital filters, with the option to cross-process with multiple color modes and even save favorite versions of those. If you're a fan of endlessly tweaking color in post-processing or smartphone applications like Hipstamatic, you'll likely find the K-r offers you the options you're looking for in-camera.

The menus on the K-r are organized into tabs, much the way Canon menus are, with no vertical scrolling required. There are four tabs for shooting, playback, system, and custom settings. Each tab has four pages, except playback, which only has one. There is also a general overview menu that can be brought up by pressing the INFO key whenever shooting without live view activated. This allows quick access to most of the camera's most crucial settings, without the need to enter the full menu and dig for them.

Instruction Manual

Both the printed manual and the .pdf version are very in-depth, offering more than 300 pages of information on the K-r. The manual seems intimidating at first, as Pentax crams a lot of technical information about the camera into the first 40 pages or so before focusing on the basics of shooting with the camera. In the camera itself there isn't much information provided, as the INFO button does not explain features as it does on some cameras, but rather shows the current shooting information.

Handling

The K-r handles very comfortably in the hand, with a hard polymer plastic shell with a fine rubber grip on the front of the camera. The rubber extends across the face of the camera, including to the side opposite the grip. It provides a little extra grip while holding the camera in two hands, though we can see little practical purpose for it beyond aesthetics. The 18-55mm kit lens extends both the style and the design of the body, though like most entry-level kit lenses it's a mostly plastic affair.

Handling Photo 1

The K-r has a phenomenal grip for an entry-level camera, with a nice slot for the right hand's middle finger.

The Pentax K-r is a fairly standard design for a DSLR and there are few surprises here. Like other Pentax cameras, the high note here is the grip, which is about as well-designed as grips get on a DSLR. The rubber is a good thickness, with a perfectly ergonomic slot for the middle finger to slot into. If you opt for a color version of the K-r, the plastic seems to have a little more sheen than the stock black version. The only thing that seems to be missing is a rubber patch where the thumb rests on the rear of the camera.

Handling Photo 2

The K-r has enough control on the right to be shot single-handedly, but a second hand adds more support and can manipulate the lens.

Buttons & Dials

The buttons on the K-r are fairly low profile, but offer good travel and each offer a nice, audible click when depressed. The control wheel on the rear of the camera is well-weighted and firm enough for fine control, while not offering so much resistance that drastic swings can't be made. The mode dial does not feature a lock, but it also offers a nice click with each turn.

Buttons Photo 1

The K-r does not feature the neat depth-of-field preview lever we saw on the K-5, but has a programmable green button instead.

The most frustrating thing about the K-r's design is the lack of a button to engage AF point selection. Instead, users have to hold the OK button in order to bring up the AF grid on the rear LCD. The four buttons around the OK button are then used to navigate and select the desired point. Unfortunately, you must hold OK again to return functionality to those buttons, even after a shot has been taken. It's a frustrating design choice that could have been easily alleviated with either a rear control dial or a dedicated button to engage AF point selection.

Buttons Photo 2

The rear controls are simply laid out and easy for beginners to adjust to.

Display(s)

The rear display on the K-r is a 3-inch fixed LCD. It has a resolution of 921k dots, which is beneficial for times when color grading in playback or making focus judgements on the LCD instead of through the viewfinder. There is a fair amount of information when in live view, though no more than is typical of other entry-level DSLRs, with options for different information layouts present in the live view menu.

Viewfinder

The K-r's optical pentamirror viewfinder has approximately 96% coverage, with a Natural Bright Matte II focusing screen. The focusing screen on the K-r is replaceable, though even the most advanced users are going to have a difficult time with that procedure. Either way, the AF performance itself is not affected. As with several other K-series cameras, the points themselves are not constantly visible on the focusing screen, only lighting up red when activated. Direct comparisons to the pentaprism viewfinder on the K-5 did not reveal any differences in terms of brightness or sharpness, despite magnification/coverage differences.

Image Stabilization

The K-r features a sensor-shift stabilization system that was very effective overall in our testing. It offered around a 25% improvement in sharpness across the board. The K-r offered improvement at every shutter speed we tested slower than 1/500 of a second. At that fast of a shutter speed, stabilization systems tend to overcorrect by the time the next shot is fired, resulting in a blurred image at both low and high shake testing.

Shooting Modes

The K-r has a traditional mode dial on the top of the camera, with the following modes: manual, aperture-priority, shutter-priority, sensitivity-priority, program auto, auto picture, scene, bulb, movie, as well as the typical portrait, landscape, macro, action, night scene portrait, and auto without flash modes. The scene mode offers additional modes like night scene, surf & snow, food, sunset, kids, pet, candlelight, museum, stage lighting, and night scene HDR. It's a good mix of modes overall, and just about all of them can be tweaked with the different "custom image" filters.

Focus

The K-r features an 11-point phase detection autofocus system with nine cross-type sensors. When in live view, autofocus can still take advantage of phase detection, as described above. The autofocus motor on the K-r is brutally loud compared to other cameras, and a little jarring to hear at first. The motor is clearly audible on the internal microphone when recording video, and tends to hunt when in live view or during video recording. When making use of the phase-detection autofocus, however, focus is as snappy as one expects from an SLR, though still quite loud.

The K-r features a digital zoom during live view that can extend up to 10x to aid in manual focusing. The 921k-dot LCD screen really comes in handy here, as it allows for much more accurate manual focus judgement. The 18-55mm kit lens has a focus ring that is very easy to grip, with pronounced ridges and a different tactile feel from the zoom ring, for making adjustments while composing in the viewfinder.

Recording Options

The Pentax K-r offers what is essentially just a 3:2 aspect ratio, without many size options. The camera can shoot in RAW, JPEG, or RAW+JPEG, with JPEG quality described in quality from one to three stars. It's uncommon to see so few picture size ratio options, even among entry-level cameras, but those other ratios do tend to be cropped options anyway.

Other Controls

Green Button

The K-r features just one programmable function button, its "Green Button" located on the top of the camera. It, unsurprisingly, has a green dot in the middle of it and is placed conveniently just behind the shutter release button. It can assume a number of functions, including: depth of field preview (optical or digital), color mode adjust, digital filter selection, cross processing selection, and one-push file format to switch between RAW, RAW+, and JPEG shooting. The button can also be set simply to be the "Green Button," which works in program and manual shooting modes to return to quickly set the camera's exposure automatically, regardless of what exposure adjustments have been made.

Sensitivity Priority

The Sensitivity Priority mode on the mode dial is a Pentax exclusive, and allows the user to specify a specific ISO speed for their shot, allowing the camera to automatically expose the scene based on that setting. It's a good idea for very specific types of shots, but ISO speed is specifiable in shutter and aperture priority mode as well, with both of those settings have a much more profound impact on the final image than ISO speed.

Speed and Timing

The K-r is one of the fastest shooting entry-level cameras on the market, with Pentax claiming a shot-to-shot time of six frames per second. The camera's shutter is brutally loud, however, so firing off many shots in succession will certainly make your presence obvious, whether you're taking shots of wildlife, at a soccer game, or in a quiet recital hall. It's something to keep in mind and it's a big tradeoff, depending on how you intend to use this camera.

The K-r offers continuous shooting at both high and low speeds, with the low speed shooting at just around 2.5 frames per second, but without as much of a buffer restriction. The camera also has single frame shooting, self-timer, and remote control shooting with or without a three-second delay. Exposure bracketing can also be found in the drive mode menu, the order of which can be set in the custom menu.

The K-r shoots at up to 5.5 frames per second, with a buffer of around 30 shots with a class 10 SDHC memory card. This is a little less than the 6fps claimed by Pentax, but it's still above the typical 3-4fps seen in other entry-level DSLRs. We found the buffer was limited down to 15-20 shots with some slower class 10 cards, so there is some writing issues there. If the camera exhausts its buffer, the camera sometimes won't be available to shoot until all the shots have been recorded. Other times, we found it was able to continue shooting, but only in intermittent three-shot bursts.

The K-r features self-timer options of just two and twelve seconds, with an option for a three-second delay when using a remote control. The camera also comes with a built-in interval shooting mode as well as a multiple exposure mode. Users can make use of either of these modes to easily take short time-lapse shots, which is generally a little more sophisticated than what most DSLRs at this price point can do.

Focus Speed

The K-r features an 11-point phase detection autofocus system with nine cross-type sensors. When in live view, autofocus can still take advantage of phase detection, as described above. The autofocus motor on the K-r is brutally loud compared to other cameras, and a little jarring to hear at first. The motor is clearly audible on the internal microphone when recording video, and tends to hunt when in live view or during video recording. When making use of the phase-detection autofocus, however, focus is as snappy as one expects from an SLR, though still quite loud.

The K-r features a digital zoom during live view that can extend up to 10x to aid in manual focusing. The 921k-dot LCD screen really comes in handy here, as it allows for much more accurate manual focus judgement. The 18-55mm kit lens has a focus ring that is very easy to grip, with pronounced ridges and a different tactile feel from the zoom ring, for making adjustments while composing in the viewfinder.

Effects, Filters, and Scene Modes

The K-r offers a great deal of customization as far as the application of color profiles and digital filters, with the option to cross-process with multiple color modes and even save favorite versions of those. If you're a fan of endlessly tweaking color in post-processing or smartphone applications like Hipstamatic, you'll likely find the K-r offers you the options you're looking for in-camera.

Recording Options

The Pentax K-r uses the common, but somewhat outdated Motion JPEG (MJPEG) compression system. MJPEG is good for sharing videos on the internet, as the format is accepted by nearly all media players, but it lacks the quality and robustness of AVCHD (which is used on most camcorders these days).

The camera also tops out with a 1280 x 720 video recording resolution and it records all video with a 25p frame rate. This 25p frame rate is rather strange, as that is the standard frame rate in countries that use the PAL video signal (24p would be the NTSC equivalent). The difference between 24p and 25p is not noticeable by the human eye, but you may run into some issues with editing software that can't work with 25p clips. In fact, we had that exact problem with the K-r. We found that a slightly outdated version of QuickTime Player was unable to playback the video clips recorded with the K-r. The newest version of the software worked fine, however.

In addition to the 720p HD video mode, the K-r has a 640 x 480 record mode that captures standard definition footage (with a 25p frame rate). Both video resolution settings offer three quality options: best, better, and good. Find out how the performed in our video image quality test./r:link_to_content

Video Controls

The Pentax K-r has a dedicated video mode button. This is a useful addition, as it eliminates much of the confusion around video recording in other modes. If you want to record video, you simple switch the mode dial to the movie mode (it's represented by an icon of an old-fashioned, reel-to-reel movie camera). When you're in movie mode and you press the menu button, the K-r conveniently brings you right to the movie mode options. It also grays out the options in the rest of the menu that aren't applicable to recording video (another great way to reduce confusion).

Auto Controls

There's no continual autofocus on the Pentax K-r, although that's a common feature for video-capable DSLRs to lack. To use autofocus, you must press the shutter button down half-way before you start recording. Once recording begins that method won't work anymore, though, so be careful. Auto exposure functions well during recording, and we found the adjustments made by the K-r to be smooth and accurate.

Focus

As we said previously, the K-r won't do an autofocus during video recording. That leaves you with using manual focus ring on the lens to control focus during shooting. Luckily, the focus ring is large, well-designed, and has the perfect amount of friction for obtaining a tight, crisp focus. We found it was easy to use during video recording, and it was completely noise-free (unlike the slow, clunky autofocus feature).

Exposure Controls

Exposure compensation and aperture can both be adjusted on the K-r, but only exposure can be set during recording. Aperture can be fixed before recording begins, but once you start capturing a video clip the aperture is locked in place. This is good for playing around with depth of field on a shot you're setting up, but it's a pain if you want to continue to adjust depth of field while you're actually recording video.

Shutter speed control is all auto in video mode, as is ISO control. Exposure compensation, which can be set during recording (or prior to), has a range of adjustment from -2 to +2 EV increments.

Other Controls

There's a stabilization feature on the camera that works in video mode, and you can set a manual white balance for your movie recording (choosing from the white balance presets is also an option). The color and image controls that work in photo mode, including the cross processing features, are all accessible in video mode as well.

Audio Features

The K-r has a built-in monaural microphone that is represented by a tiny dot on the front of the camera. When sifting through the menu system you won't find any advanced audio controls, but you will see an option to turn off audio recording for videos entirely.

Overview

The Pentax K-r certainly breaks up the long march of black-bodied entry-level DSLRs with its collection of bright bodies, innovative features, and breadth of controls. We found its image quality and performance was solid, but never really standing above its peers that we compared it to. Those looking for a steady performer with good handling and in-depth controls will enjoy the K-r, as it offers great value for its price point.

Performance

The Pentax K-r's performance doesn't stand out in any single way over any of the competing cameras, for better or worse. It doesn't have a single category where it soundly outperforms anything we put it up against, nor is it really well beaten in any of the performance categories. The K-r's biggest asset comes in other aspects of its abilities as a camera, namely its breadth of controls and digital effects. Overall, its performance was average, with decent noise results beneath ISO 12800, improved color accuracy over the K-x, good dynamic range results at low ISO speeds, and sub-par resolution results with the 18-55mm kit lens.

Video

The Pentax K-r put up some good numbers in our video performance testing, but the bottom line is there are plenty of superior DSLRs on the market for recording video. The K-r's limited control options (no autofocus) and lack of a Full HD record mode were its biggest downsides, as well as the fact that Pentax insisted on using the outdated Motion JPEG compression system for its video record mode.

Hardware

The Pentax lens mount is actually one of the most complete systems on the market, with a great deal of legacy lenses and good compatibility with the K-r. Many of the lenses are also somewhat less expensive than their counterparts in other lens systems. The camera itself features a steel chassis and it is durable despite its smooth plastic shell. The only real quirk with the camera is it's just so darn loud. The focus motor and shutter release are both louder than most other DSLRs, so this is not the camera to get if you're taking photos in a quiet recital hall or similar venue.

Handling

We've always enjoyed the way Pentax cameras handle, and the K-r is no different. While the smooth plastic of the body isn't the most comfortable to hold, the rubber used for the grip is very nice and extends across the front of the camera. The grip itself naturally flows with the shape of the hand, and the camera is just substantial enough to feel stable in the hand. The lack of an articulated LCD does place it behind some of its competitors, especially when shooting video, but without a mic input, full HD video, or HDMI output, the K-r really isn't the first choice for that kind of thing.

Controls

The K-r offers a number of in-menu controls that other entry level cameras lack, such as the ability to apply digital filters in playback, interval shooting, in-camera HDR, and in-depth tweaking and cross-processing of the camera's many filters and color modes. The camera offers a solid amount of automatic and scene modes for the beginning user, as well. There isn't much for menu customization, but the camera does sport a customizable green button just behind the shutter release that can assume a number of functions. There's a lack of video control that places it behind some of our comparison models, but generally the K-r is a camera any beginning or intermediate user can get the best out of with ease.

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