The K30 is the latest entry level DSLR from Pentax which succeeds the previous position held by the Pentax K-r. But how could Pentax improve on the K-r, which was already in itself a great value for money entry level camera? Surprisingly Pentax have pulled out all the stops to make sure they would have what many would consider the best entry level camera on the market.
The K-r already had class leading frame rate for an entry level SLR at 6 frames a second. Only Sony’s entry level SLT range is faster. The K30 maintains the same frame rate but it has improved on the K-r by having a much higher buffer. One of main complaints I has about the K-r when I tested it 2 years ago was that despite its great frame rate, it would only maintain that speed for a short time before the buffer would fill up and the camera would practically cease to shoot until the images had been fully written to the SD card. The K30 has an impressive 45 frame buffer in JPEG mode making the K30 more capable at maintaining its frame rate for longer over its predecessor. Shooting in RAW means the buffer reduces to only 9 frames but this isn’t as major issue as most high speed sports and wildlife is tends to be shot in JPEG anyway.
But the improvements don’t stop there. Pentax upped the game considerably by making the K30’s entire body fully weather sealed. Search as hard as you like but you will not find another entry level camera with weather sealing or the K30’s quality of build. In fact, to get those features in other brands of cameras it would be normal to have to pay twice the price of that of the K30 if not more so. Also, whereas the K-r only has a single E-dial, the K30 has two like that of the K5, its bigger sister, a feature usually only reserved for much higher end cameras. For landscape photographers, a breed of photographer historically very loyal to Pentax due to their reputation for strong build and weather sealing, the K30 also features a built in intervalometer for precise time lapse photography, another feature shared with the K5.
But that’s not all the K30 has adopted from its older, more professional level sibling. It also shares the same 16 megapixel sensor from the K5 that at the time of release was rated by DxO Labs as the 3rd best sensor ever produced in terms of image quality. Unsurprisingly the K30’s image quality is great. And as an owner of a K5 myself, a camera I bought largely based on its image quality, I can say first hand how good the image quality is. The K30 is understandably identical to the K5 in the image quality department and will leave few disappointed by the images it produces especially at high ISO’s as noise levels are beautifully maintained.
One of the more controversial areas of the K30 has to do with its styling. It is definitely not what you would call conventional in its design. Pentax went for the route less traveled by designing it to look very striking with a sharp angular overhang around the prism area. While there will be a few that will find the design not to their taste, it is a feature I think most will find refreshing and I think it is a very handsome looking camera. It is designed as a whole to be a rugged camera and the design reflects this with perforated rubber covers over the connection ports , the rear of the camera and on the hand grip which is made of high quality and very grippy rubber. Ergonomics wise it is very much like the K5, a camera which I have always had pleasure in holding as it is extremely comfortable. The hand grip is designed to contour around your hand and fingers, a feature many entry level cameras do not normally do well. The only complaint some would most likely have would come from male users with big hands. As is typical with Pentax, they make very compact DLSR’s and can be difficult to grasp for anyone who doesn’t have dainty hands.
The K30 thankfully features the same focus toggle switch as the K5 which has the settings: Manual Focus, Autofocus Single and Autofocus Continuous. The K-r only had the options of choosing between Manual or Auto. Previously Single or Continuous Autofocus had to be determined within the menu system before hand which used to be an unnecessarily long process. The K30 is more direct about a feature as important as this, especially considering how serious it is about shooting high speed subjects.
Another feature unique to Pentax is the ability to use AA batteries as well as the dedicated Lithium Ion battery supplied with the camera. This is particularly useful if you exhaust all your Lithium Ion batteries because in an emergency situation you can just run down to your nearest convenience store and purchase readily available AA batteries and you’re good to go again instantly. There is no need to go to a dedicated camera store just to buy extra batteries.
The most significant improvement that the K30 features is Pentax’s latest autofocus algorithms and processors. In photographic mode it is marginally quicker than even the K5 but the difference is most notable when shooting in either live view or video mode. Whereas all Pentax’s that have had live view or video up until now have shown sluggish phase detect autofocus, the K30’s phase detect autofocus is almost as quick as it’s contrast detect autofocus. Lenses have that same snappy feeling and sense of urgency that you would find when focusing normally and is a very noticeably big difference to previous models.
So to conclude, the K30 might not be the most affordable entry level camera out there, but it is a camera that is hard to be classified as entry level based on its build, performance, features and image quality. It is without doubt a big step above anything else in the same price range that any other camera brand has to offer and with that in mind, the K30 is amazing value for money. It shares many of the great features that make the pro level K5 great and even in some aspects it even surpasses the K5, most notably with the newer phase detect autofocus. For first time SLR buyers, the K30 is a hard camera to beat. It’s good enough to the point where it would even attract the attention of Pentax shooters looking to upgrade from their older entry level models but simply can’t afford Pentax’s more professional level models. For the money, there is little to fault.