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Pentax K-r DSLR Review

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Pentax's K-r DSLR

Pentax's K-r DSLR is up against some stiff competition in its region of the market.

Pentax

The Pentax K-r was designed to slot into the upper entry-level region of DSLRs. It is operationally very similar to Pentax's lovely entry-level camera -- the Pentax K-x -- but has a few key differences. In this region of the market, the K-r is up against some stiff competition, though.

Description

  • Resolution: 12.4 megapixel APS-C format, CMOS sensor
  • ISO: ISO 200 - 12800, 100 - 25600 when expanded
  • Focusing: 11 AF points
  • Movie Mode: 720p HD movie mode (24fps)
  • Flash: Built-in popup flash
  • LCD Screen: 3-inch LCD panel, 920,000 pixels
  • Battery: Four AA (lithium, alkaline, and rechargeable Ni-MH) batteries, or D-LI109 rechargeable Lithium Ion
  • Dimensions: 4.8 x 3.6 x 2.7 inches (122.5 x 91.5 x 67.5 mm)
  • Weight: With D-LI109 battery: 598 g (20.5 oz.), with AA batteries: approx 625 g (22 oz.)
  • Maximum Image Size: 4288 x 2848 pixels (RAW and JPEG)

Pros

  • Good colors and detail in base ISO JPEGs
  • In-camera RAW conversion
  • 6 fps (frames per second) continuous shooting

Cons

  • Outdated movie format
  • Shake reduction not as efficient as with other manufacturers
  • White balance is not that reliable in artificial light or overcast conditions

Controls and Body

The K-r's controls are practically identical to the K-x's. This means you receive direct access to useful controls such as ISO and white balance. The controls are still pretty tightly packed together, and you'll need smallish hands to operate them successfully! The K-r benefits from a larger LCD screen with much better resolution and an AF-assist light versus the K-x.

The K-r is made from plastic, with a rubberized grip for your hand. Like most Pentax DSLRs, it feels solid in the hand, but it is still a nice lightweight camera to carry around.

Autofocus and AF-Points

The biggest improvement on the K-r versus the K-x is that AF-points are finally visible in the viewfinder! The AF-points now are spread more widely across the frame, and nine of the 11-points are cross-type. AF selection is manual or automatic, or you can choose between one, five, or 11 active AF-points. 

Focus accuracy is good and accurate in normal light. It slows down a little in low light, and it can occasionally struggle to lock focus at all. However, it's no worse than any other camera in this class.

Pentax has significantly improved focusing in Live View, with far less hunting for focus. No manufacturer seems to have cracked AF in Live View, but the Pentax system is substantially better than any of its rivals.

Image Stabilization

Pentax is one of the manufacturers who provides anti-shake systems in its camera bodies, instead of in its lenses. This is definitely beneficial to those on a budget, as it means that lens costs can be kept down. 

However, shake reduction on Pentax cameras is not as efficient as with some other manufacturers, and it certainly won't provide you with anything more than a two stop advantage. 

Image Quality

Straight out of the box, the K-r produces lovely images at base ISO in both JPEG and RAW formats. While it's no longer the only DSLR in this class capable of producing good images at high ISOs, it still offers one of the best balances between noise reduction and retention of detail. You'll be left with grainy but detailed images.

Like many cameras, the K-r has a tendency to overexpose in high-contrast situations, which is unfortunately coupled with a distinct clipping of highlights. Shooting in RAW gives you very little extra detail, so you can't even avoid the problem this way.

The K-r suffers from rather unreliable auto white balance in artificial light, while also trying to put a blueish cast on shots taken in overcast conditions. Fortunately, manual override easily sorts out these problems.

In Conclusion

The Pentax K-r is a decent camera, which gives great image quality. However, it does look rather outdated compared to its competitors -- for example, the Canon EOS T3i offers higher resolution and better features, and the Nikon D3100 offers full HD Movie Mode at 1080p and a higher resolution (but lower specifications). It's not to say that the Pentax isn't worth buying -- it is -- but a drop in price, considering its slightly outdated setup, would do no harm at all.  

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