Customer Review

39 of 47 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars two steps forward, one backwards, December 19, 2010
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This review is from: Pentax K-r 12.4 MP Digital SLR Camera with 3.0-Inch LCD and 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 and 55-300mm f/4-5.8 Lenses (Black) (Electronics)
Updated (09/2011): This camera has been a disaster. Aside from the front focusing issues - the ring at the back stopped working properly after 4-5 months. I sent it for repair and after a week - the ring again stopped working. I have gone through 1SLR, 2DSLR (including a Pentax K200d) and prosumer and many other digital cameras. This is by far the most defective hardware i have ever received. I wish i could just get rid of my entire Pentax gear at this point.

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Amazon was selling the K-r kit with 18-55 and 55-300 lenses for a really good price around Thanksgiving 2010. I had been wanting to upgrade from my k200d for sometime and jumped at the opportunity. 3 weeks with the camera have given me a good perspective on the pros/cons of this upgrade.

My primary motivation for upgrading was the rave reviews about low-light/high-iso performance of the K-r (and K-x). I chose the K-r over the K-x because the high fps and focus point in viewfinder features were well worth the minor difference in price. Here are the pros (+) and cons (-):

+ high ISO performance is excellent. I am shooting ISO1600 indoors all the time. Processed images have no noise at this setting. The performance is comparable (or better) than the k200d at ISO400
+ auto-focus is really fast as promised
+ burst shooting is really fast.
+ camera button controls are much better than k200d (direct iso/flash etc. buttons)
+ it's a much lighter camera (but that's a negative as well)
+ automatic white balance without flash is way better than the k200d (the latter had very warm overtones in tungsten for example - the K-r produces perfectly natural white balance for common indoor and outdoor lighting situations)
+ the supplied 55-300 kit lens is excellent. compared to my current 70-300 Tamron lens - it's much sharper on the long end.
+ live view is cool and allows shooting holding the camera at all sorts of angles. the screen is bright enough to be visible from just about any angle.

- focusing is fast but not as accurate. in particular my camera was front focusing and i found this to be a commonly reported problem on the web. i almost considered returning my camera before reading about the focus fine adjustment option. setting the camera for the maximum front-focus adjustment got rid of the problem for the most part (although it still doesn't seem perfect). not all lenses suffer equally badly - unfortunately my favorite lens (Tamron 28-75 f2.8) does.
- auto white balance with flash feels weird (it seems that it over-compensates for flash)
(updated: i found that (for my home shots) changing the white balance to 'warm white flourescent' in the raw editor (silkypix) largely fixed the issue).
- the supplied software is absolutely terrible. i process RAW images on the PC and the old software was simple but usable. The new one is a labyrinth of features - except the ones u really need (like not resetting the adjustment settings on every new image). Morever it crashes (i cannot even start it on one of my pcs)
- the new 18-55 lens feels cheap to the one that was supplied with previous models (plastic mount and no hood). i am planning to dispose off the new one and hang on to the old one.
- no weather sealing and body doesn't feel as substantial. the k200d used to sell at the same price point but had a magnesium alloy body and was weather sealed. the K-r is neither. The body is not as substantial to hold - in particular the battery compartment is smaller and the hand grip around the compartment doesn't feel as secure as before.
- doesn't take AA batteries by default. this is really lame - i will have to spend extra money to buy a special adapter. rechargable AA batteries are much better than proprietary ones.
- movie mode is pretty much useless because of lack of auto-focus. almost all DSLRs are like this - so it's not a ding against K-r - just dont buy it for taking videos. (Updated: i have found the video to be very jittery even slow moving everyday scenes. it's not clear why that is the case since 24fps is supposedly good enough)
- (Updated) one additional annoyance is that choosing the fully automatic 'A' mode does not reset all the customized settings - specifically the focus point and AF mode. This means i can't simply set the camera to 'A' mode and hand it off to a P&S photographer (since i always leave the camera at center point focus). That's really painful.

there are a lot of new image processing features in the K-r (HDR, shadow lighting, filters etc.) - but these can all be done in software and are not so valuable for me (may be for other users).

if i was shooting daylight/outdoors in good light - the K-r is actually a downgrade from the k200d. however - the gain in low light conditions are exemplary and outweigh the negatives (of which there are many). So it's a keeper for me. Considering that i would give a five star to the k200d - this is at least a four star. (Updated 09/2011 - note that i changed the review to one star because of the unreliability/defectiveness of my camera that was not fixed even after a trip to Pentax CRIS. Please see beginning of review)

For people looking to buy Pentax for the first time - one word of caution. Pentax seems to be falling further and further behind in the choice of lenses available on their platform. For example the Tamron 18-270 lens is still not available and the 18-250 lens has been taken off the market. There's no cheap 50mm prime lens available (the cheapest one is now $350). It's a rather sorry state of affairs and if i was not already invested in some Pentax mount lenses i would have definitely taken a much closer look at the Nikon D5000 that seems really close to the K-r in price/capabilities. At the same time - the supplied kit lenses are very good and if you don't plan to buy a lot of lenses - the Pentax is an excellent value (always more functionality and nicer build per $ than Canon/Nikon).
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Tracked by 1 customer

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Showing 1-10 of 13 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 1, 2011 7:25:53 AM PST
This review is right on. The k-r works great, and at the Thanksgiving price, it is an excellent deal. I haven't had any problems with the default focusing yet, and find it much faster than my other DSLR, an Olympus e-420 with 25mm f1:2.8. Although the k-r might not be as well built as the k200d, it feels much better than the Canon Rebel t2i or the Nikon d5000. The lens issue is a real pain though. Pentax absolutely needs to reduce the price in the 50mm prime/fast lens to be more competitive with the Canon/Nikon alternatives.

Posted on Jan 9, 2011 8:45:44 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 9, 2011 8:52:17 PM PST
Future Retro says:
While it's usually not ideal for unplanned home movies, <30 frames per second is anything but unacceptable. In fact most, if not all broadcast programming is filmed at a rate of 24 frames per second and has been the standard for professional video for a long time and is very smooth when using the correct shutter speed. Google "24p" if you do not believe me

Still thumbs up for a good review minus that one blanket statement

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2011 9:33:45 PM PST
i am happy to stand corrected - will edit the review to just report that i haven't found the video quality great. it's very jittery (and this isn't with fast moving stuff - just everyday scenes). i thought it was due to the low fps - perhaps it's because of something else - but i wouldn't know what.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 15, 2011 2:28:41 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 15, 2011 2:31:16 PM PST
Future Retro says:
It is most likely a result of the phenomenon called "rolling shutter"...it's become an epidemic because all DSLR's suffer from it (because of the CMOS sensors). I had 2 Kx's and they both suffered horribly from it, worse than I've ever seen from any video source and certainly much worse than my K7. While I wouldn't exactly call it "jittery" I would definitely say it ruins video quality and might be the problem here. Any focal length longer than 30mm needs to be on a tripod pretty much because moving the camera exaggerates the problem

I would suggest trying some video of slowly but constantly moving subjects while locked firmly on a tripod. One of my favorite shots I've ever taken was with a Kx on a tripod at 300mm, taking video of a tree swaying in the wind, it turned out to be very very cinematic

Posted on Jan 18, 2011 9:32:04 PM PST
vagrant10 says:
Your review was excellent and full of good info. But one thing I noticed... the k200d did not have a magnesium alloy body. According to DPreview, "The camera's build quality is excellent. Like its predecessor the K200D's body is made of re-enforced ABS plastic. Underneath the hull though you'll find a stainless steel chassis (image below). Unusually for an entry-level camera the K200D is also splash- and dust-proof." Not to say your comparisons between the k200d being more sturdy than the k-r aren't valid, but I just wanted to point this out.

One other thing... the availability of a cheap fast "50"... 50mm became the norm during film days because of the angle of view it provided. But the K-r uses a crop sensor so in order to get a similar field of view, a person should buy a 35mm lens (with the crop factor included, a 35mm lens would be a 52mm equivalent in film terms). Pentax makes an excellent DAL 35 2.4 for around 220 bucks. While it is not as fast as some other lenses, with the very good high ISO on the K-r, it's now an option to just boost the ISO rather than having to increase the aperture and not risk having too narrow depth of field.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 18, 2011 10:22:58 PM PST
@FutureRetro - very educational about the rolling shutter - that seems like the right explanation. still don't understand why we have a rolling shutter on a digital back!

@vagrant10 - thanks for pointing out the discrepancy - will fix the review. i think i remembered that it was a metal body and thought it was magnesium alloy. the 35mm lens looks interesting. i think both the price and 2.4 aperture make me hesitant (already have the Tamron 2.8 28-70). I think the Canon 50mm 1.8 is available for ~ 100 - and you are right 35mm is more general - but 50mm would work for me (at least in my case i would resort to a fast lens in a low light situation and just work around focal length by walking around). Anyway - the Tamron is pretty soft at 2.8 - if this 35mm is sharper at the wide end - would definitely love to try. thanks for tip.

Posted on Feb 24, 2011 3:45:35 AM PST
Zhou Yu says:
computer speed is important to how smooth video is viewed. k-r is positioned as a consumer product which is different from k200d.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 14, 2011 7:22:59 AM PDT
G. Rivas says:
The 35mm f/2.4 isn't especially sharp but it's worked fine for me in every low light situation. Honestly, I think I prefer to the focal length to the 50mm (I have an old manual focus f/2.0 that I play around with at times).

Posted on Oct 7, 2011 3:48:35 PM PDT
AndrewS says:
This is a very good review, but why the one star rating? "Considering that i would give a five star to the k200d - this is at least a four star"... what happened to the other three stars then? ;)

Posted on Oct 20, 2011 10:47:12 AM PDT
Melvin Yee says:
The camera sounds excellant for the money so why did you give it 1 star only? I like your review but the rating will scare the reader.
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