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Not bad... but not a suitable upgrade to the K-x
on October 15, 2011
I'll cut right to the chase on this one. There are several issues that this camera has which make it an iffy choice for the newbie just getting their first DSLR. First off, the camera significantly overexposes high contrast scenes which plays a role in the second major issue which is clipped/burned out highlights. And I can tell you that this problem is way worse than competing Nikon and Canon models. IF you are willing to dial in some negative exposure and utilize the highlight correction option (which only fixes the problem to a point) you will get better results. And shooting RAW doesn't give you much latitude either. To be fair, the K-x had some issues along these lines too, but they seem to be worse in the K-r. Also the K-r seems to be applying more noise reduction in this camera over the K-x which takes a bite out of fine detail. The default settings also produce images that are flat and lacking in contrast. Some intervention in the image style can fix that issue, but why should I have to go through all that trouble when cameras like the T3 and the D3200 can produce much more acceptable results by just using the regular manual settings (shutter speed, aperture, and ISO) and don't require a trip into the menu system. Overall, I don't particularly like the K-r's output. It does have good high ISO performance, I will say that. But my advice is to get a used K-x or wait for the K-30.
Video mode is okay. And the video looks okay. But it is nothing to write home about. You really don't get a lot options in video mode. If you are looking for a sub-$1,000 DSLR that can double-duty as a stills and video camera, the Canon Rebel T2i or T3i is your best bet.
The camera feels nicely made and is very solid. It is a rather small DSLR but it is very comfortable to hold in the hands. There aren't a lot of direct access buttons on the camera, but that is very typical for this class of camera. However, changing most settings is a breeze on this camera. The menu is very similar to Canon's in how it is laid out. Including a straight-forward menu with the most commonly accessed shooting settings.
The LCD is much improved over the K-x and is more viewable in direct sunlight. The viewfinder is the same viewfinder found on the K-x, and it was a very decent viewfinder, so I have no complaints about the K-r's viewfinder. The camera also features a hybrid battery bay which allows the use of the supplied lithium ion battery, or (with a special adaptor) 4 AA batteries. The one relative let down is that I think that the battery life with the supplied Lithium Ion battery is mediocre. So buying the extra adaptor so you can use AAs in the camera is highly reccomended.
The camera's performance is pretty solid. It has nice start-up and shot-to-shot times. It can shoot 6fps and has a pretty decent buffer, so if you are wanting a good budget action shooter, this is an excellent choice. The autofocus speed is pretty good even with the kit lenses. However, the autofocusing with the kit lens is somewhat loud and it sort of sounds like a power tool. The camera is also loud when snapping a photo. So if quietness and discreetness in a camera is a major consideration for you I would probably stay away from this one. However, I personally like the sounds this camera makes because it has a solid, old-school sound to it when it takes a picture (if that makes any sense).
For what they are, the kit lenses are not bad. But they are not the sharpest lenses in the world. But compared to the kit lenses supplied by some other manufacturers, they are not bad. Fortunately there are a number of nice kit lens upgrades in the $300-$500 range which will provide a noticeable upgrade in image quality over the kit lenses.
The K-r has some important improvements over the K-x which improve on its photographic usability. Better burst shooting, better LCD on back, the hybrid battery bay and improvements to the Autofocus system. But as I mentioned before, the image quality has too many flaws by default to reccommend to the first time DSLR owner.