Although it has the same sensor resolution as the K20D, the K-7 is an entirely new camera, with many new or significantly improved features. In terms of basic specifications the K-7 matches or surpasses most of its rivals. Its image sensor is a 14.6 megapixel CMOS chip, compared to 15.1MP for the EOS 50D, 12.3MP for the Nikon D300, 12.24MP for the Sony A700 and 10.1MP for the Olympus E-3. The sensor has an improved dust removal mechanism, as well as Pentax's extremely effective sensor shift image stabilisation system. The LCD monitor has a large 3.0-inch diagonal size and a resolution of 921,000 dots, equalling any of its rivals, and features live view mode with contrast detection autofocus and face detection. None of its main rivals have a video mode (yet), but the K-7 offers video recording with a maximum resolution of 1536 x 1024 at 30fps, with HDMI output and a socket for an external microphone, although audio is mono only.
The innovation isn't restricted to trendy features like HD video. The K-7 has a couple of unusual still shooting modes as well. Most DSLRs offer aperture priority and shutter priority exposure, as well as program auto and full manual. The K-7 has these modes as well, but also offers shutter/aperture priority mode, where the user selects the shutter speed and aperture required, and the camera selects the ISO setting automatically to ensure a correct exposure. It also has sensitivity priority, where the user sets the ISO and the camera chooses the aperture and shutter speed, but surely this is exactly the same as program auto mode?
More useful are the Hyper Program and Hyper Manual settings. When shooting in Program auto mode the shutter speed and aperture can be over-ridden by simply turning one of the camera's two adjustment wheels. Program settings can be restored at the touch of a button. When shooting in full manual exposure mode the recommended Program exposure settings can be set by pressing the green button, which saves a lot of messing about.
The K-7 offers a lot of creative image control. The Custom Image button gives access to a range of preset image parameters, each of which can be customised for saturation, hue, high/low key adjustment, contrast, contrast shadow or highlight adjustment, and sharpness, each with nine-step adjustments.
A special mention must be made of the viewfinder, which is simply superb. I'm used to APS-C DSLRs having small tunnel-like viewfinders, but the K-7 has one more akin to a full-frame camera, with a huge focusing screen, 100 percent frame coverage and excellent information display. It also has a soft rubber cushion and dioptre correction.