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Pentax K-7 Digital SLR - Pentax K-7 Digital SLR

By Cliff Smith

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

9

User Score:

Pentax hasn't skimped on performance either. The K-7 starts up and is ready to shoot almost instantly, and can take a picture in about half a second from a cold start. It has a newly-developed 11-point wide frame autofocus sensor, with nine more sensitive cross-type sensors towards the middle of the frame, and it is extremely fast. Without having the rival cameras on hand for a direct comparison it's hard to say which is quicker, but suffice it to say you won't be waiting around for the K-7 to focus. Its low-light focusing is also extremely impressive, and since it also unusually includes an AF assist lamp separate from the pop-up flash, it can also take photos in total darkness.

In live view mode the K-7, like most other live view DLSRs, is limited to contrast detection AF, which is not as fast or as reliable. It is still effective, but I found that it was usually a better idea to pre-focus and then use the live view to compose the shot.

In terms of shooting speed, in single-shot mode it can shoot as fast as you can press the button. In continuous shooting mode it can manage 5.2fps. This is a little slower than the EOS 5D (6.3fps) and Nikon D300 (up to 8fps), but it is slightly faster than the Sony A700 (5fps). However it can maintain this shooting speed even in Raw + JPEG mode for up to 10 frames. In JPEG-only mode it can shoot 40 frames before it has to pause for breath. It can also shoot at this speed in live view mode with the mirror locked up.

Another major improvement for the K-7 is the sensor-shift image stabilisation system. Pentax has been using this system for a number of years, and the K20D's IS system performed very well, but the K-7 is simply incredible. I was able to take shake-free shots at shutter speeds as low as 1/8th of a second using the 18-55mm kit lens, vindicating Pentax's four-stop claim.

Also improved over the K20D's already impressive performance is the image quality. The benchmark for IQ in this class is the Canon EOS 50D, and in my opinion the Pentax K-7 matches or surpasses it in every criterion. It produces roughly the same levels of high-ISO image noise, i.e. not much, and has superior dynamic range and colour depth. The overall level of detail is excellent, and exposure, colour reproduction and focusing were reliably accurate even in extremely awkward lighting conditions. All in all, a very solid performance from a camera that has proved to be one of the highlights of the year, and arguably the best APS-C camera currently available.

Verdict

The Pentax K-7 is a superb camera, and really puts the cat among the pigeons at the top of the APS-C DSLR market. It has rugged weatherproof build quality, superb handling and offers every creative feature you could possibly want and more besides. Performance and image quality are a match for anything else in its class. It's a tempting package for any keen amateur or semi-pro.

Martin Daler

September 4, 2009, 1:42 am

I don't like to point out typos, but I think the features table really is from the K20D.

amin

September 4, 2009, 3:24 pm

Hi Cliff


To say I was eagerly awaiting your review on the K7 would be an understatement :). I have been waiting for it since it came out as I feel that the K20 (which was my first DSLR also thanks to your great review on it) is not not giving me what I need from it now. I could do with a faster AF and what I discovered is that when I use it with the DA* lenses the AF is slower even compared to the screw mount focusing lenses. Noise performance is another aspect I really would love it to be better. In fact the noise issue is so important for some art work I like doing in the studio that I was even considering the 5DMK2, and was so close to ordering one a couple of days ago after deliberating so long but suddenly saw the 7D announcement and that made me rethink, at least until I see some reviews of the 7D, hopefully pretty soon from you again :).





And now you just hit me with such a brilliant review of the K-T :), and am so tempted. It would make things much easier for me as I have a good collection of lenses for it already, including all the DA* collection.





Now I am back to the drawing board. K-7, 5DMK2 with that added benefit of FF but having to fork out an extra £2K to get lenses that I would like to have for my setup or the 7D with that fantastic array of features that they announced. My initial hesitation going for the FF was that I also love wildlife and would be struggling to get anything decent in range for my budget for the FF. And I am used to the lovely DA*300mm and I use it occasionally with the Pentax 1.7X adapter giving me 510mm range without much loss of IQ.





Ahh, decisions decisions :)


Thanks





Amin

Odyn

September 4, 2009, 3:41 pm

Might be worth saying K-7 usually comes with weather resistant kit lense (18-55 WR) and not the older 18-55 II. WR version of 50-200 kit lense is also available.

Chris 14

September 4, 2009, 7:41 pm

Woah, is it just me or is that one ugly-looking camera! I know, who cares, but, you know... ;-)


I couldn't help noticing that many of the sample shots are dark and and bit fuzzy?


The HDR mode looks handy but it seems their engineers have had too much time on their hands if there are options to be able to tweak the position and rotation of the sensor. Why not just go the whole hog and make it take its own pictures!

Noodles

September 4, 2009, 8:22 pm

Nice camera, but shame Pentax decided to double the price of all it's decent lenses a few months ago. For example The 12-24mm used to be around £400, now it's £1000! The 16-50mm DA*, the ideal standard zoom for this camera, went from £500 to £850! Value for money was pretty much Pentax's strong point against Canikon, but now even they have become even more reasonable then Pentax!





The reports that Pentax needs a partner to ensure survival are also sure to put people off stumping up the large amount of cash for a K-7, when the manufacturer's future is very much in doubt.





Oh yes, just noticed the black painted hotshoe. What a stupid idea, just mounting a flash a couple of times will start to strip the paint straight off that.. Every other company has abandonded it, but somehow Pentax sticks with it..

graham 10

September 4, 2009, 8:23 pm

Hi Cliff,





"every feature that anyone could conceivably need, and then some"......except for an articulated screen, that is. By now I might have bought a Nikon D90 if its screen tilted or twisted and I probably won't put this Pentax on my wish list for similar reasons. It seems such a simple feature to add to an SLR and I don't understand why manufacturers are seemingly set against it on upmarket cameras. I have an old Olympus 8080 and use it with the screen tilted upwards when shooting candid shots and for low level work. I've been waiting for a prosumer DSLR with everything the K7 has plus an articulated screen to tempt me into upgrading, but it looks like I'll have to wait a while longer yet.





I'd be very interested in your observations.





Graham, Belper, Derebyshire, UK.

MrGodfrey

September 4, 2009, 8:38 pm

Chris - It's just you :P It looks like a digital SLR camera, no more ugly than the Nikons, Sonys etc. I'd hope they prioritise handling over looks.





I actually like the idea of being able to move the sensor - but it occurs to me that it had better have some kind of warning to remind you when you've moved the sensor, otherwise you could presumably end up inadvertently taking shots partially out of focus or with odd perspective.





Anyway this looks to be a fantastic camera; I won't be buying one yet as the K20d serves me fine (plus I can't afford it!) but it's encouraging to see Pentax really leading the way again rather than relying on value as the main selling point.

amin

September 4, 2009, 10:14 pm

@ Chris, are you sure there is nothing wrong with your monitor? I don't see any fuzzy pics nor dark. I would check the monitor if I were you, just a thought.

pentaxian450

September 5, 2009, 3:26 pm

Graham-To me, a mobile screen "à la Nikon5000" is just another thing that could get snagged somewhere and broken off. I agree it might be handy in some situations, but the risk of seeing it broken off is too high for me.

Rizwancd0

September 6, 2009, 9:51 am

I've read comments over the web that Pentax has had some serious QC issues with this camera. For example, a mysterious vertical line appearing in the images due to sensor issues. Or trouble focusing using certain lenses.





Have you encountered any problems like that?

pentaxian450

September 6, 2009, 3:42 pm

I heard about the green line, and there is now a firmware fix for it, but my camera never showed it. As for focusing issues, I never had any problem, and I don't know anybody having problems with it.

Cliff Smith

September 7, 2009, 6:15 pm

Many apologies for posting the wrong features table in this review. I've now updated it with the correct one.

Mas

September 8, 2009, 4:06 pm

Great review, congratulation.


I agree completely except for one thing, in the verdict you write: "It's a tempting package for any keen amateur or semi-pro"...beh, I am a professional photographer and I think, undoubtedly, that the K-7 is perfect for a satisfying and complete professional performance.


All the best.


M.M.

Cliff Smith

September 10, 2009, 4:05 pm

Mas - You may remember that back in 2001 Pentax had a prototype full-frame DSLR which it was showing at trade events. If it had gone into production it would have been the first full-frame DSLR on the market, beating the EOS 1Ds by a year. Pentax shelved the project to concentrate on the APS-C *ist series, and has since stated that it has no plans to launch a FF DLSR. However Nikon was denying that it had any FF plans until just before the launch of the D3. Anyone fancy a gentleman's wager that Pentax goes FF early next year?

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