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It's been over a year since I reviewed the Pentax K20D, the company's last semi-pro digital SLR. In common with most other reviewers I was extremely impressed by its combination of rugged build quality, fast performance, excellent image quality and outstanding value for money. The K20D is still available for under £600, and it's still a real bargain. However time and the digital SLR market march ever onward, and the K20D is starting to look a little dated, lacking the numerous bells and whistles that are rapidly becoming standard features of top-end digital SLRs. In response, Pentax has just launched a new flagship DSLR, the K-7, and it's stuffed to the gunwales with the latest advanced features including live monitor view, HD video and in-camera HDR capture.

Although it has never had the dominating share of the DSLR market enjoyed by rivals Canon, Nikon and more recently Sony, Pentax has always had a solid reputation for innovation and quality, producing many classic cameras over the years, such as the Spotmatic, the K1000, the ME Super and the LX. Pentax's advertising for the K-7 makes reference to this heritage, and it's not an unjustified comparison either. I used to own a Pentax LX, and looks to me like the designer of the K-7 had one sitting on his desk while he was working. It has a number of styling cues that reminiscent of Pentax's classic pro 35mm SLR camera. It even has the leatherette textured rubber covering most of the lower art of the body. The similarities are not just cosmetic; the K-7 has the same robust professional build quality, with a tough lightweight magnesium alloy body over a steel chassis, full weatherproof environmental sealing, and more importantly it has that classic camera look and feel, with superb ergonomic handling. The large sculpted handgrip is the most comfortable of any camera in its class. Also in common with those classic Pentax cameras, the K-7 is smaller and lighter than any of its immediate competitors.

As a high-spec APS-C DSLR camera, the K-7 is competing with some very well established rivals, including the Nikon D300 (£1,070 body only), the Canon EOS 50D (£739 body-only), the Sony Alpha A700 (£675 body only) and the Olympus E-3 (£990 body only). By comparison the K-7's current price of £1,029 body-only might seem expensive, but it's only just been launched so the price will probably come down over the next couple of months as retailers start offering discounts.

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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.


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 :)




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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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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