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Pentax K-m DSLR - Pentax K-m DSLR

By Cliff Smith



Our Score:


Despite the small size the K-m handles well, and gives the impression of being a "proper camera". It's lost most of its surplus fat from the left side of the body, leaving plenty of room on the right for a decent-sized handgrip, and the weight of the four AA batteries inside the grip helps to balance the camera. Like most other entry-level DSLRs the controls are relatively simple, closer to a high-end compact than a more sophisticated DSLR such as the K20D or K200D. It has a menu button and D-pad, with secondary functions on the D-pad buttons for white balance, ISO setting, flash mode and self-timer/drive mode. There are separate buttons for exposure compensation and autofocus, and a helpful "?" button which provides explanations and tips for many of the camera's functions.

The K-m also has a useful graphic information screen and menu, similar to the type first employed by Olympus and now adopted by most of the other DSLR manufacturers. It provides a quick and intuitive way of adjusting the camera's main shooting functions, but there is also a comprehensive conventional menu as well.

For an entry-level camera the K-m does offer a lot of options, including a long list of custom set-up choices, more I would say than most of its immediate rivals. Things like a graphic colour-customisation system, four-level adjustable high-ISO noise reduction, optional slow shutter noise reduction, options for using legacy lenses, adjustable auto-ISO range, mirror-up during self-timer countdown, even the brightness of the power LED can be adjusted. The K-m use either Pentax's proprietary PEF Raw format, or the popular Adobe DNG format.

One interesting feature is the digital filter option, something found on many Pentax cameras in one form or another. It includes single-colour mask, starburst, soft focus and several options to change the tone of the image, including high-contrast, retro and "toy camera". All of the filters are adjustable, and you can have a lot of fun playing with them, although some of the effects do look a bit crude in the final image.

There are one or two features that are notable by their absence, however. The most puzzling omission is the lack of any illuminated AF target point in the viewfinder, something found on pretty much every other digital camera in existence. The K-m has a fairly good five-point AF system, with a choice of wide area or centre spot focusing, and it does focus quickly and accurately in most lighting conditions, but for shots where the main subject is not in the centre of the frame, or where a precise focus point is desirable such as macro photography, it would be an advantage to know exactly where the camera is focusing. It is possible to focus on specific points by using the centre spot AF and re-framing, but other entry-level SLRs have selectable AF points with illuminated viewfinder targets. Another notable lack is an aperture stop-down preview function, but to be fair there are a number of DSLRs that lack this useful feature.


March 31, 2009, 2:13 am

Comprehensive review, cheers Cliff!

Especially, thanks for covering the build quality/feel of the device - I picked up a friend's 450D a few months back, and it felt like a plastic toy compared to the nice metal casing of the entry level Olympus shooters. I imagine a lot of gadget lovers need reviews like these in the run-up to summer.


April 1, 2009, 6:41 pm

Thanks for this review - I was looking forward to hearing about the K-m.

Apologies if I'm being really obtuse, but where does the K-m sit in relation to the slightly older K200d? the Pentax website describes both models as "entry-class" or words to that effect. They're retailing at about the same (𧸪 with kit lens) as far as I can see.

Also, for a first time DSLR buyer, how does the Pentax K-M compare to the Alpha 200 (𧷤ish), Alpha 300 (𧸖) and Alpha 350 (𧹈)?



April 1, 2009, 6:43 pm

Apologies - the prices in my comment were ex. VAT (buying for business purposes) but the same still applies for the K200 and K-m Being the same price and the pricing of the alphas compare to the Pentax k-m

Cliff Smith

April 2, 2009, 2:15 am

Rodney - The K-m fits into the Pentax range below the K200D, which is itself below the K20D. As for how it compares to the Sony cameras, I'd say it has about the same image quality as the A200, but superior build quality, and the Pentax 18-55mm kit lens is a noticeably better than the entry-level Sony 18-70mm.


April 16, 2009, 4:05 pm

Well done review...from a very objective point of view!

Waiting for a same review of Pentax X70!


April 22, 2009, 3:39 pm

Thanks for review. The 'focussing points' issue is, well, a non-issue from my and possibly many other people's point of view. My current camera has selectable focussing points - I really haven't a clue how to use them (although I did play with them once or twice) as I always focus using the central one and then re-frame.

Some of these things are more complicated to use than video machines!

Mike 19

April 25, 2009, 4:14 pm

You say that the KM doesnt have an af illuminator or a preview function,but if you read the manuel both of these are present.The af illuminator is provided by strobe flash,if the flash is in upright position. The preview feature can be assigned to the help button ,see page 119 of manuel.Otherwise a great review.Thanks


May 14, 2009, 2:11 pm

Thanks for the review. I've been waiting to see what was said about this camera as I've been interseted in it for some time. I'm wanting to buy an entry level dslr and I've narrowed it down to the Pentax K-m or the Sony A200. Which is the best out of these two camera's. Can anyone advise me please? Thank you.

Simon Hall

December 28, 2009, 4:57 am

I am looking at an entry level DSLR and this camera looks very attractive. However there is one reason why it doesn't make my shortlist and that is the fact you have to power it with AA batteries.

Most other entry level DSLRS come with lithium ion cells so why not this one? Just like a budget compact you have to supply your own batteries.


January 6, 2010, 12:17 am

I have just purchased a Pentax K-x and so far I love the camera...and I especially love the price! regarding the battery comment: I have a number of digital cameras with "proprietary" batteries and there is no doubt that they are lighter than 4 AAs. However, I love being able to pick up an inexpensive set of lithium rechargeable AAs at any drug store or 24 hour Walmart! And should I lose my charger (left one in a hotel in September) I can pick one up pretty cheap! Here in the USA can get a charger with 4 AAs (2100 mah) for $10 to $12. I also just picked up 4 2650 mah AAs for $12.


December 29, 2010, 6:44 pm

Hi - Any idea how many frames it will take before the mechanics wear out?

I've taken about 15000 and wonder how many more I've got before it gets unreliable.

Must agree with drjoed, AA batteries was a requirement for me - along with SD card.

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