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Pentax K-m DSLR - Pentax K-m DSLR

By Cliff Smith

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

Like most DSLRs the K-m starts up very quickly, and is ready to take a picture in well under a second. As I mentioned before, the AF system may be a bit uninformative but it is fast and accurate. Its low-light performance is also fairly good, but it requires the pop-up flash to be raised for its AF-assist strobe function to work, which means it's difficult to take low-light shots without the flash firing.

The camera's shooting speed is variable, depending on whether Raw mode is used or not. When shooting JPEG-only it can shoot at a constant two shots a second in single-shot mode, while in high-speed continuous mode it can shoot at up to three frames a second for about six or seven frames, before slowing down a little as the buffer fills up. It also has a low-speed continuous mode which maintains a constant 1.3fps.

Shooting single-shot in Raw mode, the K-m can average around one frame a second, although it does slow down noticeably after five frames, while in high-speed continuous it can fire a burst of four shots at 2fps, but then slows down to about one frame a second. In Raw+JPEG mode the high-speed burst is limited to only three frames. Most entry-level DSLRs have fairly limited performance, and there aren't many occasions when the small buffer will be a problem, but it is a limiting factor on the K-M's performance.

Finally we come to image quality, and here there is good news. When shooting in Raw mode the K-m produces sharp, perfectly exposed images with excellent natural colour reproduction, and is easily a match for any of its immediate rivals, and even for a couple of more expensive models. The SMC Pentax 18-55mm f/3.5 - 5.6 DAL lens may be getting on a bit, but it's still one of the best standard-zoom kit lenses on the market, with excellent corner-to-corner sharpness, and the minimal chromatic aberration that it produces is easily corrected in software.

In its default "Bright" setting, the JPEG mode is quite over-saturated, presumably to produce images more like those of a compact camera. Fortunately the menu includes a very good colour customisation system, and simply switching to the second pre-set "Natural" colour mode produces much better results.

Image noise is also very well handled, with good image quality up to 800 ISO, and usable images at 1600 ISO. Even 3200 ISO isn't a complete disaster, as long as you don't want to blow the pictures up too much.

Verdict

The Pentax K-m is a good first camera. It has better build quality than most of its rivals, it handles and performs well, and is capable of producing excellent results even in the hands of a novice, while still having enough features and custom options to satisfy more experienced photographers. The only real problem is the annoying lack of AF target points in the viewfinder, which is both confusing and inconvenient.

GherkingTR

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.

Rodney

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)?





Thanks!

Rodney

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.

Igor LEAHU

April 16, 2009, 4:05 pm

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


Waiting for a same review of Pentax X70!

Splogbust

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

pinkliverbird

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.

drjoed

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.

A9XXC

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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