While we're still awaiting news on the future of Pentax's compact camera range, its digital SLR range continues to expand in interesting directions, with the launch of the latest semi-pro model. The K20D has been developed in partnership withSamsung who are responsible for the camera's powerful new 14.6-megapixel CMOS sensor. It replaces the 10.2-megapixel K10D, launched last year, and joins the K200D and K100D Super in Pentax's current range.
Pentax is one of the original "Big Five" Japanese camera companies, alongside Nikon, Canon, Minolta (RIP) and Olympus, and has a history dating back to 1919. Traditionally Pentax's core market has been the amateur enthusiast photographer, with a long series of affordable but high-qualitySLRs such as the Spotmatic, ME Super and P30, although it has also produced some outstanding professional models over the years, including the current 645NII and 67II medium-format film cameras. Pentax has always played second fiddle to market leaders Nikon and Canon, and even now has a much smaller share of the digital SLR market than any of the other major players. However the brand's rich history of quality and innovation is still apparent in the current models.
The K20D has a range of features that put it into the top bracket of current semi-pro DSLRs. As well as the most powerful sensor of any camera this side of Canon's £2,500 full-frame EOS 1Ds Mk III, it has a tough weatherproof alloy body, body-integral sensor-shift image stabilisation, 2.7-inch 230k LCD monitor, expanded dynamic range function and even live monitor view. The K20D costs around £769 body-only or £899 in a kit with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, which compares very favourably with other high-endDSLRs . Arguably the closest matches in terms of specification are the Nikon D300 (£1,100 body-only) and the Sony Alpha A700 (£1,000 body-only), both of which have 12.2-megapixel sensors, but the Pentax comfortably beats both models on resolution and more importantly on price. The only fly in the ointment is the GX-20, from Pentax's business partner Samsung. The GX-20 is virtually identical to the K20D, but costs about £20 less for the same kit. Of course the Samsung badge on the front doesn't have quite the same cachet as the Pentax name, so maybe that's worth the extra.