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Pentax K20D Digital SLR

Summary

Our Score

9/10

User Score

Review Price free/subscription

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.

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MrGodfrey

January 14, 2009, 3:23 am

Still no comments after 9 months? OK I'll be first...





Cliff's is one of the few really fair reviews of this camera. Unusually he has good things to say about it's AF system. I agree with his comments - it is accurate and usually pretty fast. Admittedly it slows down quite a bit in low light.


Other reviews make a big deal about focusing being "noisy" - an odd complaint - do the same people complain that their kettles make whistle and ping noises? Unless you are a ninja, you are likely to be making just as much noise as your camera anyway...





Yes, exposure metering could be improved. I appreciate the argument that it deliberately underexposes to retain highlight detail, but I have exposure compensation to do that if I want. The problem is more one of consistency. Compared with a D300, the Nikon will get exposure exactly right 99% of the time, the Pentax "only" 90%. Then again, it's never very far off, and the great dynamic range means it's not a great problem (especially if you shoot RAW).





Cliff is also one of the few reviewers to not criticise it's high ISO noise performance. Everyone else seems to ignore the fact that noise reduction is switched off by default, so of course it suffered in comparison with other cameras. Personally I set NR to it's lowest setting, as I'd rather keep more detail. Software continues to get better at removing noise - much less likely that it can add detail which was smeared away.





Above all Cliff is right to give it 10/10 for value. Quite how other reviewers failed to see this is beyond me. One magazine roundup recently gave the Nikon D300 a better value-for-money rating - madness. The D300 is a fantastic camera and I would love to own one, but the fact is that the Pentax does most of what the D300 does, does it very nearly as well, but does this (with cashback) for about HALF the price! Considering that the range of available lenses is also improving, you'd be mad not to consider the K20d if you're looking for a proper enthusiast's camera.



MrGodfrey

January 15, 2009, 6:33 am

I should correct my previous post... my comments regarding exposure metering refer to multi-segment metering mode. I have found no problems with the accuracy or consistency of center-weighted or spot metering.

TaylorBoom

February 23, 2010, 8:01 am

Good review. This is very informatove.

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