Pentax K20D Digital SLR - Pentax K20D

By Cliff Smith



  • Recommended by TR
Pentax K20D Digital SLR


Our Score:


Despite having recently reviewed the Canon EOS 40D and Nikon D300, the Pentax K20D still managed to impress me straight out of the box. It's one of those few cameras that immediately feels right as soon as you hold it. Like most previousPentax SLRs it's very light and compact compared to its rivals, measuring 141.5 x 101 x 70mm and weighing 715g minus battery or card. Compare this to the Nikon D300 (147 x 114 x 74 mm and 825g) or theEOS 40D (145.5 x 107.8 x 73.5mm and 740g) and you get some idea of how easy the K20D is to handle. The only recent semi-pro model that is lighter is the Sony A700 (142 x 105 x 80mm and 690g).

The body design is based on the K10D, which is no bad thing. It has a large and comfortable hand-grip with a textured rubber coating that is repeated on the back for the equally ergonomic thumb-grip area. The body feels very tough and durable, and the card and battery hatches have locking catches and water resistant rubber seals. The control layout appears complex, but is actually very intuitive and self-explanatory for anyone with any SLR experience. Main exposure and metering modes are selected by a simple dial on the top left, including a preset User option and an X-sync flash setting. It also has a feature which is, as far as I know, unique to Pentax cameras, a sensitivity-priority exposure mode. On the right of the top plate is a large and well-lit LCD data display with a range of shooting information, although I would have liked to see a bit more information on this, such as a permanent display of ISO setting or colour space.

Like most high-spec DSLRs it has a dual control wheel system for exposure and setting adjustments, with a separate D-pad for menu navigation. The menu system is divided into two parts; a quick function menu for custom colour settings, white balance, flash mode, ISO setting and drive/timer mode, and a main menu for all other camera settings. Also in common with other high-endDSLRs the K20D has a huge range of customisable features so you can set the camera up just how you like it. Options include four different JPEG compression settings, a choice of eitherPEF or Adobe DNG RAW modes, multi-exposure, interval shooting, and sRGB or Adobe RGB colour space.


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.


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.


February 23, 2010, 8:01 am

Good review. This is very informatove.

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