Pentax K20D Digital SLR - Pentax K20D

By Cliff Smith



  • Recommended by TR
Pentax K20D Digital SLR


Our Score:


The K20D is equipped with Pentax's moving-sensor image stabilisation system, which has shown itself to be one of the best on the market. Pentax claims that it offers four stops of extra shooting stability, but this is a little optimistic. Using the kit 18-55mm lens supplied, at the longest focal length of 55mm, conventional wisdom says that you need a shutter speed of at least 1/60th of a second for hand-held shooting, so adding four stops to this would give a shutter speeds of 1/8th of a second, but shots taken at this speed show very visible movement blur. Speeding up by one stop to 1/15th of a second produces shake-free shots fairly reliably, which is a three-stop advantage. It may be that the shake reduction works better using lenses with a longer focal length, but with the standard three stops is the limit. Mind you three stops isn't at all bad, and compares well with the performance of lens-based IS systems used by other manufacturers.

Dynamic range enhancement is becoming a must-have feature on high-spec digital cameras, and especially on DSLRs. All the main manufacturers include something of this type; Sony has it's DRO system, Nikon has Active D-Lighting, and so on. Naturally Pentax has such a system, called Expanded Dynamic Range, which is activated from the ISO setting menu. It is pretty straightforward, simply selectively altering the sensitivity to enhance shadow detail and reduce highlight clipping. As such systems go it is very effective and has no noticeable negative impact on image quality.

The other essential feature for any modern DSLR is monitor live view. The K20D has this feature too, although like the EOS 40D it is a bit limited. It doubles as a stop-down preview, so the image will be very dark at narrow apertures, and of course autofocus is not available while in live view mode. Still, it is a useful feature under some circumstances despite its limitations.


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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