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Pentax K20D Hands On Preview

Pentax is happy for us to show images from the pre-production model, but it should be reiterated that this is not the final firmware version, and there may be some changes to the final output.

My main criticism is the cameras exposure system. This has been a consistent failure of Pentax, and like earlier models the camera has a tendency to underexpose. This is disappointing as accurate exposure is a fundamental requirement of a camera, and there really is no need for poor metering in this day and age. Having said that, the cameras histogram feature in playback allows the user to assess the images better than simply viewing the monitor, and I found that by using exposure compensation of +1EV, exposures were much improved. Other features such as the dynamic range expansion proved useful, but less so than the Sony A700.

White balance is consistent and produces pleasing results even under mixed lighting. I occasionally needed to switch to a preset from Auto, but that's usual. Colour and tone in general is very good with nice punchy images at the default settings.

The noise at higher ISOs is impressive too, with excellent results at ISO 3200 though images get a little too speckled at ISO 6400, but they are usable and Raw images should be easily fixed in Adobe Camera Raw or similar processing. Unfortunately at the time of review, no Pentax Raw software was available.

A sensor with this many pixels has a distinct advantage, of course, and that is image sharpness. The K20D does produce sharp images, especially when viewed on A4 prints, or on screen. You need to be careful to keep the camera steady however as the closely packed pixel population will show up and amplify the effect of any movement.

Verdict
Pentax (and Samsung) has produced a solid mid range camera with many features that match its rivals. On top of that the densely populated, class beating CMOS sensor is sure to prove popular and give the K20D an edge of its rivals.

The camera is fun to use, without being intimidating and it's backlog of compatible lenses will prove to be useful to existing Pentax users.

On the downside, the inaccurate metering is a disappointment, though easily remedied by anyone with a basic understanding of the principles of exposure, but it really should be better. The price of £899 is very good indeed and should definitely be an incentive to new users to pick the K20D over it's rivals.

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