The general level of image quality with the K-500 is of a decent level and certainly in keeping with other entry-level DSLRs.
Where previous Pentax DSLRs had a strong tendency to underexpose, the K-500 generally copes well. The 77-zone metering system copes well on the whole, and although it still doesn't get every single exposure correct there is a pleasing level of consistency.
The camera's white balance system is also reliable in most shooting situations and lighting conditions. There is the odd occasion in which the K-500 produces cooler results, such as earlier or later in the day with natural lighting, but on the whole it's generally reliable.
The K-500 features an impressive ISO range of 100 – 51,200. At the lower settings there's very little by way of visible noise, and in fact you'll have to be shooting at ISO 3,200 to notice any at all in JPEG files.
Noise becomes more visible at ISO 6,400, although the good news is that the ISO range is eminently usable right up to the maximum setting of ISO 51,200.
When comparing Raw and JPEG files, it's noticeable, although hardly unique to the K-500, that JPEG files are sharper and feature better colour straight out of the camera. Raw files do retain more detail, however, and if you're happy to edit in postproduction they're the preferable option.
The Pentax K-500 has a lot going for it when comparing its specification to other entry-level DSLRs on the market. Its specification more than matches the leading two in the Canon 600D and Nikon D3200, and in some areas exceeds them, while the camera's design is certainly pleasing and the camera feels solid in the hand.
There are a few performance factors, however, that leave the K-500 a little short of being a stellar recommendation. The lack of the camera's AF point on the viewfinder is a realissue and one that really hampers the K-500’s usability, while the noisy AF system and dated menus don’t help, either.
On balance, we’d still pick the 600D or D3200 ahead of it, then, despite the K-500’s promising specs. For more options, take a look at our best cameras round-up.
The Pentax K-500 is a very well specified entry-level DSLR that delivers a solid standard of image quality, but there are a few too many rough edges to recommend it over the dominant Canon’s and Nikon’s.