Dynamic range boosters of one sort or another are becoming increasingly common in high-end cameras, but the K-7 goes one step further. It has its D-Range setting, which boosts shadow detail by up to three levels and limits highlight gain to prevent burned-out areas, and this works well, but it is also the first digital SLR to offer in-camera HDR capture, a feature previously only seen on the advanced Ricoh CX1 compact.
In HDR mode the K-7 takes three shots in quick succession at different bracketed exposure settings, and then combines them into one frame, taking the highlights from the under-exposed shot, the shadow detail from the over-exposed shot, and adding them to the correctly exposed shot to produce one image with greatly extended dynamic range. HDR has become the latest trendy technique for misguided art students to over-use, but there’s no doubt that in the right circumstances, e.g. very high contrast lighting, it is extremely useful. Processing the shot takes a few seconds, but the results are very good.
Other unusual creative features include a wide range of digital filter effects, most of which have multiple adjustment parameters. Effects include a Lomo-like toy camera setting, retro colouring and tone, high contrast, colour extraction, soft focus, fish-eye distortion and a surprisingly effective staburst effect. It is also possible to create custom filters from a range of selectable effects.
Even more unusual are the composition adjustment features. The K-7 has an electronic spirit level built in, with a display on both the LCD data panel and in the viewfinder, so it’s not easy to take a lop-sided shot, but nonetheless it offers automatic horizon correction, which actually rotates the sensor – obviously within limits – to correct a tilted horizon. Even more bizarre is the ability to manually jog the sensor left, right, up or down, or to rotate it, to fine tune composition in live-view mode. I can see this being very useful for architectural photography, for example.
The K-7 also offers more conventional creative assistance, including a mirror lock-up function, multiple exposure, interval shooting, colour space selection and of course Raw shooting, using either Pentax’s own PEF format or Adobe DNG. The overwhelming impression when using the K-7 is that Pentax has listened to everything that users have said about the K20D, and added every feature that anyone could conceivably need, and then some. Even after a week of frequent use I was still being pleasantly surprised by the camera’s capabilities.