Despite the small size the K-m handles well, and gives the impression of being a “proper camera”. It’s lost most of its surplus fat from the left side of the body, leaving plenty of room on the right for a decent-sized handgrip, and the weight of the four AA batteries inside the grip helps to balance the camera. Like most other entry-level DSLRs the controls are relatively simple, closer to a high-end compact than a more sophisticated DSLR such as the K20D or K200D. It has a menu button and D-pad, with secondary functions on the D-pad buttons for white balance, ISO setting, flash mode and self-timer/drive mode. There are separate buttons for exposure compensation and autofocus, and a helpful “?” button which provides explanations and tips for many of the camera’s functions.
The K-m also has a useful graphic information screen and menu, similar to the type first employed by Olympus and now adopted by most of the other DSLR manufacturers. It provides a quick and intuitive way of adjusting the camera’s main shooting functions, but there is also a comprehensive conventional menu as well.
For an entry-level camera the K-m does offer a lot of options, including a long list of custom set-up choices, more I would say than most of its immediate rivals. Things like a graphic colour-customisation system, four-level adjustable high-ISO noise reduction, optional slow shutter noise reduction, options for using legacy lenses, adjustable auto-ISO range, mirror-up during self-timer countdown, even the brightness of the power LED can be adjusted. The K-m use either Pentax’s proprietary PEF Raw format, or the popular Adobe DNG format.
One interesting feature is the digital filter option, something found on many Pentax cameras in one form or another. It includes single-colour mask, starburst, soft focus and several options to change the tone of the image, including high-contrast, retro and “toy camera”. All of the filters are adjustable, and you can have a lot of fun playing with them, although some of the effects do look a bit crude in the final image.
There are one or two features that are notable by their absence, however. The most puzzling omission is the lack of any illuminated AF target point in the viewfinder, something found on pretty much every other digital camera in existence. The K-m has a fairly good five-point AF system, with a choice of wide area or centre spot focusing, and it does focus quickly and accurately in most lighting conditions, but for shots where the main subject is not in the centre of the frame, or where a precise focus point is desirable such as macro photography, it would be an advantage to know exactly where the camera is focusing. It is possible to focus on specific points by using the centre spot AF and re-framing, but other entry-level SLRs have selectable AF points with illuminated viewfinder targets. Another notable lack is an aperture stop-down preview function, but to be fair there are a number of DSLRs that lack this useful feature.