At any given moment, there are thousands of photography workshops taking place all over the world. It’s a pretty safe bet that at all of these, the overwhelming majority of delegates have brought a Canon or Nikon DSLR along with them.
Despite the fact that so many photographers seem to negate some DSLR manufacturers in favour of the two big photography giants, Pentax has been quietly making some really impressive cameras – and it’s clear that the Pentax K-30 is no exception. With full weather sealing, a viewfinder with 100% coverage and a competitive asking price, the Pentax K-30 is built to impress anyone prepared to give it a chance.
It has to be said that, in a world where as much design and engineering effort is channelled into the camera’s aesthetics as into making it a great imaging tool, the Pentax K-30 is arguably not the most beautiful model in the world. The blue and white versions just take the camera even further away from that classic look that’s so popular at present.
However, a certain trade-off is perhaps inevitable when a camera body is as comprehensively sealed against the elements, as the Pentax K-30 undoubtedly is. Though we didn’t submerge the camera in a sink full of water, its build quality is quite apparent.
This is not to say that the Pentax K-30 is unattractive, only that the sheer ubiquity of DSLRs from Canon and Nikon almost automatically makes anything else look superficially ‘different’. The recent rise of compact system cameras seems to have made the camera world much more image conscious in general.
One problem though with compact system cameras and the level of attention to aesthetics associated with them is that they are not always the easiest cameras to grip and hold, especially if you have bigger hands. In this regard, the Pentax K-30 is a camera that reasserts the value of a DSLR. The camera feels absolutely wonderful to hold and the lovely grip is one of the most comfortable and expertly designed we’ve handled recently. Perhaps the only gripe we had with the feel of the camera was the fact that the back of the model, where the thumb naturally rests during picture taking, doesn’t have the same rubberised comfort that’s offered at the front of the body. This is made more frustrating by the fact that it’s such a small detail but something that nonetheless makes the camera fall short of top marks in terms of its handling.
The Pentax K-30 is certainly not the biggest DSLR around, and it’s positively compact when compared to a full-frame behemoth like Nikon’s D800/D800E, but the ergonomics are such that even photographers with fairly big hands will find using the K-30 a pleasurable experience. The large groove for the middle finger to sit in on the grip is a major contributor here and in short, this feels like a camera designed for the real-world photographer who wants to get on with the basic business of picture taking.
In addition to the K-30 body itself, the 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 AL WR kit lens is weather sealed, which makes this a complete photo package for all weather conditions.
Pentax says that the K-30 has “proven functionality in temperatures as low as -10°C, thanks to the 81 seals built into the design of the body.”
In addition to weather protection, the 18-55mm kit lens is a great performer optically and offers a really useful 27mm-82.5mm range (in 35mm terms).
Shake reductionIn-camera shake reduction is a great feature to have, and definitely increases the number of sharp images that you are able to obtain.
A viewfinder with 100% coverage makes composition of photos far easier and reduces the risk of surprises when you come to review your images after the shoot.
If you like a splash of colour, the Pentax K-30 is available in both blue and white variations, in addition to the more traditional all-black version of the camera.
That said, the four-way controller on the rear of the camera has been designed to deal with both the selection of the autofocus point and the adjustment of key settings like ISO, flash options, drive mode and white balance. Being brutally honest, it is a slightly cumbersome system to work with, as you have to hold down the central OK button for a second or two in order to assign the four-way controller either to autofocus point selection facility or ISO, flash options, drive mode and white balance. You do get used to this, but the fact remains that having dedicated buttons for these very important adjustments and settings would make operation of the camera smoother.
“JPEG shooters will love the ability to access the original
image data and store a RAW image onto the memory card ”
The only other irritant we experienced was the memory card compartment. The design and size of it does unfortunately make retrieving the memory card rather difficult unless you are lucky enough to have small, agile fingers. Again, it’s not a massive problem but it would be good to see this issue addressed on any future upgrades to the K-30.Otherwise, this is a highly responsive camera. Pentax suggest an approximate maximum continuous shooting speed of 6fps but that seemed very slightly optimistic to us; in our own tests, the camera needed just over a full second to achieve six frames when shooting the highest-quality JPEGs.
The Pentax K-30 handles high-contrast scenes well, thanks to the Highlight and Shadow Correction settings, which can be fine-tuned.
Metering is spot on, even on a bright sunny day with plenty of glare around. We didn’t notice a bias towards under or overexposure either when using the K-30.
Black and WhiteThe camera produces really nice black-and-white images straight out of the camera, and it’s great to be able to tweak filter effects and toning in-camera.
It’s possible to produce punchy, vibrant images using the Pentax K-30. The images require little to no post-processing time to give them maximum impact.
There’s a good range of effects built into the camera, including things like Bleach Bypass. These can be fine-tuned and adjusted in-camera.
The camera turns in a really strong white balance performance, with the camera consistently reproducing colour tones faithfully and accurately.
Speaking of JPEGs, photographers who prefer to capture in JPEG mode will really love the ability to access the original image data from the camera’s buffer and store a RAW image onto the memory card exactly as if you had been shooting in RAW in the first place. Naturally, this only works with the most recently captured image, but it’s a truly wonderful feature as it allows you to ‘rescue’ a RAW file if you decide that you’ve just captured an image that you are particularly pleased with or wish to be able to get the maximum quality from.