Pentax K-7 Review
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The Pentax K-7 is the best-ever Pentax DSLR camera and a real challenger to the relative giants of Canon and Nikon. Pentax have seemingly decided to include every "must-have" feature in one camera, with the K-7's specifications reading like a keen photographer's wish list. Thankfully most of those features are very well-realised, with only a few duds to spoil the party.
Bearing an uncanny resemblance to the older K20D, the new K-7 improves on its sibling in a lot of ways that add up to make it a really compelling DSLR camera. The combination of 100% viewfinder coverage and large, high-res LCD screen make the K-7 a joy to use in terms of image composition. Live View is much improved, with the ability to view and change the camera's key settings, new Face Recognition AF mode, and the same 5.2 fps continuous shooting speed as when using the optical viewfinder. Only the painfully slow and often inaccurate contrast AF system detracts from the Live View system. Thankfully the K-7 focuses much faster through the viewfinder - indeed, this is the fastest focusing Pentax DSLR to date, and also finally on a par with the competition.
Making its Pentax debut on the K-7, the inclusion of HD video is sure to generate a lot of interest, especially as its main rivals don't offer this feature. Unfortunately, as with all the other DSLR cameras on the market that offer video recording, it's not the most user-friendly experience, with no handy one-touch recording, reliance on manual focusing, inability to change the aperture or shutter speed during recording, large file sizes that quickly fill your memory cards, and the inherent handling quirks of the DSLR format. On the plus side, there is a socket for an external mic and the K-7 offers the larger 1536 x 1024 pixel format, but if you want to regularly capture successful home movies, you'd be better off with a dedicated video camera instead.
The K-7's image quality is very good. Exposures were generally 1/3rd EV stop under-exposed, perfect for retaining detail in the highlight areas without sacrificing the shadow areas too much, and colours were accurate using the default Bright setting. The HDR mode makes it easy to create images with greatly expanded dynamic range, although you don't have too much control over the final effect and you really need to use a tripod to keep things sharp. The D-Range options help make the most out of both the shadows and highlights in a high-contrast scene, while multi exposure mode is a nice creative addition.
The K-7 produces noise-free images from ISO 100-400 but it starts to become apparent at ISO 800, with progressively more noise and colour desaturation at the highest settings of 1600, 3200 and 6400. Whist the three fastest speeds are certainly usable, they don't compare that well with the Canon EOS 50D and Nikon D300, which are better bets for low-light photography. If you don't require fantastic image quality at high ISO speeds, then the K-7 certainly holds its own against the competition.
But wait - this isn't quite the final story though. According to a recent statement by a Pentax UK spokesman, the camera that we received for review isn't quite the final production version (despite running version 1.00 firmware). Pentax's engineers have apparently "made a minor change to further improve the performance of the sensor on the camera to be included on the final retail version. As far as we are given to understand this will primarily reduce the amount of noise within the image; especially at higher ISO settings." If this version of the camera can significantly improve the K-7's low-light performance as promised, then it will be an even bigger threat to Canon and Nikon - we'll update our review accordingly when we receive another test sample.
Overall Pentax are onto a winner with the K-7, especially if the sensor change in the final, final version improves the noise levels at the higher ISO speeds. Current Pentax owners can be delighted that the best ever Pentax DSLR is has (almost) arrived, with the K-7 being a natural upgrade for both the Km and K20D. Photographers with no vested interest in a particular manufacturers system now find themselves spoilt for choice in the prosumer category, with the K-7, Canon EOS 50D, Olympus E-3 and Nikon D300 all at the same price point. In many ways the Pentax K-7 offers the best overall package out of them all, and is a really serious contender for your cash.
|Ratings (out of 5)|
|Value for money||5|