Hands on with the Pentax K-30

I was able to have a brief hands on with the new Pentax K-30 camera body at Camera Craft Inc. in Rockford, Illinois.

Here are a few photos of the camera:

My overall impressions:
– The camera feels a lot more solid than I expected it to be. Of course, the casing is all plastic, but it has a solid feel to it. From what I can recall from the K-x and K-r, they feel cheap compared to the K-30 by a good margin.
– The grip is probably one of the better ones to come out from Pentax. It isn’t as soft as the K-5, but is actually a bit better in fitting all of my fingers on the grip (instead of the pinky being off the camera. It still isn’t tall enough for my entire hand to be completely comfortable, but a bit better.
– The design reminds me of the K-10/K-20 and I can’t say I like that. I think Pentax’s best design from the Digital age would be the K-7/K-5 as well as the *ist D. There are some embellishments that I think might have a little bit of function to them, but their primary purpose is form. The large flash pop-up mechanism for one. Besides that, I think they generally tried to add some nice little touches to the plastic to make things function better. The dimples and dots in some sections make griping and using the camera just a little bit easier. I good example would be the small ridges on the 4-way control buttons.
– They made a few design sacrifices to keep costs down and to fit the middle/entry level target of the camera. The main control dial doesn’t have a lock on it like the K-5 and I suspect that is the case because it costs more to weather seal a dial with a button on the top of it. They didn’t include a few relatively standard ports like HDMI and a MIC port.
– The camera seems fast, but I didn’t get much time to use it. I oddly enough don’t recall what the shutter sounded like, so it must not have been too loud.
– It has peaking focus (yes, I like this a lot on the K-01, so I just had to mention it).
– This camera is focused on being a camera. It, of course, has a feature-full video recording mode, but with the admission of HDMI port, MIC port, and a dedicated video record button, it is best suited to still photography. I think that’s actually admirable in this current DSLR climate. This camera is purpose built.
– As you should already know, this cameras has weather sealing, so with a proper lens, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about using the camera in the rain. A great feature I’m glad that Pentax is expanding their lineup with.
– Oddly, Pentax has started with kits that include the non-weather resistant 18-55mm DA-L kit lens. They offer a kit with the DA 18-135mm WR lens, but that might be a bit expensive for some people. While I understand that offering the cheapest lens possible is good for some customers that don’t have a desire to pay more for WR, I just don’t understand why they are not offering the weather resistant version of the 18-55mm in a kit too.

I didn’t get a chance to test out the camera performance wise, but my general impressions are positive. It seems like a good camera for a multitude of different types of photographers. The starting price of $850 seems like a decent deal, but I think around $879 with a DA 18-55mm WR would have been a more appealing price and a more convincing package. Without a true entry level camera at the moment, Pentax might be hard pressed wooing the large majority of basic buyers that they should spend hundreds of dollars extra over the $600 – $700 entry cameras. They won’t necessarily understand that having two control wheels and weather resistance are worthwhile features. Chances are they will see the omissions first.

For me personally, I don’t have a need for this camera as the K-01 and K-5 fill the shoes without any room for a K-30. However, take the incremental improvements and add that to a K-5 or higher level camera and now we are talking (minus my inability to afford such a camera currently). I’m sure that type of camera is next on the agenda, or maybe we will see a direct K-r replacement first.

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