June 28, 2009

K-7 and ergonomics

This is just a short essay about 5 ergonomic details in the K-7 which may create worries.

1. The omission of the Shake Reduction button

The K20D has a clearly visible SR button which is missing in the K-7. The following sequence is required in the K-7 to switch SR on or off. First, lets define how I call the buttons around the OK button: "8", "4", "5", "6", "2", like on a numeric keypad, with "5" being the OK-button itself ("8" is the drive button on top of "5").

[INFO] -> [2]/[6]{0-6} -> [RearDialClick]

{0-6} means that the button must be pressed 0 to 6 times, depending on where it was before. Assuming you only switch SR, it is just two buttons, [INFO] -> [RearDialClick]

Because SR is switched off automatically, e.g., on a tripod with remote control, this omission is no big deal.

2. The omission of the exposure bracket button

The K20D has an exposure bracket button which serves to quickly enable exposure bracket using the two dials to set #images and EV distance in between.

Assuming you always use the same exposure bracket (e.g., 5 exposures 2EV apart), the enabling sequence is as follows:

enable: [8] -> [4] -> [4] -> [5]
disable: [8] -> [6] -> [6] -> [5]

So, it is 4 button presses to activate and de-activate. If used often, one can live withit. But it is a lot less fun to set than with the K20D. Again, this omission is no deal breaker though.

3. Pressing OK for AF selection

Not being a heavy user of AF point selection, I can live with pressing OK prior to AF point selection. A user which relies on AF point selection however, will not understand why the logics isn't inverted as soon as you dial into AF point "SEL" mode. Because now, a change of AF point is much more frequent than, e.g., a change of drive mode.

So I really hope that Pentax adds a custom setting which makes AF selection the default in "SEL" AF point mode where pressing OK acts like Fn.

-- UPDATE --
As of today (July 29, 2009), Pentax has released a firmware update (v.1.01) which adds exactly the behaviour as described above as an option. Now, AF point selection can be used like with a K20D (i.e., the OK button will act as mode switch, not as middle AF point selector).

Pentax, thank you for listening!
-- END of UPDATE --

4. The mode dial lock button (mdlb)

The mode dial of the K-7 on the left side controls mode such as P, Av etc. In order to prevent that it can be changed inadvertently, it got a button in the middle to lock it. It must be pressed in order to turn the dial.

I developped a technique using three fingers from my left hand: the index finger presses the lock while the two neighboring fingers (one is the thumb) turn. Any other technique including using two hands (the obvious choice) turned out to create headaches.

There are two problems with the mdlb:

  • Engaging it will more probably lead to an inadverted change of the exposure meter mode (the level right underneath!) than the mode would change w/o the mdlb. And this inadverted change passes unnotices most of the time!
    Therefore, adding the mdlb and not removing the exposure meter mode level is a clear engineering mistake.
  • They've put the video button as a mode
    So all of a sudden, mode changes are frequent. While it was ok to stay in Av mode for ages with, e.g., a K20D, you now have to always switch between video and Av modes. If you seriously use video, you'll soon do it blindly -- and change exposure meter mode sooner or later.

So, you better regularly check your exposure meter mode, and EXIF for photos said underexposed ;)

I consider the mdlb to be a real nuisance. Pentax, please, take it back! Or make it toggle so we can leave it unlocked permanently.

And by the way, making the video button a mode is a schnapsidee (crazy idea) ...

5. Focal length info

The info screen has changed. It is more useful now. But I found no way anymore to display the focal length of a zoom lens prior to a shot.


With the exception of the mdlb, I like the new interface. And I didn't want to discuss the RAW button ;) The info button grants easy access to many quick changes. So, despite some weak points, I consider the overall button ergonomics of the K-7 even better than that of the K20D. Anyway, I really like the ergonomics of Pentax, in particular their hyperprogram and manual focus shift philosophy.


  1. I updated the article after Pentax today released a way for direct AF point selection.

  2. How about the userfunction on the left topdial, cant that be set to fx. Bracketing.

    Thanks for a good and not too technical test
    and conclution.


  3. I have a different opinion about the "mdlb".

    Firstly, I see no danger of switching the exposure mode switch accidently when using an appropriate method - and secondly, video as a mode is just a logical choice for me.

    Maybe an extra slide switch (no button) would be a better solution but there's barely space left on the compact K-7 surface. Possibly on the left side of the four-way controller or by sharing the space below the sync socket with the raw button. However, this additional effort would raise the cost.


  4. Lift & turn or push down & turn would have been better, IMHO. I only find it a little annoying, really, and haven't found myself accidently shifting exposure mode yet. Just sort of cumbersome - like the SD card removal on the K7...

    That's a spot-on comment about the timing, though: I shoot full manual & used to accidently shift modes on my K20D fairly frequently & even wished there was this exact feature of locking it somehow. Now that I'm playing with the video all the time I find myself switching modes more frequently. 'Course, that'll pass as I 'play' less & 'use' more & by then I'll be thankful for the lock for sure.


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