This is my concluding review report about the Pentax K-7 dSLR camera hitting stores next week (last week in Japan).
It is based on my experience throughout the past month, after Pentax Germany was so kind to ask me to test their new flagship camera. It is today that I have to return the camera :(
You may read about my detailed findings in my various blog articles found here:
- I am Pentax K-7 Alpha Tester :)
- In the rain
- Its continous autofocus -- Part I, Part II
- Its precision autofocus
- Tungsten high iso noise
- Comparative noise study K-7 vs. K20D
- Comparative resolution study K-7 vs. K20D
- As a movie camera -- Part I, Part II, Part III
Again, I am not going to repeat the spec sheet of the camera. Please, go to
to get the full list of features. Here, I'll just share my opinion about the product. First, I am going to break up my impression with various "use cases" in mind.
1. General comments
The Pentax K-7 is in a class with only five competitors (*). It is Nikon D5000, D90, D300, Canon EOS 50D, and Pentax K-7. The price range covers 730$ (D5000), 950$ (D90), 1200$ (50D), 1300$ (K-7), 1700$ (D300). However, as the K-7 is at launch price now, it is expected that the street price of the K-7 is to drop below 1000$ later this year and would be priced roughly like the D90.
So, let me quickly compare the K-7 against the other four models:
- K-7 vs. D5000
Pro: Better LCD, Faster/better shutter, much better VF, SR, WR, metal body, 15MP
Con: Heavier, no tilt LCD
- K-7 vs. D90
Pro: Faster/better shutter, slightly better VF, SR, WR, full metal body, 15MP
- K-7 vs. 50D
Pro: Slightly better VF, video, SR, WR
Con: 1/180X, no double cross center AF sensor, no tethering
- K-7 vs. D300
Pro: Lighter, video, SR, 15MP
Con: slower and no 150k shutter, 1/180X, no 51 AF points (11), no 1005 zone metering (77), no tethering
(*) defined by dSLR, 12+ MPixel APS-C, LiveView, ISO3200+, 3.5+ fps
SR: in-body stabilization (shake reduction)
WR: sealed body and kit lenses for weather resistance
This little list is not meant to rank the competition ;) But it shows that the K-7 is very interestingly positioned. Let's say that the D5000 seems to be an interesting camera but is positioned below the D90 which is a more serious competitor, but still somewhat below the class of the K-7. The only true matches in class are 50D and D300, where D300 actually is somewhat above. However, if video or in-body stabilization or bad weather-resistance are required then there simply is no match for the K-7. The only thing we need to check out is whether K-7 delivers on its promise. If it does then it has no real competition (yet).
Having said this, I'll leave the feature list comparison for a more meaningful consideration of strong or weak fields of application. Each of the following fields gets a score within 1 to 5 stars (category for digital 35mm mount SLR).
Throughout, this is based on the following judgements:
- High ISO noise performance is on par with the current state-of-the-art for APS-C (ignoring differences of a 1/3 stop). The K-7 will look both more noisy and more detailed at the pixel level compared to the competition above. Some think that this renders more beautiful images when printed. Others think that buttery images at high ISO are better. I think that the differences aren't significant enough to be important but I prefer to keep noise and detail for later processing. Full frame delivers one full additional stop though.
- Autofocus is significantly improved compared to previous models from Pentax and at or above average. But still no match for the best in its class (D300).
- 15 MP resolution is fully applicable when using good glass.
- Everything what you can read in the separate articles as given above.
2. Landscape / Cityscape photography
Actually, the K-7 is a stellar performer here and K20D already scores high. The relatively lightweight body, stellar image quality at low ISO in combination with available stunning prime lenses makes this the best choice short of a (heavier) full frame 20+ MP camera. A function for automatic horizon just makes it perfect.
It scores high like for landscape, but I remove two stars for the following reasons:
- fast and/or long glass is extremely rare and expensive, and a tele converter is lacking.
- AF.C autofocus is good (and much better than in previous Pentax cameras) but may still miss a shot in action-loaden situations (flying birds, predator attack).
Note that the first point is not a weakness of the camera itself.
4. Sports and Action
Same rationale as for wildlife. Also, there are faster, machine gun type bodies.
The K-7 is the perfect APS-C body for this kind of shootings and additionally can provide stunning HD footage. It is a robust tool and sufficiently fast, too. However, in situations where light is not optimal, a full frame body with fast glass can be a better option.
Much like wedding. But ease of use and the fact that full frame would be overkill adds a star. Very young active kids or pets can still be challenging though and costs a star.
Btw, I don't agree with some other reviewers that the K-7 underexposes. If I would, I would subtract another star here. I agree that K-7 tends to expose darker than what is seen in other cameras, but for a reason. Easily studied with its live histogram. E.g., a burned highlight in the extreme quarter decreases exposure from 1/25s to 1/30s. So, it isn't true that K-7 underexposes to rescue irrelevant highlights. It just takes into account that bright levels clip where dark levels don't. Just work with +1/3EV if you never adjust levels.
7. Street and People Photography
Can't be beaten. Light-weight un-obstrusive and able to cope with almost every foreseeable situation. A smaller camera (like K-m or non SLR) may be interesting but would be less rugged. The improved metering performance with highlights and with flash are important improvements coming with the K-7 (for night life).
Same rationale as above. Just keep an eye on your stuff, though. An SLR may not always be the best option. Depending on your priorities.
9. Portrait and Studio
The K-7 is almost perfect. The lack of a tethering option costs a star, though.
I judge the K-7 to be the second most interesting SLR offering video (with Canon 5DmkII being no.1 which would get 4 stars). The missing 2 stars are:
- No supersampling of full 15MP down to 1080p
- No videographer form factor/controls/EVF available with working Contrast AF
(taking the strengths (ISO, DoF etc.) into account.)
What sets it apart from other offerings are a "better than 720p" mode @30fps, uncropped 3:2 video, stereo, bearable jello effect, some manual control (aperture, EV compensation, exposure lock), no motion-compression artifacts. Of course, full manual control, electronic viewfinder and a fast contrast AF are all missing.
11. HDR and panoramas
The built-in HDR feature makes any other camera score 4 stars or less only. But Pentax missed the chance to align the images in-camera which would have been straightforward to do. The feature works great, otherwise. Moreover, the K-7 offers perfect control to do HDR panoramas. Live view with grid, exposure bracket and horizon control are an additional help.
12. Macro photography
Perfect control available. A higher resolution LV would be an improvement but doesn't currently exist on the market. I subtract a star because an automatic focus series for focus stacking would be great. AFAIK, it doesn't currently exist on the market for no reason.
13. Astro photography
LiveView is of great help and controls are perfect. Missing though:
- Tethering option.
- Dark frame subtraction shut off for exposures > 30s not possible.
- Crop of FoV compared to full frame, depending on the type (FoV) of telescope.
14. Final Verdict
Four stars is the average and my conclusive score. If you look at my criteria, there probably will be no camera scoring at 5 stars (smarter beats bigger). Certainly not its direct competitors, the 50D and D300. I like both cameras as well and they have different weaknesses and strenghts. But I like the K-7 better. A contender for 5 stars would be Nikon's D3X, if it were 1/3 lighter and had video.
So, the K-7 not only feels like a lot of fun to use, it is a very good proposition on the current market. The best ever made by Pentax and a bigger step forward for Pentax than they did whith the (already very good) K20D. Compared to the K-7, the K20D feels old already.
So it does deliver on its promise indeed which means:
"APS-C SLR camera"
(5 stars not assigned in category; as of 2009, July 1st)