Pentax K-30 review

Build and handling

Image: Several times I was caught in the rain with the K-30, and the camera's weather seals do an excellent job of keeping out rain and moisture. Note that this image is not taken with a K-30

One cannot help but explore the edges and curves of the Pentax K-30's body. It may be a conventional DSLR, but its unusual shape draws the eye. The corner next to where the thumb rests, the built-in flash and the ridged and rubber side all offer a break from the norm. However, these quirks are only skin-deep, and offer no practical advantage.

Key differences between entry and enthusiast-level DSLRs are typically those of construction (low-cost polycarbonate rather than magnesium alloy) and the lack of an LCD on the top plate. This is indeed the case here, but despite its plastic shell the K-30 features a metal chassis and a weather-resistant body that is claimed to withstand splashes, and it will work in freezing temperatures down to -10°C. This is the first DSLR introduced at this level and price point to offer a weather-resistant build.

During this test I had plenty of opportunities to take Pentax up on its invitation to test the K-30's weather seals. As a result, I would not hesitate to use the camera in the rain, with the seals successfully keeping out raindrops and moisture.

Another major part of the redesign is the handgrip, which is deep and well contoured for a comfortable grip, whether shooting in landscape or portrait format. All the buttons are well spread over the body and are large enough for easy use even with gloved hands.

Despite the flash head featuring an angular exterior lip, the flash unit itself within the head is set back, not making the most of the design. That said, there is still a good distance between the flash unit and the lens, which reduces the likelihood of redeye.

The design of the battery compartment is similar to that of other Pentax DSLRs, with space not only for a D-LI109 lithium-ion battery, but also for an optional 4x AA battery pack. This is a great idea if the primary battery runs out, but it does mean that the supplied Li-Ion battery is a physically small unit and one that does not have an overly impressive capacity, allowing approximately 450 shots from a full charge. A higher-capacity Li-Ion battery would perhaps be the better choice, although this type of battery is significantly more expensive than the AA type.

There are several exposure modes on the shooting-mode dial. The usual program, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual controls are all present, as are bulb, two custom settings, scene, sensitivity priority, and shutter and aperture priority. These latter two modes adjust the ISO rating according to the selected shutter speed and aperture. As well as a host of shooting modes, the camera offers a maximum 1/6000sec shutter speed, and drive modes that include exposure bracketing up to ±5EV. The timed-delay drive mode activates mirror lock-up (there is no option for mirror lock-up in the menu, other than for sensor cleaning) and ensures the camera is as steady as possible to record crisp detail.

Unusually for an entry-level DSLR, the K-30 has twin control dials: one on the front and one on the rear. This speeds up changes to exposure settings within the menu, as well as playback, where one dial controls the zoom and the other navigates between frames. It is possible to maintain the magnification when scrolling through images, which is handy for comparing details in consecutive frames.

For those controls that do not have direct access on the body, they can be found via the info button, which opens a function menu of 15 settings, including AF mode and AF points, file size and format, metering mode, distortion corrections and the sensor-based stabilisation. Press the info button a second time and the status of the LCD screen can be selected, with options for an electronic level, display ‘off' or the ‘status' screen that displays the exposure settings.