This new mid-level DSLR offers a highly competitive feature list that will please current Pentax owners and new users alike, but does it have enough clout to ruffle the competition?
Image: Skin tones remain natural, even when using fill-in flash to add catchlights
The SAFOX IX autofocus system is a definite improvement on previous Pentax AF systems like the SAFOX VIII, and focusing is reliably faster.
The company’s other new DSLRs – the K-5 and the 645D – feature the ‘plus’ version of the SAFOX IX system, whereas the K-r has the standard version. The difference between the two is subtle: both feature an 11-point selection, with nine cross-type sensors in the centre area.
The SAFOX IX+ system does seem to have increased accuracy over the standard version, though, which is most noticeable in low-contrast scenes. The K-r’s AF is still very good, however, and competes admirably in its market.
For close subjects in low light, the K-r has an AF illuminator lamp to assist focusing. This is something increasingly being replaced by flash on many entry-level cameras, and its inclusion is a welcome sight.
The contrast-detection AF system, used when the camera is in Live View mode, has also had an overhaul for the K-r; the new algorithms have improved the speed of focusing, although it still struggles slightly in low light compared to the phase-detection system. The Live View focusing benefits from a fully flexible AF selection point, to all but the very edges of the frame.
The screen then zooms into the selected area while focusing to allow you to check that focus has been achieved. This is a really useful feature for Live View focusing and one that may well take off in future models. Manual focus can still be used in Live View and benefits from up to a 10x magnification that can be scrolled around to fine-tune the focusing for a specific area of the scene.