Pentax K-r Review

 
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Pentax K-r Operation

Like the K-x before it, operation of the Pentax K-r digital SLR is largely as straightforward as you'd expect from a consumer model, although it does manage to offer some more unusual features such as high-dynamic range photography, a cross-processing effect, and a healthy selection of pre- and post-capture digital filter effects. The large Mode dial on top of the camera controls the main operating modes, and has the same selection as the Pentax K-x: Auto Picture, Program, Sensitivity priority, Shutter priority, Aperture priority, and Manual, a variety of Picture and Scene modes, plus a Movie setting , and Movie. See the Modes & Menus tab for details on the various exposure modes.

Several of the Pentax K-r's control buttons perform multiple functions, which saves space and time. The e-dial for example controls a variety of settings when turned in combination with a press of a button, and the arrow keys of the Four-way arrow pad access shortcuts to common camera settings as well. The Pentax K-r's LCD menu system is straightforward, with four main menus accessible via a tabbed interface at the top of the screen. Considering the multi-functional controls and variety of menu options, it will probably take most users a little time with the manual to really get the gist of things, but operation becomes intuitive after that.

 

Main LCD

The Pentax K-r's main TFT color LCD monitor is used for status display, accessing menus, image review as well as image preview in Live View mode. This gorgeous 3.0-inch LCD is the same high resolution type found on many mid to high-end cameras recently, including Pentax's own flagship K-5 and 645D models. It's slightly larger than the K-x's 2.7-inch panel, and a significant step upwards in resolution, with approximately 921,000 dots. This equates to an array of approximately 640 x 480 pixels, with each pixel comprising adjacent red, green and blue dots. The K-r's LCD features a wide viewing angle, and its brightness can be adjusted in 15 steps, while color can be tuned in 15 steps on a 2-dimensional Green/Magenta vs Blue/Amber color grid for a total of 225 combinations. You can adjust the color while viewing a captured image in the background, useful when matching it to the color response of your computer monitor. You can also adjust the display color scheme, choosing from six presets, and set the text size, selecting between "Standard" and "Large" fonts. This latter option only affects the height of the currently selected item in any given menu -- the width of characters is fixed, regardless of the text size setting, as is the size of unselected menu items.

Status Display
When you turn on the Pentax K-r, or change exposure modes, the main LCD displays a status screen by default, showing the current record mode settings. The display can be switched off, and through the camera's Memory setup this can be made the default after power-up as well. The status screen updates in real-time while adjustments are made, and by pressing the Info button it can be replaced with an interactive Control Panel screen that allows certain settings to be changed without the need to enter the menu system. The Status display automatically flips between landscape and portrait modes depending on the orientation of the camera, and will even right itself when the camera is turned upside down. There's also a Guide display which appears briefly when you change exposure modes. The time it is shown can be changed, or it can be completely disabled in Setup Menu 1.

See the illustration (courtesy of Pentax) and table below for detailed information:

1
Exposure Mode
13
Exposure Compensation
2
AE Lock
Exposure Bracketing
3
Interval Shooting
14
EV Bar
Multiple Exposure
15
Flash Exposure Compensation
Digital Filter
16
White Balance Fine-tuning
HDR Capture
17
Drive Mode
Cross Processing
18
White Balance
4
Custom Image
19
Select AF Point
Cross Processing
20
Sensitivity
5
Focus Mode
21
Flash Mode
6
Metering Mode
22
File Format
7
Battery Level
23
JPEG Recorded Pixels
8
e-dial Guide
24
JPEG Quality
9
Shutter Speed
25
Shake Reduction
10
Aperture Value
26
Remaining Image Storage Capacity
11
ISO Auto
Green Button Guide
12
Sensitivity

 

Control Panel Display
When the Info button is pressed, the Status screen changes to a Control Panel display, allowing direct access to both commonly adjusted settings and some less commonly adjusted settings without the use of the menu system. The e-dial can be used to make direct adjustments to settings without entering a menu, or the OK button pressed to view all available options for a particular setting. The Control Panel display with disappear automatically after 30 seconds of non-use, reverting back to the Status display above (if enabled), or a blank screen. Like the Status display, the Control Panel display will automatically flip between landscape and portrait mode displays to match the orientation of the camera.

Compared to that from the K-x, the K-r's Control Panel display is almost unchanged. The only slight change is that the date and time display is now shown with a different font, and includes the day of the week before the date (not after it, as shown in the illustration).

See the illustration below (courtesy of Pentax) for detailed callouts of the settings available in the Control Panel display.

1
Function Name
11
Highlight Correction
2
Setting
12
Shadow Correction
3
Custom Image
13
File Format
4
Cross Processing
14
JPEG Recorded Pixels
5
Digital Filter
15
JPEG Quality
6
HDR Capture
16
Distortion Correction
7
Shake Reduction
17
Lateral Chromatic Aberration Correction
8
AE Metering
18
Current Date and Time
9
AF Mode
19
Remaining Image Storage Capacity
10
Select AF Point

 

Playback Mode Displays
In Playback mode, the default image display shows the most recently captured image, with a modest information overlay present. Pressing the Info button once pulls up the Pentax K-r's histogram view. Pressing the up or down arrow switches between a luminance histogram overlaid on the full image, and an RGB+Luminance histogram set alongside a smaller thumbnail. Pressing the Info button again brings up a detailed information display, which decreases the image to a thumbnail on the screen. All of the same information is reported here as in the detailed display in record mode, listed above. Pressing the up or down arrow switches to a display of the photographer and copyright information attached to the image, if any. Finally, a third press of the Info button brings the image back fullscreen, with no information. In any display modes where the full image is shown, overexposed areas in the frame can blink red, while underexposed areas can blink yellow, if the Bright / Dark Area option is selected in the Playback menu.

Turning the e-dial in Playback mode controls the index display and image enlargement options. The index display is accessed by rolling the rear e-dial one click to the left, and can show 4, 9, 16, 36, or 81 thumbnail images at a time on-screen (the default is 9). To change the number of thumbnails shown on screen, you press the info button, and then use the left or right arrow keys to make the change, before pressing the OK button. Alternatively, you can press the info button a second time to switch to the calendar view. (A third press will return to the thumbnail index view.) Most photographers will simply set and forget the thumbnail or calendar view, but if you want to change the number of thumbnails frequently, the number of button-presses required can get a little bit tedious. Rolling the e-dial one click further left brings you to a folder view, allowing you to quickly switch between folders of images.

Rolling the e-dial to the right, meanwhile, steps through folder, index, and full-image views, before enabling the playback zoom feature, which magnifies images as much as 16x. The blinking Bright / Dark Area warning does work while zoomed in, but the K-r doesn't go quite as far in some prosumer cameras that also allow use of the histogram function during playback zoom. Still, even the highlight / shadow warning is very useful to have when zoomed. You can of course pan around the zoomed image with the arrow keys, and pressing the Info button during playback zoom will enable or disable the information overlay, which includes an indication of the current view's size and position within the overall image.

 

Pressing the Down arrow button in Playback mode while viewing a full image with or without basic overlay will call up the Playback Mode Palette. Here, you can develop Raw files in-camera, perform a variety of image manipulations, create slideshows, print orders and index prints, compare images, edit movies, and store the white balance from a particular image as a preset.

The "Compare Images" function is particularly handy, and lets you view two images side by side to confirm focus, composition, etc. The blinking Bright / Dark Area warning again works in this mode, and you can separately set the zoom level (up to 32x max) and pan position for each image. Once set to your liking, you can then link the two images so that you can change pan and zoom for both simultaneously, making it really easy to compare images shot with somewhat differing composition.

The K-r's in-camera Raw development is quite comprehensive, and allows processing either of a single Raw image, or multiple images. For the latter, you can opt to process the images as-shot. Otherwise, you can tweak the size and compression level for the developed image, as well as the Custom Image mode, white balance, sensitivity (+/- 2 steps), noise reduction (auto, Off, Low, Medium, High), Shadow Correction (Off, Low, Medium, High), Distortion Correction, Lateral Chromatic Aberration Adjustment, and color space.

In-camera editing functionality includes the ability to rotate images in 90-degree increments, crop and resize, and to apply digital filters.These include Toy Camera, Retro, High Contrast, Sketch Filter, Water Color, Pastel, Posterization, Miniature, Base Parameter Adjust, Monochrome, Color, Extract Color, Soft, Starburst, Fish Eye, Slim, HDR, and Custom Filter. Most filter types provide a fair degree of customization over their effect, and the majority are quite similar to their counterparts on the K-x. Exceptions are the new Sketch Filter and Posterization modes, the Water Color filter (which now has an 'Off' position for saturation), the Extract Color filter (which can now extract two colors, rather than one), the Starburst filter (which adds four new effect shapes), and the Miniaturization filter (which now offers seven plane positions, three widths, four angles, and three blur strengths, versus the K-x's three fixed presets.)

Also accessed from the Playback Mode Palette are the K-r's infrared communications features, which are a first for the company, and we believe, unique among the DSLR market in general. In this day and age where the ability to upload your photos to social networking sites immediately after capture is a must, the ability to transfer images to a cell phone (or indeed, another K-r) is an interesting way to add a little value, although surprisingly it doesn't share the same IR transmitter used in the handgrip. Instead there's an additional dedicated sensor in the left-hand side of the camera body. It's perhaps not as fast as modern personal area networking protocols such as Bluetooth, but it's perfectly acceptable for images at reduced resolution, and the K-r allows not only full image transfer, but also sending of lower-res two or 0.3 megapixel images using bi-directional IrSimple or one-way IrSS protocols. There's also a rather bizarre "Dueling Images" game which requires two K-r bodies, and judges images based on certain unspecified criterion. A challenge must be declared on one camera and accepted on the other, then the winner or a tie is pronounced, with a running total score kept in both camera bodies. The score can be reset, if you're feeling hard done-by. The winner is presumably chosen based on shutter speeds, ISO sensitivities, and the like -- it certainly doesn't seem to relate in any way to which image is better exposed or composed. (While we only had one camera body during our review, we found that for otherwise identical images, one that was radically underexposed outscored a better-exposed image on all three gauges.)

 

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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

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