Pentax K-r Live View

Like the K-x, the Pentax K-r has a live view mode, for framing subjects on the LCD instead of using the optical viewfinder. Where the K-x's live view functionality was a fairly major upgrade from that of its predecessor, the Pentax K-r's live view mode provides a smaller -- but still quite worthwhile -- step. The live view menu is still accessed from the third tab of the record menu, but has been rearranged slightly to place the most important options -- autofocus type and grid overlay -- at the top of the list. Unfortunately, accessing the menu system -- even to visit the live view menu -- still immediately causes the K-r to terminate live view mode, causing unnecessary wear and tear on the shutter and mirror mechanism if you intended to immediately return to live view upon exiting the menu, not to mention inconvenience to the photographer. This is something we'd like to see changed in future firmware.

Live view mode is still accessed from any exposure mode by pressing a dedicated LV button, upon which the K-r raises its mirror, and initiates live view. Pressing LV again disables it. Like its predecessor, the K-r automatically shuts live view off after five minutes to prevent the sensor from overheating, and if the internal temperature threshold has been reached, won't let you resume live view mode until the sensor has cooled to an acceptable level. When using autofocus, you can magnify the image 2x, 4x, or 6x by pressing the INFO button. The four-way controller can be used to move the magnified area around the frame, and the green button is used to return to the center. When manual focus is used, higher magnification levels are available to a maximum of 10x, as an aid to precise focusing. Options are available in the Record menu to toggle information overlay on or off, or to add several grid displays and a live histogram, and to blink clipped highlights or blocked-up shadows.

Unfortunately, we no longer have a K-x in-house with which to compare contrast detection autofocusing. Compared to the previous generation K-7 prosumer model, though, the K-r appears noticeably faster, and tracking also seems to be more precise. A new function of the K-r's contrast detection AF is that during the AF operation the K-r's live view feed automatically zooms in on the focus point -- whether it is manually selected, or set using face detection -- making it much easier to see if the lock was accurate. The zoom isn't performed instantly, but rather the view gradually zooms in to help reinforce where within the frame the camera is focusing. This function is something of a mixed blessing, however, in that it can't be disabled, and operates even when in AF-C mode, where you'd expect to be shooting a moving subject. (It does return to a normal view shortly after the initial focus lock, so you do at least see the full image view during focus tracking.) The zoomed view can still make it very tricky to continue to follow your subject and keep them inside the image frame while focusing, though, and we'd really like to see the option to disable this otherwise useful feature -- at the very least when Continuous AF is disabled, and preferably at any time of the photographer's choosing.

Also new are a selection of three different grid types in live view mode, versus the one grid type of the K-x. The K-x's 3x3 grid is still available as the first option on the list, but there's now also a 2 x 2 grid with diagonals indicated (useful for rule of thirds framing), and a scale overlay that is reminiscent of the MI-60 AF Scale Matte focusing screen, with horizontal and vertical bars crossing at the center of the image frame. The horizontal bar has 30 scale markings along its length, while the vertical bar has 20, and each has larger markings for every fifth tick on the scale.

The illustration below (courtesy of Pentax) shows the selection of information that's available on the Pentax K-r's LCD display during live view mode.

Exposure Mode
Contrast AF Frame
Flash Mode
Phase Difference AF frame / AF point
Drive Mode
EV Compensation
White Balance
Custom Image
AE Lock
Shutter Speed
Interval Shooting
Aperture Value
Digital Filter
EV Bar
HDR Capture
ISO Sensitivity
Number of shots using Multi-exposure
Remaining Image Storage Capacity
Cross Processing
Main Face Detection Frame
Battery Level
Face Detection Frame
Temperature Warning


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