Pentax has decided to launch an attack on the bottom end of the D-SLR market with its new 10-megapixel K-m, designed specifically with beginners in mind. But what kind of camera can you get for £350, and is it really good enough to worry Canon and Nikon?
Actually, these days you can get a pretty decent D-SLR for this kind of money, including the Nikon D60, Canon EOS 1000D, Sony Alpha A200 and Olympus E-420, so what can the K-m add to the mix?
Well, there’s Pentax’s excellent sensor-based SR anti-shake system, for a start. On previous models this has proved to be one of the best on the market, and while in this camera it’s been downsized, the results look just as good as ever.
This system is also used for dust-removal, and the K-m goes further than its rivals by adding an excellent dust-checking system which clearly highlights any dust on the sensor -- you can check to see if you need to activate the built-in cleaning, and then check it’s worked afterwards.
The LCD carries good, clear shooting information, and an interactive user interface that’s quick and logical to use. The design of the camera as a whole is clean and uncluttered, and perfect for novices.
But the K-m has plenty to satisfy more adventurous snappers too. It includes Pentax’s unique dynamic range expansion function which genuinely does capture highlight detail that other D-SLRs leave behind, and there’s a whole raft of digital filters you can use when shooting and when tinkering around with saved images afterwards.
Uniquely, the K-m uses four AAs rather than a lithium-ion rechargeable. Pentax claims a single set of lithium (non-rechargeable) AAs will last you an amazing 1,650 shots, and the set of Duracells alkalines we used in our tests were still showing full power after 100 shots and lots of experimenting.
The one real issue with this camera is the kit lens. Pentax’s 18-55mm kit zoom has never been one of the world’s greatest optics, with poor edge definition and a good deal of chromatic aberration. This appears to be a cheapened version with a plastic mount and no distance scale on the focus ring. The optical performance is no worse, thankfully, and to be fair the Canon 18-55mm kit lens and Sony’s 18-70mm are just as bad. (Nikon’s 18-55mm and Olympus’s 14-42mm kit lenses are a class above in this sector.) The AF system makes a bit of a racket, too.
And while Pentax has worked on its interface design, the K-m’s menu system in particular still looks a bit crude compared to those of its rivals.
Really, though, the kit lens is the only thing worth complaining about, and it’s not really any worse than you’d expect at the price. The rest of this camera is terrific, especially the depth, richness and dynamic range of its images -- a real Pentax strong point at the moment. This is a sturdy, practical, straightforward and extremely likeable camera.
Edited by Cristina Psomadakis