A compact, rugged camera that’s packed with innovations that photographers may actually find useful--and one that changes everything...
Whenever a new camera is released, the manufacturer extols its many wonderful features. But let’s be honest: many of these features are there to impress; few actually help photographers take better pictures. The Pentax K-7 is that rare bird—a camera with many features that may, if they work as promised, have a profound effect on the quality of the work its owners will produce.
Adorama TechTock blogger Jack Howard shooting easy HDR images with the Pentax K-7.
In the days leading up to the K-7’s introduction a couple of weeks ago, Adorama’s TechTock blogger Jack Howard and I got to spend a couple of hours putting a pre-production K-7 through its paces. You can read Jack's perspective on its in-camera HDR here. Once the camera’s firmware gets up to speed by the time the camera ships in July (you can pre-order it now), I have a feeling a lot of jaws will be dropping.
Who would love the K-7
It’s been a long time since Pentax tried to build a pro camera, but historically it has built truly inspired, innovative SLRs/DSLRs for consumers and enthusiasts who appreciate innovative cameras. The K-7 is the most advanced Pentax DSLR yet, and has features that serious amateurs, hobbyists and yes, even semi-pros, will find very attractive. Yes, you can turn the dial to P and shoot without thinking about exposure, but the fun begins when you dig into the menus and discover its many innovative features.
Top plate includes a new mode lock button in the center of the mode button, left—apparently a user request—and logical control layout. Note the generous-sized grip on the right.
The K-7 in the field
Jack has already blogged about the K-7’s awesome ability to create high-dynamic-range (HDR) images in-camera—a major first which, because of its ease of use and effectiveness, may profoundly influence the next generation of digital cameras—so I’m going to focus on many other key features that stood out.
In the hand, the K-7 is very comfortable. It is compact and light despite its rugged magnesium alloy chassis, but the grip is generously-sized and my average-sized hands were comfortable holding it. Control layout is typical for a digital camera, with lots of buttons and controls, perhaps a few too many but considering the camera’s many abilities perhaps that many buttons are necessary. The camera is made to withstand temperatures from 14-104 degrees Farenheit and is weather resistant so you can shoot in the rain without worrying about damaging its sensitive electronic guts.
These were taken at Rutgers Gardens, East Brunswick, NJ, with the Pentax 10-17mm f/4-5.6 EX DC fisheye zoom lens, which was a blast to use! Photos by Mason Resnick
Lots of controls in back—15 in all—but no more than usual for a DSLR.
The menu structure is logical and fairly simple to navigate: The picture-taking modes are divided into four tabbed sections to avoid scrolling down through a long list, and it figuring out what was where took just a few minutes of sit-down time. I used the camera in bright sunlight and even under direct sunlight I was able to clearly see the image in the high-resolution 921,000-pixel, 3-inch LCD. In fact, the preview images displayed showed plenty of detail.
The 921K pixel LCD (left) is so bright and detailed that Jack and I knew he’d nailed this in-camera HDR image of a pine tree forest moments after he shot it with a Pentax 10-17mm ultrawide zoom lens.
I found myself using the Electronic Level function, which is designed to help you keep horizons straight, often. On screen the Level appears as a long, narrow horizontal line. If it’s solid, your horizon is straight. Otherwise, bars extend up on one side or the other and give you instant feedback as you tilt the camera one way or another. This feature’s another keeper.
The second of four picture-taking menus (right) gives you an idea of the K-7’s many innovative features. Half of the features on this screen shot have never been seen before in a DSLR.
Then there’s the HD movie recording feature. I recorded a brief video and the quality, when I played it back on my 24-inch Mac monitor, was impressive. I hope to have a production version of this camera soon so I can demonstrate it for you here.
The Digital Filter mode was impressive. In some ways similar to the Olympus E-30’s “Art” filter mode, Digital Filter options included Toy Camera, which emulates the look of a Holga or Diana, Retro, High Contrast, Extract Color, Soft Focus, Starburst, Fisheye, and Custom Filter. While many shooters will ignore this feature, some photographers may find their creative juices get flowing by experimenting with these filters. The Lens Correction function is said to adjust for Distortion and Lateral Chromatic Aberrations but since I only used the 10-17mm fisheye (which doesn't work with distortion mode) I didn't get a chance to try it. Look for that one in our full review, soon.
Histogram view is one of four preview viewing choices.
One of the camera’s amazing features is Composition Adjustment, which lets you apply micro adjustments to the composition in-camera—the kind of subtle pixel-by-pixel up/down, right/left movements that can’t be done by simply adjusting a tripod or moving it oh-so-slightly in one direction or another. To do this, the camera actually lets you move the sensor itself in micro-movements until it’s positioned perefectly. If you’ve ever struggled to get your tripod in just the right spot and your camera at just the right height, you’ll appreciate this feature.
Multiple exposure? It’s in there. Extended bracketing up to 5 frames? Yup. Intervalometer? Check. Ability to add your copyright to each image’s EXIF data. You bet.
Thanks to its many unique, innovative features, the Pentax K-7 makes a compelling case for owners of other brand cameras to change systems. As Jack says, it's nothing less than a game changer. The first of its kind to offer in-camera HDR, giving it the ability to capture an impressive range of light (according to our resident HDR expert Jack Howard, that range should be almost 17EV!) the K-7 offers a range of features we’ve never seen before in a DSLR. The K-7 deserves very serious consideration as an essential picture-taking tool.