Search This Blog

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Review - Hands on with the Pentax K7

By Thomas Eltorp
A little background, I have spend a week with it so far, a week spend on assignment in the Ilulissat area, so it has been put to real work from day one, which is never desirable, but as I run it alongside a couple of D3s and had backup opportunities should it miss, then I though it would be the best way to actually test how it performs.

1000 exposures later I think I have a fair idea. It has been shooting anything from helicopter action, whales, landscape, hiking, travel photography, turisty stuff and anything in between. In short it has been put through the worst I could throw at it, save for macro and low light work. All of this in the arctic summer landscape, around glaciers, mountains and icebergs.

The opening photo and title really says it all, there are ups and downs though, so lets get to it.

The Build:

Finally A Pentax body that is build and feels like a pro body, now you may argue that so is the K10/20D, but while sturdy bodies, the K-7 takes the construction quality to a for pentax new level. While it does not entirely match the solid feel of the D3, then I do think that has more to do with weight than actual build. The K-7 feels extremely solid. I would not hesitate bringing it anywhere and that says a lot.

And I have tested it. I shot a heli take off from the moraine next to the huge Icefiord glacier. The helicopter sent a piece of rock flying, that rock took the DA21 right through the lens hood, and literally shattered the protective filter and knocked me off my feet.

The DA21, K-7 and a fairly black and blue me, came out just fine. I am just glad that I had a camera in front of my face when that rock struck me It sure is a very tough little camera and no do not ask why I chose to shoot a heli take off with a wide angle lens

The Ergonomics and handling:

I called it build to pro standard and the Ergonomics follow suit, by far the body from Pentax that suits me best, I never liked the K10/20D body without grip, however I love the K-7 without it and as it is meant to be my compact system, then it is definitely good news. It seems like so many details have been refined, button layout, the slant of the e-dials, it all comes together nearly perfect.

I can handle this camera all day and it still feels right and comfortable at the end of the day. I dare saying, that it feels as good in my hand as the D3 and that is quite a compliment.

The handling is definitely great too, in some ways it is a little too consumer friendly, but once some of these features, like the info screen and other stuff has been switch off in the menu it starts to handle near perfect.

It has become much more responsive, while it still has a step to go from a handling perspective, it is excellent for its class.

The viewfinder is an improvement too, so nice to finally get what you see and just that.

It is a much more responsive body too, mirror blackout and shutter delay feels much better, the shutter feels and sounds better than any previous Pentax body I have handled, still a touch wimpy sounding, but almost there

The only thing that simply is not fast enough is the push center button to select AF sensor. That particular aspect is simply not good enough.

A tiny issue here is the battery, I dearly missed the high capacity batteries I am used to. The K-7 has as the other pentaxes a fairly low amount of shots per charge, my guess is that I will need quite a few if working in remote areas for a longer period of time.

Metering and WB:

Both seem to work very well.

I am a uniWB fanatic and while Metering and AWB, works, a linear tone curve and uniWB preset would have been a very nice inclusion. However for those using AWB the upgrade should be noticeable.

This actually relates closely to my comments further down on IQ.

Auto focus:

Save for the issue mentioned above AF has been improved.

AF-S has become faster and more sure, low light performance and accuracy are definitely excellent, still have a slight issue with backlighting and it still feels slower than the D3, but overall Pentax did good and for the class of camera I have nothing but good to say and it seems spot on with the DA21, FA43, DA70 and DA60-250 I have tried it with.

AF-C has been improved I think, but there is still a while to go, before reaching top of class here. While it definitely seems to track fairly OK, it is "clunky" (in lack of a better word), it seems to track in fairly large steps and to be a little slow when a subject moves in or out of focus.

That said I am more than satisfied, the K-7 had a 20-50% hit rate (excluding user errors) and that is good enough for me, in the same situations the D3 delivered only one focus error. I do however know this is not a fair comparison.

The 11 point AF systems could IMHO use an update, compared to the Autocam 3500 in the D3/D700/D300. The smaller and larger amount of focus points allows for a more precise hit.

Now I have not timed anything, so this is my subjective feeling of things and yes I am comparing it to a D3, but all that said I am very happy with the improvement and it delivers enough for me to be satisfied, given what I expect to use it for.

Shake Reduction:

Well, this is really a mixed bag and perhaps the one place where Pentax has a bug to fix, the SR simply is too slow to kick in, that we now notice is something that speaks as a compliment to the improvement to the AF system, but that really is no excuse.

The solution so far, is to disengage the AF from the shutter and use the AF button for that instead.

That allows me to warm up or keep the SR spooled and have it ready when I hit the AF button and press the shutter all the way.

Slightly different way to work and take a little getting used to, but it solves the issue and that is what matters

When SR does kick in however, then it works and works every bit as good as the VR system I am used to.

That I prefer the optical system for telephoto work has nothing to do with how effective it is, but that the optical systems stabilizes the viewfinder and thus the AF module as well and that is a slight advantage for telephoto work.


Well the IQ has triggered a huge discussion and I am actually very satisfied with it for my intended purpose.

I am through the editing of the acceptable part of 1000 frames, I will need to see the prints before being making my final judgment, but based on what have gone through editing, IQ is excellent for what I need it to do, save for a few things that I will get to.

Base ISO is generally excellent, ISO 200-400 decent and ISO 800 is there if I absolutely need it as a last resort, but definitely not good. Anything above is a no go for the work I do, luckily it bought it for use at low ISO and as a travel camera and thus I can live with the limitations.

DR is lacking in general, not overly so, but high contrast is unfortunately not something I can avoid shooting, why I see the limitation, a little noisy at base ISO too in certain situations, but overall the lack of DR is the one issue I can find across the board and it gets worse fast as you raise the ISO.

Colour accuracy and tonality is generally in the good to acceptable range at low ISO, at higher ISO or in shadow areas it is a little lacking, but for its class it is very good.

I still think that it will deliver excellent prints at base ISO and all the way up to ISO 2-400, but as we leave base ISO I will need to work a little more to get what I want from it.

Again I have yet to examine the prints, not to mention see how things pans out with Capture One and the K-7 (using Silkypix right now, as Capture One mess up the colours too much without a dedicated profile), but above will likely hold true for me.

Conclusion of it all:

While my thoughts above may seems overly critical and comparing the K-7 to a camera it never intended to compete with, the subject line and the photo posted above should tell you how much I like the K-7.

With a little work on the low ISO IQ and the AF selection part, I would have called it the perfect APS-C DSLR for me, but I can work around those or use another camera when those are important.

Pentax has delivered the most complete APS-C DSLR ever from them and one that suits my needs very, very well.

They have done so in a very compact form factor and that is something that I really appreciate.

The easy way out for me would have been to pick up a D300 that can share lenses with the D3, the fact that I have not is probably the finest compliment I can give the K-7.

Fore more Images from this camera's trip to Iceland CLICK HERE

Feel free to contact Thomas at
By Thomas Eltorp for P3N&R

BUY NOW: Pentax K-7 DSLR (Body Only)

No comments:

Amazon Deals

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...