The mid-level area of the DSLR market has been extremely busy of late. One of the latest arrivals in the What Digital Camera office has been Pentax's K-30 and though it reflects the shape and size of an entry-level model, it offers some impressive features that we're used to seeing within semi-pro models. Sitting just beneath the K-5, which scored an impressive 90% overall rating in our single product review, the K-30 shares similar resemblances and inherits some of the internals from Pentax's K-01. Given an afternoon with the camera before the weekend, we laid hands on it to gather together a few impressions of how it handles and operates.
At the heart of the K-30 is the same APS-C 16.3Mp CMOS sensor as found within the K-01. Offering an ISO range of 100-12800 (expandable to an ISO equivalent of ISO 25,600), the K-30 can record video at full HD 1080p (30fps) thanks to the PRIME M imaging engine that has been optimized for low energy consumption.
Much like the K-5, the K-30 features an 11-point AF system and the Advanced SAFOX IXi+ autofocus engine offers improved optical components, including a diffraction lens to enhance autofocus operation in any lighting conditions. To change the AF point you're required to use the central OK button. This activates the four way buttons to reposition the AF point and then to return back again you hold down the OK button for a second. An initial test of the autofocus system revealed a quick and snappy response. Paired with the 18-55mm DA L kit lens the camera locked onto subjects with no signs of hesitation. It seemed responsive in AF-C continuous mode too though we'll put it through tougher tests for our full review shortly.
Set to continuous shooting the K-30 rattles out a burst at a speedy 6fps. This setting was quick to access and is certainly going to popular for those who'd like to capture a series of shots in very quick succession. Another feature that's a welcomed addition is weather sealing. Typically, weather sealing is more commonly found on semi-pro models and it reveals Pentax's commitment to providing the user with a camera that'll withstand use in any shooting environment. In total there are 81 seals around the body making it weather-resistant, dustproof and cold-proof (with proven functionality in temperatures as low as -10°C). We'll give the rubber seals more of a rigorous test in our full review but after dousing with water we encountered no initial problems or issues.
Handling wise, the K-30 feels superb. The grip is reasonably large meaning you can wrap your hand round it and get a good, strong grasp. The thumb rest at the rear of the camera is superbly profiled and contributes to a fantastic handling impression. The menu system has also seen some changes and it appears brighter and more colourful than before.
Overall, our initial impressions of the K-30 are very good. We're yet to study the image quality results under close scrutiny and we looking forward to taking a wide selection of sample images over the next week. If it produces similar image quality results to the K-01 as we anticipate, then the K-30 could be a great mid-level DSLR.