What Digital Camera’s review of the Pentax K-r discovers whether the K-r adds something extra to the recent run of promising Pentax DSLRs. Read our full Pentax K-r test…

Product Overview

Overall rating:


Pentax K-r

Overall score:87%
Image Quality:85%


  • Good low-mid ISO image quality


  • No video autofocus


Pentax K-r Review


Price as reviewed:


Image Quality

Pentax K-r review – Image Quality

Pentax K-r review: Tone and Exposure

In terms of exposure metering, we found the Pentax K-r to be generally decent, with just an occasional tendency to slightly underexpose. Dialling the exposure compensation by about a 1/3rd of a stop easily fixes this though. The highlight correction tool can also help to retain highlights, although applying too much of this – or its shadow correction counterpart for that matter – can make images look unnatural. Image tones are very much affected by the choice of the Custom Image setting used, and while the Natural setting is a little flat, the Bright and Vibrant settings both produce images with more tonal contrast.

Pentax K-r review: Colour and White Balance

Again, the choice of Custom Image setting has a fairly dramatic effect on colour. Used in Fully Automatic mode, or with the Natural custom image setting, colour is a little flat straight out of the camera. However, the Bright and Vibrant Custom Image settings both produce images that are noticeably more vibrant. Add to this the range of filters and effects that can be accessed and it’s possible to produce everything from muted to high-contrast images without having to use any post-processing software. We especially liked using the Colour Reversal effect that mimics classic slide film for images that are rich and saturated in colour. We found the Automatic White Balance setting to be thoroughly reliable too.

Pentax K-r review sample image

Pentax K-r review: Raw vs JPEG

The Pentax K-r offers the option to record Raw files in either the universal .DNG Adobe standard or in Pentax’s own .PEF format. We couldn’t see any discernable difference between the two though. JPEG processing leads to sharper images than their Raw counterparts, and JPEG images shot at higher ISOs also benefit from greater noise reduction. Of course, there’s much more scope to alter both the sharpness and noise content of Raw image files than their JPEG counterparts. As well as being able to record Raw and JPEG files simultaneously, the K-r helpfully allows you to make and save a Raw image from the last recorded JPEG file when the camera is in review mode, just so long as the data for the recorded image is still in the camera’s buffer.

Pentax K-r review: ISO Sensitivity and Image Noise

Noise control on the K-r is really very impressive. Noise is all but imperceptible at lower sensitivities of up to ISO 400, even when images are viewed at 100%. At mid-range sensitivity settings of between ISO 800 and ISO 1600, image noise only makes a small impact with plenty of detail still present at higher magnifications. By ISO 3200 image noise does become more noticeable as sharpness and detail begins to degenerate, although even at this setting most images remain perfectly u

seable. By ISO 6400 image noise becomes much more pronounce. The highest available settings of 12,800 and 25,600 aren’t especially useful, however, as they produce images that lack any fine detail and display an abundance of colour noise.

Pentax K-r review: Sharpness and Detail

Coupled with the 18-55mm SMC Pentax DAL kit lens the K-r is capable of delivering acceptably sharp images, especially when stopped down to an optimum aperture and used at low to mid-range sensitivities. Sharpness does decrease with each rise in ISO however. We had no problems with fringing on high-contrast borders at all.

  1. 1. Pentax K-r review - Features
  2. 2. Design
  3. 3. Performance
  4. 4. Image Quality
  5. 5. Movie/Video Mode
  6. 6. Value & Verdict
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