The Pentax K7 is the company's first pro-grade DSLR, and it's been a long time coming. This review is of a pre-production sample fitted with firmware upgrade 1.0.0
Pentax K-7 review – Performance
Pentax K-7 review – AF system
In performance, the Pentax K-7 certainly amps things up from the Pentaxs of old. Notably the 11-point AF system is considerably more dynamic than previous efforts, and with its new SAFOX VIII+ system – yes, it’s taken eight incarnations to get it to this level – lenses from wide through telephoto will take advantage of the nine main cross-type AF points. Points flick into focus with relative ease, accompanied by a reassuring (optional) beep, that works wonders when using manual focusing lenses too.
However, the inclusion of an green AF illuminator lamp which should help in darker situations, only seems to spring into action on somewhat self-selective opportunities. There were a number of occasions where the lens would be attempting to focusing on a flat-toned surface in low light and fail to deploy the AF lamp – which ought to be its very purpose. If it’s on the camera then it ought to be more effective.
Pentax K-7 review – Continuous shooting:
From a faster autofocusing system to a faster continuous burst rate, the Pentax K7 can whirr off a bundle of shots inside a single second – 5.2 to be exact. This works up to 15 shots when shooting Raw files, or 40 frames when shooting JPEG. Once you’ve hit that wall the buffer does clog up however, and you’ll be waiting a number of seconds before it’s totally free to shoot with again. You can interrupt after a few seconds and continue to shoot, though not with the same speed. When the on-camera flash is deployed it’s possible to shoot between 2-3 frames per second, given the time taken for the power to juice the flash back up to full. This is still a pretty amenable speed however, and is one of the key differences that the K7 offers over its counterparts. A strong performance.
Pentax K-7 review – Shake Reduction / Image Stabilisation
Pentax has opted for in-camera Shake Reduction, which is accessed via the main menu. Options are a relatively simple on or off – disappointing to not have the capacity to specifically control horizontal pixels for fast panning.
However, in action the Shake Reduction really does stabilise your images. With a claim to four stops, it seems actively effective to two – at least, that is, if you want to keep a sharp frame. In testing around 1/15th sec handheld there was a minor difference, though with longer exposures of 1/8th sec and beyond there was notable retention of detail (but not an overall sharp resulting image, due to excessive handheld shutter period).
Pentax K-7 review – Movie Mode:
The Pentax K-7 is the only DSLR in this class to offer a movie function. Whilst this could change at any moment – as Canon and Nikon are both plumping out older models with movie-ready equivalents – it’s ticked the box as a first for Pentax. For this we can only applaud the K7’s effort, though there are a number of shortcomings:
Primarily it’s the confusion inside the menus. ‘0.9M 16:9’ offers 720p recording at 30fps. Whilst ‘1.6M 3:2’ offers 1536×1024 recording at 30fps, with the final pixels stretched to fit 16:9 to output an equivalent 1080i – though it’s not a true Full HD 1080 resolution.
Secondly there’s the lack of autofocus in live view when recording. Admittedly other cameras suffer with this problem, but it’s an issue that many manufacturers are working on to add the option. Manual focus is fine, but given the format of a DSLR camera it’s tricky to shoot steady video, particularly whilst attempting to focus. Not to mar the achievement too much, but it ought to be a better performer. Final output is impressive but a full 1080p recording would have sounded really impressive.
Pentax K-7 review – Live View:
It’s not just the movie mode where the K7’s live view mode struggles. In standard use it’s just a bit slow and clunky. Whilst autofocus is possible – though only by using the rear AF button, not by half depressing the shutter – it’s incredibly slow, and frequently fails to find focus. As such manual focus is the only worthy option in live view, which is complimented by the ability to zoom up to 6x into the image to pick off precise detail. Low light will cause a lot of moving noise on the display however, though this is a standard that’s hard to avoid given the technology.
Pentax K-7 review – Virtual Horizon:
One thing the Pentax K7 does seem keen to do is pull as many quirky features as possible in order to outshine its close competitors. One such feature is the virtual horizon, which acts as a kind of spirit level to assist you with holding the camera dead straight. It’s the type of technology that appears in high-end pro cameras, and is a nice touch here – whether using landscape or portrait orientation, or live view.
Pentax K-7 review – 18-55mm kit lens:
The standard 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 kit lens comes boxed with the K-7 and its performance is ample. As with most standard kit lenses you’ll likely feel somewhat restricted by its aperture and focal length limitations, but attach one of many other lenses, new or old, and that’s where the fun starts. Using both a 100mm f2.8 macro and 300mm f4.5 telephoto lens entirely changes the way of working, as any photographer knows. So whilst the kit lens provides sturdy image quality, keeps chromatic aberrations to a minimum and is fairly sharp, it’s the box of other goodies that should rouse some excitement in the potential that the K7 has – especially considering those lenses for movie modes or quick burst continuous shooting.
Pentax K-7 review – In-camera effects, HDR & filters
A slight oddity is the inclusion of in-camera filters and modes. There are the usual and useful ones such as Black & White, but others such as Fish Eye adds a pseudo fish eye effect that’s, well, really none too convincing, seem a little beyond serious. Toy Camera and Retro perhaps have their application, but it’s the in-camera HDR mode that baffles. Set the K7 to take a ‘strong’ or ‘standard’ HDR shot and it’ll take three consecutive snaps and generate an HDR image in-camera in a matter of seconds. The wait can be a little slow, but the lack of control in the resulting image often means really exaggerated and unpleasant shots. Furthermore, it’s essential to shoot from a tripod or similar support, otherwise you’ll have the high element shadowed to the left of the main image or similar, and it becomes a mess. The problem is that when HDR is activated it’s not possible to shoot with self timer, so the increased likelihood of camera shake when depressing the shutter by hand makes the mode a bit of a write-off. One best left deep inside the menus really.
Pentax K-7 review pages:
– Page 1: Pentax K7 DSLR review – Features
– Page 2: Pentax K-7 full production model review – Design
– Page 3: Pentax K7 full firmware review – Performance
– Page 4: Pentax K-7 review – Image Quality & Value for Money
– Page 5: Pentax K7 full first review – review specifications / specs
– Page 6: Pentax K7 DSLR review Verdict
Pentax K7 review – other What Digital Camera links: