After the takeover of Pentax’s camera business by Ricoh there was a lot of speculation about what might emerge from the new entity. Ricoh expressly stated that it wanted Pentax for its expertise in D-SLRs with the implication being that it wanted its own brand in the category. However, the first D-SLR to emerge from Pentax Ricoh Imaging is badged a Pentax, and it’s most definitely a Pentax D-SLR in spirit… but the body is a different matter altogether.

The K-30 is quite a dramatic departure from what we’ve seen before from Pentax which has mostly been very competent on the inside, but conservative on the outside. The K-30’s styling is all sharp edges and exaggerated angles including the faceplate for the name badge which slopes backwards like the rear window of a Ford Anglia (Google it, if you’re too young to remember).

The handgrip is quite deep and heavily sculpted, and there’s even a protrusion housing the AF assist lamp, but the really big deal is that polycarbonate bodyshell is sealed against the intrusion of dust and moisture. This is the first time such protection has been provided on a sub-$1000 D-SLR, but it’s probably not so surprising that Pentax – the real socialists of camera world – should make it available to buyers on a tighter budget. And it appears to be the full works too, with all joints, control junctions and openings sealed with gaskets or guard lips. Underneath all this is a stainless steel chassis so the K-30 is also very solidly built for an entry-level model. Size wise, the K-30 isn’t especially compact – in fact, there isn’t much difference in overall bulk between it and the K-5 – so it’s marginally bigger than rivals such as the Canon’s EOS 650D and Nikon’s D3200. The length of the handgrip and the built-in flash unit’s long overhang contribute to the visual impressions of increased size, but the Pentax is pretty much par-for-the-course in terms of its weight.

There’s a choice of black, white and blue body colours with the blue being a mid-shade that really compliments the styling as it shows off the angles in a more pronounced way. The control layout is centred on a main mode dial with front and rear input wheels, a four-way key cluster for various navigation duties, a small number of function buttons and a fixed 7.62 cm LCD monitor screen (but no top-deck read-out panel). The pentaprism-based optical viewfinder is the same as that in the K-5 so it provides close to 100 percent coverage at 0.92x magnification... another luxury on a sub-$1000 D-SLR.

Sharp Shooting
The K-30 actually borrows from both the K-5 and Pentax’s K-01 compact system camera (CSC) to come up with a pretty appetising combination of features and specifications.

Also from the K-5 comes the 11-point autofocusing system – albeit slightly upgraded – while the 16.49 megapixels, ‘APS-C’ size CMOS sensor is the same imager as is used in the K-01, as is the ‘PRIME M’ processor (but obviously tweaked for the K-30). Consequently, the K-30 also has a quoted top continuous shooting speed of 6.0 fps which makes it the fastest in this class except for Sony’s fixed-mirror SLT-series models. And, as with the K-01, video clips are recorded in Full HD resolution with H.264 compression.

The sensor’s imaging area is 15.7x23.7 mm and the effective pixel count is 16.28 million which gives a maximum image size of 4928x3264 pixels. Three smaller image sizes and a choice three compression levels – Best, Better and Good – are available for JPEG capture. As with all Pentax D-SLRs RAW files are captured in the Adobe DNG format and the RAW+JPEG mode can be configured to append any size or quality level of JPEG.

The sensitivity range is equivalent to ISO 100 to 12,800 with a one-stop push to ISO 25,600. Image stabilisation is body-based and provided via sensor shifting which Pentax calls ‘Shake Reduction’. It’s claimed to give up to three stops of correction, depending on the focal length of the attached lens. Of course, it works with any lens and, where the focal length isn’t automatically relayed to the camera body, this information can be input manually. The image stabiliser’s shift system is also used to provide active sensor cleaning.

The phase-difference detection autofocusing module is designated SAFOX IXi+, with the upgrades being a revised microlens design to more effectively eliminate the influences of chromatic aberrations and new processing algorithms. Nine of the 11 focusing points are cross-type arrays and there’s a choice of four ‘AF Active Area’ modes for point selection – manual, spot or auto using either the five central points or the full set.

Switching between single-shot or continuous operation can be done manually or automatically by the camera when subject movement is detected. With the continuous mode there’s a choice of switching between focus-priority or fps-priority while in the single-shot mode the choice is focus-priority or release-priority. Automatic subject tracking is provided with the K-30’s ‘Expanded Area AF’ mode, using what Pentax calls the “back-up” points (i.e. those surrounded the originally selected point). These are shown in pink in the K-30’s status screen display while the manually selected point is in red.