Pentax K-30 Review

The K-30 is an okay DSLR, but you really can do better.
The K-30 is an okay DSLR, but you really can do better.
The K-30 is an okay DSLR, but you really can do better.

Highs

  • Decent stills with enough light
  • Quick response (6 fps)
  • Top-notch screen
  • Weather-resistance construction

Lows

  • Poor video quality
  • Very noisy mechanical operation
  • No HDMI out
  • Poor flash results

DT Editors' Rating

We know retro is all the rage in camera design but luckily those “oldies” like the Fujifilm X100S are stuffed with the latest technology. The Pentax K-30 ($750 with kit lens) is also a bit retro looking and has some cool advances, but what it lacks makes this “old school” DSLR more 1993 than 2013.

Features and design

We have a soft spot for Pentax cameras, as do many others, since it was many people’s first step into SLR photography, thanks to their solid quality and good pricing. The world has dramatically changed since those days and Pentax is holding on while Canon, Nikon, Samsung, and Sony dominate the field. Still the company perseveres, introducing lots of rugged point-and-shoots, a few DSLRs, and some compact system cameras that seem more half-hearted attempts than the real deal.

The 16.3-megapixel K-30, however, is the real deal as far as DSLRs are concerned. The basic black model looks like every digital single lens reflex camera you’ve ever seen but there are a couple of neat tricks. The camera is weather-sealed, dust proof, and cold proof, so it handles the elements; it’s not completely rugged as it won’t survive a fall onto concrete. Also, the K-30 goes way beyond basic black: If you’re a rainbow fan, there are 17 color bodies available ranging from bright yellow to silky green – you order them online. No matter what shade you choose, the camera measures 5.1 x 3.8 x 2.8 inches and weighs 22.9 ounces for the body and card. It’s substantial without feeling like an anchor around your neck, depending on the lens, of course.

It doesn’t have all the features of an enthusiast DSLR and is too expensive for an entry-level buyer.

The key feature on the front is the Pentax KAF2 mount, which accepts KAF3, KAF2, KAF, and KA lenses – practically every modern lens from the company works with the K-30. The kit lens is the basic 3x zoom that’s not weather resistant but there’s no shortage of choices to match your photographic vision. Another nice feature is the built-in Sensor Shift Shake Reduction in the body so every lens you attach is stabilized to help reduce blur. We’ve used this system many times before and it works well.

The top deck has the pop-up flash, mode dial, exposure compensation button, shutter button, and a “green” button that brings everything back to default status (so any tweaks you made will go back to original camera settings). On the front of the very comfortable grip is a jog dial for making adjustments. The mode dial lets you know this camera is targeted to more sophisticated shutterbugs. Along with the usual PASM modes, there’s a Sensitivity Priority option, Bulb, and two customizable settings. Scene has 21 choices plus there’s Movie and Auto. The only thing missing on the top is an LCD readout – if you want that as well as additional features you have to step up to the K-5 II and spend another $400, staying in the Pentax family.

At this point, we have to bring the skunk into the dinner party and it may be a deal breaker for movie fans. Amazingly, in this day and age, the Pentax K-30 does not have an HDMI-out so you can’t watch your videos directly on your HDTV. Now, if you’re just posting to YouTube this isn’t a killer but big-screen entertainment is off the table. Also, while the K-30 captures MPEG-4 1080/30p videos, there’s only a mono mic.

pentax k30 weather sealed digital dslr camera top macro

The rear of the K-30 is as familiar as you’d imagine (see photos). It has a bright viewfinder with 100-percent coverage, a 3-inch fixed LCD screen rated a solid 921K pixels, and the usual four-way controller, assorted buttons, and another jog dial. All of the buttons are clearly labeled with ready access to white balance, ISO, and flash settings.

On the right side is a slot for SD cards while on the bottom is the battery compartment; the supplied battery is good for 480 shots per CIPA, a good – not great – number. Also of note is the fact this DSLR can use AAs for power with an optional adaptor.

What’s in the box

The K-30 is supplied with various caps, covers, straps, battery/charger, along with a quick guide and a 292-page printed owner’s manual. It would be worth going through this tome since you’ll discover this fairly affordable DSLR has extensive tweaking capabilities including high dynamic range (HDR), horizon correction, multi-exposures, and more. The supplied CD-ROM has SilkyPix Studio Developer 3.0 software for handling files and turning RAW images into JPEGs.

Performance and use

We loaded a 32GB SDHC card, charged the battery, and set off to give the K-30 a workout. The camera has an APS-C sensor – typical for most DSLRS – and stills were set to the maximum resolution (4928 x 3264 pixels) and video at 1920×1080/30 fps.

The camera was used under a variety of lighting conditions, but since the first flowers of spring were in bloom we tried to capture them first (see samples). The camera focused quickly, thanks to an 11-point autofocus system with nine cross-type sensors. Even so, we still used manual focus for close-ups. The results were good – not spectacular – with accurate colors. We did find the images to be noisy in the shade, however. In the sun, this wasn’t an issue.

We performed our standard ISO test and found the K-30 handled noise well up to 800; even ISO 1,600 was passable in small sizes but enlarging them on a 27-inch monitor really showed the flaws. Not many people will blow up their images to wall size but our reviews are mixed on this front. Even though the camera can reach 25,600, we suggest this be avoided at all costs.

On a more positive note, the K-30 is quite responsive with a top burst speed of 6 frames per second for JPEGs. Another plus is the 1/6000th-30 second shutter speed range, which is better than the usual DSLR or CSC that top out at 1/4000 (enthusiast models hit 1/8000).

Usually a flash isn’t worth commenting about unless there are problems, and we had them with the K-30. We used it for some group shots at a friend’s wedding with red-eye reduction turned on; the results were a blurry mess and not in a pleasing, artistic way. Even with it turned off the results were poor. We were wishing for a Canon PowerShot as we know we’d get a good quality snapshot. This was a real disappointment.

As for videos, let’s just say this camera is geared for still photographers. It had some of the worst rolling shutter effects we’ve seen in a long time. If there isn’t enough ambient noise, the mic picks up every little adjustment on the mono soundtrack. Toss in the lack of an HDMI-out and no “red dot” direct movie button and you have a losing hand.

Conclusion

If you can get past the lack of an HDMI-out and mediocre video, the K-30 is an okay DSLR, especially for someone with a collection of Pentax lenses. But to be honest, this camera is in no-man’s land. It doesn’t have all the features of an enthusiast DSLR and is too expensive for an entry-level buyer. You really can do better for $750 – especially with the many quality and cheaper compact system cameras available and intriguing DSLRs like the new 18MP Canon SL1 ($799 with kit lens).

Highs:

  • Decent stills with enough light
  • Quick response (6 fps)
  • Top-notch screen
  • Weather-resistance construction

Lows:

  • Poor video quality
  • Very noisy mechanical operation
  • No HDMI out
  • Poor flash results
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: DIY smartphones and zip-on bike tires

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Product Review

Google’s Pixel 3 is a hair away from pocket-sized perfection

Google’s Pixel 3 smartphone is the best Android phone you can buy. It doesn’t have the best looks or the best hardware, but you’ll be hard pressed to find better software and unique A.I. functionalities.
Home Theater

TV calibration 101: Here's how to tune up the picture on your new TV

You’ve got your new TV out of the box, but now what? Our TV picture adjustment guide takes you through the simple steps to get the best picture from your brand-new TV so you can set it and forget it.
Photography

When you're ready to shoot seriously, these are the best DSLRs you can buy

For many photographers the DSLR is the go-to camera. With large selection of lenses, great low-light performance, and battery endurance, these DSLRs deliver terrific image quality for stills and videos.
Emerging Tech

Here’s all the best gear and gadgetry you can snag for $100 or less

A $100 bill can get you further than you might think -- so long as you know where to look. Check out our picks for the best tech under $100, whether you're in the market for headphones or a virtual-reality headset.
News

Kodak’s ‘Digitizing Box’ service saves precious memories stuck on old media

If you've been meaning to convert your old family photos, videotapes, films, and audio recordings to digital but never seem to get around to it, then a new service from Kodak may prompt you to add it to your "to-do" list again.
Product Review

The design still says retro, but Fujifilm's X-T3 is all about the future

If the X-T2 brought Fujifilm into the modern era, the X-T3 is focused on the future. With a new sensor and processor, completely revamped autofocus, and vastly upgraded video, it's the new APS-C camera to beat.
Photography

You can finally throw away your PC; Photoshop is coming to the iPad

A full version of Photoshop is coming to the iPad -- and soon, other tablets, as well. Adobe also launched several new features for Photoshop and Lightroom, including a new Content-Aware Fill tool.
Photography

Adobe’s Premiere Rush is a video-editing app designed for social media projects

At Adobe MAX 2018, Adobe unveiled updates across the board for all of its Creative Cloud apps, from the release of Premiere Rush CC, a social-focused video editor, to Project Gemini, a digital drawing and painting tool.
Photography

Sony crammed 28x zoom, 4K into a $450 camera that weighs as much as a smartphone

The Sony HX99 is a tiny compact camera that mixes 4K and fast burst speeds with a 28x optical zoom. The travel zoom camera upgrades the processor over the earlier model for better video and super-long-burst captures.
Photography

Remove photo bombs, other unwanted objects with Photoshop’s new Content-Aware Fill

Photoshop's newest A.I-powered tool helps remove objects or fill in gaps for a distraction-free photo in the new Adobe Photoshop CC 2019. Here's how to remove an object in Photoshop using the new Content-Aware Fill.
Photography

Adobe Premiere Rush CC is the cloud-based video editing app you've been waiting for

On stage at Adobe MAX 2018, Adobe announced its cloud-centric, social video-editing application, Adobe Premiere Rush CC. We took some time to put it through its paces to see what it offers, how it works, and what's missing.
Photography

Adobe MAX 2018: What it is, why it matters, and what to expect

Each year, Adobe uses its Adobe MAX conference to show off its latest apps, technologies, and tools to help simplify and improve the workflow of creatives the world over. Here's what you should expect from this year's conference.
Computing

Adobe’s craziest new tools animate photos, convert recordings to music in a click

Adobe shared a glimpse behind the scenes at what's next and the Creative Cloud future is filled with crazy A.I.-powered tools, moving stills, and animation reacting to real-time tweets.