Equipment Review: Pentax K-50 DSLR

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When it comes to getting DSLRs, the first two brands that always comes into mind would be either Canon or Nikon. And the third would usually be Sony. Yes Pentax is a brand that don’t feature that well when it comes to choose an entry level DSLR and the lens that is available to be purchased in the Singapore market is not that wide either.  Fact of the matter is that Pentax is a brand that is steep in history and was founded in 1919.  If you see old cameras with the brands Asahi, that’s the predecessor of Pentax.

And to be fair to Pentax, it is much better known in markets outside of Singapore. Part of the reason is the perception that it is not well supported in Singapore for its lack of lens and offerings by third party lens producers too. Unlike Sony that has a fairly bigger kitty to market its products, Pentax is in an unenviable position to prove its worth in a market that doesn’t know it that well. However for people who do use Pentax, they swear by its image quality.  Now acquired by Ricoh, famous for its GR compacts, the brand should see a revival.

So here I am with their latest entry level offering – the Pentax K-50.

Launched in June this year, it has a number of things that put other entry level models of the established brands to shame. It will also makes you wonder what if there is a deliberate dumb down to make their higher end models look better.  I always like companies that pushes the envelope when it comes to offering better things to their customers. Fujifilm of late is doing something remarkable to the APS-C RF style cameras and Pentax is doing something similar to the DSLR entry level offering.

Here are the list of things Pentax trumpet in the press release.

  • 100% coverage in view finder.
  • 6 seconds per second continuous shooting
  • 16 MP sensor with highest ISO at 51200 and lowest is at 100
  • Weather resistant, dust proof construction (in short it is weather sealed!)
  • Full HD movie recording
  • Consumer features such as filters
  • AA size batteries can be used via an adaptor
  • Multiple colour offerings – 120 in total via colour-to-order service (the girls would love this!).
  • On body shake/vibration reduction (like a Sony/Minolta)
Red! Even if you want it to be discreet for street shooting, this is screaming to be seen.

The Body/Handling

This is one of those camera bodies that enables you to grip it well and never let go. The finger well is truly deep and it is tall enough for the little finger to rest too. Some other brands anemic appearance is a nightmare to hold properly. The mirror box is thicker than most entry level DSLR bodies I have handled before and construction wise it do give a sense of firmness and solidness. It reminds me of the time when I was choosing between Nikon D70 and Canon 300D. The build and quality of the D70 won me over then and if Pentax K-50 was in the mix then, it would have given the D70 a run for my money. So for someone who is looking to adopt a DSLR system, the ergonomics is something that some brands do overlook just to make their higher end model look better. I think size is simply an important consideration to have a stable platform to shoot. Skimping on this and a brand would risk losing a potential customer as Canon did when I was choosing a digital system then.

Now for the buttons and switches, Pentax wins my approval because of one small little detail-double wheels to change settings. After being on a DSLR that has 2 screens and 2 wheels, using one wheel to change aperture and then press button and use the same wheel to change shutter is basically counter productive. Sometimes people change a model body not because the entry DSLR image quality is bad (and the kit lens has a lot to do with that), but because it was a pain to change settings.

Pentax buttons and wheels and switches are basically those that comes from higher end models like a Canon 60D or a Nikon D90… and then some.

A expanded mode dial.

No where would you see TAv and Sv modes in other camera models – which comes about because of how digital photography has evolved. TAv is basically Shutter and Aperture Automatic mode that functions like Manual mode with ISO Auto being used but you can’t control ISO at all. And Sv or sensitivity value is where ISO setting is the priority and Aperture/Shutter has to changed to accommodate the ISO.  These two modes are certainly unique and may potentially help a new comer but will get lesser use once the user is more experienced.

For example, I could as easily use the P mode over the TAv mode with the ability to choose either to set my own ISO or let the camera do the thinking via Auto ISO and I would just use this over TAv for quick changes too.  In the end, I believe that sometimes having too many stuff would actually make it less appealing to a learner, the target audience Pentax is trying to attract.

Speaking of Auto ISO, I adored how Pentax has implemented it. I am usually not a fan of Auto ISO as it sometimes hinders the way I try to solve difficult to shoot situation. But for those who would like Auto ISO, then K-50’s quick ISO change is something the other brands should learn. I would just push ISO button, and select if I want Auto ISO or normal ISO usage and quickly use the settings I want much quicker when compared to other brands.

There are some hiccups though. For example the green button or E-dial button do need a bit of training to get acquainted. And the use of the menu to exit sub menus can be tedious. Why not use the left four way button to exit which is more intuitive?

Last but not least, the mislabeling of the INFO button. Like what it said it should change how the INFO was presented but it is only done in review mode. What is more important for that button is to be the Quick Menu mode! In my humble opinion a big ‘Q’ with a small INFO letter on the body would improve the user interface by a mile.

The camera do attempt a sensor clean either at start up or after shut down. What irks me was the loud noise while doing it and it makes you wonder if you are shortening the camera’s life span.

The Shoot

My brief about the camera is that the sensor is tweaked towards skin tones so I promptly organise a studio cosplay shoot just to test this camera out. And then comes one of the biggest hiccups – it didn’t trigger off the studio lights consistently. I am not sure if it is the wireless transmitter or the camera or both. As the trigger only requires the centre contact point to trigger with no TTL metering, it was a mystery why it couldn’t work when the other cameras in my arsenal worked flawlessly. Fortunately, i have another trigger set then and it worked for a while too before being inconsistent again.

As for the lens, it is the typical kit lens rated f3.5-5.6 with 18-55mm focal length (27-83mm).

Since I was told this camera was designed with skin tones in mind, then a direct comparison with the skin tone king of the hill the Fujifilm X-E1 using their ‘kit’ lens should be done. When it comes to sensor size they are equivalent.  The only difference is the placement of RGB photosites where one uses the traditional Bayer pattern versus the X-trans’s organised chaos of their RGB array. Is the comparison fair? Perhaps not judging from the product placement of these two cameras and the quality difference in the lens they use but putting them together will give some idea how the Pentax performs.

The photos are not colour corrected in post editing and both cameras shot at neutral color management with the same settings as much as possible (X-E1 was L-100)

Fujifilm X-E1 with ‘kit’ lens.
Pentax K-50 with kit lens

The first reaction is between contrast and colour handling. Since both are at AWB, then it also test how the cameras react to the same lighting. The Fujifilm colour did pop but can be seen as more bubble gum colour. The Pentax a tad muted but the colour is generally vibrant even when put in neutral. Most importantly, the skin tone didn’t go red but went a tad yellow instead.  In the end colour is subjective to the user in question and one should choose base on what kind of skin tone one would prefer.

I didn’t say much about colour and separation between the two as the lens used is of two different class. That said, Pentax kit lens do hold itself well in this comparison and is pretty sharp for what it does.

And one thing about skin tones of Asians is that it tend to be a bit more red when portrayed on camera screen of most brands out there.  Some photos below shows how the colour has come out from the Pentax with three different ethnic groups being presented and one can arrive at one own’s conclusion.

It consistently have that yellow sheen/hue on the skin that will push to red for some skin types and may require some post to get back a bit of the tone colour back.

Before Editing
After editing. Colour  and slight S curve contrast. No sharpening.

The sample photo gallery: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wilzworkz/sets/72157635451803872/

Conclusion

The common refrain from people who shoot is that almost all the digital photos needed to be edited. I would accept that not all digital cameras are 100% accurate when it comes to colour.  Fact of the matter is that the eyes that we use to see the photos and the screen behind the camera and the screen of the PC all present the same photos differently. That’s why calibration is so important if we are to talk skin tones. Even if all the world’s screens are calibrated, everyone’s eyes and the way they perceive colour is different too as with taste.

So there is no right or wrong when it comes to colour and it is mainly preference.  The thing is that most cameras out there are pretty capable already. The key differences would be the way the camera is controlled and how they process colour to the users. I would say it is a signature colour management that determines which camera system you would use too.  For me I would prefer to have a camera that is very close to what I want in my pictures and tweak from there which is more efficient. That said, the tweak from Pentax to what I want is not a lot. More than the X-E1 but not by a huge margin i reckoned.

To put it simply, it is a milder form of Nikon colour tone.

The only thing left is how the camera connects to the user. As a person who have used Canon, Nikon and Fujifilm, the Pentax is also a breath of fresh air for most part – akin to the time with Fuifilm X100 re introduces the aperture ring and shutter dial back to digital cameras. So Pentax do have something up their sleeves and it is looking good. Now is to have more lens, tweak the excellent user interface and perhaps a user enthusiast group to support the local users here.

If you like, you can read about how to choose cameras here: https://wilzworkz.wordpress.com/advice-for-purchasing-photographic-equipment/wilz-advice-buying-a-camera-system/

Many thanks to Shutter Journey Singapore for the review of the Pentax K-50.

About Pentax Ricoh Imaging Company, Ltd
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PENTAX RICOH IMAGING CORPORATION was originally founded in 1919 under the name Asahi Optical Joint Stock Co. In the 1950s, launched the first SLR camera, the Asahiflex I, and the company haven’t stopped since. From the Asahi PENTAX single-lens reflex camera to the Spotmatic and to our most recent K-5II and incredibly tiny Q10, Pentax empowers and inspired photographers around the world.

About APDS

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Audio & Photo Distributor (Far East) Pte. Ltd. formerly known as MHE Consumer (S) Pte. Ltd was founded in 1973.

Since its inception Audio & Photo has had been the distributor of many well-known international consumer brands such as Konica cameras from Japan, Kenwood and Nakamachi hi-fi products from Japan, and Metz flash and accessories, Rollei cameras and Jos Schneider enlarging/professional lenses from Germany, to name a few.

Currently Audio & Photo Distributor is the sole distributor of Pentax & Ricoh cameras from Japan . With over 35 years of marketing experience and history, Audio & Photo has developed a strong network of dealers located islandwide in Singapore with whom it enjoys close rapport and support.

Audio & Photo Distributor (FE) Pte Ltd bides by its belief that it exists because of the customer, and therefore it will always strive to serve the needs of its customers with full dedication and commitment.

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One thought on “Equipment Review: Pentax K-50 DSLR

  1. On top of all these, the T3 is compactly designed, fun and simple
    to use despite its many unique features. Image quality and color fidelity look good so far, and camera build quality seems good and appropriate for
    the price point. It is capable of taking 10
    frames per second at 16 megapixels, has built-in GPS for geotagging images, and includes a tilt and swivel LCD screen for added flexibility.

    Like

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