A simple digital SLR camera for beginners.
- Onboard image stabilisation and dust removal
- No rechargeable battery, average kit lens with noisy focus
The entry-level Pentax K-m digital SLR is built to a high standard, with features rivalling more expensive models from competitors. The bundled 18-55mm lens is nothing special, but overall the Pentax K-m is a great SLR for beginners.
Price$ 1,075.00 (AUD)
The Pentax K-m is a digital SLR camera for novices, with a simple interface and good image quality. Its picture enhancement features are superior to competing budget SLRs, and although the bundled lens is a let-down the overall package is a great choice for a beginner.
Its basic specifications are similar to the Canon 1000D and the Nikon D60. It has a resolution of 10.2 megapixels; the same as the Nikon D60 and 0.1Mp greater than the Canon 1000D. Its 2.7in LCD has the edge over the other models, which only possess 2.5-inch panels. However at 625g it's heavier, despite being more compact than the other cameras.
We expect the reason for this is the fact that the Pentax K-m uses four AA batteries rather than a proprietary lithium-ion cell. Though Pentax quotes upwards of 1500 shots on a single set of batteries, the lack of an easy (and free) recharge option is a slight annoyance. If you’re a traveller, though, you will appreciate the ease of swapping out batteries.
Sensor-based image stabilisation makes a welcome appearance. We found it improved low-light performance measurably, helping capture clear shots down to a shutter speed of around 1/50 at f3.5. While this is no substitute for a flash or a better quality lens, it is nice to see decent on-body image stabilisation on a low-end digital SLR. In their defence, both the Canon and Nikon bodies have bundled kit lenses with image stabilisation.
The Pentax’s K-mount lens system can accept lenses designed for the small APS-C sensor size, but it also fits 35mm film-size lenses as well. The 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 lens bundled with the Pentax K-m body is nothing special — we’d put it on par with the equally mediocre 18-55mm from Canon; in our opinion the Nikon’s kit zoom is the best of the three.
All the Pentax K-m’s controls are located on the right side of the body and can be operated with one hand, leaving your left hand free to operate the lens zoom (and focus, if you’re feeling adventurous). Included in these standard controls is the new '?' button, which activates a help menu to offer composition advice for the current shooting mode or explain the functionality of camera buttons. If you are just starting out with digital SLR cameras this is useful for gaining an initial understanding of what does what.
The Pentax K-m digital SLR camera also features an Auto Picture mode, which attempts to choose the most appropriate scene mode for your shooting conditions. There are four of these modes, covering night, motion, landscape and macro; a dedicated Scene setting allows 10 more to be chosen.
The information display on the LCD panel when taking a photograph is comprehensive, showing a wide range of shooting details as well as offering direct access to more in-depth menu functions such as selecting individual focus points and image stabilisation. These menus are equally comprehensive and well thought out — we think that Pentax’s adoption of a Canon-like menu is a positive step. The Custom Image submenu lets you choose settings for colour, contrast and sharpness and offers a good preview mode of the effect changes will have.
There is no Live View mode, unlike the Canon 1000D. We don’t really mind — Live View is no substitute for looking through a viewfinder in our opinion.
As can be expected of a digital SLR, the Pentax K-m takes high quality images. The 18-55mm lens isn’t the sharpest or the fastest to focus, and it has a noisy autofocus, but it gets the job done and the images captured by the Pentax K-m are of the quality we have come to expect from a 10Mp SLR. Images are vibrant and consistently clear, with no noticeable chromatic aberration or distortion that we could see. Images up to ISO 400 were clear, while from ISO 800 upwards images suffered speckling and loss of detail.
The Pentax K-m is a fast camera, powering on in 0.7sec and releasing the shutter in 0.04sec. Burst mode captures images at around 3.5 frames per second, which is par for the course.
Sitting roughly on par with models from Nikon and Canon, but with the advantage of a slightly lower price-tag, the Pentax K-m digital SLR is a good choice for a beginner.
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