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Pentax K-m: A small wonder

tech reviews Updated: Mar 24, 2009 18:48 IST
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Pentax K-m

The Pentax K-m (also known as the K2000) is comparable to the Nikon D60 — one of the smallest consumer DSLRs in the market. But does this small size manage to pack in a punch? Let’s take a look. Gagan Gupta tells more...

Form
With dimensions 123 x 92 x 68 mm and weight 590 gm, the K-m feels quite sturdy despite its size. The handgrip is deep and well-contoured and the rubber coating on the grip adds to the comfort factor and keeps the camera from slipping.

The 2.7-inch screen is bright and clear, but since there’s no live-view supported by the camera, it’s best used for reviewing images after shooting. Most of the functional buttons are placed to the right of the camera, so you don’t need both hands for basic camera control or navigation. The K-m’s interface aims to make things simple for casual users, to the extent that all scene modes come with brief pictorial example. The rest of the menus are simple to understand and doesn’t take too long to get a hang of.

The camera controls are more ergonomic than other consumer DSLRs I’ve encountered in recent times. The intelligently-placed exposure jog dial is a case in point. While in most cameras, you have to keep the AV button pressed and move the jog dial to adjust the aperture size, here, the jog dial is on the same line as a viewfinder and is extremely easy to maneouvre in a single-handed operation.

Features
The camera specifications include a 10.2 megapixel resolution and a 5-point autofocus. One thing I found ridiculous about the autofocus was that though the five brackets that represent the five points of focus are clearly visible through the viewfinder, there is no indication of which point is in use. Honestly I’d rather use a 3-point AF system with indication rather than a 5-point AF without it.

The camera body carries an image stabilisation mechanism instead of lenses, which makes it a few grams heavier than the competition (Nikon D 60). It also has a sensor dust-removal system, which has become a common feature in DSLR cameras these days.

K-m shoots at sensitivity levels of up to ISO 3200. Though the ISO 3200 seems immensely grainy at full resolution, it’s perfectly usable under a lot of lighting conditions, especially for smaller-sized images.

Performance
The K-m does not support auto image orientation. This means that the camera by itself does not auto-rotate the images you shoot by turning the camera sideways. Given that some of the basic consumer cameras these days support this bare-bones feature, it’s a bit of a disappointment to see it missing in the K-m. You’ll have to use software to rotate the pictures to their right orientation.

But the overall image sharpness of the K-m is better than many other cameras I’ve seen in this category. Even the minutest of the details were faithfully captured in the test shots. Colours seem to be a bit more saturated than normal in the K-m, due to the higher contrast levels. While casual users may enjoy the extra vivid colours; it’s generally not considered a good thing.

When shooting with a DSLR, its preferable that the colours remain as natural as possible, so you can control how much you wants to saturate or desaturate the image. The extra burst of colour is also obvious in night shots taken under manual settings (ISO 400, 4 sec, f/3.5). Nevertheless, the ISO 400 performance when it was pitch dark seems very usable.

The K-m shoots at 3.5 fps in burst mode, and takes under a second to start up and turn off.

Verdict
The Pentax K-m piece we reviewed was sent from Japan and will take some time before it’s distributed in the Indian market. It will be sold in India for Rs 55,000 (without taxes).

The Pentax K-m is a great camera for casual users to start off with, considering its light size and intuitive interface. But enthusiasts and experienced photographers may feel held back with some of the camera’s flaws.