Pentax K20D Review
Usability - How easy is it to use?
The ergonomics of the Pentax K20D are simply exceptional. The K20D has a deep hand-grip with a protrusion in front above the index-finder and another protrusion to the right of the thumb. This shape provides a very secure grip and comfortable access to the shutter-release, both control wheels and most important buttons. The camera feels very solid with a confidence-inspiring weight.
The K20D has the largest pentaprism viewfinder among cropped-sensor DSLR cameras. It provides a bright and clear image with 95% coverage. Unfortunately for Pentax, there are now competitors which offer 100% coverage for only a few hundred dollars more.
While gripping the camera, users can easily reach the exposure-compensation, auto-focus-lock (AF) and auto-exposure-lock (AEL) buttons using their thumb. There is also a green button behind the shutter-release which can be reached with the index finger. The green button is used to perform various operations depending on the mode-dial's position. Pressing the green button and exposure-compensation simultaneously resets the exposure to its default.
The two-control wheels were put to excellent use by providing direct access to exposure parameters. A great usability feature of this DSLR is that whenever aperture or shutter-speed can be changed using a control-wheel it appears underlined in the viewfinder. This provides a good indication as to the current exposure mode. It would have been even more helpful if the parameter controlled by the front control-wheel had a line above it instead of below. In program mode (P), called Hyper-Program, the control-wheels are used to enter aperture-priority (Av) mode and shutter-priority (Tv) mode. Pressing the green button in this mode resets the exposure along the program-line. An excellent customization option of the K20D is the choice of four program linesFast-shutter, maximize depth-of-field, optimal aperture (MTF) and normal. In sensitivity-priority (Sv) mode, one control-wheel selects the ISO sensitivity, the other shifts exposureChanges between equivalent aperture and shutter-speed combinations.
In Av and Tv modes, one control-wheel selects the main exposure parameter, the other either performs exposure-compensation or selects the ISO sensitivity. When the second control-wheel controls ISO, the green button can be pressed to have the camera automatically set the sensitivity. A great touch is that the Pentax K20D reports the selected sensitivity in the viewfinder and on the top-mounted LCD panel.
In TAv and M modes, one control-wheel selects the aperture, the other selects the shutter-speed. The difference is that M mode uses a fixed ISO while TAv mode attempts to achieve a correct exposure by selecting the ISO. In M mode, the green button sets the exposure according to the camera's metering mode; also, the AEL button, in combination with a control-wheel, shifts the exposure. This provides a good starting point for manually setting exposure.
Both control-wheels are also put to good use during image playback and menu navigation. The rear control-wheel zooms in and out of images while the front one moves between images without changing the zoom level. This provides an effective way to inspect a detailed area of multiple images of the same subject. To speed up menu navigation, the two control-wheels can be used: one to iterate over pages of a single menu and another to iterate over menus.
Pentax K10D & K20D
ISO is selectable from 100 to 6400. There is also an automatic ISO setting which can be customized by selecting the minimum and maximum allowable sensitivity. Compared to the K10D, there is no longer an optional ISO warning. There is also a flash-recommendation warning which unfortunately cannot be turned off. This warning appears as a flashing lighting icon in the viewfinder when the shutter-speed falls below a certain fixed threshold. Having a flashing icon does get annoying after a while, so we hope Pentax will add an option to disable it via a firmware update. This warning is not really useful as using a flash is frequently ineffective and can ruin the photograph.
A function-button (Fn) on the camera's rear brings up a menu to select the drive-mode, ISO sensitivityIncluding Flash-Compensation, flash-mode, Changes between equivalent aperture and shutter-speed combinationswhite-balance or setting image parameters. This last option was slightly changed and moved from the Recording Mode menu compared to the K10D. The K20D also has a 4-way controller which can be used for navigating the menu system and selecting the focus-point. While reviewing images, the center-button zooms-out completely. While taking pictures, the center-button toggles between showing the number of frames remaining and the current ISO sensitivity. Being able to see the currently selected ISO is very practical.
A switch on the front of the camera body selects between the 3 focus modes: single-shot, continuous and manual. In single-focus mode, the camera will not take a picture unless focus-lock has been established. This can be done by pressing the shutter-release halfway or by pressing the AF button on the camera's rear. The continuous-focus mode is fairly typical. In manual-focus mode, the camera very conveniently reports when one of the sensors has achieved focus. Focus confirmation is indicated in the viewfinder and, optionally, by a beep.
In the spirit of keeping things clear, the K20D displays on its rear LCD a summary of its settings each time it is powered on or the mode is changed. The Info-button can be used to display current settings on the rear LCD on-demand. This information screen even displays the current lens' focal length. It would be preferable if the information screen did not disappear instantly when a camera setting is changed.
During testing of the K10D, two minor usability issues with certain lenses were found. The first one is that the aperture-ring was difficult to reach when the lens-barrel widens just in front of it. The second problem is that the K10D did not report the lens aperture when the aperture-ring is not in the auto (A) position. Neither problem is an issue unless you plan to use old lenses without an A position on the aperture-ring. The K20D dos not seem to have made any changes to this but we did not have a manual lens on hand to verify.
Since it is quite common to leave a setting such as white-balance or exposure-compensation incorrectly set and thus ruin a large number of images, several Pentax digital cameras, including the K20D, allow to specify which settings are reset on power-offFlash mode, drive mode, white-balance, sensitivity, exposure-compensation and auto-bracketing. This shows that Pentax thinks about common mistakes made by photographers. It would have been even better if users could specify the reset value for each setting as well. This simple change is implementable via firmware.
The Pentax K20D supports two file numbering systems. One numbers images sequentially and groups about 500 images per folder. This apparently arbitrary limit is quite annoying as it often requires copying multiple directories from a single memory card. The other numbering system places files into folders named relative to the current date. New to the K20D is the ability to set the first four letters of image file names.
Pentax K20D Facts
|15 Megapixels DSLR||ISO 100-6400|
|Pentax K Mount|
Sensor-Size: 24 x 16mm
Actual size when viewed at 100 DPI
|2-Axis Built-in Stabilization||Full manual controls, including Manual Focus|
|Custom white-balance with 2 axis fine-tuning|
|Built-in Dust Reduction||Hot-Shoe & Sync-Port|
|3 FPS Drive, 38 Images||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|2.7" LCD 230K Pixels||Secure Digital High Capacity|
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