The K-30 is built around the same basic chassis as the K-5 (the dimensions and general layout are identical), but the outer body has been treated to some newly designed curves and ridges for a fresher look. The interface has got simpler too. Lots of the K-5's direct-access controls have been ditched (exposure and autofocus selectors, as well as the delete button, AE-L and ISO buttons, and the depth-of-field preview button). Some connections have also gone (microphone, power, HDMI), as has the settings screen on the camera's upper edge. However, the K-30 does inherit the K-5's weather-resistant finish, plus the second settings wheel on the front of the camera, the custom modes and the pentaprism-based viewfinder with 100% coverage. That makes enough extras to set it apart from the entry-level K-r—not to mention the rest of its competitors!
However, there have been a few rather more debatable changes. The rubber thumb-rest has gone, for example, leaving a less comfortable plastic ridge to rest on. Here, handling isn't quite as flattering as in the Canon EOS 650D or Sony's Alpha 65—this camera's two closest rivals launched at similar prices.
The display is nice, with good resolution and a relatively accurate onscreen image in spite of a dominant blue overtone. However, it's no match for the excellent screen in Canon's EOS 650D, which is exemplary in every field. After seeing quality like that, we're obviously hoping to see competitor models match it.
Another slight let-down is that the K-30 screen isn't touch-sensitive and has no swivel function. This certainly makes the camera body feel sturdier, but both such features would improve the general handling. It's also surprising to see that the "Live View" button has been moved to the left of the viewfinder—this button has been on the right of the screen in other Pentax SLRs, falling comfortably under your thumb.
The internal menus are standard Pentax fare, organised in tabs that are relatively clear but packed very full of options. These include plenty of advanced customisation options, like you find in expert-level SLRs, and some more unusual functions like an interval timer. Thankfully, the Info button is on hand for fast access to all the main settings.
One last thing—the K-30 makes a particularly sharp, harsh kind of noise when it takes a photo. Don't expect to hear the softer swish of the K-5.
Unlike its predecessors, the K-30 doesn't start up straight away—it takes almost a second and a half to get going. The difference is very subtle, but it can be problematic when you're desperately trying to shoot something that's already happening ...
Otherwise, this camera behaves like other Pentax SLRs, with an autofocus that works very quickly in good light and a little slower in low light. It still sometimes fine-tunes itself at the last minute, but this quirk has been largely smoothed out. In fact, it hardly ever happens in real-life situations.
The burst mode works at around 5.5 fps. When shooting in RAW mode it gets considerably slower after seven shots, but it holds out for much longer with Jpegs (with a fast enough memory card, it's practically limitless).
Some progress has been made with the autofocus in Live View mode, but it's still a far cry from the best mirrorless camera systems.
It's been a while since a camera using Sony's 16-Megapixel sensor scored anything other than five stars in our picture quality tests. Obviously, some models put it to better use than others—but still—this CMOS sensor is an unquestionable success.
Images are very clean up to 1600 ISO—as usual, we're tempted to say. And, as usual, smoothing and speckling noise still aren't too much of a problem at 3200 ISO (the K-30 takes similar pictures to the K-5, with results that are less smoothed than with the K-01). Sony does a better job with the NEX-F3, for example, but the results here are still excellent.
Note that the K-30 is more likely to be supplied with the DA L 18-55 mm as a kit lens rather than the DA 18-55 mm WR lens that comes with the K-5. In theory, these lenses should give the same quality results, but the "L" version has a less flattering finish and the bayonet is made from plastic. It also loses the Quick-Shift manual focus adjustment function and the weather-resistant finish—which is all the more of a shame since the K-30 body's weather-proofing is a real plus point compared with its rivals.
The DA L lens we were sent with our K-30 wasn't the best we've ever seen. At full aperture in wide-angle settings, the image seriously lacked consistency over the frame. We had to close to f/8 to bring things to a decent level. We've had much better versions of the same lens in the past. That said, from f/5.6, an 8" x 12" print (20 x 30 cm) would still come out looking great, and we've seen more striking variations in quality in different models of Sony's 18-55 mm lens, for example.
The K-30 films 1080p HD video at 24, 25 or 30 frames per second. The image is sharp and noise is kept in check. Seeing as there's no continuous autofocus, you have to press down the AF button to force a slow and noisy focus correction. Anyone who's serious about video will therefore probably need to switch to manual focusing.
One really handy feature is that an electronic level tool can be displayed constantly while you film (horizontal and vertical levels available). Plus, sensor-shift stabilisation remains active as you film, giving a smooth, stable "Wescam" kind of effect that we rather liked (although some of you may not).
Sound recording isn't quite as good, however. Quality is OK but it's mono rather than stereo (even though the K-01 has stereo mics). The K-30 doesn't have a built-in microphone socket either.
On the whole, picture quality is good, but the video mode is otherwise a bit too basic by current market standards.
- Weather-resistant, big viewfinder, two settings wheels
- High-end image quality (with good-quality lenses)
- Mechanical stabilisation works with all lenses, even in video mode
- Interface: advanced customisation options
- Can run on internal battery or AA batteries
- No rubber thumb-rest (comfort is debatable)
- Live View is still slow
- DA L 18-55 mm lens can vary in quality from one model to another
- Shutter release is noisy
- Limited video mode: no continuous autofocus, mono sound
- AA battery adapter is an optional extra
The Pentax K-30 is basically a pared-down version of the K-5 SLR, with which it shares plenty of basic specs (except its shutter, which is much noisier). Picture quality and general handling are very good, and the K-30 offers plenty of exclusive extras for a camera at this price point. However, the body isn't as pleasant to handle as some competitor models and the video mode really needs updating.