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Franck Mée
Morgane Alzieu
Published on December 1, 2010
Translated by Catherine Barraclough


  • Sensor CMOS 12 Mpx, APS-C (x1.5) , 3.2 Mpx/cm
  • Lens NAx 18-55 mm f/3.5 -5.6
  • Stabilisation Mechanical
  • Viewfinder Reflex
  • Screen 7.6 cm, not TN, 921600 dots, 4:3, Not touch-sensitive
  • Sensitivity (ISO range) 100 - 12800 ISO ext. 62 mm
The K-x was a well-liked camera that took excellent pictures, but the time has now come for Pentax to update its entry-level SLR. The K-r is based very heavily on its predecessors, particularly the K-x, but it does have several new features that bring it in line—or even ahead of—certain competitors' higher-end models.


The overall design has changed quite a bit. The decorative chrome-effect line on the front of the K-x has been ditched, as has the on/off light. The K-r also now has the same kind of chiselled edges as the K-5. That said, regular users of the K-x won't have too much trouble finding their way around, as the control layout is identical, with the same comfortable, deep-set handle and little change in the internal menus. Pentax is clearly on to a winning combination and doesn't want to take any risks. After all, if it ain't broke ...

That doesn't mean there haven't been any improvements though. There's a new finish on the handle and left-hand edge of the camera, a VGA screen replaces the previous 230,000-dot model and, above all, the AF focusing points have returned to the viewfinder. In multi-zone autofocus mode, the K-r shows the user which point it has locked on to and therefore shows exactly where the subject will be sharpest. This is an improvement on the K-x, with which you were better off selecting the focusing point manually. The autofocus system is pretty good too, and the K-r even has autofocus points on the rule-of-thirds lines, making it easier to line up shots with subjects to one side of the frame rather than in the middle. In some manufacturers' models, the autofocus points aren't laid out nearly so well.


The K-x was already quite a fast camera but the K-r is even quicker, now taking six frames per second in burst mode and with almost instant start-up and turnaround between photos. In phase-detection mode, the autofocus is comparable to the K-5 (the K-r uses Pentax's Safox IX system while the K-5 uses the Safox IX+). It's no faster than in previous models but it's certainly more consistent.

In Live View mode too, the K-r behaves similarly to the K-5, carrying out a fast and approximative pre-focus then taking a little more time to lock onto a subject more precisely. A micro four-thirds camera or one of Sony's NEX can do much better but, on the whole, this function is still perfectly useable. Focusing generally takes les than two seconds, which certainly wasn't the case with the K-x!

Picture Quality

The Pentax K-x did a good job of keeping digital noise under control. However, the latest cameras with the new Sony 14- and 16-Megapixel sensors are a little better than their 12-Megapixel counterparts. This Pentax is no exception to the rule either, as although image processing has been slightly improved since the K-x, the K-r isn't quite as good as the higher-end Pentax K-5. That said, picture quality is still excellent, as it's only at 3200 ISO that noise and smoothing start to appear, and a photo taken at 6400 ISO could easily be used for a slightly grainy but still more than acceptable 8" x 12" print. Note that extending the sensitivity up to 25600 ISO is completely pointless.

The 18-55 mm DAL lens is well-known and made its début with the K-m. It's a decent enough kit lens and is sharp in wide-angle mode but a little less so in telephoto. It's also prone to a touch of chromatic aberration at 18 mm. There are better lenses out there but it's good value for money.


We were very pleased to see a 720p HD video mode, as this still isn't all that common in SLRs. Don't get too excited though—the picture is full of noise in low light, the sound is poor and there's no real autofocus. Outdoors, when filming something at a fixed distance, the K-r shoots good videos, but it's a long way off what the K-5 can do!

Dual Power Source
The K-r can be powered by the D-LI109 battery (as yet exclusive to this model) or by four AA batteries, which were the only power source of the K-x and previous models. It's not the first time we've seen this, as cameras such as the Ricoh GR and GX expert compacts can already run on two different power sources. However, it's still not exactly common.

A dual-power design is clearly a smart move, as if the main battery runs out (the D-LI109 has a capacity 45% lower than the D-LI90 used in the K-5), you can simply power up with a couple of regular AA batteries that can be easily picked up wherever you go.

This very good idea is, however, spoilt by the simple fact that using the AA batteries requires a separate battery holder available to buy as an optional extra. With Ricoh's models, at least, the AAs can be put straight into the regular battery compartment and you won't have to shell out on any extra accessories to save the day!


  • Performance worthy of a higer-end model
  • Excellent picture quality
  • VGA screen and user-friendly interface
  • Li-ion battery or AA batteries


  • Only one settings dial
  • Videos quality lags behind picture quality
  • Noisy shutter-release
  • No SDXC card support
  • Adapter required for AA batteries


The K-r is a good update of Pentax's entry-level SLR. It smooths out most of its predecessor's flaws, offers excellent picture quality and is very responsive. A few design and handling features could still be improved—as could the video mode, which can't match the best models on the market.
4 Pentax K-r DigitalVersus 2010-12-01 00:00:00
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