Today Pentax introduced the K-7, the first of a new series of moderately compact high-end DSLR cameras. Being given a single-digit model number, the K-7 is placed above their previous flagship K20D, taking nearly all the K20D features, improving on many and adding much more capabilities, some of them unique to the K-7.
Just as the K20D, the K-7 is a 14.6 megapixels DSLR with built-in shake-reduction, a weather-sealed body, ISO 100-6400 range, an 11-point autofocus system and a professional grade body with a profusion of external controls, including dual control-wheels and unique Pentax exposure-modes.
What the K-7 adds, in a much smaller body than any competing DSLR, certainly smaller than the K20D in all dimensions, is:
- 100% coverage viewfinder with 0.92X magnification, making this the smallest and cheapest DSLR to have 100% coverage. This was my #1 wish for the K20D successor!
- 5.2 FPS continuous drive, limited to 40 frames, or unlimited 3.3 FPS continuous drive, making this the fasted Pentax DSLR ever. Finally enough for action photography but not as fast as some similarly-priced models like the Canon 50D.
- Electronic level indicator with automatic leveling system, corrects up to 1-degree tilt. This unique feature was predicted here 18 months ago, see http://blog.neocamera.com/?p=58
- Improved weather-seals, now resistant to cold below -10C (-14F).
- All new 77-segment metering system, up from the K20D’s 16-segment one.
- Improved white-balance system with 11 presets, customizable automatic-white-balance and 3 memories for custom white-balance, all fine-tunable.
- Improved autofocus system, still 11-points with 9 cross-type points. The K-7 also adds a focus-assist lamp.
- Maximum shutter-speed of 1/8000s, up from 1/4000s.
- Exposure compensation range from -5 to +5, up from -3 to +3.
- Finer and wider range of controls over image processing parameters such as saturation, sharpness, hue, tone, high/low key, lowlight contrast and highlight contrast, giving unprecedented control over the camera’s response curve.
- High-resolution 3″ LCD with 920K pixels, matching recent entries from other manufacturers.
- Live-view with live-histogram, grid-lines and framing micro-adjustments.
- Movie-recording mode with 720p HD wide-screen resolution (1280×720 @ 30 FPS) and a higher-resolution 3:2 aspect-ratio mode (1536×1024 @ 30 FPS) as well.
- Mono movie audio with integraded microphone, stereo audio using external microphone or no audio at all.
- HDMI output at 720p or 1080i. Why not 1080p? Who knows but no one else does it yet.
The Pentax K-7 has a completely new design to achieve its relatively compact-size and maintain a full-set of external controls required by professional photographers. Not all changes are clear improvements and perhaps even the smaller size will generate some controversy.
The first apparent difference is a much smaller width which sacrifices the entire row of buttons which the K20D had to the left of the rear LCD. This K-7 is not the first camera to do this, but with the exception of Canon’s 50D, this has not been seen in high-end DSLRs. Even Canon’s 5D Mark II, which is otherwise very similar to the 50D, has a row of buttons to the left of the LCD. The problem is not the lack of buttons but the fact that the LCD is nearly flush with the camera side, greatly increasing the changes for nose-marks and finger-marks appearing on the LCD screen.
A number of buttons have been rearranged compared to previous Pentax models. The new layout is more similar to the prototype 645D Pentax showed a year ago. Some changes are utterly minor, like the EC button moving from the rear to the front of camera. It may annoy users who have to learn a new button placement for little reason. There is now a button labeled ISO, behind the shutter-release, next to the EC button. This replaces the OK button for this function, which now activates focus-point-selection for the 4-way controller. This is needed because the 4-way controller has assigned functions to each direction because the Fn button is gone. Since the green button needs to be used in conjunction with the EC button which moved to the front, it moved to the back of the camera. The focus-pattern selection dial has moved from around thr 4-way controller to around the AF button. Then, of the 4 buttons to the left of the LCD on the K20D, 2 moved above it and 2 moved to the other side of the display. The AE-L button has moved to a more reacheable position.
All this is simply button shuffling, usability of the K-7 is nearly identical to its predecessors. The first difference is that now the OK switch must be used to toggle the 4-way controller from function-mode to autofocus-point-selection-mode, and presumably back. The last difference is that there is now a Live-View button on the K-7 and there is no longer bracketing button, as on the K20D. Bracketing has moved into the list of drive-modes. This has the most important consequence of all usability changes, bracketing can no longer be set in combination with the other modes. In total, the number of buttons remains the same, although the K-7’s smaller body makes it look more crowded even though the Shake-Reduction switch and memory-card compartment latch are gone.
The Pentax K-7 uses a more powerful battery than the K20D but the same infrared remote trigger. It obviously uses a different battery-grip, one that supports AA batteries as well. Too bad they did not let it take AA batteries directly, like the K200D which manages 1100 shots-per-charge with a set of 4. Memory used is still SD-HC.
All in all, the K-7 seems a great step ahead for Pentax in most regards. It certainly brings it to feature parity with most competitors and adds some unique capabilities. The K-7 is now the second DSLR to feature built-in shake-reduction and a 100% viewfinder (the other is the full-frame Sony Alpha A900) which is quite a feat in itself. The K-7 is the first weather-sealed DSLR to shoot video, allowing filming in rain and snow without additional protection for the camera when used with appropriate weather-sealed lenses.
Excited already? The K-7 is scheduled to ship in July. Pre-order the Pentax K-7 today from Amazon here.