Pentax – K-m review

entry-level 10.2-megapixel digital SLR
Photo of Pentax – K-m
£369 and £469 (depending on kit)

In a world that’s now swarming with entry-level digital SLRs, Pentax is in a crowded market with the K-m (known as the K2000 in the US). It’s a 10.2 effective megapixel model that comes with either a 18-55mm f3.5-5.6AL or a 50-200mm f4-5.6ED kit lens.

Despite its good manual operation abilities, the Pentax K-m is targeted primarily at those with no or little previous experience of working with a digital SLR. Therefore, functions and buttons are laid out in a user-friendly manner with clear auto scene modes and a full ‘Auto Pict’ option.

Although the K-m is fairly small it has a fair weight behind it considering its size. It’s not uncomfortable to hold or wear around the neck for any great length of time, though, and feels solid and well designed in the hand. It’s touted as being ‘lightweight’, but with the kit lens attached we felt that this was a little misleading.

Nevertheless, the handgrip on the K-m makes it easy to hold and operate comfortably. Most of the buttons and levers are positioned on the camera’s grip side, making it easier to adjust settings whilst you’re mid shoot (provided you’re right-handed, of course).

The command dial at the top of the camera allows you to switch between more advanced P, Sv, Tv, Av or M modes, 10 different dedicated scene modes (including the more unusual Stage Lighting, Night Snap and Surf & Snow), or more common modes such as Portrait, Landscape, Sports and Macro. To avoid any embarrassing scenarios there’s also a useful and easily set ‘Flash Off’ mode.

For more detailed menu setting adjustments, although the screen is generously sized at 2.7-inches with a resolution of 230,000 pixels, the set-up does seem a little cluttered and complicated. This is a pain if you want to adjust more fiddly settings like High ISO Noise Reduction quickly, as the text within the menus can seem a little jumbled and awkward to manoeuvre through.

There are some nifty features on the K-m that improve shot quality including a Shake Reduction mechanism to help create blur-free low-light shots. Pentax claims that this feature offers users a compensation effect of up to the equivalent of four shutter stops; although, of course, you need to make sure this is switched ‘on’ which means tackling the menu system.

For those who are unfamiliar with the buttons and settings found on a digital SLR camera, a ‘?’ button next to the camera’s shutter control switches the K-m to tutor mode. Pressing any of the buttons on the camera then brings up a brief instruction on the function of that control. This is a good alternative if you don’t want to sit down with an instruction manual, instead wanting to get snapping as soon as possible.

Buried within the K-m’s menu system is an option to switch on a Dust Removal function. You can either manually trigger this CCD shake or set it to work every time you start up your camera. A ‘Dust Alert’ tool also makes it easy to spot potentially troublesome dust on your sensor, with a neat black and white ‘easy visual’ screen.

One annoying flaw that’s worth mentioning is the shooting information display that’s visible through the eyepiece when you’re framing your shot. Although you do have the option of viewing important shooting info like aperture, shutter speed and flash settings on the LCD (very clearly set out, bright but a screen that conveniently cuts out completely when you half-press your shutter button) it’s useful to be able to check out shooting data through the eyepiece as you frame your shot.

But the green illuminated display that appears at the bottom of the frame as you look through the eyepiece suffers from being quite faint and – if you don’t have the eyepiece aligned dead central – has a habit of disappearing out of view below the bottom of the frame. Although there is a dioptre control for focusing the eyepiece, none of the settings gave a sharp view either (even with a pair of 20/20 eyes).

Image quality is pretty decent, and with 10-megapixel shots you’re able to print decent sizes from the maximum 3,872 x 2,592 pixel resolution. You can shoot in either Best, Better or Good JPEG, Compressed RAW (PEF) or Non-compressed RAW (DNG). Noise levels are acceptable and you have a good range of ISO values, from 100 to 3200. On some of the auto scene modes we found the K-m tends to underexpose a little, but with an easy to access EV+/- button you can fix this if you find it a problem.

The Pentax K-m is capable of shooting at approximately 3.5 frames per second and with its 5-point AF system and very responsive kit lens, you should find it pretty easy to get decent sharp-shots even in low light conditions.

If you’re up for a bit of creative input, within the shooting menu you will find settings to apply one of 14 different digital filters, including Toy Camera, Star Burst and Retro. This can be fun if you want to experiment with shots but don’t have access, or the skills, to apply image editing. However, for the majority of the time the results are a little mediocre and you would be hard-pushed to find good reason to use them.

Company: Pentax

Contact: 0870 7368299


Verdict
The Pentax K-m is a fairly compact digital SLR and is comfortable and easy to control. A good choice for those with little previous experience controlling a SLR, options like the varied scene modes allow you to fall back on auto shooting if you feel a little out of your depth with manual or more advanced controls. Image quality is good and some steals can be had when it comes to kit prices. It's possible to get the K-m on a cash back offer of £369 with the 18-55mm kit lens, or alternatively £469 with a two-lens kit.