Saturday, March 08, 2008

K20D First Hands-on Impressions

Tried out two different units of K20D (with a DA 70 Limited and the DA 16-45) yesterday and have the following first impressions:-

1. The whole shutter release action is smoother and quieter (than any other previous K cameras). That means the mirror up action is gentler, shutter sound is quieter and the mirror down damping is better;

2. However, the shutter release is not really instantaneous. I can observe a noticeable shutter lag plus an even longer blackout time of the finder (maybe even worse than what K10D does have which is already considered as not good);

3. Moreover, the shutter release button is badly loose, which means the reaction force is simply too little for the half-pressing. In fact, I found it just feels worse than my K100D. The shutter release button of the vertical grip suffers from the same problem as the main body button. The bad feel decreases the overall feeling about better build quality;

4. Metering and exposure accuracy *seems* to be better. No significant underexposure was seen for quite a number of test shots which I made, under sunlight outdoor and in different artificial lighting sources or even mixed source. I feel this to be a good thing since it *seems* that Pentax have tried to make their DSLR to expose right and at least brighter in the K20D production units. Nonetheless, for the various samples from beta models, I could still see obvious underexposure problems as what all Pentax DSLRs which I have used would do.

Do note that with my yet limited use on the K20D, I think it maybe too early to draw conclusion on an improved metering system yet. But so far I feel that this "new" metering system is just better!

5. Auto WB seems to has been improved, with less significant colour cast which would present under more difficult lighting conditions as for previous Pentax DSLRs. The AWB is not totally ideal, though - it just looks better but not perfect.

6. I shot stationary people and objects under the sunlight and indoor with the AF-S mode, using the central AF point mostly. What I would temporarily conclude that the AF system is the same as and identical to the K10D and K100D's (well, if Lithium batteries is used in the K100). The most annoying thing is the final focus reconfirmation which checked for if the first time AF movement stopped position had any errors and needed to re-adjust once more (aka hunting, although it is not in a serious way, just because the testing environment is just bright or not too dim indoor). The responsiveness of the AF is rather poor, too, which means that after you have half-pressed the shutter release button, there is a noticeable delay before the AF motor moves - the AF system just needed to think longer than what I would tolerate. Well, in short, I would still think that the AF system performance, speed, responsiveness etc. is still pathetic;

7. Furthermore, the classic Pentax AF red illumination indicator incorrect position problem does still exist for these two units I tested!(?) The first K20D was having the central AF red point shift upwards whereas the second one had it shifted upwards and to the right side. The problem is indeed rather annoying (at least to me and quite some other users as reported) although it have nothing to do for the actual AF sensor alignment, I just wonder why Pentax still and still have NOT debugged its design and adopt a better indication method which should not be having this persistent problem, which happened on day one with my *ist D bodies, which is just a very disappointed thing.

Moreover, do note that the misaligned AF red dot may mislead the user to level the image when looking through the *optical* viewfinder, which is a practical problem which much less people would notice.

8. I am not impressed with the overall build quality of the K20D. It feels exactly the same of all the *ist D and previous K cameras - the outer shell is just too plasticky somehow afterall.

9. As other reviewers have reported, I also found that the Live View AF is problematic and difficult to use. In the Live View mode, what we need is to press the AF button at the body back to do the AF. But then there is no indication of any kind for what AF has been done completely and correctly, or NOT! (unlike other LiveView DSLRs like the Olympus E-410 and 510 which have such an indication with red and green spot to tell the status).

I had eventually got some out-of-focus pictures with such an AF "function" under the Live View mode with the K20D. I think I just "didn't know how to use the camera" as particular Pentax fanboys always said when they were put into their "defense mode"!

10. The LCD video frame rate under the Live View mode is not very high. I can see the displayed "video" is jumpy when I panned the K20D in a not very fast manner. Do note that this jumpiness can only be seen when the Shake Reduction is disabled as the SR will smooth out any faster changes in motion and has a side effect of slowing down the motion of the displayed "video". On the other hand, if the SR is On, you will see the SR is functioning at real time through the Live View screen, just like what can be seen in the optical viewfinder of DSLRs for those lens-based IS or VR like what Canon and Nikon could. Anyway, it's a good thing to see that the SR is actually working but it can only be seen in the Live View mode. Nonetheless, for the lower frame rate of the Live View display, I think practically this would not impose major issue as we are to take still photos most of the time with DSLRs.

All in all, the quick conclusion of mine is that whilst I believe that the K20D should be the best DSLR body ever made by Pentax in the Pentax land. It just fell short of many things in the competition and by no means it is really a wise choice to choose by considering its relatively high price tag which it is just not worth the price no matter it is considered in many ways unless we are tied firmly to the Pentax system. Frankly, if I am starting from scratch, why not buy a Nikon D300 or a Canon 40D at around the same price? It is simply because both the D300 and the 40D are having better and faster AF, higher shooting frame rate, better build quality, less shutter lag, far less "classic" Pentax specified and unique problems, a stronger and more comprehensive system, better customer support and so on.

Finally, my bet is that the K20D will not be as "popular" as the K10D would as most of the potential new buyers who were interested in Pentax and such a "K10D" alike camera had already bought into a K10D already but I guess not many K10D users would upgrade to the K20D. The old Pentax *ist D series users might be interested but then the K20D by no means is an attractive offer for new comers, especially when they do not have any old Pentax lenses.


Anonymous said...

Nikon D300 isn't at all in the same price range as the K20D. Canon D40 is cheaper though, but its been out a while and the Pentax is brand new, so give prices a bit of time to stabilize.

Pentax is weather sealed, in-body SR, C/N aren't. Sony has in-body SR, no sealing. Olympus has both, and worse noise/DR/crop factor.

It all evens out in the end, depending on what you require.

IlmarsM. said...

Rice! As I understand K20D is best Pentax digital camera but you stil dont like it. Or maybe you expectations is to high? :)

P.S. Thanks for sharing you findings.

RiceHigh said...

Ilmars, you're welcome.

I think my expectation is not too high as what I want to see is *just* that Pentax latest DSLR offers should not be worse than the competition, especially compared to the big two, regarding key camera performance aspects!

May be I am just too greedy and asking for too much? :-)

See you~

Anonymous said...

No comments on image quality? Well, at least you actually held it in your hands before the predictable critique (even if a major part of it was over the feel of the shutter release!).

nlx said...

I heard that Pentax is number 3 in the European market, so now maybe they have enough money to invest in R&S ?

I'm looking forward to see what Hoya can do with Pentax.

Anonymous said...

As a 40D owner I totally disagree with your comments that K20D is not an attractive / worthwhile buy. Other than high FPS and faster autofocus, 40D is a far less exciting camera than K20D. And K20D is the first Pentax DSLR which does enough things right that it could convince a Canon user like me to make a switch. K10D was "interesting" but had enough question marks that a non-Pentax user would likely stay away. K20D really has very few if any such question marks.

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