CAMERAS Pentax K-50 Review

Pentax K-50 Review

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Pentax K-50 Review

Home CAMERAS Pentax K-50 Review

Pentax K-50 Review: Coming With Colors……

As with the K-30, Pentax has opted for robustness in the successor model K-50: a stainless steel chassis provides the necessary stability and protection for the electronics inside, while the outer plastic housing is sealed against splash water and dust by 81 seals in accordance with the IPX2 standard. The standard states that the K-50 is protected against falling dripping water, even if the housing is tilted up to 15°. It should therefore not be submerged or washed down, but normal rain cannot harm it. This also requires a splash-proof lens. Pentax would like to ensure this at a reasonable price with the new entry-level set lenses DA L 18-55 mm 3.5-5.6 AL WR and DA L 50-200 mm 4-5.6 ED WR, which will not initially be available separately. At the customer’s request, Pentax throws the somewhat futuristic case design of the K-50 overboard in favor of a more classic K-30, but it should fit better in the hand. Pentax was also able to implement a second, much desired innovation: the maximum light sensitivity was increased to ISO 51,200. The APS-C sensor in CMOS architecture continues to effectively resolve 16.28 megapixels and delivers a maximum of six images per second at shutter speeds of up to 1/6,000 second. The K-50 can also record Full-HD videos (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) at a frame rate of 30 frames per second.

Brief assessment

Pros

  • Power supply with AA batteries (not included) possible
  • Good image quality up to ISO 1,600
  • Extremely flexible possibilities for exposure control
  • Robust, weatherproof and ergonomically well formed housing

Cons

  • Display rigidly installed
  • In standard setting strongly supersaturated colors
  • AF slightly slow (but fast in Live View)
  • Restricted video functions (no tracking AF, mono sound)

 

The Pentax K-50 is the successor of the K-30 and comes with a splash water protection. [Photo: Ricoh]

If you are planning to buy a digital SLR camera, you may not think of Pentax first. The photo division of the rather small manufacturer has meanwhile completely slipped under the roof of Ricoh. However, the engineers there were not idle and have developed an interesting mid-range DSLR, the K-50. It continues Pentax’s tradition of equipping cameras with features slightly off the mainstream.

Fast and reliable focusing is ensured by the SAFOX IXi+ autofocus module, in which a special diffraction lens is designed to eliminate the harmful influence of chromatic aberrations of some lenses. In low ambient light, an AF measuring beam is also switched on. The reflex viewfinder is also very impressive: The K-50 uses a high-quality glass prism instead of a cheap, dark mirror construction, and the viewfinder covers the image field with almost 100 percent. Alternatively, the rear, three-inch (7.6 centimetre) screen with its 921,000 pixels can show a finely resolved live image. The built-in image stabilizer 3D-SR is almost a matter of course at Pentax: the moveable image sensor effectively compensates for camera shake with any attached lens.

The rear screen of the Pentax K-50 measures three inches (7.6 cm) diagonally and has a resolution of 921,000 pixels. [Photo: Ricoh]

Pentax makes sure that a powerful DSLR does not require expert knowledge with its built-in automatic subject recognition system, which analyses the subject and automatically selects the appropriate subject program. Of course, the photographer can also control all parameters himself. With eleven colour effects, 19 digital filters and, for example, the HDR automatic, the user has numerous functions at his disposal to individually design the images. The K-50 is also distinguished by the smart possibility to use AA batteries as power source by means of an optional cage instead of the supplied lithium-ion battery. Pentax wants to offer the K-50 in the three colour versions matt black, matt white and red both as a case (just under 650 EUR) and in a kit with colour matching DA L 18-55 WR (approx. 700 EUR) as well as in a double kit with colour matching DA L 18-55 WR and DA L 50-200 WR (approx. 800 EUR). If the customer accepts a 4 – 6 week waiting period, he can also choose from 120 colour combinations of handle and housing colour as well as four colour combinations of the set lens (pink is added as a fourth variant). The Pentax K-50 is available since July 2013.

The APS-C large CMOS sensor of the Pentax K-50 has a resolution of 16.28 megapixels and reaches up to ISO 51,200 [Photo: Ricoh]

 

With the K-50, Pentax introduces a new, inexpensive, splash-proof set lens DA L 18-55 WR. [Photo: Ricoh]

 

The Pentax K-50 is available in black, red and blue… [Photo: Pentax]

 

…and in white. The set lenses have a matching color. [Photo: Pentax]

Ergonomics and Workmanship

The first contact with the Pentax K-50 is unspectacular. Despite its curved forms, its case appears rather conventional and thus stands out pleasantly from the overly angular design of its predecessor, the K-30. Once taken in hand, the camera surprises with its full weight. It weighs a good 600 grams, ready for operation and equipped with the SMC DA L 18-55/3.5-5.6 AL WR set lens. The tactile quality of the K-50 is beyond any doubt: The high-quality plastic cover stretches over a stainless steel chassis. The construction appears robust and durable, almost as if the camera body had been milled from a solid and unique piece. But that’s not all – Pentax has specially protected the K-50 against environmental influences. 81 gaskets seal the camera against splash water, snow and sand – such outdoor qualities are not normally found in the K-50 class. Even the price-optimized set lens is equipped with a rubber ring on the bayonet. The combined AV/USB connection and the socket for the cable remote control are located under thick rubber flaps, while the memory card and battery compartment is reliably closed by flaps with neat spring hinges. The battery compartment opens to the back of the camera – so the energy dispenser remains accessible even when a generously dimensioned quick-release plate is attached. The included D-LI109 battery only fills the battery compartment by about two thirds, because the battery bay offers enough space for four AA batteries, which can alternatively supply the K-50 with energy. Yet another smart Pentax idea, which is quite welcome considering the not exactly lavish range of the standard battery of less than 500 shots. Too bad that Pentax does not put the adapter slide for the four batteries in the box of the K-50 – it has to be purchased separately.

On order the Pentax K-50 is available in 120 colours. [Photo: Pentax]

The K-50 nestles almost perfectly in the hand. Its handle is clearly shaped and ergonomically well formed. For the thumb there is a clearly pronounced hollow on the back. In short, the K-50 is always under control, even with a heavyweight lens. Two setting wheels – one each for the thumb and index finger – facilitate the configuration of the most important recording parameters. It’s easy to see that the K-50 doesn’t have a further adjustment ring on the back and that it can be adjusted with simple keys. They provide direct access to settings for ISO number, white balance, flash mode, etc. There is also a button on the front of the camera that allows you to switch directly between RAW and JPEG recording. 15 important recording functions can be conveniently accessed via the quick menu, but this cannot be individually configured. This also applies to the function of the buttons – they are hardwired except for the RAW/JPEG switch and AF/AEL button. But the K-50 lacks a dimmer button of all things, at least this function can be assigned to the RAW/JPEG switch. The camera also offers the option of storing two complete configurations – these can then be conveniently recalled using the handy mode dial.

 

All these controls ensure that a trip to the main menu is rarely necessary. If you do, it is relatively easy to find your way around. The menu structure is catchy, instead of endless lists of commands, Pentax relies on well-structured tabs in the menu. Only the playful layout makes the overview a bit difficult – it doesn’t help that more than a dozen different color combinations are offered for the screen display. The green “Panic” button is smart: It immediately resets all user-defined changes of the current recording mode to the default values.

Joy comes when you look through the viewfinder. The K-50 produces the rather bright viewfinder image with an elaborate pentaprism that covers the image area 100 percent and is pleasingly large for an APS-C camera. It is also not a matter of course that the screen of the K-50 can be replaced – for example by one with grid lines. One almost forgets that the camera also offers live view, then the rear display is used to control the viewfinder image. The 3″ monitor has a contemporary high resolution of 921,000 pixels, but it is neither foldable nor swivelable. Pentax also does without a touch function – so the K-50 remains rather traditional. The K-50 supports the vertical alignment of the camera with an electronic spirit level – in live view mode it shows two axes, when looking through the viewfinder only the horizontal deviation.

Equipment

The equipment of the K-50 offers some nice features (especially for ambitious photographers) that is rarely or not at all found in other cameras. But also for beginners and snapshot photographers the K-50 has everything important ready: Its fully automatic mode selects the appropriate scene mode or subject program to suit the scene, but the photographer can also specify it manually – 19 scene modes from portrait, pet and backlight silhouette to museum are available.

The flash is not automatic – the K-50 only fires the flash when the flash is folded out manually. On the other hand, the K-50 also offers an HDR function. It handles subjects with a very high contrast range by taking multiple shots with different exposures. Today’s unavoidable effect filters are also on board, and many can even be fine-tuned. Face recognition is not missing either, but in principle it is only available in Live View mode. The K-50 has to do without one or the other comfort function, such as a panorama assistant or an integrated GPS module (an external one can be connected, however). The K-50 also saves a WiFi module for direct data transfer, but still supports EyeFi cards.

The full potential of the K-50 is probably only realized in the hands of a skilled photographer. When operated beyond the fully automatic mode, the K-50 offers a wide range of features and adjustment possibilities that go far beyond what is usual in its class. It is not limited to the classic exposure modes program mode, aperture priority, shutter speed and manual exposure – the K-50 also offers the possibility to include ISO sensitivity or ISO automatic mode in the exposure control. In this way it allows, for example, the specification of any combination of time/aperture and then controls the required ISO value to match. The reverse is also possible: the photographer specifies a fixed ISO sensitivity and the camera selects the appropriate time/aperture combination. This is done either by program shift in the automatic program control or with the specially designed program Sv (sensitivity preselection). Pentax deserves praise above all for the fact that these extensive configuration options are relatively easy to set.

As befits a sophisticated camera, the upper and lower limits of the ISO automatic can be freely selected. It’s also nice that the HDR function is not limited to the corresponding motif program, in the professional exposure modes it is also available – and works quite well. Alternatively, the K-50 offers functions for brightening shadows and darkening lights. How the internal image processing processes the raw data can be adjusted in great detail. For this purpose, 15 image styles are available, each of which can be individually adjusted for color saturation, hue, contrast, sharpness, etc. But just here, the K-50 makes a mistake: the default setting “Bright” produces heavily oversaturated colors (more about this in the section “Picture Quality”) – for a neutral color reproduction, you should definitely set the picture style to “Neutral”. The noise suppression is also extremely adaptable. Not only are three levels (plus “Auto”) available here – if you want, you can individually set the level of noise reduction for each ISO level. In terms of “picture result”, the K-50 hardly leaves anything to chance, the camera proves to be exceptionally adaptable.

The K-50 is also not compromised when it comes to flash functions. It masters all important modes such as long-term synchronisation or synchronisation to the second curtain. In combination with an external system flash, high-speed synchronisation is also possible. The internal flash is with guide number 11.2 on average potent, as fill-in flash in backlight situations it is always sufficient. In the test it proved to be a bit overzealous, fortunately the flash power can be reduced by up to -2 EV. A wireless flash setup is also possible with the K-50, the small on-board flash can take over the task of the control flash.

If desired, the K-50 can take interval shots – a feature found on hardly any other mid-range DSLR. She also makes exposure series, although the number of shots is somewhat limited to three. Sometimes five shots per row would be desirable, for example for HDR images. When fast series of shots are required – for example, for sports and action shots – the K-50 gets going quite well at first: for JPEG shots it gallops off briskly at around 5.3 photos per second (fps) and maintains this speed for almost eight seconds or 37 shots. But then the K-50 falls into a leisurely stride at just 1.7 fps. For raw recordings it starts a bit faster with 5.5 fps, but after only seven frames it stumbles with not even 1 fps. Action photos should therefore be recorded in JPEG if possible.

The K-50 proves to be miserly when it comes to video recordings. Although it can record in Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) if desired, the sound only reaches the audio track in mono. In addition, it is not possible to adjust the focus automatically. After all, the K-50 adjusts the focus at the push of a button, the gimbal drive of the set lens used in the test immortalizes itself with rattling noises on the soundtrack. The K-50, on the other hand, is lavishly equipped with editing functions in playback mode. It develops raw files and saves them in JPEG format, allows you to apply image styles and effects to a shot afterwards and allows you to crop photos. Longer video recordings can be cut into several clips.

 

Lens

A rather small provider like Pentax naturally finds it harder than one of the big top dogs to offer the right lens for every imaginable case. The range of lenses offered by Pentax may not be quite as extensive – in terms of 35 mm images it covers an immense focal length range from 15 to 840 millimetres. Specialities of Pentax are on the one hand lenses protected against splash water and on the other hand especially compact pancakes. The SMC DA L 18-55/3.5-5.6 AL WR set lens, with which the K-50 had to pass the laboratory test at digitalkamera.de as well as extensive practical use, is also sealed against water, dust and other environmental influences. Also in use we had the SMC DA* 50-135 mm / 2.8 ED ” />the set lens had a somewhat pronounced tendency to vignetting, but stopped down to F8 the edge dimming almost disappears. However, one cannot overlook the fact that the lens has a strong barrel shape at the shortest focal length – for architectural photos without belly, it is better to use a high-quality fixed focal length.

The K-50 convinces with a very good input dynamic range, which up to ISO 1.600 is above 10 EV. Even at ISO 6,400, it still processes high contrasts of 9.2 f-stops. With the standard default setting of “Luminous”, the image processing is crisp to screaming. The latter is especially true for color reproduction: the K-50 saturates the colors far too much, making the shots look squeaky colorful – already on the camera display! But the K-50 would not have needed this showmanship at all: it shines with a very high colour resolution up to ISO 3,200, the output dynamics are excellent up to ISO 400, and it remains good up to ISO 3,200. The white balance is also accurate, with visible deviations only occurring beyond ISO 25,600.

Conclusion

With the K-50, Pentax impressively underlines that even a small manufacturer can offer excellent cameras. First of all, the K-50 impresses with its robust, splash-proof housing, an excellent reflex viewfinder and an all-round successful ergonomics. It is easy to forgive its minor weaknesses, such as the rigidly installed display or the graphically unsuccessful menu layout. The list of functions is also impressive – at least as long as classic recording functions are concerned. Hardly any other camera in its class offers such a wide range of exposure control options. It is remarkable how quickly the autofocus focuses in live view mode, but the speed of classic phase AF lags slightly behind the competition. The gap is even more pronounced in the video functions: Mono sound and no tracking AF are no longer up to date. Comfort functions such as a touchscreen, GPS or WiFi connection must also be avoided. But the K-50 scores with classic photographic virtues: The image quality is very good (but not with the default image style!), the K-50 captures fast JPEG series and offers a very flexible interval function. The fact that the price-optimized set lens does not maintain the high quality level of the K-50 in all respects hardly detracts from the overall positive impression of the camera. If you are looking for a robust camera for on the road and all occasions and you are less interested in video recording, you should definitely take the Pentax K-50 in your hand!

Profile

Profile
Manufacturer Pentax
Model K-50
Price approx. EUR 700**
Sensor Resolution 16.5 megapixels
Max. Image resolution 4.928 x 3.264
(aspect ratio) (3:2)
Lens DA L 18-55/3.5-6.5 WR
Filter thread 52 mm
Viewfinder Pentaprism
Field of view 100 %
Enlargement 0,92
Dioptre compensation -2.5 to +1.5 dpt.
LCD monitor 3″
Resolution 921.000
rotatable
swiveling
as Viewfinder yes
Video output AV (PAL/NTSC)
as Viewfinder yes
Automatic programming yes
Automatic aperture control yes
Automatic timer yes
manual exposure yes
BULB long time exposure yes
Scene modes
Portrait yes
Children/baby yes
Landscape yes
Macro yes
Sports/action yes
More 13 additional scene modes
Exposure metering Multi-field, centre-weighted Integral, Spot
Flash yes
Guide number 11.2 (measurement)
Flash connection System hot shoe
Remote release yes
Interval recording yes
Storage medium SD/SDHC/SDXC
Video mode
Format MOV
Codec H.264
Resolution (max.) 1.920 x 1.080
at frame rate 60
Sensitivity
automatically ISO 100-51.200 (upper and lower limit adjustable)
manually ISO 100-51,600
White balance
Automatic yes
Sun yes
Clouds yes
Fluorescent lamp yes
Incandescent lamp yes
Miscellaneous Shadow, Flash, CTE, manual color temperature selection, WB fine correction
Manually yes
Autofocus
Number of measurement fields 11
AF auxiliary light green LED
Speed approx. 0,4 s
Languages English
More 15 additional languages available
Switch-on time 1,5 s
One-hand operation
(zoom and shutter release)
Weight
(Ready for operation)
approx. 590 g (housing only
)approx. 810 g (with lens**)
Continuous shooting function*
Number of serial images 38 (JPEG
)7 (RAW)
Frequency
(frames/s
)
5.3 (JPEG
)5.5 (RAW)
Continuous run
(images/s)
1.7 (JPEG
)1 (RAW)
with flash
Zoom
Zoom adjustment at the lens
Zoom levels infinitely variable
Time WW to Tele
Memory speeds*
JPEG 0.9 s (6.8 MByte)
RAW 2.7 s (16.6 MByte)
Trip during
.Saving possible.
yes
Battery life approx. 410 pictures (according to CIPA)
– = “not applicable
“* with Sony 8 GByte Class 10 SDHC memory card**
with Pentax SMC DA L 18-55/3.5-5.6 AL WR lens

Brief assessment

Pros

  • Power supply with AA batteries (not included) possible
  • Good image quality up to ISO 1,600
  • Extremely flexible possibilities for exposure control
  • Robust, weatherproof and ergonomically well formed housing

Cons

  • Display rigidly installed
  • In standard setting strongly supersaturated colors
  • AF slightly slow (but fast in Live View)
  • Restricted video functions (no tracking AF, mono sound)

Pentax K-50 Datasheet

Electronics

Sensor CMOS sensor APS-C 23.6 x 15.8 mm (crop factor 1.5
)16.5 megapixels (physical) and 16.3 megapixels (effective)
Pixelpitch 4.8 µm
Photo resolution
4.928 x 3.264 pixels (3:2)
3.936 x 2.624 pixels (3:2)
3.072 x 2.048 pixels (3:2)
1.728 x 1.152 pixels (3:2)
Image formats JPG, RAW
Color depth 36 bits (12 bits per color channel)
Metadata Exif (version 2.21 and dcf 2.0), DCF standard (version exif 2.21 and 2.0)
Video resolution
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 30 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 25 p
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 24 p
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 60 p
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 50 p
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 30 p
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 25 p
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 24 p
640 x 480 (4:3) 30 p
640 x 480 (4:3) 25 p
640 x 480 (4:3) 24 p
Maximum recording time 25 min
Video format
MPG4 [codec MPEG-4]

Lens

Lens mount
Pentax K

Focus

Autofocus mode Phase comparison autofocus with 9 cross sensors, autofocus working range from -1 EV to 18 EV
Autofocus functions Single AF, Continuous AF, Manual, AF Assist Light, Focus Peaking, Focus Magnifier (32x)
Sharpness control Depth-of-field control, depth-of-field button, Live View

Viewfinder and monitor

SLR viewfinder Mirror reflex viewfinder (prism viewfinder) (100 % image coverage), 0.92x magnification, dioptre compensation (-2.5 to +1.5 dpt), replaceable focusing screens, grid can be inserted
Monitor 3.0″ TFT LCD monitor with 921,000 pixels, viewing angle 170°, transreflective, non-reflective, brightness adjustable, colour adjustable

Exposure

Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement over 77 fields, spot measurement
Exposure times 1/6,000 to 30 s (Automatic
) Bulb function
Exposure control Programmed automatic, Shutter priority, Aperture priority, Manual
Exposure bracketing function Exposure bracketing function with a maximum of 3 shots, 1/3 to 2 EV increments, HDR function
Exposure Compensation -5.0 to +5.0 EV
Photosensitivity ISO 100 to ISO 12,800 (automatic
)ISO 80 to ISO 51,200 (manual)
Remote access Remote release, cable release
Scene modes action, backlight, candlelight, children, landscape, macro, night scene, Nachtporträt, portrait, sunset, beach/snow, animals, full auto, 4 more scene modes
Picture effects Bleach Bypass, colourFilter, Fisheye, HDR effects, Miniature effect, Monochrome, Retro, Selective colour, Toy camera, False colours, Colour extraction, High contrast, Contours, Retro, 15 more image effects
White balance Auto, Cloudy, Sunny, White balance bracket, Fine tuning, Shadow, Flash, Fluorescent lamp with 4 presets, Tungsten light, from 2,500 to 10,000 K, Manual
Color space Adobe RGB, sRGB
Continuous shooting 7.0 frames/s at highest resolution
Self-timer Self-timer with 2 or 12 s interval
Timer Timer/interval recording with max. 999 recordings
Recording functions AEL function, live histogram

Flashgun

Flash built-in flash (flip up
)Flash shoe: Pentax, standard center contact
Flash range Flash sync speed 1/180 s
Flash code Guide number 13 (ISO 100)
Flash functions Auto mode, fill-flash, flash on, flash off, slow sync, flash on second shutter curtain, red-eye reduction, master mode, flash exposure compensation from -2.0 EV to +1.0 EV

Equipment

Image stabilizer Sensor shift (optical)
Memory
SD (SDHC, SDXC, UHS I)
GPS function GPS external (wired or plug-on receiver)
Microphone Mono
Power supply unit Power supply connection
Power supply 1 x Pentax D-LI109 (Lithium ion (Li-Ion))
Playback functions Image rotation, highlight / shadow warning, playback histogram, playback magnifier, image index, slide show function
Face recognition Face recognition
Image parameters Sharpness, contrast, color saturation, noise reduction
Special functions Electronic spirit level, Grid fade-in, Orientation sensor, Live View
Connections Data interfaces: USBUSB type
:USB 2.0 High Speed
AV Connections AV output: device-specificAudio input
: noAudio output
: no
Supported direct printing methods PictBridge
Tripod thread 1/4″
Housing Splash water protection
Special features and miscellaneous Switching between single autofocus and focus trackingDistance

memoryMulti-exposure function
2-9 shotsHDR function
with recording of 3 images at 2 different exposure distances with camera-internal alignment and calculationDisplay of
recording information16
User functionsCorrection of
optical errors such as distortion, imaging errors, Chromatic aberrationWorld clock
with alarm function for 28 time zones and 75 citiesProbe image function3D-SR Shake Reduction System

(image stabilisation by moving CMOS sensor) with maximum 2 5-4 EV compensationAuto-Picture ModeSensor Dust Removal System

DR II (antistatic low-pass filter coating Ultrasonic cleaning)
Dust alarmVideo effects
(Luminous,

Natural, Portrait, Landscape, Vivid, Radiant, Muted, Slide Film, Monochrome, Bleach Bypass, Cross processing Digital Filter, Color Extraction, Toy Camera, Retro, High Contrast, False Color)
B/W recording mode with 8 filters and 9 toning

Size and weight

Dimensions W x H x D 129 x 97 x 70 mm
Weight 650 g (ready for operation)

Miscellaneous

standard accessory Pentax D-BC109 Special Battery ChargerPentax
D-LI109 Special BatteryPentax
FK (Hot Shoe Cover)
Pentax FR (Eyecup)
Pentax I-USB137 USB CablePentax
I-USB7 USB CablePentax
O-ST132 Storage AccessoriesBattery
Charging Station K-BC109Bayonet coverStandard viewfinder matte coverOcular coverMEImage processing software
Silkypix Developer Studio for Windows or higher or higher and for Macintosh system or higher or higher
additional accessories Pentax D-BG4 Battery/battery handlePentax
D-LI109 Special BatteryPentax
IR Remote Control F (Infrared Remote Control)
Power SupplyInterchangeable Memory CardPentaxK-AF Interchangeable LensesSystem Flash UnitsSensor Cleaning KitFinder MagnifierO-ME53Remote Cable Release
CS 205Interchangeable Screen
Grid ML60Interchangeable Screen
Scale MI60Interchangeable Screen
without Markings ME60Samsung/Pentax
System AccessoriesCamera Bag
Peter Dench
Peter Dench
I am Peter Dench. Digital Photographer, born in London 1972, currently living in Deerfield, near Chicago. I have numerous photography expositions and also working in model photography. In this website, PhotoPoint, I usually review cameras provided by local dealers in Illinois and by the manufacturers. Sometimes I, Peter Dench, review lenses too, but only when I have a suitable camera for them. Please let me know in the comments if I can improve any of these articles.

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