(Updated at 10pm 1/23/08) Well, the longstanding rumors can finally be put to bed. Today, Pentax announced the upcoming spring release of 2 new DSLR cameras, the K20D (advanced user) and K200D (beginner user), and, making me particularly happy, a number of new lenses, a new DA 18-55 (II), the DA 35mm Macro Limited, the DA 55-300mm zoom, the DA* 200mm and the DA* 300mm.
This is one of the heftiest announcements on record from Pentax's SLR division and there's a lot to get excited about. A lot of people were wondering if Pentax would choose this year's PMA to announce a digital Medium Format camera, or a full-frame sensor camera, like the Nikon D3, however, it looks like Pentax is trying to play to their strengths first, which is to deliver exciting advanced amateur cameras at competitive prices, and to produce really fine lenses. The biggest news is that Pentax will have an advanced 14MP SLR camera on the market for about $1299, which is outstanding, but that's not all the fun announced today.
- The return of the PC Sync socket, with weather sealed glory. Also, it includes over-voltage protection circuitry.
- ISO 100 to 3200, expanded range to 6400
- Dust Alert, a function that will let you know where a particular piece of dust is stuck on the sensor. Not much is known yet, but it's a value added bonus for anyone who's ever had to clean their sensor. Apparently, it takes a picture and analyzes it for dust to warn you if and where it is.
- New picture Modes now include Bright, Natural, Portrait, Landscape, Vibrant, and B&W. What's very cool is that the user can customize these in their user settings (for example, making B&W have a slightly warm cast, or increasing the saturation in Portrait mode).
- New JPEG Quality Setting for Premium ****, along with the regular ***, **, and *
- 3FPS up to 14 continuous RAW photos, 38 JPGs (burst mode for 20FPS at 1.6MP JPG)
Everything else is a lot like the older K10D that we've come to know and love. Same 11-point Auto-focus system, 16 segment matrix metering, weather sealing, Shake Reduction, SD cards, custom WB fine tuning and adjustment, RAW developing in-camera, and even the same Li-On battery. This is going to be one amazing camera.
- 10.2MP sensor, weather sealing, lithium battery (and battery grip), WB fine tuning, color modes, and finishing options all inherited from the K10D.
- The Penta-Prism of the K10D is now a Pentamirror, and the viewfinder has 85% magnification. This is a dumbing-down of the K10D, to minimize production expense because it's not a feature most beginners would notice.
- Sensitivity Priority Mode, the ISO sensitivity adjustment mode on the K20D, and other basic Scene mode functions inherited from the K100D. However, simple green mode is not here.
- The same Extended Dynamic Range, illustration and HDR digital finishing filters and Dust Alert functions as the new K20D. However, the Color Extract filter is not here.
- Four AA, NiMH, or Lithium batteries, like the K100D, but with an optional new Battery Grip with vertical shutter, the BG3. The BG3 will not be compatible with the K100D or K100D Super (it requires a special interface on the bottom of the camera that these models don't have). But the battery grip is a really fine development, because it's something many K100D owners asked about, especially those who admire still being able to use NiMH batteries, so it's great to see that Pentax saw what its consumers wanted and reacted appropriately with this iteration. The camera comes with 4 Energizer lithium batteries to get you started. Nice.
The 5, count 'em five, new lenses
The other new lenses expand the DA lens line-up into much needed realms: Macro and Telephoto. There is a DA Limited "normal" macro lens (the 35mm equivalent to the 50mm f2.8 macros), and two DA* telephoto lenses with SDM (motorized support), the 200mm and 300mm, which are some of the lightest long-distance lenses on the market. Mind you, these lenses come at a premium, but I'm pretty sure that they will be coveted none the less. I'm already drooling over the DA 35mm Limited Macro lens, which is the sweet spot for me, right beside the FA 31mm Limited.
All in all, it's like the holidays all over again, with all these new toys to look forward to at PMA in Las Vegas next week. But the release of these new cameras and lenses is still a few months away from retail. As I write this, there aren't any images from the cameras and lenses to look at. And I'm sure as I look deeper and finally get a look at the camera I'll have some corrections to make here. In the meanwhile, don't wring your hands if you recently bought a new Pentax camera. Keep in mind that the K10D still has the beautiful Penta-Prism that the K200D doesn't have, and that the K100D cost far less than the K200D will, which is priced much like the K10D is now. But I can't stop you from daydreaming about the K20D. That's progress for you!