(Updated 11pm Friday, 1/25/08) Well, it was a big week of camera announcements, with Olympus, Fuji, and Canon getting a lot press, but ultimately the big scene stealer was the K20D. It's been getting a lot of advance praise and generating interest across the web thanks to news of its 14.6MP CMOS sensor. Here's a fast and loose look at most of the bright spots, including links to the various sample photographs that have started popping up.
Special thanks to 1001 Noisy Cameras and all the readers who helped submit the following links.
PopPhoto: Jack Howard had the chance to play around with pre-production unit, and they took it around on the streets of New York City as well as Las Vegas.
"Pentax has once again swung for the fences with the K20D, packing a ton of high-caliber features, heaps of megapixels, tons of customization, and a pro-caliber build into a camera that should manage to distinguish itself in a crowded pack of high-end enthusiast/entry-level pro SLRs. We've just begun our full lab test with an early production Pentax K20D and out initial findings show that the Pentax K20D is very class competitive (particularly at ISOs 100-1600) against other cameras in this category including the Canon EOS 40D, Sony Alpha 700, and the Nikon D300."Another highlight from PopPhoto? When their slideshow of "Image Quality" sample pics compared ISO 100 and 3200 with pixel level samples (seen below). Remember, these are just fast snapshots without additional processing, but whew, what noise control.- Jack Howard
"The Pentax K20D is the first DSLR we've encountered that offers the ability to adjust the representation of color on its screen, allowing the user to calibrate the screen to more accurately reflect the output or the user's tastes. This is typical of the sort of high-level touches that cropped up all over the K10D and shows Pentax taking the same attitude towards the K20D. Another instance is the addition of an X-sync socket that will really benefit studio shooters."Trusted Reviews: Here's a more comprehensive "hands on" review of the pre-production camera, but with lot's of sample pics taken at Pentax's Dubai event. Am I the only one who is glad they got nice overcast weather in the desert that day, but still ever so slightly flummoxed that the camera's metering is doing such a good job at not overexposing that things look a little too dark? (click here for an example). Anyhow, Jaime Harrison is pretty upbeat about the camera, including its revamped menu system: "The menu in particular has seen a few changes, with a better tyoe face and importantly much clearer labelling of some of the functions. One of my criticisms of Pentax cameras in the past has been their somewhat esoteric naming conventions. The sensor cleaning function for example, is no longer named ‘Switch dst msr pt'."
Photography Blog: Mark Goldstein posted 40 sample pics from a trip to Pentax's Dubai Press event with a pre-production K10D, shooting JPEG with the new Premium Quality setting. It's hard to tell much, but it's obvious he was having fun.
PentaxForums.com: Codiac2600, a regular contributer to the PentaxForums, was right out of the gate on Wednesday with "2500 word essay on the K20D," based on his experiences playing around with one. He underscores a few times that Pentax didn't make any changes to their autofocus system, which is something he had been hoping for, but he iterates all the things they did right from a very personal perspective and energetic voice. I'm looking for more information about what he describes as a "self-repairing" sensor, which sounds like a bit of an exaggeration. But it's a fun read.
"Somewhere a rep told me that each pixel has a base ISO1600 sensitivity, but this could be different or an interpretation. It’s basically magic like Ken Rockwell always says when he doesn’t want to understand how something works. Not only does this sensor have great sensitivity per pixel, but is self repairing! With a couple of button presses you can fix dead pixels on your sensor while you wait. Huh? You know those dead pixels that happen from time to time. Basically you’d send your camera in to be repaired and they’d send it back with that dead pixel mapped out of the equation. The K20D can do this for you in camera folks! So let’s sum this up… a 14.7MP, high resolution sensor, low noise, and self healing!"The Online Photographer: Referencing the sample pics at Pentax, Mike Johnston, appreciates the black and white test shot. As he tells you himself, no surprise.
Benjamin Kanerek: Here's the best gallery of shots, from a fashion photographer long associated with Pentax. What's great here is that you can access all the metadata about each shot as well as the hi-res version. These are arguably described as the sharpest samples on the net right now.
British Journal of Photography: These folks don't exactly draw a conclusion that the K20D is using the sensor chip that might have been the brains of an earlier incarnation of the 645D, but what you do get is a lot of thoughtful insight into comments made by Hiroshi Onada, Pentax Europe's main man, at the Pentax Dubai press event. Pentax is looking to achieve 15% of total DSLR sales in the market by 2009, with 3 levels of DSLR cameras, including a yet unannounced top-tier. That's a big step over where they are now, but it's starting to look like it will be possible if this momentum keeps up.
(more updates to this list to come)