Tuesday, April 28, 2009

DxO Tests:Pentax K-m (K2000)

DxO Labs' DSLR RAW tests are freely available for anyone who wants to look up and then quickly compare the sensor abilities of many of the top-selling cameras. I think their published results actually prove how remarkably similar all the DSLR cameras behave across markers like dynamic range and color depth. Sure, there's latitude, but within given groups, it's not that wide at all. When the latest image quality test results were published for the K-m (K2000 in the U.S.), I thought it would be neat to do a comparison versus the K20D and the Canon 50D, both of which have similar features to the K-m, but obviously more bells and whistles (higher resolution, expanded ISO range, etc.). How did the K-m fair? Not bad at all. Take a look:

The K-m actually matches the Canon 50D in key areas, like dynamic range, and comes out ahead on the sensor aptitude scale. This is for a camera half the price and considerably smaller. Now, some cameras fair better in these tests than others (Nikon's D700 and D3x are shining examples), but what makes the K-m twinkle, too, is that it holds its own against some very advanced models because its sensor system is a proven workhorse, inherited from the K10D. The K-m's only shortcomings are those which the U.K.'s Photography Blog called out already in their review of the K-m last year, when they compared its performance to its predecessor, the K200D:
"The K-m even improves on the more expensive K200D in some areas, notably a faster continuous shooting speed of 3.5 fps, expanded ISO range of 100-3200, and a less cluttered main menu system. Admittedly there are some downgrades, most notably the 5 point AF system which makes it more difficult to track moving subjects, slightly less powerful pop-up flash and the complete lack of any Live View or Digital Preview functionality (the K200D offers the latter).

Given the aggressive price-point, however, the Pentax K-m certainly hits the mark in terms of features, performance and most importantly image quality. The only major difference between the K-m and K200D is that the latter offers better low-light performance, with intrusive amounts of noise appearing at ISO 1600 rather than 800 on the K-m. In all other respects the 10 megapixel images from the cameras are very similar, with very little purple-fringing, accurate colours and a useful built-in flash and Bulb exposure mode, all delivered with the minimum of user input and effort."
Those italics at the end are my emphasis, which brings me back to what I think is the strongest point about the K-m, and one which you can't really test adequately at this point (no fault of DxO's, though): the user interface. The large rear LCD screen accentuates a well-reasoned grid-like menu system that isn't as recursive as you find in other Pentax models. In fact, it's similar to Canon and Nikon entry-level models in that respect, and as such it's very intuitive and allows you to toggle the features you're looking for quickly (I commented on that back when I first tried it out last fall). I'd call it the Hyper-Function menu, if I could. I hope Pentax rolls more of these "special" menu considerations into their higher end cameras, because, quite frankly, menu drilling isn't my favorite activity. It may be that the engineers were thinking about catering to a specific demographic when they made these interface choices (see the Designers' Notes), but the end result is one that I believe benefits any user. It's simple to use, and that's not something to overlook on a camera targeted to new DSLR users.

1 comment:

Sune said...

Thanks, a fine read

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