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Bigger! Faster! More!
When the Pentax K10D—10.2 megapixels full of DSLR goodness—earned a Mac|Life Editor’s Choice last year (5 out of 5 stars, Jul/07), we knew it would be a tough act to follow. Well, Pentax found a way to get us jazzed again. The new K20D boasts 14.6 megapixels, and it delivers that resolution by way of a CMOS sensor. The K20D is a couple of C-notes spendier than its predecessor, but delivers better picture quality, less image noise, longer battery life, and more—and by “more” we mean a bunker-like reinforced body and more than 70 weatherproof seals.
The K20D is a hardcore, pro-style camera, but it’s not intimidating. Set its dials opposite the green marks, and you’re on autopilot. As you become more proficient, you can take over the camera’s controls and soar to new creative heights.
The CMOS sensor that replaces the K10D’s CCD significantly reduces image noise when shooting in low light at high ISO settings. It’s also a power-saver. We shot more than 700 images on a single battery charge, using flash about 50 percent of the time. That’s about 250 photos more than we got with the K10D.
LCD screen size has jumped from 2.5 to 2.7 inches, and an X-synch flash socket has been added for connection to wired studio strobe lights. A new Live View mode enables framing shots through the LCD, which is useful for close-ups and shooting at crowded events, but entails a momentary image blackout when releasing the shutter.
The K20D’s viewfinder is extremely bright and its grip is one of the most comfortable we’ve handled. Focusing is fast, and the touch of a button switches between various iterations of JPEG and RAW image capture. A built-in lens stabilization system does double duty by also shaking dust from the sensor. And get this: For easy cleaning, the exact location of any remaining crud, grunge, or schmutz is mapped by a Dust Alert function.
Two levels of continuous shooting allow up to 38 frames at 3fps or a card-full of shots at 2.3fps. A special burst mode shoots at 21fps for 115 shots but drops the resolution to 1.6MP. Still, we were able to output acceptable prints all the way up to 8x10 inches. We also liked flexing our creative muscles by taking up to nine exposures on one frame.
The K20D’s ISO range has been extended to 3200—with a boost to 6400 available—and a new feature allows four increments of high-ISO noise reduction (including a zero setting) to be chosen when shooting at ISO 1600 or under. Using images shot with zero noise reduction, we experimented with NIK’s Dfine plug-in for Photoshop CS3, precisely controlling how much of a trade-off to make between noise and sharpness.
We also used Auto Focus Adjustment to fine-tune some older Pentax lenses so they’d autofocus perfectly (settings for up to 20 lenses can be saved). The K20D’s new image-comparison function allowed us to call any two images up on the LCD screen, examine them side-by-side at up to 32x magnification, and cull bad images to free up memory-card space.
Most impressive, however, was the extraordinary sharpness and color accuracy of our images, even when output from the camera’s lower resolution choices (10MP, 6MP, and 2MP). After running both RAW and JPEG images through Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2, they were output on an Epson R1900 printer with a variety of Epson, Hahnemühle, and Red River papers. All of our photos glowed with vibrant colors.The K20D won’t disappoint. It stands head and shoulders above other DSLRs in its class and easily goes toe-to-toe with cameras costing much more.