Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Pentax K-50 Review (Part 1)

Pentax K-50 Review
October 2013, Carl Garrard
Pentax K-50 Review: You'd think that enthusiasts would be uncontrollably jumping for joy because of the kind of DSLRS we get today for the prices they are set at. But alas, I still see comment after comment about pricing and lack of features and all sorts of other nonsense. Pentax seem to be throwing the gauntlet at those customers with the K50. It's both reasonably priced and spec'd to the hilt, and even comes with a class leading weather resistant kit lens to boot. There's simply no arguing that the K50 is a lot of camera for the price, by anyone. And when you dig deeper than looking over spec sheets and price, you'll find that there's even more to like about this camera. Interested? Read on.

Pentax K-50 Best Price Three Colors

Pentax K-50 Review: First impressions and Specifications 

It seems Pentax has thrown a barrage at Canon, Nikon, and Sony DSLRS with the introduction of the K50. Not only is this camera better priced than what their rivals offer, but it's better featured, weather sealed, and has much better image quality with a minimal loss of total resolution in comparison to some of its rivals. In fact, when you compare the K-50 to the latest Rebel cameras (T5i and SL1) side by side feature to feature, the Rebels really don't stand a chance in my book, and they are the next best thing to the K50 amongst all competitors.

Available in a zillion color combinations, this is one of my favorites

This camera is loaded, and for it's price it's simply a steal too good to pass up for DSLR shooters who like looking through an optical finder. Just a short five years ago, the spec list on the K-50 would classify this camera as a pro level DLSR hands down. Today you can get one for about $549.00-$600.00 USD body only.

Pentax K-50 Best Price Three Colors

Add a hundred bucks for a weather sealed 18-55mm kit lens. If you want to customize it, you can, by special ordering one on Pentax's website for just a bit more, in just about any color combination you want.

Pentax K-50 Review: Quick background 

 I've shot with every single Pentax DSLR made, less the new K5II and K5IIs. I know Pentax DSLRS well. They are some of my favorite DSLR's to shoot with. I'm brand agnostic, but because I'm mainly an outdoor photographer, the massive customization and feature list appeal greatly to someone who needs a more compact form factor in the outdoors. Pentax DSLRS consistently rank very high on my approval list for such tasks.

That said, I'm probably a bit more critical than a typical reviewer of Pentax cameras because of what I've come to expect from them through experience. I've seen them make some brilliant cameras in the past and therefore expect them to hold themselves to that level of excellence. Pentax has come very close to making the perfect DSLR for my needs a couple of times, so I was really looking forward to seeing what the K-50 would be like in person. The recent K-30 impressed me, but I didn't like it's looks and a few other niggles that I've quickly forgotten. The K-50 has a no-nonsense exterior that I appreciate and come to expect from Pentax, so it's made a good impression on me at least that far.

Nice LCD Screen, good external controls, not too cluttered and in the right place.

Pentax K-50 Review: After some use with the K-50 and digging into it's menus, and after using it's features that are available, I've come up with a first impression... sort  of pro and con list on the K-50. To potential buyers- pay special attention to these lists and the length of each. These lists are what are important to you when you actually  use the camera (as opposed to talking about it to others), and these lists give you a real life value perspective of what you are getting. To be honest I'm sure I missed some other things I like about this camera in this list, but these all came to mind first.

Weather sealing in red, for $600-700 bucks? Just like the K30 Wow.

Pentax K-50 Review: What I like about the K-50
Pentax K-50 Best Price Three Colors
  • Build/design similar in quality and feel to the K20/10 DSLRS
  • Weather Sealed (kit comes with WR kit lens too)
  • Excellent optical finder- 100% accurate and bright/large
  • Dual customizable control dials (properly placed and angled)
  • Excellent Jpeg engine (may be the best in its class of any brand)
  • Excellent Raw IQ (some of the best I've ever seen in any DSLR)
  • DNG format raw files
  • Customizable buttons and dials (many of them, and a zillion choices)
  • Sturdy grip
  • Finally a real K200D replacement I was hoping for (better OVF and IQ) minus top mounted LCD
  • Big bang for the buck
  • Star trails mode (using bulb setting)
  • Auto ISO programing through entire ISO range
  • Dual battery type options
  • Recessed strap lugs
  • Excellent array of digital filters, custom color modes, art filters, and scene modes
  • Extensive in camera post processing (much better than any brand)
  • Focus peaking
  • Quick auto focusing in both regular and live view focusing
  • No nonsense exterior 
  • Custom user modes on main mode dial
  • Placement of live view button
  • Quiet pop up flash
  • Wide range of EV adjustment
  • Multi shot mode, allows up to 9 exposures on one raw or jpeg file (and both simultaneously)
  • Bulb mode allows one press and hold or one press to start and one to finish (important if you leave your remote at home)
  • Image stabilization used for multiple functions (auto horizon correction, hand shake, star trails, dust reduction)
  • Wide range of ISO selection 
  • Excellent long exposure camera (mix of features, IQ, and implementation)
  • Dedicated AF assist lamp
  • Contrast focus peaking
  • Catch-in (trap) focus mode
  • Well sorted easy to use menu system
  • 12 LCD display color choices
  • Customizable LCD brightness and color control
  • Custom menu system is extensive
  • Bottom line, a budget K5/K5II

Pentax K-50 Review: Future Improvements I'd like to see 

  • Rubber thumb pad
  • Pezio-ceramic dust reduction (high frequency dust reduction)
  • HDMI port added
  • Rubberized area around tripod mount
  • Easier to use SD card slot
  • Quieter focusing (both PDAF and CD type)
  • Better rechargeable lithium ion battery life (especially during live view use)
As you can see, the list of what I like is massive especially when compared to the improvement list. It may very well be the biggest list I've ever created for any camera I've used to date (or at least tied with the K5). And the list of what I'd like to see improved, very well may be the shortest list I've ever created. Impressive first impressions, I'd say. But these list's don't tell the entire story as you'll soon see.

Pentax K-50 Review: Shooting with the K-50

First serious day of shooting the K50 exhibits pro grade raw files- amazing image quality for the price. This shot was made using one raw file, without layering or any photoshop tricks. Just solid post processing. This is what you can expect from a single exposure right out of the camera  (and more).

The K50's included kit lens is actually quite decent, scoring well on my tests in corner sharpness, contrast, distortion, and maximum magnification. Flare also well controlled, and color looks quite good. Pentax's kit lens is definitely a step above the competition, and twice so that it's weather sealed. Weather sealing gives you peace of mind for photographers on the move and sets Pentax out amongst all camera manufacturers out there. They do it better and on more cameras than any other brand. On this day of shooting thunderstorms threatened, but didn't arrive. I wish they had, I was ready with my K-50 for the rain.

Detail at the telephoto setting is magnificent, and noise extremely low for ISO 400 (honestly thought it was 100 ISO before I checked the exif).

Not only am I glad the kit lens is weather sealed, but its maximum magnification and sharpness make it a very versatile all round lens. I'm not a lens snob, I don't care about how much a lens costs- it's how it performs that matters to me most. A versatile lens that covers roughly 28-90mm that has good "macro" capability is a lens I'd want to use most of the time anyways. All this kit lens is missing is a bright aperture to be considered a stellar bang for the buck. I wish manufactures would make kit lenses that ranged from f/2.8-4 minimum- but I digress. It's a very good kit lens and I like using it.
Pentax K-50 Best Price Three Colors

It's Jpegs are excellent with just a bit of tweaking on the settings in camera- best I've used (other than other Pentax DSLRS)- great tone and dynamic range, superb detail

Autofocusing I found to be eager and accurate in varied lighting circumstances. This AF system is very similar to the K5's autofocusing, if not a bit improved in all types of lighting. In using both contrast detect and phase detect autofocus, I found the K-50 to be equally accurate- which surprised me. I find that contrast detect AF on DSLRS usually more accurate- albeit slower.

Having most of the AF sensors being the cross type means that I'm more apt to experiment with focus points than I am with most DSLRS. Typically I use the center AF point almost 100% of the time, but if I need the camera to be in a fixed position, I can see the value of having the additional focus points (or when shooting action sequences wherein composition cannot be adjusting during shooting).

Pentax K-50 Review: Handling and Design

I use way too many cameras to tolerate a design that isn't comfortable or one that doesn't consider the active photographer that needs external controls to fall to hand second nature. Thankfully the K50 is comfortable to use, and its controls are well placed and considerate to the photographer.  I especially like the dual control dials, not just that it has them, but how they are angled and close to the digits that use them- just as important as having them I say.

Pentax K-50 Best Price Three Colors

The front control dial is angled upwards and close to the shooting finger as possible- a considerate design move.

The grip of the K50 is spacious and mostly a very comfortable design. The lack of a rear thumb pad means that grip isn't as good as say, the K5, but it's still darn good. The divot for the middle finger is deep and aggressive, allowing for one handed controlled shooting when needed, and aids in comfort for long term use- again, another considerate design implementation that translates to the real photographer.

The lines of the K50 are clean, rounded, and nice to the touch. I like the way this camera feels in hand more than the K30 it replaces, but that's just me. Both the type of rubber and the cleaner softer rounded edges of its design make for a more pleasurable shooting experience. It may look traditional 'esque' but, it works better in the hand. I'm practical before style, so this suits me just fine.

Stay tuned for Part II of the K50 Review!
Pentax K-50 Best Price Three Colors

Carl Garrard


  1. This looks like the best bang for the buck DSLR on the market. What other camera offers weather sealing and microfocus adjustment at this price?

  2. Hi
    Cool Stuff ! thank for that information . i bookmarked this blog . keep updating

  3. Thank you for this information. VERY helpful. I will go try this camera out tomorrow and it is the front runner now in my selection criteria. This will be my first DSLR. I have a Ricoh 35mm that I have used in over a decade - so this is a new adventure for me. Again, thank you.

  4. Hello, thank you for doing this. Could you please tell if the k-50 would be good enough as a second camera for a small-time wedding shooter, with a 50mm lens or a 50-135? A k-5 being the main camera, th k-50 should be similar enough in buttons layout and AF as not to pose problems? Thank you.

  5. This is the front-runner for my first DSLR (up from old Canon Powershot A520 and 35mm film before that). This is a large decision, so beyond your already very useful Part I - will you have Part II of your review up soon? (or did I just miss it?). Thanks.

  6. This is the front-runner for my first DSLR (up from old Canon Powershot A520, and 35mm film before that). It's a large decision for me, so beyond your very useful Part I, do you expect to post Part II soon (or did I miss it)? Thanks.

  7. Has part 2 of the K-50 review been published anywhere?

  8. the first my camera canon powershot A630 but has broken and now I try use canon powershot SX150is but the result very-very poor than A630. based on many reviews I want to buy K-50 because the great body and so far so good the picture result is good

  9. Do you know how the K-50 compares to the K-S2 in terms of image quality? Especially comparing the 18-50mm kit lens on the K-S2 to the 18-135mm upgraded kit lens on the K-50 (same price range). Is it worth spending 300 Euro more with the standard kit lens on both of them?

  10. which camera is best for beginners