Think of this camera as the Digital SLR camera version of an AK 47, cheap, durable, capable, easy to use and maintain. Just works !
Notes: We acquired a Pentax K-7 to do more ( and better) photography for ourselves and the website. After much research and asking around we decided on the Pentax because it gave us the most bang for the buck and is designed for rugged conditions ( like New Orleans during Tales or deserts in Peru). It’s got over 20 different weather seals and even the lenses are built to be weatherproof (read more likely drink proof in my case and where I go).
I looked at Nikons and decided they were overpriced and riding on their name rather than value and so did Canon to a lesser degree. Another point in their favor is due to their rarity you can pick up old lenses ( film SLR) for almost nothing as no one else is competing for them.
It also had a lot of advanced features such as an automatic level, options to use AA batteries and lots of features for the money.
Only downside is the 330 + page manual – and I mean all in English this is not some 6 language manual It is going to take a bit to use this camera up to its potential. But on the plus side the manual is easy to understand and well written – it’s just a lot to absorb if you are new to photography but a delight for an old hand as you can really use this extremely full featured camera in the same way as a film camera.
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Appearance: First off it’s one of the few metal body cameras you can buy for anywhere near that kind of money. It has a light weight but very durable magnesium alloy body with a stainless steel framework for a number of the moving parts so it does not wear out of get sloppy compared to a straight magnesium alloy body which would wear somewhat more quickly in action. Fit and finish is excellent, the seals ( over 20) are easy to open and close, the controls and markings are fairly intuitive and overall a nicely ergonomic camera.
First Impression: Nicely made, decent heft to let you know it’s a real camera but light enough to carry all day long just about anywhere. Easy to just pick up and shoot with, most controls self apparent and easy to find. Ports and controls well marked, no weird proprietary cables, comes with 18 x 55 kit lens that is excellent and useful ( we use it about 90 % of the time because it covers so many shots we do).
Testing: It’s got over 20 different weather seals and even the lenses are built to be weatherproof (read more likely drink proof in my case and where I go). In the roughly 7 years of testing none of them has ever leaked, failed or broken off – a very remarkable accomplishment. Another feature we loved was the battery grip. This not only allowed you to carry a extra, integrated battery and controls for extended shooting, but also it came with a battery tray that allowed you to use 4 AA batteries instead of a proprietary battery. This was a huge advantage because you may run out of charged camera batteries but you can almost always find AA batteries anywhere ( Why do you think that RPG optical sights use them ? – I’ve found more than one set of Duracell AA batteries in them – because like RPGs they are everywhere in 3rd World Countries) .A nother advantage is the holder also allows you to store an extra chip in the tray so you can very quickly drop out the old one, slap it in the holder, push the new chip in and keep shooting without fumbling around.
The camera has been dropped, banged around and off numerous objects, in all kinds of enviroments, had numerous drinks spilled on it, caught in monsoons, dropped in puddles, ice, you name it, and it kept on taking pictures without a hitch. We were evn able to shoot with a flash during a monsoon with no problem. It then survived a desert shoot in Peru ( all day in the sun) then parties late at night with cocktails spilled on it in a Peruvian Disco. I have even showered with it on to cool off at beaches .
We have taken this camera all over the world, from Europe to South America, and all over the United States and shot roughly 40,000 + photos and shot numerous videos with it without any repairs or tune ups – just cleaning it off from time to time – including one time that we got blood and tissue all over it ( no, don’t ask – you really don’t want to know) and had to pour a bottle of gin over it to clean it. The camera is by far the most durable we have come across, and we have saved $1,000’s of dollars in repairs compared to my friend with a Nikon – every time he drops it or it falls off a table it’s about $500 and 6 weeks turnaround .
Performance: This camera performed brilliantly under all conditions and took great photos in almost all light conditions with a minimum of fuss and bother.
Lenses: Wide variety of lenses available for all applications. Stick to the WR (Weather resistant models) if you can, they are sealed and ruggedized. The first time you get caught out somewhere with one it pays for itself by not getting the lens OR the camera damaged by using a non wether resistant lens.
Other: One good list of the cameras features ( and a few more links with reviews) can be found on the Wikipedia
Final Thoughts: If you want the best there is and want to get the Ferrari version of a camera and money is not a problem, buy a Nikon, or better yet two, as like Ferraris they are fragile and take a long time to get repaired. Also like the Ferrari be prepared to spend a lot of money maintaining them when you are not worrying about being seen with them, getting them ripped off, or having to carry them around in cotton wool. If you have slightly less money buy a Canon ( think of it as the BMW of cameras), not stupidly expensive, more durable, a bit more sensible but not as sexy or great as a Nikon. If you want the unknown dark horse that is cheap, huge value, and durable enough you can almost pound nails with it, get a Pentax SlR like the K7 or the newer K 30 model. These Pentax cameras are probably one of the best values for a camera out there for someone on a budget who still wants to do some damn good photography.
Not the best or most showy site – actually a bit hard to navigate, but a fair amount of information and pricing on every possible camera and accessory Pentax has to offer.