Pentax K-50 at a glance:

  • 16.28-million-pixel, APS-C-sized sensor
  • 81 weather seals
  • 100% optical viewfinder
  • 3in, 921,000-dot LCD screen
  • ISO 100-51,200
  • Street price around £529 body only

Pentax K-50 review – Introduction

There was a time when Pentax SLRs were proudly worn round their owners’ necks. Now-legendary models, such as the Pentax K1000, Spotmatic and ME Super, were the cameras of choice for enthusiast photographers, which made the Pentax brand one of the biggest in the industry. These days it is Canon and Nikon that make the headlines in the DSLR market, while Pentax goes quietly about its business.

Yet while Pentax may not have the market share of its competitors, that should be no reflection on its cameras. Over the past few years we have enjoyed using Pentax models, such as the K-7, K-30 and K-5 series, when they came into the AP office. There is something about these modern enthusiast DSLRs that reflects the company’s heritage. Its current DSLRs are full of features designed to aid enthusiast photographers, as well as those who don’t mind tinkering with settings and learning how to get the best results. Also, image quality has certainly been a match for its competitors.

The two latest cameras in the Pentax K series, the K-50 and K-500, have inherited many features from their predecessors; in fact, these two cameras are virtually identical. The key differences between the K-50 and K-500 are the K-50’s weather-sealed body and its AF points, which are visible in use in the viewfinder. Besides these, the two cameras are identical in body and features. Bearing that it mind, while we are testing the Pentax K-50 here, the majority of this review also applies to the K-500.

Image: In its standard bright image style, the colours are still fairly bold and punchy

Pentax K-50 review – Features

At the core of the Pentax K-50 is the same 16.28-million-pixel sensor last seen in the K-5 II, although there are key differences. For example, the K-5 II offers 14-bit raw-file capture compared to the 12-bit capture of the K-50. This gives the K-5 II the potential to capture a more comprehensive range of tones, particularly in highlight and shadow areas.

The Pentax K-50’s sensitivity range is an impressive ISO 100-51,200, with files saved as either raw or JPEG files. Usefully, Pentax raw files are saved in the DNG format, which means they are compatible with nearly all raw-conversion software programs, so potential purchasers need not worry about having to upgrade to new software.

One of the key selling points of Pentax’s K-series DSLRs is that they are fitted with the Pentax K mount, which has been in use since the 1970s. As such, there are many second-hand manual and autofocus lenses available. As Pentax DSLRs currently lack the popularity of some of their competition, older lenses can also be purchased at extremely good prices.

All the lenses can benefit from the Pentax K-50’s built-in sensor-shift image stabilisation, which also has a tilting movement to ensure even better stabilisation. However, the movements of the sensor don’t just prevent camera shake, as there is also a horizon-correction function that can slightly shift the sensor to get horizons perfectly level. This tool works well when used with the electronic level, ensuring that you get perfectly straight horizons every time.

An even more interesting and specialist use of the sensor-shift capability is for the unique AstroTracer function. AstroTracer works with the O-GPS1 GPS unit and actually moves the sensor slightly during exposures of up to 5mins, to ensure that star trails are not recorded when shooting the night sky.

Further differences between the Pentax K-50 and the K-5 II are that the K-5 II has a better AF system, and a magnesium-alloy body rather than the polycarbonate body of the K-50. The K-5 II can also shoot at 7fps, as opposed to the 6fps of the K-50.

Like other Pentax DSLRs, there is a great range of in-camera customisation options, including AF fine-tune and setting how the auto white balance responds to tungsten light. An intervalometer, multi-exposure mode, lens correction and dynamic range optimisation are also crammed inside the K-50’s body.

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