Pentax K-r: Higher ISO, Larger LCD Worth Extra $US150?

It's been a year in the making, but Pentax has released a successor to the K-x DSLR, and while the upgrades aren't astonishing, there's a higher ISO count (up to 25,600) and larger LCD, at three inches.

It's got the same 12MP sensor and can't shoot more than 720p video res at 25fps, so you've really got to be a Pentax fan to want to go for this over Canon or Nikon's entry-level behemoths.

On sale in October, the K-r will cost $US800 without lens, but if you spring an extra $US50 you can grab the 18-55mm lens too. Really, considering the K-x cost $US650 last year, I'm not too sure these few small updates are worth an extra $US150.

The K-r boasts outstanding performance and versatility, almost the equivalent of more advanced digital SLR cameras, while allowing the photographer to easily deal with different photographic requirements. Its dual-power-source design offers a choice between the standard rechargeable lithium-ion battery and a set of AA-size batteries.

It is also compatible with the IrSimple™ high-speed infrared data transmission system for wireless data transfer to IrSimple-compatible devices, and for swift image data exchange.

What are its key functions?

1. High-quality, true-to-life image reproduction: The K-r incorporates a new-generation CMOS image sensor with approximately 12.4 effective megapixels. It also features the high-performance PRIME (PENTAX Real Image Engine) II imaging engine to ensure accurate and high-speed data processing equal to that of upper-level models

2. Compact, lightweight body: Despite the incorporation of the large 23.6mm x 15.8mm image sensor, the K-r sports a compact, lightweight body, thanks to a trim, stainless-steel chassis, a downsized in-body shake reduction mechanism, and state-of-the-art, high-density packaging technologies that ensure space-efficient positioning and layout of the camera components

3. High-speed continuous shooting at approximately six images per second: The shooting mode records as many as 25 images (in JPEG recording format) in a single sequence at a maximum speed of approximately six images per second - the fastest of all entry-class models

4. High-precision AF system: The K-r's high-precision, wide-frame SAFOX IX autofocus system features 11 sensor points (with nine cross-type sensors positioned in the middle) for pin sharp focusing. Spot beam is also available for difficult lighting situations.

5. Bright, clear optical viewfinder: Thanks to the combination of PENTAX-original finder optics and the renowned Natural-Bright-Matte focusing screen, the K-r's viewfinder offers a bright, clear subject image at 0.85X magnification and a 96% field of view

6. Large, easy-to-view 3.0-inch LCD monitor with wide-view design and approximately 921,000 dots: High-resolution colour LCD monitor with approximately 921,000 dots. Its wide-view design assures a clear view of the monitor image from approximately 170 degrees horizontally and vertically

7. Versatile dual-power-source design: Powered by a standard rechargeable lithium-ion battery or four AA-size batteries using optional AA Battery Holder D-BH109

8. PENTAX-original SR mechanism for sharp, blur-free images: Features the PENTAX-developed SR (Shake Reduction) mechanism, producing sharp, blur-free images even under demanding conditions prone to camera shake; compatible with the full range of Pentax lenses

9. Innovative image-processing functions to produce distinctive photographic expressions: Custom image function for distinctive finishing touches/ Versatile digital filter function/ Cross process mode with three options/ Upgraded HDR (High Dynamic Range) function

10. High-speed infrared data transmission system: The first PENTAX digital SLR camera equipped with the IrSimple™ high-speed infrared data transmission system

11. High-quality, HDTV-proportion movie recording at 1280 x 720 pixels and at 25 frames per second: True-to-life movie clips in 16:9 high-definition TV proportions (1280 x 720 pixels) at a frame rate of 25 frames per second

In addition it has... • DR (Dust Removal) mechanism, to shake dust off the CMOS image sensor • User-friendly layout of essential control buttons and levers, all positioned on the camera's grip side for quick, effortless access by the photographer • Auto Picture mode, for effortless, automatic selection of the most appropriate shooting mode, even during Live View shooting • Eleven scene modes, including a new Night Scene HDR mode • Versatile white balance control, featuring a new CTE mode designed to emphasise the dominant colour components of the captured images • Automatic compensation of distortion and lateral chromatic aberration (available only with DA-,DFA- and FA Limited-series lenses) • PENTAX Digital Camera Utility 4 software package, with RAW-data processing and browser applications

The PENTAX K-r will be available from October 2010 Recommended Retail Price: • K-r + 18-55mm DAL - £599.99 • K-r + 18-55mm DAL + 50-200mm DAL - £699.99