Pentax K20D SLR Review

Click for our main menu


Steve's Conclusion

The new PENTAX K20D digital SLR builds on the successful K10D from last year by combining many new and updated features. This includes a new 14.6-megapixel CMOS image sensor, the latest noise-reduction technology, a Live View function, Shake Reduction system, the PRIME (PENTAX Real IMage Engine) processor as well as an improved Dust Reduction system. The K20D is an advanced photo enthusiast-level dSLR with a dust and moisture-resistant body. If you've been waiting for the latest and greatest thing from PENTAX - your wait is over.

If you are an experienced photographer, or just moving up to a camera with more control options, I think you'll approve of the K20D's ergonomic design. The body dimensions are 5.6 x 4.0 x 2.76" (WxHxD), and the weight is only 25.2 oz. (without battery or memory card), making this camera easy to carry around on a long day of shooting. There are plenty of controls on the camera, and most are logical enough to figure out without consulting the manual. The menus are informative and easy to read on the 2.7" color LCD, and the monochrome data LCD display on top of the camera was very useful displaying Shutter speed, Aperture value, Flash mode, and many other important settings at a glance.

PENTAX claims the shake reduction technology in their current K20D helps produce sharp photos without using a tripod - even with telephoto lenses. I used the PENTAX DA 200mm f/2.8 ED (IF) SDM to shoot the waterfowl photos on our Samples page and I have to agree that the SR system has made hand-held photography easier for me with the longer lens. This system is integrated into the camera body so it works with whatever lens you choose.

Keeping moisture and dust out of the camera is critical to the quality of your images, and the longevity of your equipment. PENTAX understands this and has built the K20D with multiple seals on the body to protect the inner components against the penetration of moisture and dust. Even the optional battery grip is specially constructed to keep foreign objects from penetrating and ruining your equipment. The K20D is certainly a sturdy and durable camera and the polycarbonate body surrounding the corrosion-resistant, stainless steel chassis provides the durability required for daily use.

Undoubtedly some dust will get past those barriers when you change lenses, so PENTAX has developed a number of systems to help free your images from pesky spots. A coating has been applied to the surface of the low pass filter so dust will not adhere to the sensor. The SR system physically shifts the CMOS at high speed to dislodge dust that is then captured on a special adhesive material - so it can't return to mar your images. Never fear, if the Dust Removal system did not remove all the specks, the Dust Alert system can save you from time consuming retouching. This system analyzes the sensor to determine if and where any dust remains after the Dust Removal system is activated, and the results are displayed on the LCD screen so you can quickly pinpoint and remove dust from the sensor.

A large 2.7-inch color LCD monitor with a with a total of 230,000 dots and a wide-view design graces the back of the K20D. The LCD offers digital zooming of playback images up to 32x and can be adjusted to display correct colors in most common lighting conditions. PENTAX offers two improvements in the menu of the PENTAX K20D: scrolling menu items offer you a complete description of each menu option and the function it provides, while an enlarged letter option allows you to boost the font or letter size by 50 percent vertically for easy viewing. If you're a fan of Live View capability, the K20D’s CMOS sensor allows you to see the full image area to confirm your compositions. A grid display can be engaged to help compose your shots.

Look in the viewfinder and you'll see the standard LF-80 Frame Matte focusing screen - but you could opt for the LI-80 AF Scale Matte or LL-80 AF Divided Matte as options. You'll also notice a lot of important shooting information is displayed so you don't have to take your eye off your subject. Featuring a glass pentaprism, the K20D's viewfinder offers an approximately 95 percent field of view and an approximately 0.95X magnification.

A new 14.6-megapixel CMOS image sensor provides a better signal-to-noise ratio than the CCD image sensor in the K10D. The sensor offers approximately 50 percent more resolution than 10-megapixel sensors, and 20 percent more resolution than 12-megapixel sensors. I'm happy with the K20D's image quality, our test images were consistently well exposed with good color saturation. As you may notice in the Samples the Auto White Balance did not like the fluorescent lights I used for ambient shots but you can see I got a pleasing color by switching to the Fluorescent White Balance setting. Sharpness at the K20D's normal setting was excellent - exactly what you would expect from a modern dSLR.

In our tests, the K20D is a responsive performer, taking only 3/10 second from power on until the first shot was captured which is a little faster than the K10D. Shutter lag was admiral, less than 1/10 second pre-focused and 4/10 second including single autofocus with our PENTAX 18-55mm DA lens. Using continuous AF kept AF lag time between 4/10 and 5/10 of a second. The shot-to-shot capture interval in single drive mode varied from 4/10 to 9/10 of a second. The interval between flash shots averaged 9/10 and shutter lag when using red eye reduction mode of the internal flash measured 7/10 second. Continuous capture in the Hi mode setting allowed me to shoot 20 JPEG images in 6.9 seconds before the buffer filled using Large mode (the camera took 24 seconds to save these files to the memory card) and 14 images in 5.1 seconds using RAW mode (the camera took 36 seconds to save these files to the memory card). Continuous capture in Lo mode allowed me to shoot 19 JPEG images in 8.1 seconds before the buffer filled using Large mode (the camera took 51 seconds to save these files to the memory card) and 12 images in 5.4 seconds using RAW mode (the camera took 42 seconds to save these files to the memory card). Burst mode functioned similar to a movie mode and the shutter stays open as the sensor captures frames. I was able to capture 121 frames in 5.6 sec. (it took almost 2 minutes to save these to the memory card) in JPEG mode - in this mode, images are saved with JPEG quality set to 1.6M (1536x1024) regardless of the save format setting. Burst mode is not available using the RAW format. These tests were obtained using a PENTAX 18-55mm DA lens, shooting Large/Fine JPEG images, Program mode, image preview On, ISO set to 100, with a Kingston Elite Pro 50x 2GB SD memory card. I was able to capture a total of 240, 14.6-megapixel, JPEG images on the 2GB memory card. Your times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.

Since most pros don't use them, there are no "scene" modes on the Mode Dial. However the K20D offers various options for automatic exposure. All exposure adjustments are accessible through two ergonomically placed e-dials on the front and the back of the camera. The K20D's controls are fully customizable to meet your personal shooting needs. You have access to 36 options with 93 settings to give you complete control over your camera. You can reprogram the e-dials to your shooting style - the type of preview, whether Live View, Digital Preview, or a traditional depth-of-field preview - and the program line used by the camera's metering system. Custom Image modes on the K20D give you control of how the PRIME processor "develops" images. These modes apply saturation, hue, contrast and sharpness settings to JPEG images, and give a starting point for RAW image development. Each of the Custom Image modes can be further modified for special situations.

RAW fans listen up: the K20D offers an in-camera RAW converter for those times you want to print an image but don't have access to a computer to process the RAW file. The resolution, quality setting, white balance, sensitivity, Custom Image mode, and Noise Reduction may all be adjusted, and the image can be saved either as a JPEG or an 8-bit TIFF file.

If your needs require a battery grip PENTAX offers the optional D-BG2 which is weather-sealed (as is the K20D body) and holds a D-LI50 battery. The grip can also store an extra SD memory card and an infrared remote control. The grip has vertical release function, e-dials and more controls for your convince. With the D-BG2 mounted on the K20D it does move out of the "smaller dSLR camera" category but its ergonomic qualities are not compromised.

Image quality is excellent on the K20D and noise was well controlled throughout the K20D's 100-3,200 ISO range (expanded range ISO also available to ISO 6,400). Our standard settings on the K20D produced perfectly acceptable results that rival any camera in this price range. ISO 100 to 400 are free of serious noise. ISO 800 starts to show some noticeable noise when viewed at 100 percent magnification on screen, but ISO 1600 and 3200 are still perfectly useable. The K20D also includes a menu option to "Expand sensitivity" which increases the maximum ISO to 6400. Multi-pattern metering on the K20D did a reasonably good job overall, but it did wash out some highlights on bright, high contrast scenes, however these conditions produce similar results among other digital cameras from other manufacturers. High contrast scenes with more consistent light levels produced better results.

Bottom line - The K20D is a great camera for the photo-enthusiast - and the pro shooter alike. The new 14.6-megapixel CMOS image sensor, combined with a lot of modern technology create a wonderful camera for around US$1100. The Live View function, in-body Shake Reduction capability and improved Dust Reduction system show that PENTAX is serious about evolution of the K body line. The ability to use any PENTAX glass means I can even use my 20 year old PENTAX lenses on the K20D. Do you need 14-megapixels you ask? Just zoom in to 100% on some of our Sample pictures and see for yourself just how great this camera's images are.

Pentax Drops K20D DSLR Price To $999

Golden, CO (October 12, 2008) - PENTAX Imaging Company has announced significant savings on its flagship, award winning digital SLR. Beginning Sunday, October 12, 2008, the price of the PENTAX K20D digital SLR camera body has dropped to US$999.95. The full-featured, 14.6 megapixel, weather-resistant DSLR features a three-step dust reduction system, the PRIME image processor, fully customizable capture and control settings, and PENTAX developed Shake Reduction that works with any of the 25 million PENTAX lenses ever manufactured. More details are available at

Continue on to
Sample Photos

Return To Our
Reviews Menu

Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.