Pentax K20D SLR Review


Review posted 5/19/2008

Click on the K20D for a QuickTime VR tour

The new PENTAX K20D digital SLR camera has hit the market and it's poised to make a major impact. It all starts with the award winning K10D and adds all the newest and improved photographic technology. The 14.6-megapixel sensor is the highest in its class. A new CMOS image sensor, the latest noise-reduction technology, a Live View function, the PENTAX Shake Reduction capability and the improved Dust Reduction system all combine to create one advanced photo enthusiast-level dSLR. All these features are packed within in a dependable dust-proof, weather-resistant body and are proof of PENTAX's commitment to the evolution digital photography technology for the 21st Century.

In the K20D, PENTAX has moved to a 14.6-megapixel CMOS sensor offering approximately 50 percent more resolution than 10 megapixel sensors, and 20 percent more resolution than 12 megapixel sensors. Noise is minimized and maximum sensitivity is achieved by using circuitry that is only 0.13 micro meters thin. This allows the photo diodes in each pixel of the sensor to be maximized at over 40 percent of the total pixel area (typically only 30-35 percent in similar sensors from other manufacturers). It also allows a more direct light path to assure every detail is captured.

PENTAX has built a host of user-friendly features in the K20D include a comfortable eye level viewfinder with 95% field of view coverage, a large 2.7 inch color LCD monitor, a top-mounted LCD data panel and a host of exposure modes, metering and focus options. Offering quick, effortless operation, water resistant construction and easy portability, the K20D is the ideal dSLR for advanced photographers regardless of the environmental conditions.

The high speed shutter unit of the K20D, rated for 100,000 cycles, allows shutter speeds as fast as 1/4000 second, a 1/180 second flash sync. speed, and automatic exposures up to 30 seconds, plus a bulb mode for extended exposures. For high speed action, the K20D offers a number of options for fast capture. In normal, high speed situations, the camera will capture at 3 fps for 38 JPEGS and 14 RAW images. You also have the option of setting the K20D to an alternate continuous shooting mode that slows the capture rate to 2.3 fps but allows you to shoot an unlimited number of JPEG images (to your card's capacity); perfect for extended capture sequences. And, for extended time lapse sequences, there is an interval timer that can be set to capture images at a specific time interval, starting at a specific time.

With the K20D's CMOS sensor a Live View mode is available on the large, 2.7 inch LCD monitor. This allows you to see the full image area and confirm your composition. A grid display can be engaged to help assure the perfect composition of your image. Auto focus can be activated by simply pressing the AF button on the back of the camera, and detail areas can be verified with the 4X or 8X zoom function.

The K20D features an auto sensitivity control function, which automatically sets the optimum standard output sensitivity, up to ISO 6400 using the Expanded Sensitivity setting, based on such data as the subject's brightness level and the lens focal length. Or, you can manually select your desired sensitivity. A Dynamic Range Enlargement function on the K20D allows you to better emulate the dynamic range typically found only with images captured on film. It does this by increasing the dynamic range by 200 percent to better capture details in highlight areas of an image.

The K20D can be configured to meet your personal shooting needs. You have access to 36 options with 93 settings to give you complete control over your camera's functions. These include the ability to reprogram the e-dials to your shooting style, the type of preview, whether Live View, Digital Preview, or a traditional depth-of-field preview. PENTAX's digital specific DA Series of lenses are tuned to properly focus with all PENTAX bodies. However, the time tested K-mount allows you to use any PENTAX lens ever produced.

PENTAX K-Series cameras feature an 11-point autofocus system. In automatic operation mode the camera recognizes which object is nearest and chooses that object as the main focus point. For more direct control, select any of the 11 points individually. It is also possible to simply select the center of the image as your main point of focus. With continuous autofocus, the focus adjusts as your subject moves within the frame, or should you prefer more direct control, you may always focus manually.

The RAW button on the front of the K20D allows you to quickly change your file format to RAW while shooting - without having to navigate through a series of menus. You can customize this button to switch to your preferred format and to either remain at that setting, or remain there for only one exposure.

Behind the "Dust Removal" designation lays an entire system unto itself. The surface of the low pass filter is sealed with a nanotechnology based fluorine coating. This ensures that dust has a difficult time adhering to the sensor surface. Dust that may remain on the surface is shaken off when the SR system shifts the CMOS at high speed. The dust that is shaken off the CMOS, then falls onto an adhesive sheet eliminating any possibility of its returning to the CMOS surface. Dust flecks are now a thing of the past, along with annoying and time consuming retouching work.

PENTAX DAH Series K-mount compatibility extends to the high performance smc PENTAX DAH series of lenses. The PENTAX-DAH series delivers the highest level of optical quality and reflects the PENTAX commitment to deliver the ultimate images in digital photography. Bringing together advanced optical technologies, special optical-glass elements and original lens coatings, these interchangeable lenses are superior in terms of contrast, clarity and edge-to-edge sharpness. Each PENTAX DAH series lens feature a tightly sealed, weather-resistant and dust-resistant construction to enhance durability for use in rain or dusty conditions making each a perfect companion for the weather-sealed PENTAX digital SLR. The lenses also feature the PENTAX original Quick-Shift Focus System for instant switching to manual focus operation and PENTAX original SP (Super Protect) coating to repel dust, water and grease. A new SDM system has been incorporated for smoother, quieter autofocus operation using a built-in supersonic motor.

The PENTAX Real IMage Engine (PRIME) was developed to meet the performance requirements of higher resolution sensors. The PRIME engine converts the digital signal into the image you desire by assuring truer color tones, a wider dynamic range, and natural looking high ISO images. Ultimately, PRIME provides beautiful, natural results similar to what you see shooting with film. By allowing customization of the image, the advanced circuitry frees you to focus on the image and capture the perfect shot.

PENTAX K20D Features:

  • 14.6 megapixel CMOS sensor
  • Shake Reduction compatible with any PENTAX lens ever produced
  • 2.7 inch high resolution, wide-view LCD monitor
  • PRIME image processing engine
  • Custom Image modes, with six preset options
  • Enhanced Dynamic Range mode
  • Durable, weather and dust resistant body
  • Dust Reduction and Dust Alert features
  • Advanced 16-segment metering and 11-point AF, with 9 cross sensors
  • Lens mount: PENTAX KAF2
  • Compatible with PENTAX K, KA, KAF, and KAF2 mount lenses; screw mount lenses, 645, and 67 series lenses (adapter required)
  • Glass pentaprism viewfinder with 95% field of view
  • Up to ISO 6400 in the Expanded Sensitivity setting
  • Custom Settings to personalize camera operations
  • Auto P-TTL pop-up flash - Guide number approx. 13 at ISO 100
  • Shutter speeds from 1/4000 to 30 seconds plus Bulb
  • 7 exposure modes including Green mode, Programmed auto, Shutter-priority auto (Tv), Aperture priority auto (Av) Sensitivity priority auto (Sv), Manual (M), Flash sync speed (X)
  • Continuous shooting JPEG: 38 frames (3fps), RAW (PEF): approx. 14 frames, RAW (DNG): approx. 16 frames
  • Remote Control ML-L3 (optional, Infrared)
  • Uses Secure Digital and SDHC type flash memory cards
  • USB 2.0 hi-speed connectivity, PictBridge and Print Image Matching III compatible
  • Powered by Lithium-Ion battery pack D-LI50 (7.4 V, 1620 mAh) AC charger included
  • Software CD includes the PENTAX PHOTO Laboratory 3, RAW data processing software, PENTAX PHOTO Browser 3, browser software and PENTAX REMOTE Assistant 3, camera control software
  • Optional accessories include: AC Adapter Kit D-AC50, Battery Charger Kit K-BC50, Battery Grip BG2, Cap D-BG2 (for battery grip), Focusing Screen LL-80 AF Divided Matte, Focusing Screen LI-80 AF Scale Matte, Remote Control F, Cable Switch CS-205, Magnifying Eyepiece O-ME53, DSLR Gadget Bag, DSLR Sling Bag

The K20D body sells for approximately $1,129.95 US, and as a kit with the DA 18-55mm II lens for $1,229.95. The BG2 Battery Grip is less than $130.00 US.

In the box:

  • K20D Body
  • USB Cable I-USB17
  • Video Cable I-VC28
  • Rechargeable Li-Ion Battery D-LI50
  • Battery Charge Cradle D-BC50
  • Camera Strap O-ST53
  • Hot shoe Cover FK
  • Eyecup FP
  • Body Mount Cover
  • Finder Cap for ME
  • Focusing Screen LF-80 Frame Matte
  • Software CD-ROMs S-SW74, S-SW75

Physical Views








The PENTAX K20D (left) next to thePENTAX K200D for size comparison.

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PENTAX K20D Specifications

Type: Digital SLR
Sensor: Type - CMOS with primary color filter and integrated Shake/Dust Reduction sensor movement system; Size - 23.4 x 15.6mm; Color depth - 8 bits/channel JPG, 12 bits/channel RAW; Effective pixels - 14.6 MP; Total pixels - 15.1 MP; Recorded resolutions - 4672x3104 (14.6M), 3872x2592 (10M), 3008x2000 (6M), 1824x1216 (2M); Quality levels - **** Premium, *** Best, ** Better, * Good; Dust Removal - Image sensor movement combined with SP coating
Lens Mount: Type/construction - Pentax KAF2 bayonet stainless steel mount; Usable lenses - Pentax KAF2, KAF, and KA (K mount, 35mm screw mount, 645/67 med format useable w/ adapter and/or restrictions); SDM function - YES; Power zoom function - YES
Focus System: Type - TTL phase-matching 11 point wide autofocus system (SAFOX VIII); Focus modes - AF Single (w/focus lock), AF Continuous, Manual; Focus point adjustment - Auto, User-selectable, Center; AF assist - YES, via built-in flash
Viewfinder: Type - Pentaprism; Coverage (field of view) - 95%; Magnification - 0.95x (w/ 50mm f/1.4 at infinity); Standard focusing screen - Natural-Bright-Matte II; Diopter adjustment - -2.5 to 1.5; Depth of field preview - Optical diaphragm stop down, Digital, Live View (FOV 100%, magnification 4x/8x available, grid pattern available)
LCD Monitor: Type - 2.7" TFT color LCD monitor, adjustable brightness/color, Live View available (TTL by image sensor, 100% FOV); Resolution - Approx 230,000 dots Wide angle viewable: YES, approx 160 degrees horizontal/vertical
Built-in Flash: Type - Retractable P-TTL popup flash; Guide number - 13 (100/m); Coverage - 28mm wide angle (equivalent to 35mm) Flash modes: on, redeye, slow sync, slow sync + redeye, trailing curtain sync, wireless; Flash exposure compensation - -2 to +1 EV in 1/2 steps
External Flash: Type - Hot Shoe (P-TTL, high speed sync available), Wireless with PENTAX dedicated flash, X-Sync socket; Synchronization speed - 1/180s
Storage Media: Internal memory - n/a; Removable memory - SD, SDHC
Interfaces: Ports - USB 2.0 hi-speed, video out, DC input, cable switch, X-Sync socket; Video out - NTSC, PAL; Printer interfaces - PictBridge
Power Supply: Power source - Rechargeable Li-Ion battery D-LI50, BG2 Battery Grip (optional) for second D-LI50 battery; Recordable images - Approx 740 (approx 530 with 50% flash); Playback time - Approx 330 min; AC adapter available - YES (optional)
Physical Specifications: Body dimensions (W x H x D) - 5.6 x 4.0 x 2.76"; Body weight (without battery or removable memory) - 25.2 oz; Loaded and ready - 28.2 oz; Construction material(s) - Reinforced plastic polymer shell surrounding a rugged stainless steel chassis; Operating temperature - 32-104 degrees F
Language Support: English, French, German, Spanish, Swedish, Dutch, Italian, Russian, Portuguese, Danish, Finnish, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Turkish, Japanese, Korean, Traditional/Simplified Chinese
Image Stabilization: Type - Body-based, sensor shift Shake Reduction (4 stops maximum)
Metering System: Type - TTL open-aperture, 16 segment metering; Sensitivity range - EV 0-21 (ISO 100, 50mm f/1.4); Multi-segment - YES, 16 segments; Center weighted - YES; Spot - YES; Exposure compensation - +/- 3EV (1/2 steps), +/- 2EV (1/3 steps); Exposure lock - YES; Exposure bracketing - YES, 3 or 5 frames, up to +/- 2EV (1/2 or 1/3 steps)
ISO Sensitivity: Auto - 100-3200 ISO (1, 1/2, 1/3 steps), Bulb mode up to ISO 1600, expanded range ISO available to ISO 6400; Manual - 100-3200 ISO (1, 1/2, 1/3 steps), Bulb mode up to ISO 1600, expanded range ISO available to ISO 6400
White Balance*: Auto preset modes - Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent (W, D, N), Flash, Color Temperature; Manual mode(s) - YES * WB fine adjustment available
Shutter: Type - Electronically controlled, vertical run, focal plane shutter; Shutter speed - 1/4000 to 30 sec, bulb available
Capture Modes: Mode selection - Green, Program, Sensitivity Priority, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Shutter and Aperture Priority, Metered Manual, X Speed, Bulb, USER; Green simplified mode available - YES; P/A/S/M/B - P, A, S, M, B (extended modes include Sv, TAv); Date stamp - n/a;n Digital filters (capture) - Custom Image Function includes Bright, Natural, Portrait, Landscape, and Vibrant modes, each with gamut radar and fine adjustment of saturation, hue, contrast, and sharpness. Monochrome includes adjustment for filter effects (green, yellow, orange, red, magenta, blue, cyan, infrared), toning (sepia warm/cool), contrast, and sharpness (regular and fine adjustment scales); Data record - Folder Name (standard, date), File Name (standard, customizable)
Drive Modes: Mode selection - Single, Continuous (Hi, Lo), Burst (1.6M, JPG), Self-Timer (12s, 2s), Remote (0s, 3s), Remote Continuous, Auto Bracket, Extended Bracket, Multi-Exposure, Interval; Continuous FPS - * 3.0 FPS (38 JPG and Continuous Hi, 14 RAW PEF, 16 RAW DNG), * 2.3 FPS (unlimited JPG and Continuous Lo, 14 RAW PEF, 16 RAW DNG), * 20 FPS in Burst mode (115 at 1.6M, ***, JPG); Self-timer - YES (12s, 2s); Remote control - YES, infrared (0s, 3s, continuous) and cable switch supported
Playback Modes: Mode selection - One shot, two shots, index (4, 9, or 16 thumbnails), magnification, image rotation, folder view, slideshow, histogram, bright/dark indicators, RAW to JPG; Magnification - Up to 32x, scrollable; Digital filters (playback) - B&W (4), Sepia (3), Color (18), Color Extract (6), Soft (3), Illustration, HDR (3), Slim (+/- 8), Brightness (+/- 8)
File Formats: Still - RAW PEF/DNG, JPG (EXIF 2.21), DCF 2.0 (design rule for camera file system), DPOF, Print Image Matching III
Custom Functions: Functions available: 36
Computer Requirements: *For device connectivity. Bundled software requirements may vary. Windows - Windows XP/Vista, USB port; Mac - MacOS 10.2 or later, USB 2.0 port
(Specifications as represented by the manufacturer, subject to change)

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