The camera's initial set-up routine lets you input your time zone and the time and date, and after that it's pretty well essential to consult the manual for enlightenment as to what all those buttons do. Experienced digital SLR users will be way ahead of us at this point, but the K20D really is bristling with bells and whistles, so a good hour or so familiarising yourself with where everything sits is a sound investment for when you finally get out into the field.
The back is dominated by the 2.7in colour LCD monitor, to the left of which are arranged vertically buttons to trigger the main menu, image deletion, info and playback. On a slightly raised panel to the right are the controls for lighting the top LED screen, which also activates exposure comp; autofocus button - AF is also activated by half depressing the shutter release; and three-way AF dial, switching between Auto, Centre and Select for choosing of 11 focusing points manually.
The K20D's impressive battery of rear buttons
Within the AF dial is a four-way controller for manipulating menus, and right in the centre is the OK button. Moving down, we find the "fn" function button and a lever-operated anti-shake switch, next to which is the SD card cover latch - a good, solid piece of metal.
And, just for good measure, the top of the back has an exposure bracket shooting button to the left of the viewfinder (with diopter adjustment slide). To the right sits the thumbwheel principally concerned with aperture adjustment and, just beyond that, an AE lock button.
The top boasts the usual exposure-mode dial, under which is the three-position metering mode lever (16-part multi-segment, centre-weighted and spot), plus hot shoe. The on-off switch surrounds the shutter release, to the left of which is a small green button, which sets the exposure mode to auto. Out front of the shutter release is a second thumb-wheel used to set shutter speed (30s to 1/4000) and, when you've got the exposure comp button pressed, to manually under or over-expose.
The top LED screen, in its least cluttered state, displays shutter speed, aperture, flash status, battery level and the number of snaps you've got left on the memory card.
I did not see the word "noise" anywhere in the review. Sensor noise is one of the most important characteristics of a camera, and is a big determinant of the image quality.
And then there is dynamic range, and possible clipping of highlights. That wasn't mentioned either.
This comment is not meant as a put-down of this camera. It's just that after getting my fingers burned on a noisy range-limited Olympus E-510, I want to hear all about sensor noise and dynamic range on any camera reviewed. That is much more important than how many knobs the camera has.
Oh, and one more thing: Are the metal brackets of the hot-shoe connected to the internal metal frame of the camera? If not, then just mounting an external flash unit on the camera, and doing some walking-around city-street shooting with the camera occasionally banging against your chest will pull the hotshoe brackets out of the plastic case, and now you have a broken hotshoe, like happened with my E-510. I expect more from a thousand-dollar camera.
"making shooting RAW an option rather than a necessity"
That's good to know, although I'd like to do some comparisons myself, to see if it improved from the K10D. (sore excuse to get a new one?) :-)
I did shoot the same scene (with my K10D) using the RAW+Jpeg option (great stuff). The thing is that the sharpness of the Jpeg version, when looking at 100%, is quite lower than that for the unprocessed RAW -- that's due to the "aggressive" in-camera noise reduction algorithm. So when I have important shot, I prefer to decide myself later how much sharpness I can afford to lose when doing noise reduction manually (if at all needed, to begin with).
If the NR algorithm got better for the K20D, that would be very nice...
Lenses / K10 vs K20
I've upgraded right from the Pentax istD digital to the K20D and it's been quite a jolt. I've been reading the K10D manual and the K20D will give you higher resolution and more options for in-camera processing. There's an extensive selection of "tweaks" for creating jpegs: Landscape, Portrait, Vivid, Normal, and Black and White and each of these settings have further adjustments making shooting RAW an option rather than a necessity. It also allows shooting both RAW and jpeg with a touch of a button so you can make that decision later.
One of the sweetest features is the built-in Vibration Reduction which reads the focal length of the lens and allows more clear hand-held photographs. Unlike other cameras, now every lens in your collection is a VR lens.
The worst thing Pentax has done has been to eliminate all film cameras. These were the same people who introduced us to the K-1000. They are now focusing entirely on digital. The K20D is a great contender for Nikon's flagship camera. It's 20% smaller, 50% lighter, and 1/5 the price while producing higher resolution. Rather than the old CCD technology, the K20D switched to CMOS technology to reduce noise. It even has a dead pixel mapping feature and dust detection and elimination built right into the camera to reduce trips to the repair shop.