To complete this litany of knobs, we find the three-position AF lever (Continuous - half depress shutter for ongoing AF; Single - half depress shutter for a one-hit focus; and, gasp, Manual) behind the left of the lens mount. Above that is RAW button which will, if you've got a money shot, up the image quality at the touch of a button. The lens release button is tucked away to the bottom right of the lens mount.
Finally, the mechanical flash release is a fairly unconvincing affair sited above the RAW button. The K20D's backside is unremarkable except for the highly robust, rubber seal heavy battery compartment cover, operated by a metal latch.
A more modest set of controls
So, what about actually taking a picture? Well, yes, but first there's the issue of which exposure mode to use? Here are the options: Green; Program AE; Sensitivity-Priority AE; Shutter-Priority AE; Aperture-Priority AE; Shutter and Aperture Priority AE; Metered Manual; X speed (1/180 locked); and Bulb.
The Green option is a point-and-shoot affair, which isn't going to be of much interest if you've shelled out for this camera, to be honest. Program is similarly idiot-proof, with the front and rear thumb-wheels allowing shutter speed and aperture adjustment, respectively.
The rest are self-explanatory. There's also a "USER" setting which you can select to store a load of preferred presets, including exposure mode, image resolution, drive mode (Single, Continuous, etc), white balance, and a plethora of other tweaks.
We opted to give this a roll in an old-school Aperture-Priority AE style, setting the ISO to 100 (default 100-400 auto, but widely user-definable between 100 and 3200), single drive mode, white balance on auto, image resolution at Premium-compression 14.6Mp JPEG with the AF on spot and metering centre-weighted.
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.
Shortage of lenses?
I also have 16mm f2.8 to 300mm f2.8 covered in prime lenses. Infact a number of them are at focal lengths that aren't available from other manufacturers.
Also keep in mind that Pentax has a long history of backwards lens compatibility and there are over 200 different Pentax lenses, (plus third part offerings), that are useable on the Pentax K20D. Furthermore they all work with focus confirmation and image stabilization.
I want one - NOW !!
Have a lot of Pentax glass, starting back in the 70's with my MX. Currently using the K100D Super...
The K20D is superb! I just want one - saving now!