Oh yes, and last of all, by burrowing into the Custom Settings menu we were able to set the "Preview Method" to "Optical", which rather marvellously allows, by rotating the on-off switch a smidge clockwise beyond "on" offers a depth-of-field preview through the viewfinder in the time-honoured fashion. The default setting is "Live View", which gives you a preview of the shot through the LCD screen. Pah.
The camera fires up in less than a second, and the autofocus is snappy and crisp. The viewfinder is bright, and in this mode displays shutter speed, f number and remaining shots. You just spin the rear thumb-wheel to get your desired f, and away you go.
An impressive set of innards sets this camera aside from the field
The built-in light meter works a treat, but if you want to hedge your bets on exposure, there's an Auto Bracket function of three or five frames with step intervals of ±0.5, ±1.0, ±1.5, ±2.0 for 1/2 EV or ±0.3, ±0.7, ±1.0, ±1.3, ±1.7, ±2.0 for 1/3 EV. An Extended Bracket Mode allows simultaneous capture of images with three different white balance, saturation, hue, sharpness and contrast levels, should you so desire.
For those who like to get really hands-on, fully manual mode activates the front thumb wheel for control of the shutter speed. Exposure is indicated in the viewfinder as a series of vertical bars in the viewfinder, extending under and over the correct central exposure as calculated by your selected metering mode. We should add that if you prefer to reverse the thumbwheel operation and use the front for aperture, etc, you can select this throught the Custom Settings in the main menu, which also has options to change the operation of various other buttons in certain exposure modes - something to keep you entertained on long, cold winter nights.
Playback through the LCD screen is all you'd expect from a camera at this price. Brightness is adjustable, and a range of options allows you to display images with all those settings you've so lovingly tweaked to create the image, show multiple images, or select a slideshow, among other options.
To get the images onto your PC - via the USB connector under a flip-up panel on the left of the camera, which also hides the optional power adaptor input and electronic cable release jack socket - you've got Pentax's Photo Browser at your disposal, which will create dated folders for your snaps. Well, sort of - despite our best efforts, we had to make do with manually selecting the source and target folders, and the program seemed incapable of detecting pics which had already been saved, so decided to create copy folders of stuff it'd previously sucked from the camera.
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!