Since we're all pretty familiar with Photoshop here at Register Hardware we're not particularly interested in the Photo Browser and the associated Photo Laboratory's image-manipulation capabilities, but we liked the former's exhaustive list of every parameter for a selected shot, which is nice if you can't remember exactly what manually-defined white balance you used for that particlarly fine image. Suffice it to say, it works well enough for storing and reviewing your material. Doubtless, readers have their own preferred methods and software for handling their photos.
Having disconnected the K20D from the PC, it was time to investigate some of the camera's other features. The fast-action types among you will appreciate the "motor drive" modes, offering: Continuous shooting (Hi), 14.6Mp JPEG, 3f/s, up to 38 frames in one sequence; Continuous shooting (Lo), which is as "Hi" but 2. f/s until the SD card is full; and Burst, approximately 21f/s at 1.2Mp JPEG "until the camera buffer memory is full".
Pentax's Photo Browser
Now, if we hadn't been worrying so much about getting trampled to death, we'd have set the focus to continuous instead of single, which locks the focus at the point at which you hit the shutter release, as you can see from the sample shots later on. The last frame, by the way, is to assure the animal lovers among you that no donkeys were harmed during the shooting of this sequence.
The K20D's pop-up flash has a guide number of roughly 13, and can be deployed in six modes, depending on which exposure mode you're in: Auto; Auto+Red-eye; Flash On; Flash On+Red-eye; Slow-speed sync ("Sets the shutter speed slower depending on the brightness", Pentax explains); Slow-speed sync+Red-eye; Trailing curtain sync ("Discharges flash immediately before closing the shutter curtain"); and Wireless Mode, for cableless sync with Pentax's dedicated AF540FGZ and AF360FGZ flash units.
It's a fairly puny unit, which performs well within its parameters, but you'll want to attach something more substantial for serious work. Pentax notes that the two models mentiond above are "P-TTL auto flash units with a maximum guide number of approximately 54 and approximately 36 (ISO 100/m), respectively", with features including "slave-sync flash, contrast-control-sync flash, auto flash, high-speed sync flash, wireless flash, slowspeed sync and trailing curtain sync flash".
Our overall impressions of the K20D? While we're pretty happy with the K20D's build quality and sheer range of functions. We're really going to have to dedicate a further chunk of time to tweaking the vast number of available parameters and features such as white balance, colour space, LCD colour tuning, Pentax's raft of built-in filters, the anti-shake function, and many more - to get the camera set up the way we like it.
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!