Hands On With The Pentax K-7

The first DSLR with an in-camera HDR.


Things had been quiet on the upper end of the Pentax DSLR front (despite rumblings of a digital 645 medium format model). Well, the silence has been broken. No, make that shattered, with the new K-7 ($1,200, body only), a videoshooting hard-body that packs in-camera high-dynamic-range imaging, live view, image stabilization, and a level indicator that's right out of high-end Nikons.

The new camera's megapixel count (14.6) is the same as its one-and-a-half-year-old predecessor, the K20D. But this Samsung-made APS-C-sized CMOS sensor (1.5X lens factor) is brand-new and designed for high-definition video.

Here are some tech highlights:

In-Camera HDR:

Thought you needed a computer and software to combine multiple images into one that spans the tonal range? The K-7 does it for you, blending up to three images (underexposed, standard exposure, and overexposed) into a single JPEG. Fussy HDR image makers will most likely still want their software. But HDR neophytes and Photoshop-phobes now have a way to explore this growing trend. A DSLR first, and certainly just a beginning.


Like Nikon's latest, this model shoots 1280x720- pixel high-def, but does it at the silky-smooth speed of 30 frames per second (Nikons max out at 24). Sound capture is monaural, though the stereo microphone input lets you upgrade the sound. Videos are stored as AVI files in the Motion JPEG compression format. (Canon and Nikon's proprietary formats required video-editing software writers to play catch-up-we're hoping this more common format won't.)

Autofocus In Video:

Unlike the Nikons, which lock autofocus in video, the Pentax (like the Canon EOS Rebel T1i) lets you focus by pressing the AF button on the back of the camera. It doesn't provide continuous AF as you move the camera, but it's certainly helpful. (However, we expect some audible AF motor noise.)

Image Recomposition:

Say you have the K-7 mounted on a tripod and you're composing with live view on the LCD. If you want to shift your framing a little bit to one side or the other, no need to pick up the 'pod-just move the imaging sensor a tiny bit in any of four directions or rotationally. Pentax took advantage of the flexibility provided by the camera's sensor-shift image stabilization to let you fine-tune your composition. Perfect for tough-toarrange macro shots.

Less Noise In Shadow:

The new sensor is billed as improving low-light performance with less noise in dark areas. Standard ISO goes up to 3200, expandable to 6400.

A new control layout, a gasketed body with 77 seals, a pop-up flash that rises higher than ever, and an AF-assist light to speed up the process in low light are just some of the reasons this promises to be a breakout DSLR for Pentax.

As soon as we get a production unit, we'll run it through the gauntlet in the Pop Photo Lab. We're eager to see what all the quiet has been about.