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Pentax K-7 Test-Drive

A K-7 Nameplate with K9 Teeth

Text & Photos by Allan Weitz

Pentax is serious about making top of the line DSLRs. All you have to do to prove it to yourself is pick up the new K-7. The camera body - weatherproofed magnesium-alloy body panels wrapped around a stainless steel chassis - fills the hand with a very solid presence and lacks the polycarbonate feel of many lesser-priced DSLRs. And then you have what can only be described as a serious list of features.

The Pentax K7 is designed around a 14.6-megapixel APS-C format (1.5x) CMOS imaging sensor, which according to Pentax offers improved noise suppression compared to earlier Pentax DSLRs along with 4-channel output for speedier still and video capture.

Image files can be captured in 4 levels of JPEG compression (14M, 10M, 6M, & 2M), RAW PEF, or a combination of RAW+JPEG. When shooting JPEGs the K-7 also gives you the option of capturing RAW PEF (Pentax priority) files on the fly by simply pressing the handy ‘RAW' button located on the left side of the camera body.

The image processor in the new Pentax allows for shooting full-size JPEGs at speeds up to 5.2fps for up to 40 images per burst, or 15 images when shooting RAW PEF, and 14 images when shooting RAW DNG. For unlimited shooting you can also shoot JPEGs at about 3.3fps until you max-out your memory card. Images are recorded onto SD cards.

In addition to stills, the K-7 is the first Pentax DSLR with the ability to capture HD video clips 720p @ 30fps, and 480p @ 30fps with sound. You also have the option of recording stereo sound using external mics via the K-7's 3.5mm stereo sound port.

As with other DSLRs that shoot video, you lose autofocus when you switch to video, but maintain manual focus controls. As for picture quality in video mode, click here for the accompanying article on digiscoping using a Swarovski spotting scope and the Pentax K-7. (And yes, the video we captured is quite impressive.)

The K-7 sports a glass pentaprism and optical viewing system that affords the user a 100% field-of-view, which is uncommon in DSLRs in this price-range. To compliment it's optical finder, the K-7 also sports an extremely bright 3", 921,000-dot TFT LCD with Live View for stills and video.

To eliminate the hassle of cleaning dust marks off your image files post-capture, the K-7 features an improved dust removal system (DRII) that utilizes ultrasonic sound to shake dust bunnies off the sensor's front-mounted low-pass filter. There's also a Dust Alert feature, which detects dust particles that remain after the dust reduction cycle, and pinpoints their exact location on the camera's rear LCD so they can be removed manually.


The K-7 also features an in-camera shake-reduction system designed to maintain sharp imagery at light levels up to 4-stops lower than you'd normally be able to maintain sharpness. The K-7's anti-shake system also compensates for rotational sensor movements. And being an in-camera system, the Pentax shake reduction system is effective with previous generation Pentax lenses, all of which can be used on all Pentax DSLRs.

A thoughtful feature found in the Pentax K-7 is a Composition Adjustment mode, which enables you to make vertical, horizontal, and rotational adjustments of up to 1mm in each direction to tweak the image composition when circumstances make adjusting the camera and/or tripod difficult or impossible. There's also an electronic leveling indicator for leveling horizon lines, which can be viewed in the camera's viewfinder as well as on the LCD located on the top deck.


The K-7's improved autofocus system is noticeably more responsive than previous Pentax DSLRs. The new AF system, dubbed SAFOX VIII+, is an 11-point (9 cross points) system that makes use of a dedicated AF-assist lamp to help nail the focus under lower lighting conditions. The exposure system on the K-7 is equally impressive and features a 77-segment metering system that delivered consistently good exposures.

When shooting under contrasty lighting conditions, you can employ HDR image capture, which takes 3 consecutive exposures of a scene (normal, +1/3, & - 1/3-stop), and combines all three images into a single exposure containing detail in the mid-tone, highlight, and shadow areas. (A rather nifty feature… no?)

The K-7 has an ISO range of 100-3200 (and expandable to 6400), which can be set in 1-stop, ˝-stop, and 1/3-stop intervals. The K-7's shutter-speed range runs from 30-seconds through 1/8000th plus Bulb. Top flash sync is 1/180th.

One of the strong selling points of Pentax DSLRs is their backwards compatibility with older Pentax optics. Along with the current Pentax KAF2 lens mounts, the K-7 (and earlier Pentax DSLRs) also accepts KAF3, KAF, K, Pentax screw-mount lenses, as well as Pentax 645 optics, each with the appropriate adapters. When using Pentax D, FA, DA, DA Limited, and DA* lenses, the K-7 also allows you to correct optical distortions and chromatic aberrations in-camera.

The Pentax K-7 has a built-in TTL flash with a guide number of 13 and enough coverage to light the field of a 28mm-equivalent lens along with plus/minus 2-stops of exposure compensation. There's also a hot-shoe for more powerful TTL flash units, as well as a PC connector for shooting with studio strobes.

Along with all of the usual scene modes the K-7 also offers a series of built-in digital filters including Toy Camera, Monochrome (including warm tone, cool tone, and infrared emulation), Retro, High Contrast, Low Contrast, Extract Color, Starburst, Watercolor, Fisheye, and the aforementioned HDR mode to name a few.

The Pentax K-7 runs on a lithium-ion battery capable of capturing up to 980 still images or 440 minutes of video capture per charge. The optional D-BG4 battery grip has room for a second lithium-ion battery or 6 AA batteries.

For playing your stills or video on a TV monitor, the K-7 comes with a standard definition RCA cord, or you can use an optional HDMI cable for higher definition viewing.

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