A year since its release, Ricoh Imaging's Pentax K-50 still touts something that no other consumer grade entry-level SLR camera offers: weather sealing. While it's not enough protection to save you if you dunk the camera in a pool, this sealing should give you peace of mind while using the camera in light weather or in the occasional splash zone. The K-50 has other appealing features, including its low price ($780 with an 18-55mm lens) and the fact that it can be custom ordered in up to 120 color combinations.
The K-50 is practically a twin of the similarly priced (lower MSRP, same ballpark street price) K-500. The two look identical and share most specs, but the K-50 is the better choice of the two by far. The K-500 lacks weather sealing and only uses AA batteries.
The biggest thing about the Pentax is that it's not by either of the dominant forces in SLRs--Canon or Nikon. Pentax has always had its loyalists, and certainly if you have Pentax lenses in your collection from a previous model, that's one reason to consider this camera. Another: Value. The Pentax offers a lot of functionality at a reasonable price. Unfortunately, I wasn't as enamored of the images it produces.
I tested the K-50 with a white matte chassis--a case design that made the camera stand out immediately amongst the crowd of black camera bodies. I found the white resistant to scratches and scuffs, but prone to getting dirt marks even when I didn't think it was exposed to dirt.
The camera feels every bit of its 1.3 pounds. The deep grip felt comfortable, and I appreciated the indented finger rests at front (for your middle finger) and back (for your thumb). The camera felt balanced, unlike some models I've tried, which helps with the extra weight.
One thing that might account for that extra weight: Inside the camera sits a vibration reduction system that counters camera shake and helps to reduce dust on the camera's sensor. The system works with most Pentax lenses, and can counter shake as well as adjust for sloping angles by up to one degree.
The K-50's design feels familiar, mixing elements from both Nikon and Canon cameras. The easy-to-turn 360-degree dial on top has standard shooting modes: manual, shutter priority, aperture priority, automatic, movie, and program. Scene mode for 19 different creative presets, including macro as well as uncommon options like candlelight, night scene HDR, and pet. The dial itself has three other options that you don't usually find in an SLR: TAV, for controlling both shutter and aperture, while auto-adjusting exposure via other settings; SV, for prioritizing ISO light sensitivity; and B for bulb, which helps achieve long exposures. I enjoyed using the TAV setting, simply because I could set the aperture and shutter speed, and let the camera figure out what ISO I needed to shoot at those settings.
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