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Pentax K-50 review: A decent entry-level DSLR that braves the elements

Melissa J. Perenson | Oct. 15, 2014
The Pentax K-50 has a lot to like, with its tank-like, sturdy design and plethora of settings and controls. But color reproduction and noise levels at high ISOs make images a mixed bag.

On top of the grip sits the first of two horizontal navigation wheels. Use this to navigate among menu options. Another horizontal scroll wheel sits at back, below the dial; this one also controls menu navigation and zooms in and out of photos on playback. The on-screen display shows which scroll wheel to use for a given setting option, a convenience while you're first learning the camera.

The control navigation did take me a bit to get used to. It's not onerous, per se, but it still requires a little more thought than you might expect. But the wheels are easy to turn, the buttons easy to press, and I appreciated being able to use the four-way nav buttons (with center OK button) to make my way through screens, sometimes in lieu of using the rear scroll wheel. I found the buttons even more responsive and faster than the wheel, though your experience may differ.

While the on-screen display is colorful, and I appreciated its big, clear numbers, the Pentax's menu design is text-heavy, with tiny icons and a dated look compared to more modern, clean graphics of competing models. Some newcomers to the SLR world may find the design intimidating, but it's certainly manageable, if not pretty. The menus are a case of favoring function over form: I particularly appreciated how quickly I could navigate among shooting options and how I could customize the rear display for one of five options--including not showing any settings at all. But sometimes I was confounded by the menu operation. For example, after I enabled the option to select focus points, I couldn't easily figure out how to use the four-way nav for other menus settings.

On the left edge of the camera are a handful of unusual controls. At the bottom-left sits a dial for adjusting the focus mode, but most competing manufacturers put these options into the focus menu. Higher up along the side sits a handy button for taking a single RAW photo--or you can program this button for several functions. And to the left of the viewfinder is a button for switching to Live View, and for deleting images during playback.

Weatherproof sealing is appealing for taking your camera out in the snow or rain, or if you're concerned about being splashed by the pool. All external components are sealed and protected--even the SD Card slot door at right has a rubberized gasket inside to protect the card. While Pentax doesn't quote any formal ruggedization standards ratings, the company does say it's "fully weather sealed throughout the body," and that it's coldproof to -10 degrees Fahrenheit. The K-50 has a video/PC output under one rubberized flap, and a cable release input under another.

 

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