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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.

The Pentax K-50 has 11 auto-focus point, nine of which are cross-point. I found that adequate for composing images, though I still appreciate more points when I can get them. To change those points (and to set auto-focus operation and the behavior of the external switch noted earlier), you'll need to dig into the menu options under AF. Once I enabled all 11 points, I could switch the focus point easily using the four-way nav buttons at the back of the camera.

The camera's 16.3-megapixel sensor has a 1.5x focal length conversion factor on the included 18-55mm lens. Images shot at all focal lengths looked good. But I was disappointed with the noise in images. Colors often looked inaccurate and oversaturated at default settings. At ISO 800, images looked visibly noisy, and at 1600 they were simply more so. Higher ISOs like 3200 yielded soft images, with loss of detail.

Focus speed seemed sufficiently fast for everyday shooting. So, too, did the five-frames-per-second capture speed, which is competitive for cameras of this price--and outpaces the three fps of the Canon T5. This speed will work well to capture fast-moving action, though some sports may benefit from more frames per second.

Another noteworthy point: If you do shoot RAW, Pentax uses Adobe's open lossless RAW image format, DNG. This means you don't need your software to support a proprietary RAW format, as Photoshop, Lightroom, and other software will read DNG.

This model lacks an external microphone input. This means you're limited to the single built-in mic for video capture. So even though you can capture 1080p video, we'd recommend looking elsewhere if video factors big into your plans for this camera.

The included lithium-ion battery is good for about 480 shots. But another unique benefit of the K-50: It can use four AA batteries, a real boon if you're traveling and in a bind for power. Ordinary AA batteries can be found most anywhere. If you use lithium AA batteries, Pentax says the batteries should last for over 1200 shots.

Bottom line
The Pentax K-50 is chock-full of features, and those features--many of them, including in-camera vibration reduction and weather sealing, unique at this price--increase its allure. But its mixed image quality constrains its appeal.


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