The relationship between Samsung and Pentax in the SLR market is a strange one. It’s yielding some great results, but both companies are releasing essentially the same models under different names and at entirely too similar prices.
Take this Pentax K20D – it’s almost identical to the Samsung GX-20, has the more prestigious (in photography circles, at least) Pentax badge on it, and yet costs roughly the same to buy. Surely the more logical solution would be for Samsung to produce the entry-level SLRs and Pentax the higher-end ones. But what do we know?
Whether you go with the K20D or the GX-20, though, you can be assured of owning an extremely capable, feature-packed piece of kit. The headliner is clearly that amazing new 14.6MP CMOS sensor, which puts the K20D well ahead of the non-pro opposition for image size.
Bursting with features
In the spirit of the mobile phone world, Pentax and Samsung have gone down the route of chucking as many features as possible into their cameras. As well as the mind-boggling number of pixels, there’s a sensor-based image stabilizer, Live View (manual focus only), a weatherproof body and a 2.7in LCD.
The danger of throwing so many things together into one stew is that it might taste like old boots, but Pentax has ended up with a tasty dish. The 14.6MP sensor is a slight improvement on the 10MP one in the K10D and Samsung GX-10, capturing slightly more detail and tonality as well as laying down more pixels. The JPEG images are more contrasty than images from the rival Nikon and Canon models, but not significantly.
Performance above ISO 800 also isn’t up to the standards of, say, the Nikon D80 or Canon EOS 40D, and the ISO 3200 setting is really just for show – the noise is almost unbearable. The 3fps continuous shooting speed is also a bit slow at this price, although the autofocus speed is very nippy.
A little something extra
The ‘modern extras’ – in-body image stabilisation and Live View – are nicely executed. The stabiliser is excellent and means you’ll never have to pay a premium for image-stabilised lenses. The Live View only operates with manual focus and would have been more useful with a tilting screen (as on the Olympus E-3), but in its favour it’s just a simple toggle switch away.
The twin control dials on the K20D are awesome – every SLR should have two, for easily changing both aperture size and shutter speed. It would have been nice to see an acknowledgement of the importance of ISO, with a dedicated button, though.
What robs the K20D of its fifth star is both the price and the competition. Around the same price is the superior Canon EOS 40D, for a little more there’s the pro-level Olympus E-3 and just below it on the money ladder is the excellent-value EOS 450D.