Pentax may be a notch behind Canon, Nikon and Sony in the DSLR market, but the K-r demonstrates that there’s life in the old dog yet. This new mid-range camera feels like a premium version of the K-x released early last, using the same sensor but boosting the build quality and performance.

Take ISO, for example: it soars all the way up to 25600 (double that of most mid-range DSLRs) meaning you can happily shoot at usable shutter speeds in all but the murkiest of conditions. Your pics at this setting will be noisy, sure – but at least they won’t be one big rectangle of blobby blurriness.

No great shakes

At lower ISOs the picture quality is superb, even with just the 18-55mm kit lens attached. The camera seemed to turn out slightly darker shots than it should, but all were sharp as a tack with colours packing more punch than ten David Hayes. In-body image stabilisation means you get anti-shake tech for any lens you attach, too.

The kit lens is a great performer and less plasticky than most, although the autofocus motor is a loud chugger at times – not ideal when you’re filming video, as the noise will get picked up by the K-r’s built-in microphone.

Video jobsworth

The 720p HD video quality is nothing to write home about, but does the job. Needless to say, serious wannabe Scorseses will be opting for something other than a Pentax DSLR for their homemade epics – the Canon 60D and Sony A55 are far better options all round. There’s no HDMI port for watching back your clips on a TV, either.

The K-r body is sturdy and chunky enough to sit snugly in your hand. It’s very “old school DSLR” and that’s no bad thing: the controls are all nicely situated and there’s no need to contort your fingers or dip into the menu screens too often to change settings around. The screen is also excellent: it might not tilt or twist but it’s bright and dagger-sharp.

The chunky mode dial on the top comes with the usual priority modes (aperture, shutter speed, full manual etc.) but adds something new to the mix: Sv, or sensitivity priority. In this mode you set your desired ISO and the camera works out all the rest – a clever idea.

Battery versatile

One more interesting – and unique – thing: the Pentax K-r accepts either its rechargeable battery or four standard AAs. That means you can always whack in some batteries at a pinch and keep shooting.

The Pentax K-r doesn’t really do enough for us to recommend it over equivalent Sony, Canon or Nikon models, but it’s a reliable performer with a great kit lens. If you’re already a Pentax DSLR user looking to step up it’s a great choice.

Stuff says... 

Pentax K-r review

A dependable DSLR sidekick with some handy extras