Silver or gold, this camera seems like a decent replacement for the K-x, with improvements in some of the areas we might want and others we might instead merely expect. The larger LCD will look lovely and feel less cramped than the smaller predecessor. I would have liked to see an articulated screen, however. This is not just a toy feature, but a good and useful tool for video and macro work especially, but also street shooting and so on.
The improved frame rate and ISO range are gravy on top of already excellent performance for an entry-level model. Some chomp at the bit for ever increasing machine-gun capacity, but I am not one of them. Likewise ISO limits keep increasing, but the usable low-noise regime of the sensors hasn't changed so much. My K20D is perfectly decent in this regard.
There has been debate among some Pentax fans on the usefulness of the AF point confirmation squares in the viewfinder, most of it of a rather self-interested nature. "Well, you can always centre focus and recompose" goes the usual justification for this rather striking omission. Which is true -- this technique works for me. But I do not presume everyone (especially beginners) wants to shoot this way. So I am glad Pentax has corrected the oversight this time around.
The fact one can use four AA batteries in place of the proprietary battery is really neat. This is the best of both worlds. Unfortunately the adapter piece, "AA Battery Holder D-BH109" (pictured here) does not come with the camera but must be purchased separately. With almost no Pentax presence in stores, this equates to an expensive extra for most users.
I am enjoying the K-x as a backup camera, though it does not match the build quality and ergonomics of the K20D (the previous generation top-of-the-line model). But for the price there is nothing like it on the market. Still, let's have a look at some of the shortcomings of this model and see how the K-r fares:
- The mode dial turns too easily and is inevitably on the wrong setting when I pull the camera out of my bag.
- I never know what a Menu / Info button press will do based on my current screen. Though the system itself is rather slick, accessing it is a bit random.
- One cannot easily select multiple exposure mode, as this option is buried in the menus. (True on the K20D as well.) This option should be on the drive mode menu.
- There is no HDMI output, which I hear is important these days.
- There is no microphone input. I record using a separate digital audio device, but I understand that others might not want to stretch to this expense.
- There is no shutter release cable connection, though you can use a wireless release.
So, how many of these problems does the K-r address? Well, none, so far as I can tell. That might be OK if the K-r was a simple replacement for the K-x, since it does at least have the advantages already mentioned. But it is not a replacement; the K-r is positioned as a more expensive, superior model. In order for it to be worth this premium it should indeed have addressed the major shortcomings of the K-x.
I think the K-r is a bit of an orphan in the line-up, the same way the K200D was neither one thing nor the other. I recommend buying the cheaper K-x and putting the price difference into glass. Or, save up for the K-7 and enjoy superior build and ergonomics.
But not all those pretty colours.