Pentax 14.6-megapixel dSLR leapfrogs competitors

The Pentax K20D uses a new sensor that emerges from the its joint development efforts with Samsung.

Pentax K20D
Pentax K20D Pentax Corp.

You've gotta admire feisty little Pentax. Undeterred by a dSLR market dominated by Canon and Nikon, plus the deep-pocketed relative newcomer Sony and tireless veteran Olympus, Pentax continues to refine and innovate its offerings rather than just trying to sell cheap models built from off-the-shelf parts. This year sees the first tangible result of the company's alliance with Samsung, a 14.6-megapixel CMOS sensor, which makes its way into Pentax's new midrange model, the $1,300 K20D (body only). Pentax's other new model, the entry-level $799 K200D (a kit with the new smc PENTAX DA 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL II lens), looks more like the typical budget package.

According to Pentax, the new sensor requires less space for the ancillary circuitry, allowing for photodiodes with the same area as those of a 10-megapixel sensor. In theory, this should allow for higher-resolution images with noise equivalent to that of the lower-resolution ones; we won't know until we test it. In other respects, the body and much of the technology of the K20D carries over from its predecessor, the K10D. Pentax claims improved sensitivity for the image stabilization, and a slightly larger LCD with improved off-angle viewing.

At its price point, it competes directly with the Canon EOS 40D, though like the K10D it offers many features, including the dust- and weatherproof body, sensor-shift image stabilization and wireless flash controller, that you'll see in pricier models like the Sony Alpha DSLR-A700 or Olympus E-3.

Selected specs:

 Pentax K10DPentax K20DCanon 40D
Sensor10.2-megapixel CCD
23.6 x 15.8mm
14.6-megapixel CMOS
23.4 x 15.6mm
10.1-megapixel CMOS
22.2 x 14.8mm
In-body image stabilizationSensor shiftSensor shiftNone
Sensitivity rangeISO 100 - ISO 1600ISO 100 - ISO 6400ISO 100 - ISO 3200
Focal-length multiplier1.5X1.5X1.6X
Continuous shooting3 fps
unlimited JPEG/12 raw
3 fps
38 JPEG/16 raw
75 JPEG/17 raw
Viewfinder95% coverage
0.95X magnification
fixed matte focusing screen
95% coverage
0.95X magnification
fixed matte focusing screen
95% coverage
0.95X magnification
22mm eye point
interchangeable matte focusing screen.
2 optional focusing screens $45 each: grid, Super-Precision Matte
Autofocus11-pt AF
11-pt AF
9 cross-type
9-pt AF
all cross-type to f/5.6
Live ViewNoYesNo
LCD size2.5 inches/140-degree view2.7 inches/160-degree view3.0 inches/not available
Built-in wireless flash controllerYesYesNo

Pentax K200D
Pentax K200D Pentax Corp.

At $799, the K200D kit enters a more crowded field, one currently dominated by the Nikon D40x and Canon EOS Rebel XTi, both of which seem ripe for replacement. (Pentax will offer a body-only version of the K200D for $719.) It jumps to a 10-megapixel CCD from its predecessors'--the K100D, K100D Super, and K110D--6 megapixels, uses a pentamirror viewfinder rather than a pentaprism, for a lighter body, and increases to a 2.7-inch LCD. Unlike the older models, it also takes 4 AA-sized batteries (Pentax claims 1,100 shots off 4 disposable lithium cells). Like the K200D, it uses sensor-shift image stabilization and implements an enhanced dynamic range mode, which theoretically provides enhanced highlight detail.

Pentax expects to ship the K20D in April, while the D200D should be around by the beginning of March.

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