As the camera world is romping ahead with ever more feature-rich models, it leaves the market open for older models which can be picked up for ever-cheaper prices. Many of these units are still great performers and if you don’t need the latest and greatest features, they can be perfectly adequate for everyday use. One such camera to look at is the Pentax K-50.
The K-50 was released back in 2014 and with a 16-million pixel APS-C sensor, it’s still capable of very good images. A good feature set all round, the K-50 is mainly aimed at the enthusiast photographer, which means you can snag yourself a lot of functionality for the money.
On the surface, the Pentax K-50 has some rather tasty features which compete against most of the rivals. For instance, the Shake Reduction system works with the majority of Pentax lenses, speedy continuous shooting at 6FPS and a ridiculously high ISO level of 51200.
There’s a good set of digital filters or looks if you want to do everything in-camera. These include things like Retro and High contrast, HDR imaging, and the ability to tweak contrast and saturation. The camera has a very good viewfinder, providing a hundred percent field of view.
However, being a slightly older model, there’s no built-in WiFi. Although the rear TFT LCD screen provides a good preview of your images, it isn’t articulated and doesn’t provide touchscreen functionality. In most other respects, the camera acts like an entry-level DSLR.
The build of the camera feels solid in the hand and there is a reasonably substantial grip with a textured coating. The camera also comes in three colors, white, black, and the loud and proud red version you see here. If you shop around, there is also an 18-55mm kit lens available which should get you started before you go down the road of buying more fancy lenses.
The K-50 has a traditional set of buttons and dials, not dissimilar from most entry-level DSLRs, which allows you to access the most common features. The rear of the camera has a circular set of buttons for the likes of ISO, exposure compensation, white balance, and flash modes. There’s also a live view button, which allows you to delete footage.
The side of the camera has a limited set of buttons, which include a RAW/Fx button for swapping between RAW and JPEG shooting, which can be customized. There’s also a button for triggering the flash and a switch for flicking into manual focusing mode.
The top of the camera is a simple layout, with the mode dial being the most obvious feature. The usual semiautomatic modes are accessible here, like shutter and aperture priority, manual, automatic, movie, and programmable modes. There are also two scroll wheels for adjusting the aperture and shutter speeds, which are very intuitive to use, especially in fully manual mode.
It’s a shame you don’t get a tilting rear screen, but you have to bear in mind that this is a slightly older unit. So, some of the features are not going to be as up-to-date as expected. Still, once you familiarize yourself with its own particular workings, the majority of common settings are within easy reach. Lastly, one big advantage at this price point is the camera is weather-sealed, dust and, coldproof. A feature usually only found on higher-priced cameras.
The Pentax K-50 in Use
Initially, the Pentax feels like it’s taken hints from a bunch of other makers. The physical layout feels reminiscent of a Nikon and the Sony sensor provides the overall quality. A good starting point as images shot in RAW come out the most neutral looking, while JPEGs have a good degree of contrast, without too much processing.
In most common lighting situations, the camera produces good exposures, but it can underexpose if the lighting isn’t ideal. A bit of exposure compensation sorts things out, along with spot metering mode. This means it’s doubly important to shoot in RAW format, to save missing those important shots. On the other hand, the white balance is generally accurate, the best in natural light, but it’s also quite accurate under artificial lighting conditions.
There may be only nine cross-type AF points, but autofocus is generally speedy. It can skip a beat in low-light conditions, hunting for a focusing point, but generally not a bad performer at this price level. More focus points would have been nice, but you soon get into the working method of re-composing a little if your subject isn’t right over a focus point.
As for the ISO levels, it’s generally the rule to keep numbers as low as possible, but images produced up to ISO 1600 are perfectly acceptable with minimal noise levels. Images after ISO 3200 do start to suffer from some noise smoothing, so although the ISO could be cranked up much higher, it’s better to keep ISO at a low setting. Then again, the ultrahigh ISO levels are there if you really need to get the shot and don’t mind introducing loads of image smoothing.
As for the built-in filters and custom looks, upfront, I’ve never been a fan, preferring to post edit, but they are there for a quick fix. Ideally, shooting in RAW format will give you the most leeway for how you want images to look after the event.
How Does It Compare?
When it comes to entry-level DSLR cameras, the Canon Rebel range has always been a go-to for solid, basic workings. The Canon EOS Rebel SL2 200D costs slightly more than the Pentax, but it also boasts more up-to-date features. Wi-Fi is included as well as 1080p video at 60FPS, a 24MP sensor, and a tilting rear screen.
The Rebel series has always been a solid performer and the decision here will really come down to your own budget levels. However, buying your first DSLR can lead to brand allegiance for years to come. So, it’s a good idea to eye up what else is in the range above, before you commit to any one brand.
|Pentax K-50||Canon EOS Rebel SL2 200D|
|Focus points||9 cross-type||9 cross-type|
Overall, the Pentax K-50 provides a good shooting experience. Also to mention the video capabilities of 1920 x 1080 at 30,25,24 fps, which has basic functionality, but produces very clear footage. There are also bonus features like weatherproofing and the ability to use AA batteries for a quick fix.
The hundred percent viewfinder is a very useful addition and once you get used to the camera’s functionality, it’s a very straightforward process to tweak all settings. The included kit lens is okay as a start point, but it can be noisy, so if you can stretch to the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, you’re going to have a happier time around.
In total, the Pentax K-50 is a good overall package and a great starting point if you want to jump into the DSLR market. The weatherproofing is a great addition and if you’re not put off by the fixed rear screen, it can be a great alternative to a similar Canon or Nikon offering.