Pentax K-50: Lab Test & Comments

Jill Rahn's picture
The Pentax K-50 is, in its basic specifications, identical with the company’s new K-500 model. Both cameras offer a 16MP sensor, a built-in stabilizer system (based on sensor shift technology), all standard exposure modes of a modern SLR system and a very large and bright optical SLR viewfinder. The optical viewfinder offers a 100 percent field of view, which is a very uncommon feature in this SLR class. The only difference between the K-50 and the K-500 is the sealedbody of the K-50. This allows the user to work with the K-50 even under challenging conditions, such as heavy rain.

The Pentax K-50 is an SLR system based on an APS-C sized sensor with 16MP resolution. It has a sealed body which allows for use of the camera in heavy rain, for example. The camera offers numerous image modes (automatic modes and manual settings), a large optical viewfinder and a live preview LCD screen.

The K-50 offers a large LCD screen on the back (3 inches, 921.000 RGB dots) that can’t be swivelled. The screen shows a clearly structured and easy to handle setup menu and allows for fast setup of all parameters. The camera offers all standard exposure modes like P, Tv, Av and M. In addition, it offers an automatic mode which changes the ISO speed setting for a given aperture andshutter speed plus 8 scene programs in auto scene mode and 11 user-selectable scene programs. These additional modes include “night scene HDR” effects, “sunset” and “stage lighting” settings.

The camera offers a “Raw” button on the left hand side of the body. This allows users to toogle between JPEG mode and raw mode very fast and efficiently. The K-50 has a built-in flash system and offers an accessory shoe for additional flash systems.

The camera offers extremely high ISO speed settings (ISO 51,200 in photo mode; ISO 3200 in video mode), but images taken in the highest ISO speed settings show a visible noise structure and loss of image details/sharpness.

Beside standard modes like P, Tv, Av and M the camera offers additional exposure modes inclduing one that will set up the ISO speed automatically for a given aperture size and shutter speed setting.

The camera has two setup dials, one located near the shutter release button, the second on the back, which is operated by the thumb of the right hand. This combination allows the user to change both exposure parameters simultaneously and helpswhen navigating through the setup menu. An additional 4-way control field helps navigation and gives access to important image parameters like ISO speed, white balance, flash mode and shutter mode (single shot, burst mode, selftimer).

The Pentax K-50 uses a rechargeable battery with lithium-ion-technology. In addition it can be used with 4 standard AA batteries.

The camera is very fast: it delivers shutter speeds up to 1/6000 s and is able to record up to 6 frames per second in burst mode (continuously in JPEG mode, up to 12 frames in Raw mode). The camera also allows for interval shooting (from 1 sec to 24 hours interval time and up to 999 frames) to create time lapse effects, for example. The camera is able to record full HD videos and offers numerous manual settings for video recording.

The camera has a 3 inch LCD screen with 921,000 RGB dots. Many function buttons, 2 setup dials and a 4 way control field allow for fast setup of all parameters.

Comments on Image Quality
The Pentax K-50 uses the “bright” image style settings as default (standard mode if you use the reset function in the menu.) This mode creates extremely saturated colors and therefore showed some problems in our color tests. The saturation of the test chart is boosted to 118.5 percent and some colors are extremely affected and therefore shifted into another color area. This causes a high level of color errors and is also visible in very exaggerated colors in our portrait shot and other test shots. As in all our tests we used the standard color mode of the camera for our test results. Some comparison shots in “natural” setting (2nd setting in the color mode menu) showed a totally different behavior. The saturation dropped down to 101 percent and the overall color errors dropped also to a very low level.

High color error levels are attributable to the default color settings mode of the camera, solved by switching to the “natural” color mode.

Sharpness: The resolution results are excellent. The Pentax K-50 reproduced the ISO 12233 chart with 3076 lines in picture height which is nearly the nominal sensor resolution of 3264 lines. The overshot and undershot effects are visible because the camera uses an intense sharpness filtering on contrast lines, but they are still on an acceptable level for an APS-C-SLR. The portrait shot and the testbox shot show these “enhanced sharpness effects” in details like the structure of the hair or the metal sieve in the upper left of the box shot.

The model shot is a little underexposed. The color of the red t-shirt is boosted and therefore shows less details than images taken in the “natural” color mode. The details in the hair structure show some artifacts based on the intense sharpness filtering used by the K-50.

Noise: The camera showed a good performance in our noise tests. The luminance noise starts on a high level (0.71 percent in ISO 100 mode) but nearly stays on this level up to ISO 3200. The color noise is low and only becomes visible in images taken at ISO 6400 and higher. But the two highest ISO speed settings show clearly visible noise and anti-noise-filtering artifacts. The results of the filtering are acceptable up to ISO 12,800, but at ISO 25,600 and ISO 51,200 we noticed extreme artifacts and drastically decreased reproduction of image details. At ISO 51,200 the luminance noise factor is extreme.

The dynamic range results are good, but on a little lower level than the results of most other SLR systems with an APS-C sized sensor. The Pentax reproduced the Stouffer 4110 chart with a maximum of 10.5 f-stops and keeps the 10-f-stop level up to ISO 1600, which is a good result. Dynamic range drops drastically in the highest ISO settings (3.99 f-stops at ISO 51,200).

+ Compact SLR system with sealed body
+ Professional handling; however, a battery grip with additional shutter release button for portrait shots and an X-sync jack for a studio flash system are missing

- Missing swivel monitor
- Missing WLAN features (Eye-Fi cards are supported)

Lab test and Comments by Bettternet, Shutterbug’s TIPA affiliated testing lab. Edited by George Schaub. For more lab tests om mew and current cameras please visit or click on the Image Tech tab on the Navigation bar.

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