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Pentax K-30 Digital Camera Review
In testing the Pentax K-30, we were surprised just how oversaturated the default settings were. Even with the camera's "natural" setting and saturation toned down, we found that the lack of accuracy—and worse, consistency—were troubling. This won't have any real effect if you're using the K-30 for most types of photography, or if you're willing to shoot in RAW, but for reproduction work or shots were color accuracy is paramount, the K-30 may not be the best bet. More on how we test color.
The K-30 separates its color modes into modes called "picture settings." These are the same as we've seen on other Pentax cameras, with options for "bright" as well as the usual natural, portrait, landscape, as well as vibrant, radiant, and muted. There are also options for monochrome and custom modes, but we did not test those.
Each picture setting offers a standard color accuracy algorithm, with specific sections of colors pushed or suppressed to achieve the intended effect. We found that "natural" was the best mode, but it still was only capable of color error of 3.22, which is quite a bit worse than we are used to seeing on cameras of this level. The main problem seemed to be oversaturation, as nearly every mode had issues keeping colors from coming back oversaturated. The camera does allow you to tone down saturation, but we found doing this in the most accurate modes (natural and portrait), only decreased the color error to 3.11.
NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.
We found the Pentax K-30 offered superb white balance accuracy—at least in line with what we've seen from other DSLRs. We tested both the automatic and custom white balance settings using a GretagMacbeth ColorChecker chart, shot under various lighting conditions.
Automatic White Balance ()
When shooting using the automatic white balance mode, we found the Pentax K-30 was able to accurately assign color values (an error of less than 100 kelvin) under daylight and compact white fluorescent lighting conditions. We also test under tungsten lighting (2800 kelvin), but we found that the error there rose to an average of 1150 kelvin.
That's rather extreme, but it's in line with what just about every other camera is capable of, as most automatic white balance systems can only work within a set color temperature range, which usually doesn't include extreme warmth such as 2800 kelvin light. Of note: the Pentax K-30 offers a custom option that lets you "keep warmth" in automatic white balance shots under tungsten lighting. As this is a test for absolute accuracy, we turned this option off.
Custom White Balance ()
When you take the time to capture a custom white balance, the color temper error actually rose under daylight and compact white fluorescent lighting conditions, though only to around 100 kelvin. That's not really perceptible under most conditions, however, so it's not that notable. The one big improvement custom white balance affords is when shooting under more extreme lighting conditions, such as tungsten lighting. While the auto white balance left an error of over 1100 kelvin under tungsten lighting, we found custom white balance brought that error down to just 103 kelvin, which is quite good.
The Pentax K-30's white balance conformed to expectations of what we've seen with other high-end cameras. It struggled when automatically diagnosing white under tungsten lighting, but did well under fluorescent and daylight temperatures. In those easier conditions, your best bet is to use auto white balance. If you have to shoot under indoor tungsten lighting, we recommend taking the time to capture a custom white balance.
White Balance Options
The Pentax K-30 features custom white balance, automatic white balance, custom kelvin entry, as well as several white balance presets that you can select from. It has one of the easier custom white balance mechanics of a midrange DSLR, with a dedicated WB button on the rear control pad, three custom user-savable settings, and the ability to set a custom WB right from the on-screen menu. All the white balance options can be adjusted on a standard ABGM color wheel.