Three days ago I talked a little about the Pentax K-01, K-5 and K-30 digital cameras. Someone asked me which one of the three they should buy.
three cameras are based around the same 16 megapixel APS-C sized Sony
sensor. The sensor, processor and software are the same, with only some
So what's the difference between these three cameras? Which one is better? Which should you buy?
The K-5 DSLR is the oldest of the three, first available in October 2010 (yes, digitally speaking, that's old). It
made waves because it performed exceptionally well, arguably better than
any other digital camera with an APS-C sized sensor, and right up there with full-frame and even some medium-format digital cameras. DxOMark ranks it tied for seventh best. With an MSRP of $1,100 (body only), it's a good value. It was an excellent value when it first came out, but over the last year-and-a-half digital cameras have become both better and cheaper.
The K-30 DSLR is the latest from Pentax, available in about a month. The only major change from the K-5 is a (supposedly) improved auto-focus system and the addition of some auto-modes for beginners. Pentax also changed the design of the body slightly and gave it a price tag of $850 (body only). Beyond that, they are the same camera, but the K-30 is $250 less.
The K-01 is a compact interchangeable-lens camera, not a DSLR like the K-5 and K-30. That means there is no mirror and (in this case) no viewfinder, but the camera is much smaller and lighter. In fact, with the stock 40mm lens, it can fit into a large pocket. Compact interchangeable-lens cameras are much more enjoyable to travel with. The K-01 didn't score quite as high as the K-5 in DxOMark's tests, even though the cameras have the same sensor, processor, software and lenses. For whatever reason, Pentax is getting slightly more out of the K-5 than the K-01. Even so, the differences are minor and the K-01 still scored pretty high. This camera has an MSRP of $900 (including a lens).
If I were trying to decide between these three cameras, I'd go with the K-30. I think Pentax sees it as the K-5's replacement, and, since they're basically the same except for one is cheaper, you might as well save $250. An alternative would be Nikon's D3200, which DxOMark just finished testing. The D3200 ranks one spot lower than the K-5, but it's pretty darn close and has an MSRP of only $700 (with a lens), making it significantly cheaper.
If size and weight are important, the K-01 might be a good choice. The compact interchangeable-lens market has been pretty hot, and the K-01 is not the best or cheapest in that category. There are a lot of other options to consider, including the Samsung NX200.
In conclusion, the K-01, K-5 and K-30 are all excellent cameras that are reasonably priced, and none are significantly better or worse than the others. But with advancements by Nikon and some other companies, Pentax may need to lower their price tag to stay competitive.