As discussed in the Launch Announcement just before PMA, the Pentax K20D is now surprisingly the highest resolution Digital SLR in its class of prosumer DSLRs. That statement doesn't really convey the real comparison since the only current camera with higher resolution than the 14.6 MP (megapixel) K20D is the $8000 Canon 1Ds III with a full-frame 21.1 MP image.

The Pentax K20D has the highest resolution available in an APS-C sensor SLR. It is 20% higher resolution than the new Sony A700/Nikon D300 Sony sensor pair at 12.2 MP and almost 50% higher than the Canon 40D. Those are numbers that are hard to ignore.

Those who wondered why Pentax entered into a partnership with Samsung a few years ago finally have their answer. Samsung wanted to play in the high-end sensor market with Sony and Panasonic; their partnership with Pentax was to develop sensors for the digital SLR market. We don't know details yet, but we have to guess the Hoya merger also plays into this scenario since Hoya is the world's largest maker of optical glass. You would be surprised to see a list of companies who buy their lens glass from Hoya (THK).

There is no disputing the fact that the Pentax K20D is now the highest resolution prosumer DSLR; however, everyone has learned that sensor resolution is not the only thing that matters in image quality. As the high-resolution but tiny point-and-shoot sensors have proved, a higher resolution is not necessarily better.

Pentax addressed this concern when the K20D was announced. By reducing the area between pixels, Samsung/Pentax claimed the sensor design used larger pixels that are the same size as 12 MP designs. If this is true, the image quality of the K20D should be spectacular.

The sensor is also CMOS like the pioneering CMOS sensors of Canon and the architecture of the latest Sony/Nikon/Olympus sensors. In fact, all the recent top sensors have been CMOS, relegating 10 MP CCDs to low-end to midrange models. The lone exception is the announced Sony A350, which will sport a 14.2 MP CCD sensor.

For all of these reasons we couldn't wait to get our hands on a K20D just as soon as they were available. The K20D is finally shipping, and over the next few weeks we will be working on a detailed review of the Pentax K20D performance. Looking around the web, there has been so little information available about the k20D that we felt our readers would appreciate some first impressions. As you have probably already figured out, we were also impressed enough in our early testing that we wanted to share what we've found so far with you.

Resolution and Image Quality
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  • lol101 - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    The HypP mode is different from the program shift that you can find on other manufacturer's models.

    In HypP mode, when you select an aperture, you're effectively going to Av mode, meaning that the camera will keep the selected value for all subsequent shots and adapt the shutter speed.

    Same goes for selecting a shutter speed that gets you in Tv mode.

    Each time, the selected parameter is underlined in the VF so that you always know which parameter is dominant.

    If at some point you decide you want to hand control back to the camera (ie switch back to P mode), you just have to press the green button.

    Simple, usefull and very efficient.
  • dug777 - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    I appreciate that, but what you've both described is what happens in A & S Priority for Nikon (*screams*).

    In A priority, you select an aperture, and the camera picks the shutter speed. The aperture does not change until you change it (ewven if you turn the camera off. You know Aperture is dominant because you've turned a dial to set 'A' for aperture priority.

    Vice versa for shutter priority.

    All HyP appears to do is allow you to go directly into A or S (and effectively full manual if you do both), without turning a dial.

    You do however need to press a button to go back to full P. So it saves you that initial click. But it does sound pretty handy, and easy to use.

    Unless I'm missing something blindingly obvious, in which case I sincerely apologise for wasting your time :o
  • lol101 - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    Yes, the only thing the HyP mode allows you to do is switch between P, Tv or Av without having to stop shooting to switch some dial.

    It may look like a small subtlety but I can assure you it just makes the photographer's life easier.

    It's instantaneous and the camera just doesn't get in your way when faced with changing conditions and that's what's interesting about it.

    I use both Pentax and Canon systems and still cannot understand why Pentax are the only one to implement such things as HyP (or even better: HyM mode) or to allow the user to set the ISO directly with some dial and use one button press to go to auto ISO.... these are just things that make you forget about the camera while shooting and being able to control everything without ever leaving the VF from the eye.

    The 'philosophy" is rather simple IMO: give the photographer a way to adjust any shooting parameter (shutter speed, aperture or ISO) when he wants it and without having to bother about pressing a dedicated button or changing a mode dial.
  • Heidfirst - Wednesday, March 12, 2008 - link

    I suspect that Pentax aren't the only ones to give that functionality but probably are the only ones to do so in that exact way.
    Minolta (now Sony of course) were always thought of as cameras designed by photographers for photographers (Canon are designed by engineers for marketing :P) - I suspect that theirs & Pentax design ethos are very similar.
  • Heidfirst - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    Pentax & Minolta/Sony (& probably others) have full A & S priority modes as well though.
    Going by a later, fuller description of HyperProgramme it does seem to have slightly more than Minolta/Sony's implementation although I would argue that at least some of that secondary ability is covered by user ability/knowledge (I assume that most users of that level of camera have some experience & appreciation of the effects of aperture & shutter) as I'm sure that you would with Nikon.
    On my A700 I have Auto, Programme (3 versions), assorted scenes modes (which I suspect also largely covers the secondary abilities of Hyperprogramme), aperture priority, shutter priority, 3 memory settings & of course full manual - a bit of overkill imo.
    It's not surprising that I see more people eschewing automation & going back to doing more manually.
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    The K20D also has Sv (sensitivity), Tv (shutter), and Av (Aperture) Prioriy programs. Theres is also a very interesting and unique Mode called the TAv (time & aperture priority). In TAv mode shutter speed (time) and aperture are fixed and only the ISO is automatically adjusted for the proper exposure. The camera adjusted ISO is displayed in the viewfinder and blinks if the exposure is out of range. Shutter can be adjusted with the front dial and aperture with the rear dial.

    There are some situations where you might require a certain aperture for depth of field and at least a certain shutter speed to prevent blur and that is where the TAv mode could be very useful. As far as I know the K20D and K10D are the only SLR cameras with anything like the TAv Program.
  • Heidfirst - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    Minolta/Sony seems very similar - you actually have 3 Programme modes (as well as full Auto) incl. Pa & Ps where the camera will remember the adjusted setting for future shots & vary the other to compensate as the lighting changes.
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    Most manufacturers do have variants of the hyperprogram feature and I've used almost all of them. However this Pentax feature is still one of the easiest to use and most flexible when you add the unique Sensitivity Priority program.
  • dug777 - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    Regarding my description of the Nikon D80 system, how exactly is it easier?

    As far as I can see it's effectively identical (and incredibly easy to use).
  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    See lol101's description of Hyperprogram below or my detailed desription on page 2 for more info on the specifics of how Pentax Hyperprogram works.

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