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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  • Tridion - Sunday, March 23, 2008 - link

    Here is also some high iso images:">

  • Justin Case - Sunday, March 16, 2008 - link

    As usual, we get a lot of specifications lifted from the camera's brochure, and a lot of images of the camera, but not a single photo taken with the camera. This is like reviewing Doom 4 by posting pictures of the box and DVD instead of screenshots from the game...
  • shira - Wednesday, March 12, 2008 - link

    Does the K20D have any special provision for cleaning the CMOS? A friend of mine with the Canon IDs Mark II (approximately same megapixel count as the K20D, though with a full-screen CMOS) complains how time-consuming it is to clean the CMOS on the camera, which becomes increasingly important as image quality increases. Canon has now implemented a "shake" function to clean the CMOS on the MK III version of the IDs, which represents a real time-saver. Does the K20D have a similar function?
  • benplaut - Wednesday, March 12, 2008 - link

    First of all, it has a "sensor shake," as do many newer camera (my K10D has this, too). Second, it has an anti-static coating over the lowpass, which does quite a bit of good. Finally, it has sticky spots around the mirror box to catch dust as it is shaken off--not sure how effective it all is, but I've yet to have a single dust spot on my K10D in three months of owning it. Of course, welded dust still needs to be wet cleaned.
  • Kiwaiti - Friday, March 14, 2008 - link

    Sensor shake is ideally suited to the Pentaxes because their sensors are positioned magnetically for the in-body shake reduction. I think my K20D shakes its sensor even more violently than K10Ds I've tried.
    In case manual cleaning is still necessary, there is a new feature on the K20D showing an image of the sensor with a representation of the surrounding mount as you see it when cleaning, the sensor showing black spots for dust on a white background. The dust map is also saved to a separate folder on the SD card.
  • gar655 - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    The 17-55IS is NOT $1300. It's about $800, which is in line with the price of the 16-50 Pentax and Oly 12-60. It is not built as well as either, nor is it weather sealed.

    It is, however, much better optically than the Pentax 16-50 and as good or better than the Oly.

    That said, the K20 looks like a great camera for the price, especially for landscape and portrait work.

  • Wesley Fink - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    We went deeper than a cursory check of lens prices for this reply. is normally competitive with the the best legitimate price for lenses, and they are now $1100 for the 17-55mm IS. We also checked B&H which is currently $999. BTW B&H sells the Pentax for $699 and Amazon sells the Pentax for $679. With those prices we have changed the price for the Canon lens in our review to $1000.

    Since reviews of the Olympus 12-60mm have proclaimed it the lowest distortion zoom of its type ever tested your conclusion that the Canon is better optically sounds like wishful thinking. The Pentax lens is extremely sharp but it does have more distortion than the 17-55mm Canon, however, so we would likely accept your claim that the 17-55mm IS Canon is better optically. As you point out, though, it is not weather-sealed or built as well as the Pentax or Olympus lenses.
  • Hulk - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    This Megapixel race in dSLR's is concerning me. This isn't a numbers game but a image quality issue.

    Please show some 100% crops of this Pentax verses the 40d and some other C sized sensor cameras. Please use prime lenses at F/8 to try and minimize lens variation effects.

    Let's see how good this camera is on a per pixel basis.
  • haplo602 - Wednesday, March 12, 2008 - link

    I would disagree, pisel peeping does not help much.

    It's the final print that matters, so you need to select a target print size and use the same printing technology and equipment for all contenders, then you can compare.

    The megapixel race is a bit meh if it is not coupled with NR and dynamic range improvements to utilise the new resolution to the fullest.
  • Hulk - Wednesday, March 12, 2008 - link

    I am not a pixel peeper. Great photography is about composition, light, shadow, and conveying emotion to the viewer. It's not about technology.

    But this camera review is about technology. I would like to see full scale comparisions as well but unless we look on a per pixel basis we don't know if the increases in sensor technology is keeping up with the mad race to advertise more pixels.

    My money is hard earned and I'd like to see the pixels.

    Plus I'm quite sure doing a comparision at equal size prints will show virually no difference until print sizes are large enough to start to discern pixels anyway. Then we'd be pixel peeping again!

    The point of higher pixel count is increases resolution at higher print sizes right? So let's get to it and see at per pixel? I'm willing to be objective but I'd like to see both tests.

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