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Pentax Unveils New Flagship K-7 d-SLR

Golden, Colo. — As other d-SLR camera manufacturers are taking aim at the entry-level end of the market, Pentax has trained its sights on better featured models in developing the company’s new flagship K-7 camera, which made its debut Wednesday.

The company said the K-7, which will ship in July at a $1,300 suggested retail (body only), was designed for advanced photographers seeking high-end design and features without the cost of a professional d-SLR system. The unit also includes 720p HD movie capture and a 14.6-megapixel CMOS sensor that was “rebuilt from the ground up.”

Pentax said it sees the camera, which is compatible with the company’s full K-mount lens family, as a competitive answer to such models as the Nikon D90, Canon EOS 50D and Sony Alpha DSLR-A700.

“The K-7 will appeal to many current Pentax SLR photographers who have been asking for more advanced features, but in a smaller, solid, comfortable-to-hold body,” stated Ned Bunnell, Pentax Imaging president. “We also believe the combination of the K-7’s smaller, high-quality construction coupled with the growing lineup of our Limited compact prime lenses will appeal to serious shooters who currently don’t own or previously hadn’t considered adding a Pentax to their camera bag.”

The compact camera body is made of magnesium alloy to enable a light body weight while maintaining durability and build quality. It is said to be 7 percent smaller than the company’s K20D model and up to 25 percent smaller than other cameras in the same class.

Other key features include a new 77-segment metering system that rapidly determines exposure settings, along with aperture control, mechanical shake reduction and an external microphone terminal for recording stereo sound.

Video is captured at a default standard of 1,280 by 720p resolution with a 16:9 aspect ratio, 1,536 by 1,024 resolution with a 3:2 aspect ratio, or 640 by 416 resolution with a 3:2 aspect ratio (equivalent to VGA quality), all shot at 30 fps.

The camera also includes an HDMI port with selectable output resolution (1080i, 720p, 480p and auto) to connect with compatible HDTV sets.

A dedicated AF-assist lamp further improves autofocus response and accuracy in low light conditions.

The camera also includes a PC connection for synched off-camera flash units.

An Electronic Level function helps photographers keep level horizons and an in-camera lens correction function electronically adjusts for distortion and lateral chromatic aberrations to maximize image quality with DA-series lenses.

A dedicated mirror lock-up function eliminates image blur due to mirror movement during long exposures.

Other features include a high dynamic range image-capture mode that captures three images then combines them in-camera to widen the exposure gamut and bring out detail in all areas of an image.

For tripod shooting, a composition-adjustment feature in the camera’s live-view mode allows minor shifts in subject framing and composition, using the shake reduction mechanism without having to physically move the camera.

A programmable embedded copyright function helps photographers maintain their artistic integrity and image ownership during capture via a keypad that can be set to record ownership in metatag data.

The camera also features a 3-inch LCD with 921,000 dot resolution and is weather, dust and cold resistant to 14 degrees F.

The new 14.6 megapixel CMOS sensor has four-channel output that allows a 5.2 fps capture rate, and the ability to capture video in up to 720p HD resolution with better noise control.

Pentax said the combination is ideal for resolution and file size, allowing very large (poster size and larger) prints and cropping flexibility.

The camera’s CMOS sensor was designed to have very low image noise. This is accomplished by better controlling the electrical transfer through the chip, preventing signal noise that might cause image noise in the dark areas of an exposure. The chip’s wider datapath was also said to be better designed to work with the Prime II engine, the company said.

The sensor also has ancillary circuitry that can determine the color quality of incoming light, which allows it to adjust autofocus response for optimal performance in any lighting condition.

Video files are captured as motion JPGs encapsulated as AVI.

Accessories for the K-7 include a D-BG4 ($230 suggested retail) battery grip that may be used in combination with the camera’s rechargeable lithium-ion battery to double battery life. The D-BG4 accepts six AA batteries in an alternate battery tray.

Pentax also announced two weather-resistant d-SLR lenses including the SMC DA 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 AL WR ($200) and the SMC DA 50-200mm F4-5.6 ED WR ($250). All accessory items will be available in July.