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The Pentax K20D is a fantastic piece of apparatus for any budding photographer. The quality of the images is absolutely second-to-none, with a large range of settings and features which you can apply to your photos. It has a portrait mode, landscape mode, and a motion-mode, which mean that it is a great camera for a variety of different surroundings. The motion mode is particularly useful as you can take great quality pictures even if the objects in the photo are moving at a high speed. I also find that the camera is great for face recognition and auto-focus, which also enhance the quality of the pictures it takes. It's a very good camera for both first-time users and professional photographers; whilst its compactability is great for the average person, its range of features are great for people who take photos in a professional environment. I would definitely recommend the Pentax K20D to anybody who is looking for a new, high quality camera. Whilst it's not the cheapest camera on the market, it's definitely worth the extra cost if you're looking for high-quality, lasting memories.
Like many ex film users, I started photography with a secondhand Pentax ME super. Sadly, I think there'll be no more generations with that background, and this might be bad news for Pentax. I have to admit that this influenced my choice of digital SLR, thinking back to when I chose that first camera with my Dad. Aside from the nostalgia, there was also the possibility to use my old lenses with the new digital version.
The K20D used to be the top of the Pentax digital SLR range, up until the recent introduction of the K7. Prices began to fall as the new model came out, and it's now possible to pick up bargains.
I think the ergonomics is a very important factor when choosing a digital SLR - if you're an enthusiast you'll be using the camera a lot, and these are quite bulky beasts, so if it doesn't sit well in hands, you won't be comfortable.
You'll probably want to consider models from Nikon, Canon and Sony as well as Pentax. For me, Canon didn't feel right, with a very narrow grip, while Sony models felt very angular. So I was left with Nikon and Pentax.
At the time, Nikon had recently released the D5000, and I was tempted by the D90. The Pentax K20D sits somewhere in between the two in terms of price and many of the features.
In the end I went for the Pentax, and not just for the nostalgia. It just felt right. And because the image stabiliser is in the body (rather than in the lens, as in many of the mid and lower price digital SLR models), you can easily use many of the older Pentax lenses that are available secondhand.
One big change if you're moving to digital SLR from a digital compact is the way you use the viewfinder. Because of the mirror mechanism, digital SLR cameras traditionally only use the screen for reviewing images, not for framing and taking photos. This is beginning to change with the introduction of "live view" in many models, but taking photos using the screen often uses a different focussing mechanism and so is slower and less reliable. One big advantage of SLR is the fact that photos are taken instantly when you press the shutter, so you won't want to reintroduce this lag. The Pentax Live View is available on the K20D, but I have hardly ever used it because of that.
The K20D lacks the video mode seen in the Nikons, but at the moment video in digital SLR cameras is very primitive (often lacking focussing and exposure options once you start recording) so you'll want a proper camcorder for recording anything important to you.
On a more technical side, the camera has maximum resolution of 14.6 Megapixels, so more than many of its competitors. I've been very happy with the image quality - photos are consistently bright and with good reproduction of colours. There are occasional blips, with underexposure every so often, so it pays to keep an eye on the review screen and be ready to adjust exposure. The viewfinder is large and bright (perhaps in part because it uses a glass prism like many more expensive models, rather than a mirror), and the screen good (although lower resolution than some of the more expensive competitors). The camera comes with a charger and a lithium ion battery that lasts a long time, and the built-in flash is fine for most short distance work. It pops up far enough to avoid red-eye problems most of the time.
I've been very happy. The camera feels well made, and is very comfortable to use.