Pentax K30 vs Nikon D5200 – Which is the Better DSLR?

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Although all of the camera manufacturers are constantly introducing upgrades to existing cameras as technology changes, some of the best values for DSLR cameras remain in older versions of the newer cameras.  Two such cameras that remain an excellent value are the Pentax K30, which has been replaced by the K50 and the Nikon D5200, which has been replaced by the D5300 and D5500.

Although the K30 has been “discontinued”, it is still widely available, while Nikon is still offering the D5200.

Nikon D5200 versus Pentax K30 Similarities

  • Similar Sensors: The Pentax K30 and the Nikon D5200 both use the “cropped sensor” format, which uses a smaller and less expensive CMOS sensor.  In the case of the K30, this format is called APS-C, while Nikon calls it DX.  In both cases, the camera has a crop factor of 1.5X, which means that a normal lens is 50% longer than he same lens used on a full frame camera. Although less expensive, the sensors are still quite capable regardless of their age and both cameras have built in sensor cleaners.
  • Similar Image Modes: The K30 and D5200 are both capable of capturing images in a number of modes including automatic, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual, as well as a variety of scene and creative modes.
  • Similar Processing Specs: The K30’s PRIME M and the D5200’s EXPEED 3 processors have similar capabilities and are capable of processing images fast enough to allow both cameras to capture images at 5 frames per second.  Images are then sent to a single SD, SDHC or SDXC memory card.  Images are stored in JPEG or RAW format on both cameras.

  • Similar Video Capabilities: Other similarities between the two cameras is their ability to shot video in a variety of formats including Full HD, HD or VGA formats.  Depending on the video format selected, video can be recorded at speeds ranging from 24-60 frames per second.  Video is recorded in .MOV format in both cameras.

Important Differences Worth Noting

  • Different Megapixels: In many ways the K30 and the D5200 are really very different cameras with the most significant difference being the resolution of the sensors in the two cameras, with the D5200 having 24.1 megapixels, while the older K30 only has 16.3 megapixels.  There is a definite difference in the image quality, with the D5200 producing better images.  The K30 in most cases produces acceptable image quality, especially when used at low ISO settings, but there is a definite difference in image between the two cameras, especially at higher ISO settings.
  • Difference in Build Quality: Another significant difference between the cameras is related to the higher build quality of the Pentax K30, which has a all metal chassis covered in plastic, as well as the extensive use of moisture and weather sealing.  This build is what would be seen on “professional” grade cameras and not on entry-level cameras.  In contrast, the D5200 uses a plastic shell in its construction and does not have moisture and dust seals.

  • Dedicated Preset Settings: The K30 has a dedicated U1 and U2 setting that allows the photographer to save custom settings that can be instantly recalled by turning a dial.  In contrast this time saving and very useful feature is not included on the D5200.
  • Viewfinder Differences: The K30 has a viewfinder with 100% coverage and has 11 autofocus points evenly distributed in the viewfinder.  In contract, the D5200’s viewfinder provides 95% coverage and has up to 39 autofocus points evenly distributed in the viewfinder.   In both cases the viewfinders are bright a display a variety of information in a useful display.
  • Native ISO Differences: Another difference between the K30 and the D5200 is related to the native ISO of the two cameras.  In the case of the K30 the range is 100-12,800, while the D5200 has a range from 100-6,400.  At high ISO settings, the image quality of the D5200 is better than the K30, despite having a lower native ISO.  As with all cameras it is important not to focus on high ISO capabilities as image quality generally deteriorates at higher ISO settings.  This is a result of the noise reducing software reducing image detail as it removes noise.
  • Shutter Speed Diferences: The K30 is also has a faster shutter speed with a range of 1/6,000 – 30 seconds.  In contrast, the D5200 has a shutter speed ranging from 1/4,000 to 30 seconds.  Generally faster shutter speeds are desirable when shooting sports, motorsports or wildlife.  Generally most entry-level DSLR cameras have a rage of 1/4,000 to 30 seconds.
  • LCD Screens: Other minor differences include a fixed 3.0” rear LCD on the K30, while the D5200 has an articulating 3.0” rear LCD screen.

  • Accessories: The K30 and the D5200 do not have built in GPS, wireless or WIFI capabilities, but the D5200 can add these features with a number of Nikon accessories, depending upon the needs of the photographer.
  • Battery Charge Differences: In addition, the K30 can capture approximately 410 still images per battery charge compared to 500 in the D5200.

Overall Pros and Cons

As with all things, there are both pluses and minuses, with the K30 and the D5200 are no different.   The photographer considering either of these cameras will need weight the pros and cons of each and consider the type of photography they are going to be engaged in and decide accordingly.

  1. K30 Pro: In the case of the K30, the biggest “pro” of the camera is its rugged build, which is professional in every way.   This build includes the all-metal chassis, as well as the extensive moisture and dust protection.
  2. K30 Pro: Another positive feature of the K30 is the U1 and U2 settings.

  1. K30 Con: The biggest “con” of the K30 is the camera’s age, which is approximately four years old.  This is a significant amount of time when you look at the technological developments over the last four years.   Related to this is another negative feature of the K30, which is the image quality, particularly at high ISO settings.  This is a result of the camera’s age, as well as the sensor, which is capable of capturing images at 16.3 megapixels.
  2. Nikon D5200 Pro: The biggest “pro” of the Nikon D5200 is the image quality, which is excellent and rivals the quality of Nikon’s higher priced professional grade cameras.    Another positive feature of the D5200 is the low price point of the camera kit using the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 VR II lens, which gets you into a setup for $599.95 (see here)
  3. Nikon D5200 Con: The biggest “con” of the D5200 is the lack of the U1 and U2 settings found on the K30 and other cameras.  This is a feature that should be found on every camera, as it saves time by eliminating the need to change settings in the field using the camera’s menu.  Another negative feature is the build quality of the camera, which is plastic.  This coupled with the swivel screen could result in a camera that could be damaged easily if not properly handled.

Head to Head Features Comparison

While most serious photographers look at image quality over technical specifications, many feel that the specifications are equally important.  The Pentax K30 and the Nikon D5200 both have excellent image quality, as well as technical specifications, which are shown in the table below.

 

Item Pentax K30 Nikon D5200
Year Introduced 2012 2013
Format APS-C DX
Megapixels 16.3 24.1
Sensor Type APS-C CMOS
Processor PRIME M EXPEED 3
Image Format JPEG And Raw JPEG And Raw
Sensor Size 23.7mm x 15.6mm 23.5mm x 15.6mm
Sensor Cleaner Yes Yes
Auto-focus Points 11 9, 21 or 39
Scene Modes   Yes   Yes
Creative Exposure Modes Yes Yes
                                                                 Metering TTL Open Aperture – 77 Segmented TTL With 2,016 – Pixel RGB Sensor
Metering Modes Program, Shutter- Priority, Aperture-Priority, Manual Exposure, Scene Modes Aperture-Priority (A), Auto, Auto (Flash Off), Manual (M), Programmed Auto With Flexible Program (A), Scene Modes, Shutter-Priority (S)
View Finder Type Pentaprism Eye-Level Pentamirror Single-Lens Reflex
View Finder Coverage 100% 95%
Live View Yes Yes
Frames Per Second 5.5 5
ISO 100-12,800 100 – 6,400
Lowest Expandable ISO N/A N/A
Highest Expandable ISO 25,600 25,600
Shutter Speed Range 1/6,000 – 30 Seconds 1/4,000 – 30 Seconds
Built In Flash Yes Yes
Card Slots 1 1
Card Type SD, SDHC, SDXC SD, SDHC, SDXC
LCD Size 3.0” 3.0”
LCD Fixed or Swivel Fixed Swivel
Video Yes Yes
Video Type Full HD (1,920 x 1,080), HD (1,280 x 720), VGA (640 x 480) At Speeds Ranging From 24 – 60 FPS Depending Upon Video Type Used Full HD (1,920 x 1,080), HD (1,280 x 720) and VGA  (640 x 424) At Speeds Ranging From 24 – 60 FPS Depending Upon Video Type Used
Video Format .MOV .MOV
GPS No Optional
Wireless No Optional
WIFI No Optional
Battery D-LI109 Lithium-ion Rechargeable EN-EL 14a Rechargeable Li-Ion
Moisture and Duct Resistant Yes No
# Of Still Images Per Battery Charge 410 500
Body Construction Metal Chassis With Plastic Body Thermoplastic
Unique Features Weather Sealing, Built In Shake reduction System, Multiple Colors, U1 and U2 Settings Black or Red Body, Built In HDR Capability
Included Items Pentax K30, D-LI109 Rechargeable Li-ion Battery, D-BC109 Battery Charger, D-CO2E AC Plug Cord, I-USB7 USB Cable, O-ST53 Strap, Eyecap, FK Hot Shoe Cover, Body Mount Cover, CD-ROM Software D5200 Body, BF-1B Body Cap, DK-5 Rubber Eyecap, AN-DC3 Strap, EN-EL14a Battery, MH-24 Charger, US-E17 USB Cable, CP16 Audio / Video Cable, CD-ROM Software
Size Without Lens 5.1” x 3.8” x 2.8” 5.1” x 3.9” x 3.1”
Weight Without Lens 20.7 Ounces 17.8 Ounces
Manufactured In Philippines Thailand
Body Only or with Kit Lens Sold As A Body And A Kit, With Various Lens Options Being Available Sold As Body Only As well A Kit With Three Options Being Available
Cost, Body Only $699.99** (check here for latest) $499.95 (check here)
EF-S 18-135mm IS STM Lens Kit N/A N/A
Cost Of Kit #1 With AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II Lens N/A $599.95
Cost Of Kit # 2 With AF-S DX Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6F VR Lens N/A $799.95
Cost Of Kit #3 With AF-S DX Nikkor 18-140mm f/3.5-5.6G VR Lens N/A $799.95

*Information from Ricoh USA and Nikon USA websites, including pricing.

** The Pentax K30 has been discontinued, but is still available.  In general, this is the approximate cost of a new camera body only and is still available from a number of sources.  Depending upon the reseller, a number of kit options may be available.

Final Take – Which Camera Would I Take?

While both the Pentax K30 and the Nikon D5200 are both excellent cameras that are capable of taking excellent images, I prefer the K30, despite its age and shortcomings, for a number of reasons.

  1. First, I really like the metal chassis used in the K30, as most of my photography is done in the wilderness or traveling around the world off of the beaten path. As a result, my cameras tend to take a beating, so I prefer a metal chassis to protect the critical components of the camera.
  2. I also prefer the extensive moisture and dust sealing in the K30.  While I keep my cameras out of the rain as much as possible, I do tend to be in dusty conditions, which can be a real DSLR killer.
  3. I also prefer the viewfinder on the K30, which provides 100% coverage.
  4. Finally, the U1 and U2 settings on the K30 are such an important feature.  The ability to store and recall camera settings is such a great tool; that I am truly surprised that all manufacturers are not including the feature on their cameras.

That being said, both cameras are excellent and are a great value, with the choice coming down to which camera best meets the needs of the individual photographer.

Robert Alexander
 

A camera geek and freelance photographer, Robert (Aka "Rob" or "Bob") spends way too much time examining the finer points of cameras.

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