The Pentax K-r was the DSLR camera which formally reintroduced me to photography as a hobby. I remember having options between a Sony A55 basic kit considering its vari-angle LCD or a Canon 550D trusting Canon's reputation on it but the price difference caught me at the last minute before I formally took the plunge. At a promo price of £399 as of June 2011, about a hundred or more pounds cheaper than my first two options, I was taken aback. Having bought the camera kit at Jessop's (former branch at Gervis Place before it was closed in early 2012) a week before the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF, Fairford from where I already bought a ticket; I only had a week testing the kit from which I added an SMC Pentax DAL 55-300mm ED lens for telephoto applications. Below is a table comparing the specs of the Pentax K-r against my first two DSLR options for an idea if I did made a wise choice.
First impressions, last. If not for forever maybe it would take awhile until your mind gets used to it and would be taken by something new. Taking account of my amateur experience in using this camera and how it opened my horizon to further possibilities that goes with taking pictures, I have taken my best shots with the Pentax K-r (or maybe what I have thought "best" to myself only) I would like to refer everyone to the image above which was taken back in RIAT 2011 barely a week after I have taken hold of the camera and call it my own. The image of an AH-64 "Longbow" Apache was one of the many shots within the first thousand actuations of the camera shutter which truly impressed me about its performance. The other discovery which added my delight for taking the option to buy it was the inscription on the base plate which indicates it was assembled in the Philippines. Now for any Filipino who left his country spending quite a sum of money on a product on a foreign land without the slightest notion that it was "assembled" back at his home country it would be quite an added treat.
For some it makes no sense where stuffs are being made so long as the make stands out as a trusted brand and it delivers the purpose for which it was bought for. Nobody would care for the fact that with the low cost of manpower in Asia a lot of trusted brands like Dell, Apple, or anything beyond your expectations from mobile phones, PC stuff to high end products like airplanes or aircraft parts will end up being manufactured in China, India or Pakistan. As far as the famous camera brands are concerned, photography fanatics would most likely be aware that leading camera bodies like Canon will have an etched marking that it was made in Japan and Nikon being made in Thailand. At least for me I need not struggle hard to find it since I found my affinity to Pentax DSLRs knowing where it was assembled (even for the fact that it may actually be fully manufactured there as a whole). At home in my grip, holding it brings me closer to home each time I peek through the viewfinder.
A camera's design maybe taken as a significant approach to attract clients and ergonomics will determine if such design has an impact to make such camera user-friendly or not. If a camera looks good on the outside but is an absolute nightmare to the photographer using it, then the design is deemed a failure. I doubt if the photographer could take better pictures if the camera doesn't feel good to hold or if it is a "ton heavy" that lifting it to catch a subject in motion is such a risk to be taken. As for the Pentax K-r, the design maybe quite behind if compared to Canon or Nikon but the performance and ergonomics isn't that bad as a "beginner's DSLR", a common description for the category of customers it was targeted at. Having been announced as an additional offering from Pentax in September 2010 brings with it some technological refinements during the time of its release as such its competitiveness although doesn't make it a lot better in the whole picture, it carries with it improvements not present on cameras released years before it. By design, the placement of the mode dial on top of the hand grip which is at the right (an advantage for right handed users) makes it easy to reach while keeping the right thumb do the selection and the remaining four fingers fixed at the rubber grip which is shaped to blend at the average clasp of the hand. Whenever the shot is ready to be taken after the subject appears in focus at the viewfinder, the pointer finger could be eased easily from the grip to reach the shutter release button in direct alignment on top of the grip so that like the trigger finger inside the trigger guard on a handgun ready to squeeze the trigger, the pointer finger has the task to press the shutter button halfway to bring the auto focus in function before pressing the shutter button in full for the shot to be made. On the outer edge of the shutter button, the camera's ON/OFF switch could be activated after each shot to minimize power consumption but if the camera is left on its own, the default setting will turn the power off after a minute of not doing anything on the controls.
Anyone will find the K-r a very forgiving DSLR body which will be very useful for even half a decade at most if your needs had been filled up with costly Pentax lenses (which maybe worth more than the camera itself) and if you learn to accept the camera's vulnerabilities. The first disadvantage is the K-r's sensor which most often than not if you are less careful of changing lenses outdoors will attract dust so that you'll never know where the smudge on your pictures came from as it keeps reappearing on the same spot even how often you clean your lens. The camera's on board cleaning feature of shaking dust from the sensor is only good to attract buyers but it's self explanatory that no matter how dust is shaken off from the sensor it will keep recirculating inside the camera unless it is removed. So knowledge of cleaning the sensor is necessary which will necessitate specially made sensor swabs costing a bit, not the type of improvised implement you could devise by yourself or you will risk damaging the sensor worsening the issue. This problem could be partly solved if you have knowledge of Adobe Photoshop to retouch smudges on your pictures or you could be be very strict about allowing yourself to change lenses outdoors.
The other solution of course is having a back up camera to provide the focal range beyond your K-r's lens' reach so the change of lens outside could be omitted. The K-r's battery life would be the second disadvantage that despite at maximum it had been expected to deliver 470 images at a single charge, it may not reach that number before being completely discharged. A number of factors include the frequency of using the LCD to check the pictures taken which may shorten battery life. The acquisition of a battery adaptor to allow 4 AA sized batteries to be used on the camera will ease this problem provided that you could provide a separate charger and 4 rechargeable AA sized batteries in an emergency or buying a spare DL-I109 standard Li-Ion battery for the K-r.