Want more professional looking photographs from an interchangeable lens camera without a steep learning curve or the need to forfeit a king's ransom? Pentax's 10.2Mp entry-level Pentax K-m ticks all three boxes, while a solid-feel stainless steel chassis ensures it withstands the odd knock.
Despite this the Pentax K-m remains one of the lightest, most compact and portable SLR cameras available at only 525g.
This is without the supplied 18-55mm kit lens attached, though, (equivalent to 27.5mm-84.5mm in 35mm terms), or the four AAs required for power. And, though not quite as diminutive as Panasonic's Micro Four Thirds G1, the Pentax K-m is nearly £200 cheaper.
The Pentax K-m powers up in just over a second with a flick of the on/off switch encircling the shutter release button. With a large space for the thumb to rest at the rear, it sits comfortably in the hand as your left grips the lens barrel.
Icon-led shooting modes are readily accessed via the Pentax K-m's top plate dial, with key info clearly displayed on the 2.7in, 230k pixel resolution rear LCD when not in review mode. While a 5-point wide area AF is modest, JPEG, RAW or RAW+JPEG format captures are offered, as is a relatively broad light sensitivity range stretching from ISO100 to ISO3200.
Very useful for novices is an Auto Picture mode whereby the Pentax K-m recognises subjects and automatically adjusts its settings to deliver optimum results, operating in a similarly effective way to the Intelligent Auto Mode found on Panasonic's point-and-shoot Lumix compacts.
Also unusual for a DSLR at this price point is the Pentax K-m's built in shake reduction system that ensures any attached Pentax K mount lens becomes immediately stabilised - thus helping to reduce blur from external hand wobble - plus a dust removal system that shakes the CCD sensor free of any undesirables that may intrude when swapping lenses.
For the most part the Pentax K-m's lens delivers a commendably high level of detail, with colours well saturated; our only gripe being the purple fringing noticeable between areas of high contrast when zooming. That said it's not a bad performance at all for a starter model - delivering good results with minimal fuss and at an attractive price.
Those looking to make the jump from digital compact to more fully featured (and better performing) digital SLR will discover the Pentax K-m a very competent example. Given its current price it’s also something of a bargain for the beginner, coming with zoom lens included and features not commonly associated with entry-level models.