When it comes to outlandish color schemes for digital SLR cameras, Pentax surely takes the crown. With the launch of its K-50 mid-range DSLR, Japan's photography giant is putting the choice of camera body color firmly in the hands of its customers. There are 20 body colors to choose from and six grip colors, with buyers being able to select from up to 120 combinations. The new 16 megapixel camera includes a broad sensitivity range, an 11 point tracking autofocus system, and an optical viewfinder with 100 percent field of view. It's joined by the similar, but cheaper, K-500 entry-level DSLR.

The new K-50 benefits from similar weather-resistance and dustproofing capabilities as last year's K-30, it's 81 seals keeping the camera's circuits protected from whatever the weather throws at it. Housed within its stainless steel chassis, a 16 megapixel APS-C (23.7 x 15.7 mm) CMOS image sensor works with the PRIME M processing engine to deliver up to six frames per second continuous shooting in the JPEG image format, and a low-light-friendly ISO sensitivity range of 100 to 51200.

The SAFOX IXi+ phase-matching AF sensor module includes subject tracking that's able to keep tabs on a moving subject even when it wanders outside of the pre-assigned tracking area (using data collected by neighboring sensors). There's a proprietary in-body shake reduction system that's compatible with most legacy and new Pentax lenses, dual e-dial for controlling settings and modes, and a good selection of tools to help users unleash their creativity.

Pentax says that the Astro Tracer function works with an optional GPS unit to simplify astronomical photography, Auto Picture mode selects the most appropriate settings for a subject or scene, or a user can choose to get more hands on with 19 scene modes. A selection of 11 image touch up tools are available, there's auto horizon correction, and photographers can select from one of the 19 available digital filters, or opt to apply multiple filters for more, erm, interesting output.

The K-50 has a 3-inch, 921,000 dot resolution LCD display with a wide 170° viewing angle and adjustable brightness and color, but the camera also boasts a glass prism viewfinder with almost 100 percent field of view and 0.92x magnification. It's capable of full HD video recording at 30, 25 or 24 frames per second, though there's no HDMI port. Cabled output is via USB or video out.

Rounding off the specs is an operating temperature range starting from a chilly -10°C (14°F), SD, SDHC and SDXC media card compatibility, a built-in pop-up flash, and the ability to be powered by a Li-ion battery pack for about 480 images per charge, or four AA-sized batteries.

The K-50 has body only dimensions of 129 x 96.5 x 70 mm (5 x 3.8 x 2.75 in), and an empty weight of 590 g (21 oz). There are three standard colors available, or you could jump in and customize with the help of the color-to-order service.

It's reported available now from Pentax, with a retail roll-out scheduled to follow next month. The options start with a body-only suggested retail of US$699.95, followed by a camera/DA-L 18-55mm WR kit lens package for $779.95, and a two lens package (with the DA-L 18-55mm WR and DA-L 50-200mm WR lenses) for $879.95.

The Pentax K-500 DSLR shares much of the same high-end feature set as the K-50, but at a lower price point. The only major difference is the former's lack of weather sealing, which means taking extra care when the adventurous mood grabs you. This model is set for a July release at a suggested retail of $599.95 with a DA-L 18-55mm lens, or $699.95 for the dual lens kit.

Product pages: K-50 (Custom), K500

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