As some of you know, I am an oldtime Pentax users with a very soft spot for this brand. They do things right, no matter if the market realizes about that or not.
Well,tThis is probably one of the articles that will help Pentax big time: The Online Photographer, a website that should need no introduction to anybody seriously interested in photography, just published their Summer '08 top 10 new camera recommendations. In that list, the Pentax K20D appears in the 2nd position, together with the Olympus E-3 (which is, may I say, excellent company), the Nikon D300 being first of the list.
This is their comment about the K20D:
"The K20D is an improved version of the K10D. Carl Weese and I are both using this camera at the moment; Carl a "boughten" one, me a loaner from Pentax. Carl is so far finding that it fixes most of what he found to be the K10D's shortcomings. Solid performance, a viewfinder to rival the D80/D200's, in-the-body Shake Reduction (i.e., image stabilization), not too terribly big or small, weatherproof, and favorably priced—and it's got peerless lens compatibility, which is just plain fun. You can get modern AF zooms, a decent selection of independent-maker optics, tiny pancake AF primes, or you can mount manual-focus lenses going all the way back (with the proper adapter) to M42 screwmount, for heaven's sake. And the functionality means that, unlike the case so often is, these now-ancient lenses are actually easy to use. For real pictures. Overall, a package you can't beat with a stick, and a fine choice for both enthusiastic hobbyists and dedicated amateur shooters.
Regarding our "tie" between the K20D and the E-3: What both of these cameras share is especially high image quality and fine lens lineups. However, the two companies' approach to lens availability is radically different. Both have advantages. Olympus has been building its Zuiko Digital lineup from scratch since the advent of the E System, giving it a real advantage in terms of overall quality—what one might call a coherence of quality. As we've written elsewhere, Olympus has become to the digital age what Leica was to the preceeding generation and Zeiss to the generation before that—the world's leading lensmaker. However good its principal offerings, however, the line remains seriously limited, meaning that you should check for the current availability of the lenses you need before buying into the system.
Pentax enjoys the opposite approach. Its DSLRs will work with varying degrees of compatibility with lenses going all the way back to the screwmount age, meaning, so long ago that most active photographers don't even know what we mean (Pentax or M42 screwmount was a common-standard screw-in type of lens for SLRs that was outmoded by the end of the 1960s). Plus, there is a wide variety of independent aftermarket lenses that can be fitted to a Pentax, notably including several options from Voigtländer and Zeiss that are also available for Nikons. No company has Pentax's range of purposed-for-digital single-focal-length lenses, however. Both Carl and I are using Pentax's stunning new 35mm DA Macro, which we plan to do an extensive joint post about sometime in the coming two months or so. Suffice to say that we both agree it is, in Carl's words, "really something special."
By contrast, Nikon's and Canon's large but jumbled lens lineups are a hodgepodge of good and not-so-good, old made-for-film and new digital-specific, IS-enabled and not, pro and "consumer," full-frame and reduced-frame, that can ultimately be confusing and even frustrating."
Interestingly, when they comment the Nikon D300, they say "Although image quality is not quite as good as the K20D's, and the basic body style is not quite as pleasingly put together or as much of a pleasure to use at the Olympus E-3, the D300 trumps all of the competitors in its class in terms of overall speed, responsiveness, and flash options and control. It's a true semi-pro camera." I think this is the first serious website stating clearly that K20D outperforms the D300 in strictly image quality terms, which is what should matter most (or not??)
Finally, all they say about the Canon 40D (and that is written in the paragraph dedicated to the D200) is this: "Also a well-sorted, nicely evolved, cheaper competitor with excellent performance: the Canon 40D, a recent update of the D30 [sic]. Although it scores over the D300 in only one way—price—the D40 is a solid step up from entry-level DSLRs and a fine user overall."
Overall, very good news for Pentax and Olympus, excellent news for Nikon (which manages to put in the list three dSLR, D300, D3 and D60 at positions 1, 4 and 6, respectively) and not so good news for Canon, whose representatives in the list are two dSLR (the 450 and 5D at positions 6 and 7, respectively) , and a compact camera, which speaks volumes on how things are going in Canon.... And worst news of all, no dSLR whatsoever from Sony in this list... which finds only this brief mention about their A700 which questions its image quality: "Also well worth considering in this class: the fine, streamlined, ergonomic and easy-to-use Sony A700. Questions about its ultimate image quality, at least with the initial firmware, are what have kept it off our list."