Competition is fierce among the sub-$1000 cameras this month. The Pentax K-m doesn't suffer some of the lesser features of the cheapest models. The Canon 1000D, for example, has the smallest LCD screen - 2.5in to the K-m's 2.7in. The K-m also enjoys an advantage over the Sony A330 by offering white balance bracketing.
You'll be hard-pushed to spot any major differences in image quality between the Pentax and more expensive models, though. Our outdoors shots at low ISO looked fine compared with more expensive cameras such as the Canon 500D and Nikon D5000; the only time we could make a major distinction was at the K-m's top ISO of 1600 on a long, low-light exposure.
The 18-55mm lens is sharp and free of purple fringing, and is an excellent starter lens. The K-m defies its low price further yet by offering in-body optical stabilisation. The only missing feature is a Live View mode, but we prefer its viewfinder to that of the Sony A330.
There are a few compromises, however. The K-m doesn't come with a lithium-ion battery, instead relying on four AAs. This means extra outlay on a set of rechargeable NiMH batteries and a charger (the CIPA rating for the K-m on standard alkaline AAs is just 360 shots).
There are advantages, though. If you use high-capacity NiMH rechargeables the CIPA rating shoots up to 1100 shots, double that of the K-m's nearest competitor. Second, AAs are almost universally available.
The K-m sits more comfortably in the hand than either of Canon's or Sony's low-end cameras. Our only complaint is that the menu system is less intuitive than those on Canon's and Nikon's cameras.
Its burst speed isn't the best, either: it took five shots at 3.3 per second, but over five seconds it took just nine shots, which is the slowest here.
The K-m is well made, comfortable and produces excellent images. It doesn't offer much in the way of features, and the value of the more user-friendly Sony A330 takes the runner-up award. But if you want a cheap and capable camera to ease you into DSLR photography, this is a great choice.