Pentax has come frustratingly close with the K-500 to producing an ideal entry-level DSLR. If you're coming from an advanced compact or a bridge camera, the K-500's range of scene modes and effect filters should make the transition a smooth one.
However, such little extras as user customisable modes and twin control wheels will also please those used to more advanced kit. Consequently this is a camera well suited to developing skill levels.
The K-500 shows that an entry-level DSLR doesn't have to compromise features or control. Excellent image quality and build further enhance the camera's appeal, as does the 100%-coverage viewfinder.
Excluding any indication of focus points from the viewfinder makes focus-critical shots time consuming, while the regular underexposure with matrix metering can be equally irritating. Plus if you want to shoot inconspicuously, then the noisy focusing with the kit lens is likely to blow your cover.
Although there's an impressive feature set for the money, the lack of any focus point display in the viewfinder is a small yet very noticeable omission. That, along with the K-500's propensity to underexpose, makes it easy to lose faith in the camera's autofocus and exposure metering abilities.
This is an even bigger shame given the strength of the camera's image quality, especially in low light.
A DSLR at this price point will always be a compromise between cost, performance and functionality, and for the most part Pentax has struck a good balance with the K-500.
If you keep tabs on its enigmatic autofocusing and don't mind dialling in some exposure compensation now and again, then this is a well made, well equipped and high performing DSLR for beginners and established photographers alike.