The Pentax K-r body has grown a little compared to the Pentax K-x – it's slightly larger in every respect, but it's still a fantastically easy camera to hold. The grip at the front is covered in chunky, textured rubber, and the left-hand edge gets the same treatment.
In truth, we'd prefer the contorted grip on the back where your right thumb grips the camera to be textured instead, but even so the K-r is very comfortable to handhold.
The control layout is traditional: there's nothing above and beyond the normal body-mounted buttons to be found on most entry-level DSLRs. The back of the Pentax K-r body has a directional pad whose compass points act as shortcuts to the self-timer, ISO, white balance and flash modes, while a solitary button on right-hand shoulder acts as either AE or AF lock depending how you define it in the menu.
Unfortunately, when the option to select the AF manually is selected the navigation buttons loose their shortcut functions. As there's no other way to set the white balance, self-timer, sensitivity or flash options, this is likely to be a pretty serious issue for enthusiast photographers looking for a budget DSLR.
It means that the flash options, for example, must be set before the K-r is set to manual AF point selection mode and the AF point set. Alternatively, users can set the Pentax K-r to use the central AF point only and then use the focus and recompose technique.
The top of the Pentax K-r body features a rather busy mode dial, which has dedicated notches to scene modes such as sports and panoramas, as well as the aperture priority, shutter priority and manual modes favored by more experienced photographers.
As with other Pentax DSLRs, the manufacturer has supplemented the usual PASM exposure mode options with a sensitivity priority (SV) mode. In this mode the user sets the desired sensitivity setting while the camera selects what it calculates are appropriate aperture and shutter speed settings.
There Pentax K-r body also features a customisable "green button", which can be set to perform one of seven functions (revert to default settings, set custom image settings, display the optical preview, display the digital preview, set a digital filter effect, set the cross processing effect or change the file format).
Next to the green button is an exposure compensation button, also used in manual mode to switch between controlling the shutter speed or aperture size - essential as the K-r only has one dial on the back. An extra on the front would make controlling it in manual mode simpler.
Although the Pentax K-r body seems well built and nicely constructed, the buttons on the rear of the Pentax K-r are hard to distinguish by feel alone when it is held to the eye. This makes selecting the desired AF point more fiddly than it should be.