A capable 6-megapixel DSLR that delivers excellent performance at a very competitive price.Pentax has forsaken its unpronounceable “*istD” branding with the K100D model, which was announced at the end of May. It’s a pity we had to wait so long for a review unit because a DSLR with a 6-megapixel imager is disadvantaged when compared with the current 10-megapixel crop. However, the K100D is keenly priced and has some significant advantages – and you can make decent-looking A3 prints from 6-megapixel DSLRs. . . [more]
Pentax has forsaken its unpronounceable “*istD” branding with the K100D model, which was announced at the end of May. It’s a pity we had to wait so long for a review unit because a DSLR with a 6-megapixel imager is disadvantaged when compared with the current 10-megapixel crop. However, the K100D is keenly priced and has some significant advantages – and you can make decent-looking A3 prints from 6-megapixel DSLRs.
The proprietary CCD-shift Shake Reduction system is the standout feature of this model. Like Sony’s A100, it’s built into the camera body and, therefore, usable with all lenses. But, unlike Sony’s solution, it’s based on magnetic components and there’s no display to tell you how hard the stabiliser mechanism is working. Nor do you get the visual feedback that lens-based optical image stabilisers provide. You have to trust the camera compensates for the motion it detects when you trip the shutter. It works seamlessly with Pentax’s electronic lenses because the camera can detect which lens is attached and match the compensation applied to its focal length. (With older lenses, you can use the K100D’s menu to tell the camera its focal length, from 8mm to 800mm.)
The anti-shake system is backed up by a new auto sensitivity control, which matches the camera’s ISO setting to the subject, based on the subject’s brightness level and the lens focal length. By supporting ISO settings up to 3200, it allows use of faster shutter speeds in dim lighting and will please photographers who like to shoot indoor sports. Pentax’s SAFOX VIII autofocus system is also featured in the new camera. Using 11 AF points, it offers wide frame coverage to handle off-centre subjects and has two selectable modes: single AF and continuous AF, which refocuses while the shutter release button is pressed halfway down. Individual focus points can be selected or the camera can be set to central spot AF. Focusing was generally quick and accurate, even in dim lighting.
Another nifty new feature is Digital Preview, which replicates a depth-of-field preview function. Sliding the power switch past On captures an image and displays it on the monitor but doesn’t save it to the SD card. Alternatively, you can select Optical preview in the Custom menu to view depth-of-field in the viewfinder. Nineteen Custom functions are provided.
The K100D doesn’t support simultaneous raw+JPEG capture, which some users may consider unfortunate. However, users can process JPEG images post capture with the digital filters, which are accessed in playback mode via the arrow pad. Effects offered include B&W, sepia, nine colours and two tones, soft focus and a ‘slim’ filter which adjusts the horizontal and vertical ratios of images. Image brightness can also be fine-tuned. A new image is created and saved with each filter that’s applied.
Although slightly larger than its predecessors, the K100D remains relatively compact. The body feels tougher and better built than earlier *ist models and, with the supplied lens, was nicely balanced. The grip is comfortably shaped and has a textured surface that feels secure. The doors covering the SD card and battery compartments and the interface ports are solid plastic. However, the battery door can be tricky to open and close.
The viewfinder covers slightly more of the subject than many entry-level DSLRs and is relatively bright. Its eye cup is solidly attached, although harder than the soft rubber cups on many competing cameras. A second LCD panel right of the pentamirror housing carries the standard status data for functions like shutter speed, aperture, flash and drive modes, AF point, metering, white balance, EV compensation, battery level and the number of recordable images remaining.
Novice DSLR users are well catered for with an Auto Picture Mode, which automatically selects the appropriate Picture mode (Portrait, Landscape, Macro or Moving Object) and applies the correct aperture, shutter speed, white balance, saturation, contrast and sharpness settings. More experienced users can access these scene settings manually or use the P, A, S or M modes, which are also found on the mode dial, along with the Bulb setting for long exposures. Also on the mode dial is a Scene (SCN) setting which unlocks eight additional scene modes. Nineteen custom functions are provided.
It’s rare to find a DSLR with a small LCD these days and the K100D’s 2.5-inch monitor has high enough resolution to satisfy most users. The menu system is well designed, simple to use and easy to read. Up to 12x playback zoom is provided for checking focus and exposure levels and toggling the INFO button lets you call up a screen wide tonal histogram, a full shooting data display, a full-screen image with capture quality folder and file number and protect icon or fill the screen with the selected image.
The pop-up flash is activated by a button left of the viewfinder eyepiece. On the other side is the command dial, which selects manual setting in record mode or operates the playback zoom when images are reviewed. The AE-Lock button beside it engages the Protect function in playback mode. Four buttons left of the monitor access the menu, delete, info and playback functions, while the arrow pad on the other side is used for menu navigation.
Pressing the Function button below if accesses the Function menu covering drive, white balance, ISO and flash mode settings. Kelvin temperature adjustment for white balance is not provided and you can’t fine-tune white balance settings. Sensitivity settings start at ISO 200, a disappointment given current competition. The Shake Reduction button lies below and right of the Function button.
You need firmware version 1.01 or later to use the new SDHC cards in the K100D. It should come pre-loaded in new cameras but is downloadable for older units. The camera comes with four AA alkaline batteries, but can also use NiMH rechargeables. No battery grip is available. Bundled software includes Photo Browser3 and Photo Laboratory 3. The former is a reasonably capable image organiser that also displays some image metadata as well as raw files. Basic editing functions like rotating and cropping are supported, along with an auto ‘enhance’ function. Photo Laboratory 3 includes the Silkypix raw image processor which has facilities for adjusting exposure, saturation, contrast and sharpness along with extensive white balance controls. You can also reduce noise and correct chromatic aberration and lens distortion before converting images to TIFF or JPEG format.
For general photography the K100D delivered the quality you would expect from a competent 6-megapixel DSLR. Images were sharp, clean and correctly exposed. The flash performed extremely well, delivering well-balanced illumination at all ISO settings and with both wide and tele lenses. The auto white balance setting produced a warm cast in incandescent light but handled fluorescent lighting very well. The manual pre-sets and custom measurement modes all delivered excellent results.
Imatest showed the K100D was capable of delivering the resolution users expect from a 6-megapixel camera and lateral chromatic aberration was relatively low. Colour accuracy was also good, with the Bright image tone setting delivering slightly higher saturation than the Natural setting. Image noise was also relatively low in the range from ISO 200 to 400, increasing to become noticeable at ISO 1600. Long exposures also showed some colour noise at high ISO settings.
Powering-up the K100D took just over a second and shot-to-shot times averaged 2.5 seconds for raw files and 0.8 seconds for JPEGs, extending to about 1.5 seconds for JPEGs with flash. Total capture lag averaged 0.1 seconds, with negligible shutter lag when the lens was pre-focused. It took just over five seconds to write a raw file to the memory card and almost three seconds for a high-resolution JPEG image. Unfortunately, the buffer memory is small, filling after three raw or five large JPEG images.
The continuous shooting mode recorded five high-resolution JPEGs at 0.4 second intervals then slowed to about one frame/second for subsequent shots. This capture rate remained consistent with standard and high-speed SD cards, indicating it’s dictated by the camera.
The CCD-shift Shake Reduction system was hard-pressed to meet Pentax’s claimed two-stop advantage under all shooting conditions but was a real advantage in dim lighting with non-moving subjects. It didn’t work nearly as well for moving subjects and Pentax recommends turning it off for panning shots.
As one of the most affordable DSLRs on the local market, the Pentax K100D represents an excellent buy for photographers who want to upgrade from a digicam. With the Sigma 18-50mm lens it sells for $899, which is cheaper than many high-end digicams. It’s still a great buy at $999 for the body plus the Sigma 18-125mm lens, which was the combination we tested. We look forward to reviewing the forthcoming K10D model.
The flash handled both close-ups and wide-angle shots very well.
Image noise was negligible at ISO 200 …
… but obvious at ISO 3200 – although overall performance was very good.
White balance performance was good, except when the auto setting was used with incandscent lighting.
Image sensor: 23.5 x 15.7mm interline interlace CCD with 6.31 million photosites (6.1 megapixels effective)
Lens mount: Pentax KAF bayonet (compatible with KAF2, KAF AND KA mount lenses)
Lens multiplier factor: 1.5x
Image formats: JPEG, RAW (uncompressed)
Image Sizes: 6M: 3008 x 2000 pixels, 4M: 2400 x 1600 pixels, 1.5M: 1536 x 1024 pixels
Shutter speed range: 30 to 1/4000 second plus Bulb
ISO range: Auto, ISO 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
Focus system/modes: TTL Phase-matching 11-point wide (SAFOX VIII) AF; single/continuous AF; Focus point selection
Exposure metering/control: TTL open-aperture 16-segment metering (coupled with lens and AF information); Multi-segment, centre-weighted and spot metering; Auto, P, A, S and M shooting modes plus 13 scene presets
Colour space: sRGB, Adobe RGB
Exposure Compensation: ±2 EV (1/2EV steps or 1/3EV steps)
White balance: Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten Light, Fluorescent Light (W, D, N), Flash, Manual setting
Flash: Built-in retractable P-TTL auto pop-up flash
Flash GN (m at ISO 200): 15.6
Sequence shooting: Approx. 2.8 fps, JPEG up to 5fps, RAW up to 3fps
Storage Media: SD memory card
Viewfinder: Fixed moulded pentamirror type with Natural-Bright-Matte II focusing screen, magnification 0.85x, field of view 96%; diopter adjustment -2.5 to +1.5m-1
LCD monitor: 2.5 inch, low-temperature polysilicon TFT colour LCD monitor (Approx. 210,000 pixels), brightness adjustable, Wide angle view
PC interface: USB 2.0 Hi-speed
Power supply: Four AA (lithium, alkaline, and rechargeable Ni-MH) batteries or two CR-V3 lithium batteries
Dimensions (wxhxd): 129.5 x 92.5 x 70 mm (body only)
Weight: 560 grams (without battery and card
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