Pentax K100 D DSLR digital camera

The K100D is a compact well specified D-SLR that in terms of its retail price takes on the likes of Nikon’s D50 but is specified closer to the Canon EOS 400D. It also replaces its predecessor, the *ist DS2. There’s a lot of camera here for your money, so let’s have a look at what you get.

To start, the camera features a now fairly standard 6.1-megapixel CCD but mounted upon a proprietary CCD-shift Shake Reduction system developed by Pentax. While the net result is similar to the system used by Sony in its Alpha 100 D-SLR, it uses a series tiny electromagnets housed on a moving carriage that zaps the CCD around to compensate for user movement that could usually cause camera shake.

There’s Pentax’s latest SAFOX VIII, 11-point AF system in place with nine cross sensors offering the user full control over the AF points used. And it worked unerringly on my test with the continuous AF setting able to track moving objects within the frame while the shutter button is half pressed.

The cameras sensitivity range runs through ISO 200, 400, 800, and 1600 and up to ISO 3200, offering a broad range to play with. Interestingly, in the Auto mode you can get up to 3200 ISO, which is the highest Auto setting in its class at the time of writing. You can also pre-assign the range of ISO values available to the camera in Auto mode, allowing intuitive control of the system with increments of ISO 200 to 400, 200 to 800, 200 to 1600 and then ISO 200 to 3200.

This high ISO use system backs up Shake Reduction, because you can reduce camera shake the latter and motion blur with the former thanks to the higher shutter speeds on offer at higher sensitivities. However, despite a noise reduction systems being in place, noise is quite intrusive, particularly in shadow areas at ISO 800 and over.

Another neat feature is the auto picture mode, which automatically selects one of the cameras five subject program modes depending on the scene being shot. This is helpful for those new to D-SLR photography and as such is a great asset on a machine pitched at the budget level in the market.

The camera is well built too, with a tough, rigid-feel body boasting a stainless steel chassis. It’s complete with a large 2.5-inch LCD upon which some very nice menus with good colour coding and a neat, plain text information mode that makes them simple to use. The screen is of good quality with 210K-pixel resolution and a great wide-view design that makes it very easy to see and read at almost and angle in all but the brightest of direct sunlight.

With this camera and the soon-to-be-tested K10D (incidentally, the K110D is a slightly trimmed version of this model lacking the Shake Reduction and some of the tougher build; it’s lighter by 75-grams than the K100D) Pentax has dropped its quirky naming protocol of its predecessors, the “*ist” series models. The “K” in the name refers to the use of the Pentax KAF lens mount, which rightly ensures that the many millions of K-mount lens owners out there have no doubt the new D-SLR will accept their lenses.

A dual depth-of-field preview system provides a digital preview on the large screen (via the extra control on the on/off switch surrounding the shutter release) or a standard stop down assessment via the viewfinder. This unique feature is simple to use and adds a neat level of usability if you’ve stopped down in low light where normal depth-of-preview assessment would be difficult through then viewfinder.

Images are stored upon SD/MMC external storage that’s lots under a flap on the right side of the camera, power is supplied by either four AA cells (alkaline, Lithium or Ni-MH rechargeable) or two CR-V3 lithium batteries, which provides scope for power almost anywhere, although it has to be said Alkaline AAs don’t last very long. Batteries slot into a port on the camera’s base alongside and you get USB 2.0 Hi-Speed connectivity ensures speedy offloading of those images.

Handling is great thanks to a good control layout that includes a large mode dial on the left of the pop-up flash, a single (thumb controlled) control dial for selecting apertures or shutter speeds for example (and zooming images in playback). A “Fn” (function) button provides access to oft used controls for white balance or ISO for example, displayed options are contextual, with more or less options depending on whether you’re in auto modes for example.

An OK button is orbited by a four-way control for scrolling and okaying images or menus and is pretty standard fair and works well enough. So, control and features are good, even with the compact 129.5 x 92.5 x 70mm size of the camera, but what of the image quality?

The kit lens used on this test is a modest 18-55mm F3.5-F5.6 zoom but provides ample scope to start off, catering for most eventualities but I suspect any Pentax film SLR owners moving across to digital will already be armed with an optic or two already. Otherwise, it’s a good basic all-rounder to get you going.

The camera’s 6.1-megapixel resolution is put to good use and the sensor provides plenty of detail, although I found the results to be a little soft out of the camera at the default sharpening setting. It’s adjustable of course. A also found the metering to be a little conservative with many otherwise ordinary shots being under exposed by around a stop.

Slight purple fringing is visible on high contrast parts of the shots as well, a tad disappointing but not serious. However what is slightly more so is the amount of both luminance and chroma noise at ISO 800 and over. Even in brighter conditions, noise is visible is shadows at ISO 400 but very noticeable at ISO 800 and beyond. The noise reduction could be a bit more aggressive in my view. However, because the Shake Reduction system allows you to hand hold shots at lower shutter speeds (around two to three stops of exposure) as long as subject blur is not an issue, you can get away with sticking to the higher quality and lower ISO settings.

Verdict

Looking at the specification and the price, the K100D is certainly a lot of camera for the money. Results are good overall (bar my few caveats mentioned above) and handling is a doddle thanks to a neat control layout and compact size.

If you’re looking for a compact, easy to use D-SLR that won’t bust your budget then the K100D is worth a look, if you have old Pentax lenses, then it you should certainly check out this camera.


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