Pentax K10D DSLR digital camera

The Pentax K10D is reassuringly robust as you heft it out of the box, it has a tough plastic body with a metal chassis. This robust body design provides a reassuring feel when handling the camera and when shooting, particularly if you’re out and about in inclement weather as I was where rain and snow seemed to dog my days testing the K10D.

That said the new Pentax also has a feast of neat features (equivalent to some more expensive cameras already on the shop shelves) and some unique kit that helps to make it a real stand out model from others in this market around this price.

The camera has an APS-C sized 10.2-megapixel sensor similar to that found in Nikon D-SLRs such as the D80 and Sony DSLR, the Alpha 100. A new PRIME image processing engine does the number crunching but on this evidence leaves images somewhat softer than I’d find ideal “out of the camera”. The camera can shoot in two RAW formats, Pentax’s PEF or Adobe’s DNG RAW files.

In terms of handling all this kit, the K10D has a very well laid out controls, with a shutter release on the top right surrounded by the on/off switch. A hot shoe sits atop the excellent-to-use pentaprism viewfinder, while over the finder’s “hump” is a large mode dial that is used to select the shooting mode required.

Sensitivity can be tailored to what you need or want via a neat set up mode that allows you to predefine the range of ISO available from the camera’s full ISO range. The ISO range runs from ISO 100 to 1600.

Assisting things further is Pentax’s proprietary CCD-Shift shake reduction system, analogous to Sony’s system in the Alpha 100, the K10D moves the sensor around on a special carriage to compensate for user movement at lower shutter speeds or when using longer focal lengths, where camera shake could affect the shots.

It works well and can provide around three stops of extra handholdability, which is a good job because noise issues over ISO 400 can become evident and over ISO 800, they’re obvious, particularly chroma (colour) noise. Anti shake means, you don’t have to bump up the sensitivity as soon as the light drops.

Pentax has opted for a more conservative noise reduction system on the K10D, meaning noise is less well controlled, but the camera retains more detail. On balance, I prefer to have the detail every time because you can always post process noise using other software such as Neat Image later on PC.

Another couple of features that are very useful includes a dedicated RAW button; you can quickly slip into RAW capture if needed. The button can be set so that you can shoot one RAW file, then it switches back to the previous mode, or it can be set to stay in RAW mode until you press the button again.

The many custom functions allow you to tailor the camera to your preferred settings, but importantly tailor the K10Ds four Program Line settings, which control the way the camera deals with the captured image data. “Normal” leaves the camera set to its default settings (natural colours etc.), “Hi Speed” sets it to bias for faster shutter speeds, “Depth” for smaller apertures and “MTF” mode sets the camera for optimum lens sharpness; more on this later.

A large 2.5-inch screen is bright and easy to at wide viewing angles and provides plenty of information (there’s a dedicated Info button to bring up all the current camera settings) backed up by a backlit data LCD on the top plate.

There’s loads more the K10D offers, too much to go into detail here, suffice to say, any of you looking for a comprehensive set of features will be hard pressed to meet what this camera has to offer without spending over a grand more.

In terms of image quality, the camera provides plenty of detail with natural colours, though of course, these are all tweakable via internal functions on the camera. I found however, shooting using the camera’s MTF program line helps keep things a tad sharper or simply stay shooting RAW. In JPEG snapping, you get three compression levels and the top (three star) setting provides very clean images indeed. Noise (as mentioned earlier) becomes obvious after ISO 400 and intrusive at ISO 800 and over. Overall, the images look colourful and clean even if the highlight detail does drop off more quickly than I’d have liked, particularly noticeable in overcast (grey) skies for example.

Verdict

The Pentax K10D is the company’s new flagship and as such, it comes to the market replete with an excellent feature set at a great price.

I used the standard 18-55mm kit zoom for this test and performance is very good, but because the camera has the KAF2 lens mount, it can accept almost any Pentax lens so it has a huge potential audience.

Pentax has pulled out all the stops with the K10D and provides scope to grow with your photography. It’s robust, utilises anti-shake and offers good value for money.

Simply put, I can highly recommend this camera, particularly if you have stash of old Pentax optics lurking in a cupboard somewhere.