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Camera Review: Pentax *istDS

by Vuk Vuksanovic, Mar-05


Introduction to the Pentax *istDS: The prince of affordable DSLRs

Just when you thought only a famous, demented rock star could get away with an unpronounceable name, a camera company known as Pentax comes along with the *istD and then follows up with the *istDS.
Editorial note for the less pop culturaly aware - Prince (a well known rock star) once changed his name to tafkap.jpg (631 bytes)

One month before I sat down to compose this review, the tedium of scanning colour slides made me head out yet again to a couple of our big camera shops in Toronto to see if I could finally persuade myself the Nikon D70 viewfinder really wasn't that awful after all. I couldn't. Another big company's offering at the price point did little more for me (though I was actually somewhat relieved: didn't relish learning to cope with the ergonomic regression of lenses with no aperture ring). In an age when marketing departments have so much say, the calculated absence of critical 50-year-old technology shouldn't come as much of a surprise. It's pretty much common knowledge these days that a serious problem with entry-level digital SLRs is how very little of the budget finds its way to the viewfinder, which I maintain is one of the handful of body features to approach anything resembling a sine qua non of successful camera design: if you can't see clearly what you're shooting, how can you shoot clearly?

Before Spilling the Ink
(50mm, f/1.4)

In response to my disappointment, the salesman suggested I look through an *istDS and I confess I did so only because it was there. Although I own more camera brands than I really need and have fairly reasonable impressions of a few others, until recently, I was perfectly clueless about Pentax and generally dismissed the brand as something reserved for starving art students. So, when I brought this improbable contender up to my eye and saw how much better the view was, it was obviously with mixed feelings. While still below a film-based SLR, the finder was certainly/miraculously quite acceptable, but all enthusiasm was quickly nipped in the bud by scepticism concerning the sort of lenses I'd be bound to. As I said, I really had no clue.

Fortunately, I decided to share my experiences in one of the photo.net forums and things spiralled quickly to a brisk education that included a pair of very informative articles on Pentax lenses by Mike Johnston. The universal lauding of the 50mm f/1.4, and similarly high praise for the recent Limited Edition lenses, was more than enough to put me at ease. I soon found myself back at the shop negotiating a trial purchase of the *istDS with 30-day return option.

Technical Specifications

A short list of the basics...

  • Lens Mount: Pentax KAF mount (compatible with KAF2, KAF and KA)
  • Shooting Modes: Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Program (and a few strange ones)
  • Focal Length Multiplier: 1.5
  • Viewfinder: Pentaprism with Natural-Bright-Matte focusing screen (split-screen available as custom option)
  • ISO Options: 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
  • Effective Pixels: 6.1 million (6.3 million sensor photo detectors)
  • Sensor size: 23.7 x 15.5mm
  • Sensor type: CCD
  • Power Source: 4 AA-sized batteries or two CR-V3 Lithium batteries
  • Shutter Speeds: 1/4000 to 30 seconds and Bulb
  • Storage Medium: SD memory card

Yamon Drion: Urban Digital Colour Test Chart
(43mm, f/1.9)

The *istDS will store images as either RAW or JPEG files. Theoretically, the RAW format offers higher resolution, but you may not find this to be the case if using the software Pentax supplies for conversion, which introduces a heavy-handed etching to dark edges and an excessive amount of noise that manifests itself in the form of red pixels. A week or so into my review, an updated version was released (along with a firmware upgrade for the camera) and, while matters did improve, I still found results fell somewhat short of the mark. If you can afford the luxury, the best strategy is importing through Photoshop CS. Otherwise, best to stick to direct JPEG, which is what the Pentax RAW converter turns the file into anyhow?though I'm still puzzled as to why, with benefit of full computer, it can't perform as good a job as whatever operates inside the camera.

Ergonomics

My initial impressions of the camera were so positive and my enthusiasm so obvious that a friend of mine far away in New Zealand just couldn't wait for the final verdict and purchased the Pentax on impulse. His review goes straight to the point: "I love my *istDS, it handles just like an SLR should with the convenience of digital image storage."

As you may be starting to suspect, in spite of the fact that I'm a decade younger than one of my favourite (and sharpest) lenses, I do tend to favour a more traditional approach to photography. Given my shooting style, anything beyond the 3 simple things a camera actually does (focus, aperture, shutter speed) is unnecessary and divorces me from a process I enjoy, a process I like to maintain full control over. Against such a backdrop, it's quite remarkable how my first stroll about town with a modern technological marvel went off as smoothly as if I'd been using the digital Pentax for years.

Sid Reichmann Polishes New Stone for the Young Ms. Hilton
(43mm, f/1.9)

Not only does the *istDS fit very nicely in one's hands (not too small, not too big), all the controls seem to be exactly where you'd want them. Ironically, what gave the game away was my instinctive flipping of thumb toward a non-existent advance lever. I even forgot the memory card one day, having proceeded out of the house under the routine, absent-minded confidence of knowing there was always film in the camera bag. Such an oversight never materialized with my first digital and the slip-up is an enormous compliment to Pentax. I wonder what the marketing department would make of this.

One minor technical complaint would be that use of the aperture ring is disabled by default and requires some hunting in the back pages of the manual to figure out where enabling is buried in the menus. Not sure why really, given that the function doesn't interfere with use of dial-controlled aperture on lenses without a ring.

Street Shooting

The intuitive, rapid handling of the *istDS, combined with its fairly compact size has made more than one of us wonder about the possibility of street/candid photography. Although a bit noisier (audible noise, not pixel noise) than a rangefinder, this DSRL isn't really much more intrusive. Theory aside, the camera was both capable and enjoyable to use in this context; if you can believe it, I even felt at ease leaving my Leica M6 at home during most of the trial. Given the high rate of misses when you're chasing (and, in my case, routinely missing) decisive moments, the zero cost of digital capture is also a huge bonus.

Winter Beach
(43mm, f/1.9)

On the downside, street photography typically works a lot better in black and white (it's difficult enough to compose under the best of circumstances without having to worry about harmonious colour interactions) and I'm still not entirely convinced of the digital aesthetic here. There is something I see in my film shots that doesn't quite transpire in a desaturated digital capture and you can see it in this comparison (click here). Cultural bias? Perhaps. For now, let's just say the jury's still out on this artistic point.

Posed Shooting in Ambient Light

One of the things I do fairly often in winter is indoor portraits and other posed shots of people illuminated by window light (there's not much choice in Canada, unless you can make a case for frozen red noses). Even with some very big windows, it means I'm often working at f/2.8 or f/2 or worse and, with such wide apertures, precise focusing becomes critical. Given the additional pressure of not making the ?model? hold poses for an unnatural amount of time, I did find things tricky with the *istDS. Feel free to jump all over me for dismissing auto-focus, but I strongly suspect the available split-prism screen (my first choice with film SLRs) would have been far preferable.

Lenses

For me, any camera system truly begins with the glass. In fact, over the past few years, I've twice purchased a lens well ahead of acquiring a body to mount it on. That said, I'm not one of those who needs the arsenal of a dozen primes just to get going. My film shooting is mainly through the incredibly cost-effective, manual-focus 50mm lens (with a trusty 90mm tele-photo for balance), so I brought no unwieldy legacy to the table here: if a new DSLR wouldn't take one of the three brands of SLR lenses I owned already, it was no big deal to buy into a fourth. In fact, the gear-fetishist in me was looking forward to the possibility of even more variety. My major concern at the outset was whether Pentax had something I'd be happy with.

Golden Hour Pears
(28mm, f/2.8)

After a bit of research and considerable help from the photo.net community, I eventually landed a Pentax 50mm f/1.4 from the photo.net classifieds, borrowed an 85mm f/1.8 from a fellow member, and Pentax Canada was kind enough to provide me with a 43mm f/1.9 Limited for this review. Until these transactions were completed, however, I needed something to play around with on the new camera (no kit zoom for this purist), so I picked up an old second-hand M 28mm f/2.8?the (1.5X) conversion/crop to 42mm put the lens within a range I'm quite comfortable with. The construction was solid and the feel of the hefty focusing ring so delightful, I immediately/dangerously forgot all about stuff like recharging batteries (see memory card anecdote in previous section). The photos I shot during these early days seemed just a touch soft but, before the other lenses arrived, I really had no proper reference and, to tell you the truth, it really wasn't anything to lose sleep over.

Family in Sandals
(43mm, f/1.9)

Shortly after the courier delivered the FA 43mm Limited (a modern, auto-focus lens), the only tossing and turning at night was from worry over how I was going to afford a new digital camera and complete set of Limited lenses?fortunately there are only 3, each with its own eccentric focal length (31, 43 and 77mm). On this occasion, you can actually believe the hype. Quite apart from being remarkably sharp, there's a special luminescence about this lens which I typically associate only with the sort of quality one invariably gets with Leica. It is not easy to make something both precise and contrasty while at the same time remaining delicate and full of nuance. On the downside, in extreme situations, the bokeh can be rather angular, though certainly not image-breaking. I would also have preferred a focusing ring that wasn't so slim, yet I appreciate most users will be operating in auto-focus mode. (Note to collectors: the lens is such a beautiful physical object, I was tempted to slip in its portrait instead of the picture above.)

Grace
(50mm, f/1.4)

A few days later, the legendary 50mm f/1.4 made it all the way from Florida and Pentax scored again. As with the 28mm f/2.8 described above, this was another old-school manual lens: well-built with purposeful handling. In terms of image rendition, if pressed to make a big deal of differences from the 43 Limited, the first impression I'd offer is that it's a bit more direct or straightforward: just as sharp, but with a pinch less sparkle and lyricism. In terms of bokeh, however, the 50mm f/1.4 is the clear winner and I'd also say it was the more ?punchy? of the pair. Ultimately, it would be nice to own both these lenses.

Three Moon Exile
(85mm, f/1.8)

I'm not quite sure why, but I didn't expect much from the 85mm f/1.8. Perhaps because the owner, who was kind enough to let me play with it for a few weeks, paid almost nothing for the lens at a camera show. This short tele-photo definitely surpassed my expectations and in many ways performed like a longer, albeit less dramatic, version of the excellent 50mm f/1.4?definitely of the same family, definitely a good thing. The picture I've posted as an example is currently my favourite of the trial period. Also, once again, outstanding construction and the f/1.8 speed is a big bonus for a lens of the length (~128mm on the *istDS). Hats off to Pentax for providing full compatibility with their vast back-catalogue of bayonet-mount glass. In hindsight, there was really no need for my initial worries.

To wrap up the section, I'll mention that, along with the 43mm Limited, Pentax Canada did also send the 18-55mm ?kit? zoom for this review. As with most inexpensive zooms, the sharpness wasn't up to the standard I am used to and I cannot recommend this lens.

Strengths and Weaknesses


Strengths

  • Ergonomically outstanding and a delight to use
  • Worth repeating: ergonomically outstanding and a delight to use
  • Viewfinder better than those from competitors
  • Sensible price
  • Option to install split-prism focusing screen
  • Compatible with both modern and old lenses
  • The resolution of a 6MP camera

Weaknesses

  • ISO 200 as minimum?I can't help wondering if ISO 100 would be even better
  • Software for RAW conversion needs improvement
  • Manual focusing can be tricky in high-pressure situations
  • Poor sharpness of kit lens
  • Sensor may not be perfectly aligned with viewfinder
  • The resolution of a 6MP camera

Photographic Odds and Ends

Click here to see the shots that didn't make it into the review.

Where to Buy

Purchasing from these vendors via these links helps support photo.net

(?) Copyright 2005 Vuk Vuksanovic

Readers' Comments


Add a comment



Vuk Vuksanovic , March 12, 2005; 10:06 A.M.

Note from reviewer: the photo titled "Sid Reichmann Polishes New Stone for the Young Ms. Hilton" was actually taken with the 43mm, f/1.9 Limited lens (NOT a 50mm, f/1.4 as specified).

Josh Liechty , March 12, 2005; 10:57 A.M.

While I'd love to be able to afford a D2 or 1D series camera (plus glass), that's just not an option right now or probably for the next four or five years. The *istDS seems like a good idea, given that I might actually be able to focus with one (the D70 viewfinder is severely lacking in my experience), and it would be compatible with my existing m42 lenses (so new lenses wouldn't be required right away).

It's not a critical matter to me, as I know it'd probably take a F6 to satisfy my AF desires (the D70 and 300D seem a bit slow IMHO), but how does an *istDS comare to the D70 in AF performance in low light (indoors in churches, etc.)?

Peter Werner , March 12, 2005; 11:15 A.M.

Vuk,
I found your review very interesting. I do not know the Pentax line of cameras, so I cannot emit any judgement on the quality of the camera and lenses.

I was however not very impressed by the quality of some of the pictures. Three of them, the Fountain Pen, the Bykes and the Winter Beach have strong artefacts that make me doubt of the quality of the results you get with this camera.

Perhaps it is just too much sharpening when resizing the pictures for publication on this web site. The effect is disturbing, though. The portrait of Grace looks extremely sharp, too. I would have preferred a softer look. Is this the result of the lens, the in-camera sharpening or your post-processing?

John Shriver , March 12, 2005; 11:40 A.M.

Looking at the *istDS comparison with Tri-X, what I see is that there isn't a lot of shadow detail in the *istDS picture. Somewhat crushed compared to the Tri-X. Yet it looks like you would have to risk crushing the highlights to get more shadow detail by changing exposure -- the devil of digital dynamic range.

Of course, perhaps they deliberately crush the shadows a bit, to hide shadow noise, or just make the images punchier. You could try playing with curves, and see if that exposes a bunch of noise, or if there is detail down there.

Vuk Vuksanovic , March 12, 2005; 11:42 A.M.

peter.

when you downsize a full-sized capture to this sort of resolution, sharpening in photoshop is required. perhaps, for your taste, i have overdone things. i can assure you there is nothing wrong with those pentax lenses and the sensor is the same you'll find in a nikon D70 (made by sony). just to have a frame of reference, peharps you could tell me if you find this shot too sharp, as well:

http://www.avzine.com/vuk/g03/BW004505-dayna.htm

Vuk Vuksanovic , March 12, 2005; 11:53 A.M.

john.

i'm smiling, but i don't want to deliver my verdict on the tri-x comparison just yet. let me add, however, that the film shot has been cropped to about 75% of original framing (to make the images roughly identical)-- i don't normally crop my pictures, but i didn't think at the time i would be making this comparison., otherwise, i would have framed/composed accordingly. if anything, it puts the film capture at a disadvantage. as for curving, i did my best to try to make the 2 shots look as similar as possible.

RJ Hicks , March 12, 2005; 12:46 P.M.

Vuk,

Great review and nice shots. The pentax line has been my choice for a slr since I got a mx camera and a 50f1.4 as my first camera. Since then I have added a pz-1p to the mix along with the 31 and 77mm limiteds. The pentax line I have thought has always been a sleeper line and geared for a different sort of camera user. The line doesn't really have a pro spec'd body, but the controls on the cameras I have used, this is especially true with the pz-1p, are first rate and put my fingers where they need to be.

I was very hesitant getting a limited lens, the first one I picked up was the 77mm limited. The cost was an issue for me, but I just went for it and I was glad I did. This lens has become one of my favorites and the shots that I get from it are much more 3d looking than from my 50f1.4 m lens. I liked it so much that later on, I ponied up for the 31mm limited. I am not ready to do the digital thing just yet, but when or if I do, I will definately have no problem buying the pentax offering rather than switching systems. It seems that pentax designers think like I do and give me everything in a slr that I could want, namely control layout and kick butt lenses.

Vuk Vuksanovic , March 12, 2005; 12:58 P.M.

here is a 100% detail of the fountain pen shot (no sharpening, only a bit of curving and jpeg compression):



100% Detail

Godfrey DiGiorgi , March 12, 2005; 01:02 P.M.


Shy Girl - Pentax *ist DS + Pentax-A SMCP 50mm f/2.8 Macro

I also was completely new to Pentax cameras and lenses when I bought the *ist DS. I already owned a rather complete Canon 10D system as well as a Konica Minolta A2 and an Olympus C8080WZ.

I agree with your review in almost all particulars. The DS almost immediately became the only camera I want to use. I've acquired a nice collection of (cheap) old Pentax lenses and a few new ones. I'm finding that, except for the DA16-45 zoom and DA14 ultrawide, I generally prefer working with the manual focus prime lenses.

One minor correction to your review is necessary: there is no focusing screen with a split image rangefinder focusing aid currently available in Pentax' lineup. The two optional screens are the "Divided Matte" ... matte screen with scribed vertical and horizontal reference lines at 1/3 intervals ... and "Scale Matte" (i think they call it) ... matte screen with a scribed reticle (like a spotting scope with azimuth and elevation markings. I bought the Divided Matte screen (model LL-60) by ordering direct from Pentax US Customer Service.

With that installed, I now have the functional equivalent of my favorite old Nikon FM2 with E2 screen. Happiness abounds.

Godfrey

~ Jon ~ , March 12, 2005; 01:06 P.M.

Nice review, Vuk. I've been curious about this oddly named camera for awhile. Much better than many technical reviews that are glorified specification lists... the first image gives a great rendition of what the lenses can do.

(P.S. one nitpick: it's "pop-culturally"--and can I have Grace's phone number??)

:D

Peter Werner , March 12, 2005; 01:11 P.M.

Vuk, thank you for your link. The first picture, Girl behind bars, is fine. The second when clicking the up arrow, Girl with black and white sweater has again strong artefacts on the black edges of the sweater. The third one, Profile to the left, has a strong artefact on her nose. IMO you are oversharpening. Perhaps I have a sharper screen (19 in LCD) than you.

Reinhard Müller , March 12, 2005; 01:24 P.M.

Peter, these are blocking artefacts from compression and have nothing to do with sharpening. Oversharpening would lead to halos. These artefacts also have nothing to do with the camera's picture quality. It's just due to strong compression to reduce the file size for the web.

Reinhard Müller , March 12, 2005; 01:55 P.M.


you are talking about this, aren't you, Peter? I have changed contrast to make it more visible.

Peter Werner , March 12, 2005; 02:57 P.M.


Screen capture of Jess in Web browser

Vuk, Reinhard,

What is disturbing to me might be browser dependent. When I downloaded the picture and opened it in PaintShop Pro, the artefacts had disappeared.

I made a screen capture of the picture as seen in the web browser for you to see the problem. The fountain pen detail without sharpening OTOH looks great.
Peter

John Schroeder , March 12, 2005; 06:43 P.M.

You can't judge the camera by these images. They have been resampled and compressed. Not to mention that your monitor setting will have an effect on what you see. I'm using a laptop and everything looks like crud. That must mean everyone is taking bad pictures right! These images ARE a good approximation for quality of the photographer first, the lens second, and then the camera. What I see is an Excellent photographer using very good lenses with a good camera. I will also assume, based on the quality of his work, that his opinion is worth listening to.

Peter Werner , March 13, 2005; 12:58 A.M.

That must mean everyone is taking bad pictures right! No, other pictures are fine, and so is the 100% fountain pen. If I mention these problems, it is because there is a big difference in quality, as far as artifacts are concerned, between the pictures I mentioned and most other pictures I see on photo-net. I am not mentioning this issue to diminish Vuk, but I hoped to help him with a problem he might not be aware of.

What I see is an Excellent photographer using very good lenses with a good camera. I agree to the excellent photographer, but the pictures I see do not convey the impression of good lenses and a good camera. There is a problem with these pictures and it cannot be talked away.

I will also assume, based on the quality of his work, that his opinion is worth listening to. I can agree to that. I may believe his words, but if you post pictures to demonstrate a point, the pictures should correspond to what you are saying, or you lose credibility. We should not judge on the base of authority.

Sorry Vuk, I do not want to criticize you, but I think you should look at why the pictures you posted both in this review and on your web site have so many and strong artifacts. Such artifacts cannot be seen on the great majority of other pictures posted on photo net or most other photo sites. I am now convinced it has something to do with post-processing, perhaps not choosing the best resolution settings when re-sizing for the web. I do not know, but I think it is worth your studying the question. Many of your pictures do not look as good as they should when seen in a web browser. They look fine when downloaded and viewed in PS or PSP. Something similar had happened to me. In my case it was excessive sharpening, in your case it may be something different.

Peter Werner , March 13, 2005; 01:35 A.M.

Vuk,
Perhaps this might help: the artifacts mostly appear in B/W pictures or when there is a high contrast, like in the first fountain pen.

The color pictures (Three Moon Exile, Grace, Golden Hour Pears, Sid Reichmann Polishes New Stone for the Young Ms. Hilton, Yamon Drion: Urban Digital Colour Test Chart) are free of visible artefacts. But the Family in Sandals bikes picture has visible artifacts, for instance on the number plates or the frame around the rear light of the red bike.

Graham Wood , March 13, 2005; 03:56 A.M.

Vuk, you may be interested to know that the latest photoshop raw plugin (free download from the adobe site) supports the istDS. It does not say that support is present - only the istD is listed but it seems to work fine.

Zibadun -- , March 13, 2005; 12:13 P.M.

Great review Vuk! Puts some other "scintific" reviews on this site to shame. Peter, the pictures look just fine and nothing like you've posted, even blown (I do have a sharp 19" LCD screen). You've got some browser/graphics card issues so don't blame it on the reviewer.

Tamas Szoboti , March 13, 2005; 03:48 P.M.

Whitout a tripod, using a crappy sigma 28-105, the worst i ever used!!! Just started using a Pentax 28-105 totaly different story, sharp fast, great contrast and colors after the first shot. http://www.photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=3166781&size=lg More interesting is this: http://www.pbase.com/sinnersolo See the lrg and istDs folders, the same cheap sigma. Plan to post some picture with the new lens, but most pictures are of my sons. Well... lets post some

Tamas

Image Attachment: IMGP4761_resize.jpg

Vuk Vuksanovic , March 13, 2005; 08:28 P.M.

peter.

here is what the blow-up should look like...



it seems that whatever you're using/doing somehow attempts to smooth out or interpolate pixels--these should actually be very obvious when you go to 250% of original JPEG.

Chris Chow , March 13, 2005; 10:08 P.M.

Apart from the older Pentax lenses and the "Limited" lenses that were mentioned above, the current Pentax autofocus (FA) lenses are also excellent, and many of them inexpensive, too.

The Pentax digital SLR option is quite viable.

Paul Stenquist , March 14, 2005; 01:31 P.M.

I am a longtime Pentax user. I own two *istD cameras and more than a dozen lenses. Although I've shot almost all primes in the past, I recently purchased the new Pentax DA 16-45/4 zoom. It's a very fine lens with sharpness and color quality rivalling most primes. Primes you might watch for include the SMC Pentax 85/1.8 (far superior to the M 85/2), the SMC Pentax 135/2.5 (NOT the Takumar version), and the SMC Petnax 35/3.5 or the Petnax M 35/2. These are all relative bargains compared to some of the later Petnax lenses. However, among the late model autofocus lenses, there are some very good yet quite affordable primes as well. Among these, I'd count the FA 50/1.4 and the FA 35/2. If you need big glass, you might look at the Pentax-A 400/5.6. At a used price of around $450, it's a lot of lens.

Vuk Vuksanovic , March 15, 2005; 12:12 A.M.

paul.

the 85mm i shot with was actually an f/1.8 and i made a mistake in the review which i'm waiting for photonet staff to correct.

hey, it's only 0.2 difference ;-)

Jorgen Udvang , March 15, 2005; 02:29 A.M.

With all the enthusiastic comments in and after this review, I went down to the local camera store to have a look. Having borrowed all the dSLRs I could find from friends etc., I have always ended up with questions like "why on earth did they do that".

What have so far kept me from investigating the istds further have been the negative comments that I've read about the menus. Now, after actually holding the camera and taking a number of test shots, there are no more fears. Even if the menus may still be complicated, the physical ergonomics of the camera work so well that I just started shooting. The controls were exactly where my fingers expected them to be, and even with the small size, there was enough space for my hand to hold the camera steady.

The solid feel of the camera also adds to the experience. It was an interestig contrast to the EOS 300D which is probably a good camera too, but which all the time has given me a feeling of fighting against me rather than helping me making good photos.

It has been mentioned thousands of times already, but it can't be repeated often enough: being able to pop into the nearest gasoline station to buy emergency batteries, and in this case without having to buy an extra battery grip, is a very nice bonus. Whatever happens with battery life, there are situations where you risk running out of steam (or you simply forget the charger), and I can't really see why we should accept solutions that are mostly there to make us spend more money, having to invest in different batteries for different cameras.

It's the first time with any digital camera that I've had the reassuring feeling of being able to instantly take photos of reasonable quality with a camera I haven't even touched before. Now, I just need to rob a small bank, since unfortunately, the lenses that I would like to buy ads up to much more than the price of the camera itself. I suppose there is no such thing as an OM to Pentax converter.

L-Plate Driver , March 15, 2005; 08:00 A.M.

Despite its popularity, the 28mm f2.8 is a very average lens indeed - Pentax's glassware should not be judged by this lens...

Far superior are the M 28mm f3.5 and K 28mm f3.5, particularly the latter.

Personally, I slightly prefer the 50mm f1.7 - less intrusive bokeh wide-open, perhaps sharper, definitely lighter and cheaper but otherwise very similar.

Rene Braun , March 15, 2005; 08:21 A.M.

Thank you for the review. Nice shots and reasoning. I enjoyed it.

Lance Blackburn , March 16, 2005; 07:45 P.M.

-- Jorgen Udvang, March 15, 2005

You wrote: "It has been mentioned thousands of times already, but it can't be repeated often enough: being able to pop into the nearest gasoline station to buy emergency batteries, and in this case without having to buy an extra battery grip, is a very nice bonus. Whatever happens with battery life, there are situations where you risk running out of steam (or you simply forget the charger), and I can't really see why we should accept solutions that are mostly there to make us spend more money, having to invest in different batteries for different cameras."

Having the benefit of being able to use AA's is indeed a bonus but another benefit to the batteries you can use for the *ist DS(and the *ist D) are the AA lithium's. These are quite a bit cheaper than the CR-V3 lithiums and are super light in comparison to the lead weight rechargeable AA NiMH's. The AA lithiums also have a very long life, in the order of about 700+ shots in the D or DS.

The weight of the battery is often overlooked, but the advantage of the AA lithium over the rechargeable AA NiMH is quite sustantial.

Tamas Szoboti , March 17, 2005; 02:18 A.M.

About battery life: I can take 1200+ shots with my Ansmann2400mAh when charging on a good chrger. But this is with using an external flash!

Tamas

Dean G , March 18, 2005; 11:37 A.M.

Thanks for the review Vuk, very helpful. This is a camera I've been considering and your fine use of it and explaination of your experiences with it settle the issue. The artifacting discussion within these follow up comments is less helpful, as that kind of hair splitting is seldom relevant to prints and only survives by virtue of the www. I trust your prints are satisfactory? It's the very "shoot from the hip" nature of your review that gives it more value to me than the various measurebator sites that abound.

Thomas Janik , March 19, 2005; 08:22 P.M.

Vuk:

Thank you for your enlightening and entertaining review of the DS. It was refreshing to read your comments, focused on the photographer-camera interaction and the ultimate purpose - the print. I am a long time Pentax user (LX, 645, 67) and the ergonomics of the cameras suit me well. Yet I was hesitant to try the DS and considered buying a Canon DSLR (primarily for the IS feature) despite my collection of Pentax lenses. Your review reminded me of why I have been happy with Pentax cameras. My DS is on the way, to be followed by a 77mm limited.

W J Gibson , March 28, 2005; 05:20 P.M.

I had a look through the *ist DS today. I will be waiting for another generation of DSLR viewfinder development. The ergonomics aside from the viewfinder were fine.

Robert Goldstein , March 29, 2005; 05:48 P.M.

So, Vuk, how much has evaluating the *ist changed your own shooting practice? Was it merely a lark, or are you still using the DSLR in addition to your film cameras?

ric douglas , March 29, 2005; 08:42 P.M.

Thanks for the great review.

I have been using Pentax equipment for 20+ years, and it is always great to see or hear about someone else who has had a positive experience. I am always baffled at blind brand loyalty, which in the case of photographic equipment, is largely based on how well the marketing department does its job. Yes, there are a bunch of good cameras out there, find one that works for you and use it to take the best photos you can. I love peoples reactions when they see a shot of mine they like, only to find it was taken with a Pentax (gasp, the horror).

I waited to buy the Pentax digital offering for one reason - external flash exposure compensation control. The ist-Ds has it, the ist-D does not. I first started using this on my PZ1-p and cannot shoot comfortably without it. As usual, Pentax does not tell you the camera offers this, and I had to abuse my freindly Pentax rep to test his camera to find out it did this.

Thanks for the information about the latest lenses. I have had great difficulty stepping away from my Pentax 50mm and my 135mm, it will be good to add these newer lenses to my collention.

Scott Eaton , April 17, 2005; 12:59 P.M.

While I appreciate Vuk's enthusiastic and detailed review, I don't quite understand what the big 'event' is here. The Pentax *stDS got humbled by a Rebel 300D on dPreview in terms of image quality, and there's nothing I see posted here that's not typical of dSLR capture in good hands.

I also picked up handled this camera at a local camera shop, and while I liked it's ergonomics, I didn't find it handled much better than my 10D. The Pentax does not realistically solve the problem sub 35mm frame dSLR's have in terms of awkward viewfinders (although it improves on them slightly), and I prefer to wait for a genuine revolution before spending any more money on dSLR's.

Regretfully, I'm seeing a good bit of 'alternative equipment worship' in place here. Basically this is the belief that any lens that isn't a main stream Nikon or Canon is capable of 'magical performance', and both Pentax and Olympus users dispense with this quite heavily. Having used fixed Pentax glass in the past on film based SLR's I didn't find anything in the fixed 28mm - 180mm range that out classed my Canon 50mm 1.4 or Nikon 85mm experience. As a mechanism to migrate Pentax film SLR users to digital, you'll basically find your primes work well and zooms suck. Welcome to the club, but please save us these tangents that tell us what we already know because the emphasis should be on using the camera and producing good images with it and not endless discussion about average lenses.

Vijay Ramakrishnan , April 18, 2005; 12:30 A.M.

I've used the Pentax *ist DS for about a week now, and I've been using the Canon Digital Rebel and a couple of Canon lenses for the past 1.5 years. I've posted a rather lenghy set of observations at:

http://blog.360.yahoo.com/blog-NQgJh8YnaLT7DJ3V_A--?p=3

Brett Dikeman , April 18, 2005; 10:56 A.M.

Lenses that have luminescence, sparkle, lyricism...and are "punchy"? What is this, an 'audiophile' review?

Funny. He wouldn't have had to tell me he was a Leica user in the article; it's quite obvious.

Dean G , April 20, 2005; 12:26 P.M.

While recently caught up in a wave of enthusiasm over the new small and light DSLRs, particularly this *ist DS, as evidenced by my comment above, repeatedly when it actually comes down to abandoning my 10D for one, I can't do it. Yes, I continually whine about the size and the weight of the 10D, but truthfully I have a nagging suspicion that those "millstones" are exactly what I'd miss were I to downsize. Let's face it: the 10D is "built". And I occasionally remind myself that more than a couple of my favorite photographers hauled around viewcameras (some even for street). Got keep things in perspective with photography ;)

These old lenses? I don't know. ..I have 2 very modest primes for the Canon, a 28mm f/2.8, and the venerable and cheap 50mm f/1.8. I'm probably not sophisticated enough of a lens enthusiast to really appreciate the "magical" qualities of some of the lenses vuk speaks of, but I find I simply love my $70.00 50mm (despite having to stand at an 80mm distance with my 10D) , and my 28mm gives me a normal view that looks just fine to my eye. Maybe in the future I'll upgrade to a 50mm f/1.4 and something for a faster normal. But that's about it.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I need to spend less time thinking about cameras and more time thinking about, and taking pictures. There's enough new digital gear constantly coming out that it could permanently distract one from photography.

That said I still think it's great of Vuk to take the time to give us his impressions of this DSLR. It is a valuable viewpoint.

Aamer Khan , April 20, 2005; 10:09 P.M.

will my pentax k-mount lens that came with my pentax MX still work on this camera? is the shutter speed it set by going through the menu on the LCD when shooting manual? if so, is that an annoying aspect of the camera?

thanks!

-almuwahhid@gmail.com

Ira Crummey , April 25, 2005; 12:23 P.M.

I finally got to use a *istDS (got to hate that name), it is truly a joy. Compared to the Digital Rebel it has a much more substantial feel (despite the lower weight). Yes it does indeed work with old K-mount lenses, however be warned that the camera now acts more like an aperture priority stop-down automatic (like some of the old Chinons) than a modern DSLR. The flexibility to use so many old quality lenses is a big plus, and if you want all of the modern bells and whistles just use the AF lenses. No-one (Nikon included) offers the degree of backward compatability that Pentax does. I believe it was Mike Johnston who referred to it as the digital K1000.

To the pixel peepers out there, this camera produces great pictures which make great prints, just as ALL DSLRs do. The Canon Digital Rebel images may have a slight advantage, especially viewed 100% on a monitor but the difference is minimal, the new XT may sport 8MP but this is only of concern if you regularly produce very large prints.

The point is that this camera is not better than the others, it just has a different appeal. I have a substantial selection of K-mount lenses and I like the idea of having one battery type (AA NiMH) for all of my digital gear, so it may be right for me but may not be the best choice for a beginning photographer who has no lenses at the present.

Ira

Matt Pearson , May 10, 2005; 03:49 P.M.


8MP vs 6.1MP

Re: Very Large Prints.

The difference between a 6.1MP and an 8MP is going to be pretty insignificant on a very large print... I just threw something together to show the difference-- if it lets me attach it.

Steven Endres , May 16, 2005; 06:33 P.M.

On the *istDS vs. Leica M6 comparison, how did you perform the grayscale conversion? Did you use the generic Image->Mode->Grayscale or something with channel mixer or image calculation? Normally the mode conversion looks quite flat, at least in my images, but in your example the conversion seems to have increased contrast over the film image.

Collin Brendemuehl , May 17, 2005; 04:07 P.M.


I picked up my DS last week. Strengths: 1. Solid feel. 2. Pretty good user interface. 3. Uses my old lenses. All of them. The K30/2.8 and FA50/1.4 are superb w/ digital. 4. As I understand it, the hot shoe will handle high sync voltages of older flashes. I use Sunpak 611 units and they'll be fine here. Supports analog flashes for TTL (AF200T, AF280T, AF400T).

Weaknesses 1. Even "A" lens focal length info is not picked up for RAW data inclusion. 2. Difficult to do internal flash with older lenses. (Using an external flash is no problem @ all.)

Collin

Petre Petrov , May 22, 2005; 02:52 P.M.

This is a response to Scott Eaton's comments. Scott, you operate on faulty logic combined with insidious anachronism. You take for granted that Canon and Nikon optics are canonical (pun intended), and then you ask why is anybody looking for "alternatives" like Pentax and Olympus. When Pentax first came up with lenses like 50/1.4, 85/1.4, and 135/2.5 their system was just as popular and orthodox as Canon and Nikon. These lenses have never been "alternatives" to anything. Each of them was and remains at the top of their class. I am not claiming that they are alone at the top, but they are certainly not outdone by anything Canon or Nikon have to offer. The Limited series builds on a very long and highly reputable tradition. I guess I can simply reverse Scott's statement and end up with an equally believable proposition: "In the 28-180mm range, nothing from the two -ONs can outclass the Pentax primes." Let's see:

31 Limited

43 Limited or 50/1.4 (as you like it)

77 Limited or 85/1.4 (take your pick)

100mm FA Macro

135/2.5

200/2.8 ED or 200/4 ED Macro (to boot)

How is this an "alternative" line?

Vuk Vuksanovic , May 27, 2005; 12:08 A.M.

petre.

i have it on good authority that scott eaton is a photonet "cyber-installation" by a radical/neocon student element of the rochester institute of technology.

Thomas Janik , May 27, 2005; 11:16 P.M.

Petre:

You left out a few lenses(I realize these lenses are outside your specified range, but in my enthusiasm, I want to mention them), e.g., the 300 M* F4 or 300mm F* F4.5 or, for that matter, the 67 300mm-M* F4 ED IF (which can be used on the *istDS, along with all the 67 and 645 lenses), etc., etc.

Vuk: I always suspected that Scott Eaton and Ken Rockwell are the same person.

Wayne Young , June 08, 2005; 04:08 A.M.

Thanks Vuk for the review. It prompted me to go out and investigate this camera for myself.

Unfortunately, my experience was somewhat disappointing. Having read your review and also Mike Johnston's "The K1000 of Digital SLRs", I was all fired-up to lay my money down and buy one. Now - having played around with one for a couple of hours - I'm not so sure.

I was under the mis-apprehension that I would be able to use my old SMC-M series lenses on the *istDS in exactly the same way I used to use them on my ancient K1000. This is not the case. Since - in my opinion - Pentax blundered by not including the aperture ring mechanical linkage, they have effectively crippled the use of these old lenses. That one part would have allowed me to make a near-seamless transition to the digital SLR world (I own compact digital camera's for taking "snaps"). See the two questions I posted on the Pentax Forum.

I know the limitations can be "worked around" and Pentax are under no obligation to keep me happy (except to stop me buying Canon or Nikon), but they came so close! I don't want to buy a $800 camera and be "working around" the camera every time I use it. The camera should be transparent.

In my opinion, this is definitely NOT the "K1000 of Digital SLRs" (sorry Mike).

Vuk Vuksanovic , June 08, 2005; 11:43 P.M.

wayne.

as i noted in the review, the functionality you are looking for requires changing a setting hidden in the layers of menus! the lenses will work just as they would on a K1000.

Wayne Young , June 09, 2005; 02:33 A.M.

Hi Vuk. You are talking about the Custom menu, "Using Aperture Ring - Permitted" setting, right ? This does not make an M lens behave like it would on a K1000. For a start - there is no continuous metering available, you must press another button to get a momentary stop-down meter reading. This is very, very annoying. My fingers are busy enough without having to remember to press a button, and I don't want the inconvenience of the viewfinder going almost completely black when the aperture is set to something like f22. In my K1000 I could "sense" what that little needle was doing all the time. I just want to "fiddle" with 3 things: Focus, aperture and shutter speed. In that order of importance. I don't want to press any more buttons, or select some other mode or do anything other than adjust those 3 things. Is that really too much to ask for ?

This is a direct quote from the manual, p.179 Notes on [Using Aperture Ring]

Lens used = All lenses Capture mode = M (manual) Restriction : "Pictures can be taken with the set aperture value and shutter speed. In the viewfinder, [F--] appears for the aperture indicator. When depth of field is checked (Preview), AE Metering is switched on. Exposure check is possible."

This says to me that even with the brand-spanking-new kit lens that comes with the camera - there will be *LESS* functionality than I have with my 25 year old K1000. That's simply not acceptable.

Being the electronics geek that I am, I'm half tempted to buy it, rip the CCD out of the damn thing, throw the camera away and stick the CCD in my old K1000. At least that way I wouldn't have all this damn "technology" getting in the way. Shouldn't take more than a few hours with a soldering iron ....

Vuk Vuksanovic , June 09, 2005; 09:45 A.M.

wayne.

i use an incident light meter, so this wasn't an issue.

William Shotts , June 10, 2005; 07:23 P.M.

Hi Wayne,

I often use M lenses with my DS. I previously owned an MX and I have a number of A series and pre-A (SMC-M) series lenses in addition to the 16-45mm DA lens I purchased with the camera.

I don't exactly understand your concern. On a K-1000 the meter is always on (which is unlike the MX where the meter is off until you depress the shutter release half-way), so you would usually set the shutter speed and then adjust the aperture to center up the meter. On the DS, in manual mode, you set the aperture and when you are ready to shoot, you depress the AE-Lock button which both takes the meter reading and sets the shutter speed. So on the K-1000, you compose, focus, adjust the aperture, shoot. On the DS, you compose, focus, press the AE-Lock button, shoot. I don't see that being very different.

Wayne Young , June 11, 2005; 04:30 A.M.

Hi William

There is much more detail on the way I work in the two threads in this subject in the Pentax forum. But in brief: I generally don't take just one meter reading - I use the meter a little like a poor-man's spot meter - and I hardly ever use the camera's recommended value. Since the 3 main controls on a K1000 are controlled by seperate parts of my body, I can almost do all 3 at the same time (with the possible exception of focus and aperture - but it can be done). Also - I don't want the viewfinder changing brightness every time I take a meter reading. That will definitely get in the way of composing the shot. The only distraction I want in the viewfinder is an indication of some kind of meter reading (continuous needle, or low-correct-high).

You know - maybe it's because I'm knocking at the door of the age where life (alegedly) begins that I'm old enough to remember cameras that had no auto anything. They were simple. The would still operate with the battery removed. There were only 3 controls and the sutter release and that was it. No menus, no programs, no multi-zone metering, nothing. Just you and the camera. That's what I want from a digital SLR - same feel as my old K1000, just a change in medium. Maybe younger people put up with having to jump through hoops to do what they have to because they've never known any different. Less is more :-)

Dean G , June 22, 2005; 11:01 A.M.

Despite my lenthy rationalization to the contrary (posted above somewhere), I've once again contradicted myself (a luxury of mine) and sold the 10D and lenses I had. I replaced the Canon with an *ist DS and Pentax SMC F 50mm f/1.4 and SMC F 28mm f/2.8. After 2 weeks free of the 10D, I'm finding myself bringing the DS with me everywhere as opposed to bringing the 10D almost nowhere. Now, the 28mm is often in a pocket and the 50mm is my favorite of the two and usually mounted. Perhaps the *ist DS is not big news, but I for one am much happier with the overall useability, the viewfinder, the user interface, the lenses. And the quality of images I'm getting are more appealing to me than the 10D. I never liked using the 10D, as competent a camera as it may be, and for an amateur like myself that's very important. So yet another thanks to people like Vuk for encouraging the switch.

Alec Kinnear , September 04, 2005; 12:08 A.M.

Hello Norm,

To lock focus for any number of exposures, just slip the manual/auto focus slider to manual and the focus will be locked where it is. The slider is underneath the lens on the left hand side and easily accessible with one of the already free fingers of the left hand. The left is mainly used to support the camera so it is no hardship to get it to double duty.

I agree about the rest of your points. But none of them are show stoppers. I also had a Canon 350D and was very unhappy with it. Sometimes the focus was on, sometimes it wasn't. Impossible to tell through the viewfinder. With the *st DS, you have no one to blame except yourself if your pictures are not focused (I am shooting mainly manual lenses).

Cheers,

Alec

Bruce Luxton , September 07, 2005; 04:05 P.M.

Zoom Lens

Excellent review that encouraged me to finally go and get a digital SLR. I've only had my *ist DS a few weeks but I'm generally very impressed.

I'd be keen to hear what zoom lenses people have been using with this camera. I know a prime is always sharper but lets face it, a lot of people are going to be using this camera with zooms.

I'm no expert on this, but I did a simple lens test using all my current lenses and this is what I found:

Lenses:

Pentax 28 f2.8 Pentax 55 f1.8 Pentax 18-55 DA 'kit lens' Pentax 28-105 FA f3.2/4.5 Sigma 70-200 f2.8 EX

The kit lens is not bad at the wide angle end, but becomes quite poor at the tele end, particularly with larger apertures. It is however light and quite well built for a kit lens.

The 28-105 works pretty well, all the tests shots acceptable (to me), and I can't see any reason to use the 28 prime instead (apart from possibly size). This lens has a reputation as a bit of a bargain considering it's modest cost, good performance and light weight.

The 55 f1.8 gave excellent results.

The Sigma also predictably gave excellent results.

What this leaves me thinking is at some point I'd like to upgrade the kit lens. Has anyone got any views or comparisons between the Pentax 16-45 and the new Sigma EX 16-50 f2.8 (I think that's the model). I'd be interested to hear your views.

cheers

Bruce

Daniel Lakeland , September 08, 2005; 08:36 P.M.

Has anyone compared the *ist DS (or DS2??) with the natural color settings vs a canon or nikon? I suspect that the dpreview article which shows up serious problems with JPEG color rendition is not very telling about what the camera is really capable of because they are using the consumer level "bright" color setting. On the other hand, it would be useful to know whether the Pentax really does have problems even at normal setting.

Mike H , September 15, 2005; 09:52 P.M.

I have two Pentax-M lenses. When I set it to aperture priority, the aperture ring will not work. It will be locked at the most wide open aperture regardless of what I set it to. It works fine in manual mode, however. I have enabled to aperture ring to work in the menu. Is my camera defective or does yours work fine? I called Pentax support, and the representative said that it was not supposed to do that and my camera is defective. I just want to confirm with other *ist DS users.

Tse-Sung Wu , September 25, 2005; 03:39 P.M.

I have two Pentax-M lenses. When I set it to aperture priority, the aperture ring will not work. It will be locked at the most wide open aperture regardless of what I set it to. It works fine in manual mode, however. I have enabled to aperture ring to work in the menu. Is my camera defective or does yours work fine? I called Pentax support, and the representative said that it was not supposed to do that and my camera is defective. I just want to confirm with other *ist DS users.

I don't think M lens can be used in any mode other than M. If you think about it, there's no connection between the lens and the body (other than the mechanical lever for stopping down), to tell the body what the aperture setting is. Only the FA and later lenses, I believe, have the electrical contacts that allow the body to read what the lens aperture is. So you have to stop down (hitting the AE-L button while in M) to get an actual meter reading.

Tse-Sung Wu , September 25, 2005; 03:49 P.M.

So far I've been quite pleased with this camera. I don't have lots of experience with the D70 or Digital Rebel, but I do know it's much smaller than these, and the viewfinder is much brighter than the Rebel's. 'Course, looking into an MX or any film SLR- the VF will blow you away. I've found the kit lens (18-55) to be pretty crappy- low contrast, not terribly sharp. I can tell even on smallish web images. What's wonderful of course is that all your old Pentax lenses work wonderfully.

Sitka, AK, 70-210mm/f4A, at 210mm [315mm equiv], exposure unrecorded

Gordito Boddington , October 21, 2005; 07:56 P.M.

I shoot most of the images i post on my photoblog with *istDS, it isn't the most amazing camera on earth but it was a good value and does what I need it to. Gordon

Rui Nogueira , January 04, 2006; 11:33 A.M.

I own a *ist Ds (what a stupid name for a model)and I can assure you that's a very good DSLR. Having tried a Nikon D70 I choose the Pentax because his viewfinder. And I do not regret it. The 18-55 DA standard zoom isn't quite good and I shot mainly with a Sigma EX 24-70 F2.8 DG, a much better lens. Pitty 24mm is equivalent of only 36mm in the Ds. But at 70mm (105mm, in fact) what a portrait lens! Happy New Year from a newbie from Portugal

Ira Crummey , January 09, 2006; 08:38 P.M.

I received a Pentax *istDL as a Christmas gift, I am totally impressed with the ease with which it handles the old K mount lenses. No other camera maker has given so much backward compatibility (Nikon users are close, except of course you cannot use the meter with any manual focus lenses and there is the little issue that older lenses may not work at all). I believe Pentax has captured something they had with the old K1000, a camera which is not best at anything, but is not worst at anything either, and all for one of the lowest prices in this market.

Even the use of AA batteries and SD cards shows a certain economy that appeals to the low buck amateur, the type who see the title "amateur" as a complement and who do not necessarily feel the need to have the "trendy" brands. These are the people who bought Pentax, Minolta and even Ricoh cameras back in the SLR's heyday of the late 70s, early 80s.

Rui Nogueira , January 13, 2006; 04:54 P.M.

In fact I choose the Pentax *ist DS after having seriously consider first a Nikon D100 and then the D70. Why? Because I own several nikkor AI and AIS prime lenses which I consider equal to none. Unfortunately Nikon doesn't care for their old customers and the D70 doesn't meter at all with those manual focus lenses. But before I had switch to Nikon I have owned several Pentaxes - KM, ME and, above all, a MX which is the very best of them all. Then, in the 80's I bought a FM, then a FE2 and then 2 auto focus bodies - F601 and F801 and I went nikon all the way. But luckly I did kept 3 Pentax lenses with me and my beloved MX. Digital came in and Nikon was my first choice. The D100 was horrendous expensive and the D70 I hold and tried had the worst viewfinder I ever saw in a SLR and my old nikkors didn't work with that body. So I look at Pentax and - bingo! Good viewfinder and my old K and KA lenses were ok. I was sold. Nowdays I understand Pentax is just an outsider but who cares? I'm not a pro, I don't shoot sports and I don't need 8 fps and ultra sonic lenses. I have bought 2 Sigma zooms I think the more adequate for the DS - 24-70mm EX DG f2.8 and 15-30mm EX DG 3.5-4.5. Big and heavy lenses but top quality. And cheap too. At Ebay, brand new, I paid about USD$250 for each. Much, much better than the zoom that came in the kit. So, why not Pentax?

Mike H , January 31, 2006; 06:17 A.M.

I've been using the Pentax *ist DS for nearly half a year now, and I just completely love it. I can get absolutely top notch lenses for next to nothing on ebay as this camera can use any lens from the past 40 years!! And the old M42 Takumar lenses are hard to beat, even with today's modern lens.

Mike H , January 31, 2006; 06:18 A.M.

The previous picture was taken with a SMC Takumar 50mm F/1.4

Andre Purdy , April 10, 2006; 10:14 P.M.

The DS will shoot 2.7 fps for up to 5 RAW or up to 8 large, fine jpegs before the buffer fills up. This isn't up to the machine gun speeds of some of the more expensive alternatives but the camera never really feels slow, at least not to me. Of course if you're shooting a lot of action photography you may feel otherwise. The thing to do is to go and try the thing out. You'll probably know right away if the buffer will be an issue for you.

As an aside, you'll probably get a better response asking this sort of question in an active forum like this one.

Hope that helps!

George D. Gianni , April 14, 2006; 07:18 A.M.

A great review and very nice images. Thanks, Vuk!

After three point'n'shoot digicams and a Canon 10D, which were somehow below my expectations, I bought the *istDS 12 months ago. The camera is a pleasure to use and has two significant advantages:
1. It is fully compatible with my manual prime lenses, measuring and exposing accurately, and
2. It has a great viewfinder.

Mick Evans , May 14, 2006; 11:48 A.M.

Thanks for the interesting review Vuk. I'm in the market for am *IST DL/DS and will more than likley have sufficient funds to make my purchase of one in the next couple of months.

Personally, i'm not one for going for the flashy brand names and changing allegiances like I change my socks. I like to be able to get to know my kit inside out and live with it's little quirks (they all have them don't they?). I've been a Ricoh/Pentax user for many years (since 1992) and have a reasonable collection of Pentax-SMC M & A series lenses. Whilst the ability to use these older lenses is not a top priority for me it is nice to think that these lenses will continue to be used. Having read a number of reviews on the 'net I don't feel that there is a great deal of difference at this price point. It seems that the main differences is in the availibility of lenses?

Much of what I shoot is shipping related and as such I need a wide variety of focal lengths that include wide-angle for close-in dock shots and some long-telephoto's >300mm and sometimes beyond to be able to capture them out at sea.

How are the Pentax SMC range of lenses these days? I understand that the 18-55mm kit lens is less than brilliant but what about the others? I have been considering lenses from 3rd party manufacturers such as the Tamrom and Sigma range of lenses over the Pentax ones. I'll almost certainly be going for the Sigma 12-24, and the Pentax 40mm 2.8 DA seems like a good buy. As yet the others are undecided. I will certainly need to be able cover the 135 equalivent 28-300mm. Is it a folly to go with a superzoom for this range to minimize the number of times I need to swap lenses?

Any thoughts?

Robert Zuch , May 23, 2006; 11:42 P.M.

I am very pleased with the Pentax DA 16-45 mm lens as my main workhorse. I bought the Pentax DS two months ago primarily after reading Vuk's review and cannot complain - it is a pleasure to use apart from some quirks.

Robert Zuch

Image Attachment: deszcz 1.jpg

Leo Gottfried , June 11, 2006; 11:42 P.M.

I do own a small arsenal of Pentax K glass - Both prime, zooms and "off-brand" and would like to have a digital body to use them. The bigest concern I have is the ability of a 6 megapixel smaller cmos camera to produce the 18" x 24" prints like the ones I make from my 35mm negatives. I'd like so have the chance of make a trial enlargement form a pentax SLR shot.... has somebodi done so? Are you happy with the results? If Pentax would offer a full frame body with a 11 megapixel full 35mm frame cmos under $1,500 I'd buy it ASAP... but ther is not anything like this in sight...

Jerry Jackson , July 02, 2006; 09:43 A.M.

If you either know how to interpolate your images or send your images to a good pro lab then you can EASILY create 18" x 24" prints that are superior to the same size prints from 35mm negatives and that rival medium format.

I have a number of 16" x 20" prints in my studio that came from 6 megapixel cameras that look better than any 16" x 20" print from my 35mm days and as good as any 16" x 20" print from my medium format negatives.

As for a higher megapixel DSLR for under $1,500 ... Pentax is going to announce a new DSLR (one they already previewed at PMA this year) with a higher megapixel count, better performance, and a price tag under $1,000.

ms gill , August 07, 2006; 02:54 A.M.

Impressive review/comments from the learned community. Long time user of Pentax , collection of few gears , lenses and still in the world of film. After reading this review IMHO my colleagues left/oversight OR this body is not having the function of ?Snap in focus? as is in film AF bodies like PZ1/MZ5/N which was quite helpful for those who are having K/SMC M lenses and aging eyes. Is Snap in focus facility is available in this gear or recently introduced K100D/110D. Comments will be appreciated.

sebastian Sebastian , January 19, 2007; 02:36 P.M.

It is a good Digital SLR camera with less complaints and best value for the money. Read more http://www.mycameraworld.blogspot.com

sebastian Sebastian , January 19, 2007; 02:38 P.M.

http://www.mycameraworld.blogspot.com

It is a good Digital SLR camera with less complaints and best value for the money.

.comRead more http://www.mycameraworld.blogspot

Leo Gottfried , January 25, 2007; 06:18 P.M.

Pentax were always great cameras - their worst side is their warranty service - my six weeks old DL was sent for warranty repair and rhey do not have the parts. Offered to finish the repair in six weeks, in the best case i'll be without my camera for 2 months. If you choose Pentax, be ready to this kind of service

sebastian Sebastian , January 26, 2007; 04:16 P.M.

IT is a very good camera according to experience.

Haley N. , March 11, 2007; 06:05 P.M.

I plan to get a Pentax K10D next month (slightly improved version of the K100D)

The price you listed...$1,799 I believe it was is nowhere NEAR what Ive seen, the camera is around $600 MSRP. I might add, adding 6mp as a weakness is very incorrect from what I have seen of this camera, the image quality with a strong lens even in comparison with the K10D is almost identical and hardly anyone is going to be printing poster sized pictures, therefore 6mp is plenty. More MP is not always better, as research states. And especially not for most people who will be using this camera.

All and all though a decent review, great camera.

Charles Syphrett , April 22, 2007; 09:40 P.M.

I just bought a 1stDS camera. I think my camera is broke or it doesn't have the feature I need. I simply wanted the LCD to display the image I am creating before I take the pic. The LCD will not stay on. Does your 1stDS LCD stay on to see the image? Thanks In Advance

Pete Biggs , May 01, 2007; 10:42 P.M.

Charles, it's not possible for the LCD to display the image before you take the picture because the mirror is in the way of the sensor. This is true for nearly all digital SLRs.

Olympus make an exception by using some clever trickery involving a semi-reflective mirror. Perhaps you would like one of these if you are unable to use a viewfinder.

In case you mean the LCD turns off soon after the picture is taken, press ">" to view the picture again. The picture can easily be deleted as well.

Pete Biggs , May 01, 2007; 11:15 P.M.

Re manual focusing: No "snap in focusing", as far as I know, but the camera does indicate when it thinks the image is in focus even when a manual-focus lens is used. Also, the focusing screen can be changed for a split-image one to further help you focus manually.

Charles Syphrett , May 28, 2007; 11:47 P.M.

My wife sells jewelry on ebay I thought we could give her better macro shots with an SLR. Any suggestions?

Pete Biggs , May 31, 2007; 12:48 A.M.

....Any digital SLR and a macro lens. Your *ist DS plus a 50 or 100mm or similar macro lens would be absolutely fine and capable of stunning results. Look out for a used lens if a new one would be too expensive. Some zoom lenses with a macro setting would be OK too. A cheap alternative is macro extension tubes (though manual mode is required with most of them).

Much, much more important than the camera will be the lighting. You could use daylight by a window and some reflectors. I do this myself with the occasional small items I sell on eBay. Use a tripod and a remote control or the self-timer to prevent camera shake on the long exposures.

Else you'll need some special equipment to make the best of the flash or any studio lights. Maybe a "softbox" would do?

Get used to taking pictures first and worrying about what they look like on the screen afterwards. It takes a lot of trial and error, but it's worthwhile in the end as good pictures sell goods!

Get more advice from local dealers and internet forums. Not that I mind personally, but this review page is hardly suitable for general discussion. Good luck.

Jeff Mullins , December 14, 2008; 05:01 P.M.

I have a istDS and have a few old Pentax-M lens. I cannot get them to work. I read all the comments on this page from users that can. What do I need to know. I put the switch to MF mode on the front and that's it? Do I have to adjust other settings or is my camera malfunctioning?

Ira Crummey , January 20, 2009; 06:51 P.M.

To use older lenses with the DS you must go into the menu and under custom settings find the setting for allowing the aperture ring. (it may be rather cryptic but is there). then set the focus on manual, the exposure dial to M and use the AE-L button to set exposure (or use the depth of field preview for more control). This just gets you started but the rest will come easier.


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