Pentax has today announced the budget priced *ist DS digital SLR. The *ist DS appears to be based on the *ist D and features a six megapixel CCD (which appears to be identical to that used in the *ist D). Feature wise it's cut-down compared to its bigger brother but also has a few improvements. The camera will be priced at a very similar level to the Canon EOS 300D (Digital Rebel).We have an exclusive, detailed hands-on preview of the *ist DS. Also announced today is a new DA 18 - 55 mm F3.5 - F5.6 AL lens designed specifically for digital SLRs.

Click here for our detailed hands-on preview of the Pentax *ist DS
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Press Release (*ist DS):

PENTAX Introduces a New Compact Digital SLR Camera Combining Outstanding Image Quality and Simple Operation with a Popular Price

PENTAX Corporation is pleased to announce the marketing of the PENTAX *istDS digital SLR camera. Offering a compact, lightweight body, simplified operations and an affordable price, the *istDS assures high-quality digital SLR photography, including the advantage of lens interchangeability, to photographers of all levels.

Developed as a sister model of the popular PENTAX *istD, this new camera was designed by further advancing PENTAX’s digital camera development concept of “user-friendliness,” or “a harmony between ease of use and portability.”

The *istDS is one of the smallest and lightest digital SLR cameras on the market today — even more compact and lightweight than the PENTAX *istD. Despite its compact body, it assures outstanding image quality, thanks mainly to its 6.1 effective megapixels and PENTAX-original image processing technology. It is designed to be compatible with most PENTAX interchangeable lenses — both new and old — to meet a wide range of applications and maximize freedom of visual creativity. It also offers a host of advanced and user-friendly features, including a high-magnification viewfinder, a large two-inch color LCD monitor and an LCD data panel, and the innovative Auto Picture mode for automatic selection of the proper exposure program. Offering speedy, effortless operations and great portability, the *istDS is the ideal digital SLR for all levels of photographers, including first-timer digital SLR users and families.

Major Features

1. Compact, go-anywhere design
Featuring a super-compact, ultra-lightweight body, the *istDS offers outstanding portability to accompany the user anywhere. The combination of many downsizing technologies, including a high-rigidity stainless-steel chassis, multi-layered electronic circuit boards and high-density packaging technology, resulted in this extremely portable body, measuring only 125mm wide, 92.5mm high and 66mm thick and weighing a mere 505 grams without batteries and SD memory card. In fact, it’s even smaller and lighter than the acclaimed *istD.

2. High-definition, maximum-gradation images with 6.1 effective megapixels
Thanks to its large, high-performance CCD image sensor, the *istDS offers 6.1 effective megapixels. Coupled with PENTAX's original image processing technology, it produces high-definition images rich in gradation and saturation.

3. Compatibility with PENTAX interchangeable lenses
The *istDS offers the outstanding benefit of lens interchangeability, allowing the user to take advantage of a wide selection of existing PENTAX interchangeable lenses to deal with diversified subjects and applications.**
**PENTAX K-, KA-, KAF- and KAF2-mount 35mm-format lenses can be used without an adapter or modification. PENTAX screw-mount 35mm-format lenses and PENTAX 645- and 67-system lenses can be used with an adapter. Some functions may not be available with certain lenses.

4. Bright, high-magnification pentaprism viewfinder
The *istDS comes equipped with a glass pentaprism viewfinder offering a 95% field of view and a 0.95-times magnification. It offers a large, bright viewfinder image equal in size, clarity and brightness to viewfinders incorporated in conventional 35mm-format SLRs. It makes confirmation of the subject’s focus much easier, even in manual-focus mode.

5. Large color LCD monitor
Thanks to a high-precision two-inch color LCD monitor offering approximately 210,000 pixels, the *istDS makes it quick and effortless to review recorded images and read menus.

6. Large LCD data panel
The *istDS features a large, easy-to-read LCD data panel on the top panel to allow easy, at-a-glance confirmation of the camera’s operational status and various settings.

7. User-friendly automatic operations
The *istDS is equipped to make camera operations simple and effortless for the user. Its innovative Auto Picture mode automatically and instantly selects the optimum combination of exposure settings for a given subject or situation, including shutter speed, aperture, white balance, saturation, contrast, and intensity of edges. The built-in auto flash automatically pops up in dimly lit or backlit situations.

8. Simple, accessible operation system
From the multi-function four-way controller to the responsive electronic select dial and the large, easy-to-use mode dial, all switches and dials are efficiently and functionally laid out around the *istDS’s compact body to assure smooth, fingertip control.

9. High-precision 16-segment multi-pattern metering
The *istDS incorporates an advanced 16-segment metering system to assure high-precision light measurement, even under complicated lighting conditions. Center-weighted metering and spot metering are also available to meet specialized applications.

10. High-accuracy 11-point AF sensor
The *istDS features the sophisticated SAFOX VIII AF system incorporating 11 AF sensors (nine of them constituting a cross-type wide-area sensor grid in the middle). It not only offers accurate, pinpoint autofocusing, but also allows the user to select one of the sensors to accommodate a specific image composition.

11. Superimposed AF sensor point indication
The selected AF sensor point is highlighted in red in the viewfinder for easy visual confirmation.

12. 1/4000-second high-speed shutter
The *istDS features a high-speed shutter unit with a top speed of 1/4000 second and a top synchronization speed of 1/180 second to assure greater visual creativity.


13. High-speed consecutive shooting
The *istDS records up to 8 images consecutively at a speed of approximately 2.8 frames per second, allowing the user to capture a series of the subject’s action or movement.

14. SD memory card compatibility
The *istDS uses the widely available SD memory card as its storage media, not only assuring high-speed recording and readout of image data, but also contributing to the downsizing of the camera body.

15. Other features
1) 18 user-programmable custom functions to personalize camera operations to the user’s preferences
2) Noise-reduction system to minimize annoying digital noise during extended exposures
3) Dual power source, with a choice of two CR-V3 lithium batteries or four AA-size batteries
4) Effortless data uploading to a PC using the included USB cable
5) Functional playback functions, including 12X zoom display and nine-image thumbnail display
6) A choice of image format between JPEG (Best, Better or Good) or RAW
7) Interchangeable Natural-Bright-Matte focusing screen (AF Frame Matte screen included as standard; AF Split-Image Matte and AF Scale Matte screens available as optional accessories)
8) PENTAX PHOTO Laboratory 2.0 RAW-data processing software and PENTAX PHOTO Browser 2.0 browser software included
9) PictBridge compatibility

Click here for our detailed hands-on preview of the Pentax *ist DS

Press Release (Lens):

PENTAX Introduces a New Standard Zoom Lens for Digital SLR Cameras

PENTAX Corporation is pleased to announce the marketing of the smc PENTAX-DA Zoom 18mm-55mm F3.5-F5.6 AL. Exclusively designed for use with PENTAX digital SLR cameras, this compact, lightweight standard zoom lens features an image circle matching the camera’s large 23.5mm x 15.7mm image sensor. Compared with 35mm-format counterparts offering similar optical performance, it is more portable and more affordably priced. Especially when mounted on the new PENTAX *istDS digital SLR camera, it assures comfortable, well-balanced operations.

Major Features

1. Ideal zoom range for a standard lens
When mounted on the PENTAX *istDS, this new zoom lens offers an angle-of-view coverage equivalent to a 27.5mm-84mm lens in the 35mm format, effectively covering the most frequently used ranges from wide angle to moderate telephoto.

2. Compact dimensions with minimal aberrations
The aspherical optical elements incorporated in this new lens contribute not only to a reduction in size and weight, but also to effective compensation of unwanted aberrations.

3. Functional and fashionable design
The aperture ring has been eliminated from this lens to simplify camera operations and improve its appearance, while aperture-setting operation is performed from the camera body.

4. Quick-Shift Focus System
Once the subject is captured in focus by the camera’s autofocus system, this PENTAX-original system allows the photographer to shift the focusing mode instantly to manual without any switching operations.

Specifications

Lens mount: PENTAX KAF mount
Lens construction: 12 elements in 9 groups
Angle of view: 76° - 29°
Aperture control: Automatic
Number of diaphragm blades: 6
Minimum aperture: F22 at 18mm; F38 at 55mm
Metering system: TTL open-aperture metering
Minimum focusing distance: 0.25m (0.82 ft.)
Filter size: 52mm
Maximum magnification: 0.34X
Dimensions (diameter x length): 68mm x 67.5mm (2.7˝ x 2.7˝)
Weight: 225g (7.9 oz.)