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Conclusion - Pros

  • About as good as six megapixel resolution gets, crisp and detailed, a big improvement
  • Excellent detail even at higher ISO's, overall noise levels on par with competition
  • Effective long exposure noise reduction (necessary too)
  • Accurate and fast auto-focus, although focus motor slightly noisy
  • Occasionally useful 'digital preview' allows you to take a test shot which isn't saved
  • Unique-to-Pentax 'Auto Pict' dynamically selects scene modes
  • Customizable Auto ISO (200 - 800/400/1600/3200)
  • Good built-in flash metering
  • In-camera Shake Reduction system offers some advantage in low light
  • Mirror lock-up implemented as part of the self-timer
  • Compact design with good ergonomics
  • Function menu for quick access to important settings (although hard buttons are better)
  • Large, bright and high resolution LCD monitor
  • Proper hinged doors covering the connectors (not the cheap rubber bungs)
  • In-camera image retouching (B&W, Sepia, Soft etc.)
  • Good supplied software bundle, Silkypix RAW conversion engine works well
  • Uses standard AA batteries as well as CR-V3 Lithium
  • USB 2.0 Hi-Speed interface (with mass storage device driver)
  • Value for money (even more so if you sacrifice SR and go for the K110D)

Conclusion - Cons

  • Limited continuous shooting capability, buffer only large enough for four JPEG frames
  • Over-saturated default image tone ('Bright'), can lead to channel clipping
  • Relatively loud shutter release
  • Slightly humorous user interface compromise ('Cntnuos expsr')
  • No orientation sensor (hence orientation not recorded)
  • Top LCD panel has no backlight
  • Slightly less dynamic range at ISO 200 than at ISO 400
  • Large RAW files (10 MB; not losslessly compressed)
  • No simultaneous RAW+JPEG option
  • Viewfinder view not as big as *ist DS (although still comparatively good)
  • Automatic ISO does not work when exposure compensation is set
  • Average automatic white balance performance, still very poor under incandescent light
  • No Program Shift in Program AE mode
  • Flash must be raised for AF assist (although AF works even in very low light)
  • No Kelvin white balance option
  • Color space selection buried in custom menu

Overall conclusion

When we reviewed the *ist DS it was a camera which equally surprised and disappointed; on one hand it was one of those cameras which functioned beyond its expectation or billing, and on the other it disappointed with its relatively poor in-camera image processor, which simply wasn't delivering the results we knew the camera was capable of. Enter stage left the K100D, the camera which puts that right with a considerably improved image processor and also adds Pentax's own Shake Reduction system.

Not only has Pentax improved in-camera image processing but they appear to have overtaken some of the competition, the amount of detail delivered is about as much as we could expect to see from a six megapixel CCD. On top of this they've also taken the sensible compromise of using a minimal amount of noise reduction and not turning down sharpening at higher sensitivities which means you get almost as much detail at ISO 1600 as you would at ISO 200. This combination means that assuming the 'input image' is sharp (good lens and/or stopped down slightly) you're going to get a great detailed image.

Our side-by-side comparison images show that there's really no advantage going from six to eight megapixels, jump to ten megapixels and you will get more detail although you do have to ask yourself how many times that extra detail will be visible in your final output (have you ever printed larger than A3, do you need to?).

One thing that may have helped to keep the K100D's price down is the choice of using AA / CR-V3 Lithium batteries to power the camera rather than supplying a rechargeable Lithium-Ion and charger which are more common these days. That said we used CR-V3 Lithium batteries in our K100D and the original set are still going strong after many hundreds of shots.

The clear step forward in image processing and the addition of Shake Reduction are enough to tip the K100D into our Highly Recommended category, this is the camera the *ist DS should have been and is a refreshing change from another strong Canon or Nikon.

Detail (D-SLR) Rating (out of 10)
Build quality 8.0
Ergonomics & handling 8.5
Features 8.0
Image quality 8.0
Performance (speed) 8.0
Value 8.5

Highly Recommended

Highly Recommended

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