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Pentax K10D Review

December 2006 | By Phil Askey

Review based on a production Pentax K10D

Announced on September 14th 2006, just in time for Photokina 2006 the new K10D is Pentax's first foray into the serious-amateur digital SLR market. It's bigger, tougher and more feature rich than any Pentax digital SLR before it and it certainly carries a wide enough range of features to worry the 'big name' brands. Headline features include a stabilized ten megapixel CCD, high quality image processing pipeline, dust and weather proof seals, 11-point AF (with 9 cross-type points) and some unique exposure modes. A full detailed list of the top 20 features can be found below. It's clear that Pentax are targeting the likes of the Canon EOS 30D and Nikon D200, on paper it's a very strong contender.

Top twenty key features and technologies

10 megapixel APS-C CCD
We fully expected and Pentax delivered, ten million pixels for their new flagship digital SLR was an absolute (marketing) requirement. Interestingly this CCD has slightly different specifications than the Sony unit used in a few other ten megapixel digital SLR's so we can't be sure of its origins. It's 23.5 x 15.7 mm with 10.75 million total pixels, 2-channel read-out.

22 bit Analog to Digital converter
If accurate this could potentially deliver a very fine number of gradations, especially useful in shadow areas. However don't forget that this will always then be down-sampled to eight bits per channel for JPEG conversion or stored as 12 bits in RAW. How relevant this '22 bit ADC' is to the final image quality is yet to be proven.
'PRIME' Image Processor
Pentax has followed Canon and Sony in giving a name (a branding) to their image processor. For the K10D this unit is called 'PRIME', that said they aren't giving much away other than to state that it is built on 90nm production process and supports DDR2 (800 MB/sec) RAM which the K10D utilizes (and according to Pentax is the only SLR to do so).

Shake Reduction
Pentax has implemented the same design of CCD-shift based Shake Reduction that we saw on the K100D. It is a slightly different design than other CCD-shift systems as it utilizes permanent magnets, ball bearings and four coils on the CCD plate giving the ability to move in x and y directions but also rotationally around the lens axis (click for diagram). Pentax are claiming between 2 and 4 stops over non-SR.

Dust Reduction / Removal
Pentax also couldn't avoid but get involved in the whole 'dust removal' movement. Their solution involves applying a 'fluorine-type coating to the low-pass filter' to reduce the chances of dust sticking and also using the shake reduction system to shake the sensor either manually or automatically at startup (dust is gathered on a sticky pad below the sensor).

Dust and weather resistant seals
The K10D body has no less than 72 seals which provide dust and weather (splash) resistance. These are located along seam lines and button / control points. The optional battery grip is also dust and weather resistant with 38 seals.

11-point Auto Focus, 9 cross sensitive
The K10D has a 11-point auto focus sensor which quite impressively has nine points (in the center) which are sensitive to both horizontal and vertical detail.

Supersonic motor compatible
Supersonic motors have been available in Canon and Nikon lenses for a while but not yet to Pentax, the K10D is fully compatible with upcoming Supersonic Direct-drive motor lenses, the first of which are expected to be announced around March 2007.

Hyper Program
Although nothing new to Pentax SLRs this useful feature is still unique to Pentax and extremely useful. Simply in Program mode you turn the front dial to shift into shutter priority mode with the selected shutter speed or the rear dial for aperture priority. Press the green button to return to normal Program auto exposure. Simple, easy and very useful.

Sensitivity and Shutter/Aperture priority
These two exposure modes are unique to the K10D and have been requested by digital SLR owners for some years now. Sv (Sensitivity priority) mode is quite similar to Program exposure but provides faster access to sensitivity, just turn the rear dial to change. TAv (Shutter speed and Aperture priority) mode allows you to set the shutter speed and aperture manually and the camera will automatically select the correct sensitivity.

Selectable RAW format (PEF / DNG)
The K10D is the first digital SLR to provide both the manufacturer specified RAW format (in this case Pentax PEF) and also the 'standard' Adobe created DNG format.

Dedicated RAW button
On the left side of the lens mount is a unique dedicated RAW button, this can be configured to switch in and out of RAW+JPEG / JPEG modes for a single shot or continually. Very useful.

In-camera RAW development
The K10D allows you to develop images shot as RAW to a JPEG with a wide range of selectable adjustments; size, compression, white balance, digital exposure compensation (+/-2 EV), tone, saturation, sharpness and contrast.

Selectable program line
Although not new to them, this feature is unique to Pentax digital SLRs. Rather than having to stick with a 'Normal' program line you can choose to have one which is optimized for faster shutter speeds (Hi Speed), smaller apertures (Depth) or the optimum lens sharpness (MTF).

Flexible Auto ISO
As well as Sv and TAv mode the K10D also provides a very flexible automatic ISO mode, simply select AUTO from the Fn menu and turn the front dial to set the minimum ISO, the rear dial to set the maximum ISO. The ISO will be automatically selected in either 1/2 or 1/3 EV steps depending on the 'Sensitivity steps' custom function.

'Digital Preview' / White Balance
You can select between optical depth of field preview (which works in the normal way, stopping the aperture down while you look through the viewfinder) or 'digital preview' which effectively takes a shot without saving it and previews it on the LCD monitor. This feature is also available when selecting White Balance to evaluate how the image will appear.

Lithium-Ion battery
Another Pentax first for the K10D is the D-LI50 Lithium-Ion battery, believe it or not all previous Pentax digital SLRs have used AA batteries. The battery itself does have a striking resemblance to other Lithium-Ion packs but will certainly provide plenty of power (the exact details not yet specified by Pentax).

Battery grip with SD / remote holder
The optional D-BG2 has a flat profile (unlike many battery grips which have a stalk which fits into the camera battery compartment) and a dedicated connector which matches with a terminal on the base of the camera. The battery cartridge slides in from the side, it takes one additional D-LI50 battery and has space to store a spare SD card and the camera remote.

Large LCD with wide viewing angle
It wouldn't be a modern digital SLR without at least a 2.5" LCD monitor, so the K10D doesn't disappoint in this respect. This particular unit measures 2.5" and has 210,000 pixels with a wide 140° viewing angle.

And the rest... (there were more than 20)
What's left? 16-segment metering (plus center weighted and spot), white balance fine tuning (looks a bit like Canon), multiple exposures, remote control from the rear (IR sensor) and SDHC (SD of 4 GB or greater) support.

Foreword / notes

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read some of our Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / recommendation / ratings are based on the opinion of the author, we recommend that you read the entire review before making any decision. Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of them, click to display a larger image in a new window.

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Dpreview use calibrated monitors at the PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally also A, B and C.

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