Pre-PMA 2003, 00:00 TOKYO (19th): Pentax has today announced their new compact 35 mm film SLR, the '*ist' (yes, just asterisk-I-S-T). Wait, I hear you cry, what has this to do with digital photography? Well, nothing at the moment but you never know this could be quite an interesting body design. Pentax claim that the new *ist is the world's smallest 35 mm autofocus SLR camera. The *ist measures just 122 x 84 x 64 mm (4.8 x 3.3 x 2.5 in) and weighs just 335 g (11.8 oz).

Note: This is a 35 mm film SLR camera, not a digital camera.

Press Release:

PENTAX Markets the World's Smallest 35mm Autofocus SLR Camera

PENTAX Corporation is pleased to announce the marketing of the PENTAX *ist 35mm autofocus SLR camera.

Encased in the world's smallest in the 35mm autofocus SLR category *, this new SLR incorporates a host of advanced features and user-friendly functions to facilitate easy operation and assure greater creativity. They include: a multi-mode exposure system with the innovative Auto Picture mode and an accessible illumination mode dial; a 16-segment multi-pattern metering system; a 11-point autofocus system; a 1/4000-second high-speed shutter; 17 custom functions; a large LCD panel; a multi-data LCD viewfinder indicator; and a retractable auto pop-up flash. It also accepts a full range of high-quality smc PENTAX interchangeable lenses and accessories - including two new zoom lenses and the new BG-20 battery grip - to maximize the fun and excitement of advanced SLR photography.
* As of February 2003

Combining the highest level of quality and performance with super-compact dimensions and user-friendly operation and display systems, the PENTAX *ist is fully capable of satisfying a wide range of photographers - from the most demanding professionals and experienced amateurs to SLR novices. It is expected to become a new standard-setter in the highly competitive global 35mm SLR market.

Major Features of the PENTAX *ist

1. Ultra-compact dimensions and functional design
Measuring only 122mm wide, 84mm high and 63.5mm thick (4.8 x 3.3 x 2.5 inches) and weighing a mere 335 grams (11.8 oz.), the new *ist features the world's smallest in the 35mm autofocus SLR market. All controls are functionally positioned on the top and back panels for maximum ease of operation and accessibility.

2. High-precision 16-segment multi-pattern metering system with user-selectable spot and center-weighted modes
The newly developed 16-segment multi-pattern metering system solves even the most complicated lighting conditions to produce beautifully exposure photographs, frame after frame. In addition to all-purpose multi-pattern mode, the *ist also offers spot and center-weighted modes to meet specialized applications.

3. Sophisticated 11-point autofocus system with cross-shaped AF point selector and LED viewfinder indicator
Thanks to the advanced SAFOX VIII phase-matching autofocus system, the *ist assures sharp, crisp focus on the subject, even under poor lighting conditions. Its newly developed 11-point AF sensor constantly monitors 11 different points in the image field and covers a wide area - both vertically and horizontally - to assure optimum focus. In addition to the "AUTO" mode - where the camera automatically selects the optimum focusing point - and the "SPOT" mode - where the focus area is narrowed down to a small area at the center of the image field - the *ist also offers the innovative "SELECT" mode, where the user can select one of 11 AF sensor points using the cross-shaped AF point selector on the back panel. What's more, the selected AF sensor point is confirmed by an LED pointer in the viewfinder. This sophisticated AF system also features the predictive autofocus function, which is automatically activated when the system detects subject motion and predicts the subject position at the moment of shutter release. This function even allows the photographer to shoot a few frames after the subject has moved out of the AF sensor field.

4. Auto Picture mode and illumination mode dial
When the Auto Picture Mode is selected, the *ist automatically selects the most appropriate auto-exposure mode from five different programs, based on such data as the subject's distance, lens focal length, lighting conditions and subject motion. This not only ensures the best possible result for every subject and in every situation, but also allows the photographer to concentrate completely on shutter opportunity and picture-framing. The large illumination mode dial clearly indicates the selected exposure program, even in the dark. The selected program is also indicated in the viewfinder indicator.

5. Multi-mode exposure system
In addition to the Auto Picture Mode, the *ist offers six user-selectable Picture Modes, two conventional auto-exposure modes (Aperture-Priority AE and Shutter-Priority AE), Metered Manual mode and bulb mode.

6. Multi-function retractable auto flash with auto pop-up feature
Covering an angle of view as wide as 28mm, the auto flash automatically pops up and discharges when the camera detects low-light and/or backlight situations. It also retracts to the storage position automatically when the camera's power is turned off. Its red-eye reduction function effectively reduces the annoying red-eye effect in subjects' eyes.* Thanks to the advanced TTL flash control system, complicated flash techniques (such as daylight sync, slow-shutter sync and bulb sync) are made simple and effortless, even when used in combination with accessory flash units. Especially when combined with the AF360FGZ, it offers a variety of advanced wireless remote functions. In addition, it even makes a brief discharge in the dark to assist the camera's AF system.
* This mode does not eliminate "red eyes" in all instances.

7. 1/4000-second high-speed shutter with 1/125-second flash synchronization
The compact, reliable shutter unit offers a top shutter speed of 1/4000 second to freeze the decisive moment of fast-action scenes. It also features a high flash synchronization speed of 1/125 second, so that the photographer can open up the aperture to capture dramatic flash images.

8. User-adjustable custom functions
The *ist offers 17 custom functions, enabling the photographer to customize some basic camera functions to suit individual preferences. These functions include the AF pointer display in the viewfinder, the LED illuminator operation mode in the LCD panel, the order of exposures in the auto bracketing mode, and the timing of remote shutter release.

9. Large, easy-to-read LCD data panel with automatic illuminator
Located on the back panel, the multi-data LCD panel offers a full range of information with large icons and numbers to supplement the camera's user-friendly operation system. The user can activate its orange LED illuminator by turning the main switch to the preview position. Using one of the custom functions, it is also possible to select automatic illumination under low-light conditions or deactivate the illuminator at all times.

10. Bright viewfinder with full-information LCD viewfinder indicator and AF pointer
Thanks to the renowned Natural-Bright-Matte focusing screen, the *ist offers a sharp, clear viewfinder image even under unfavorable lighting conditions. The LCD viewfinder indicator at the bottom provides a full range of information, including the selected Picture Mode and exposure compensation factors. For easy data confirmation, it even comes equipped with automatic brightness control, which changes the brightness level in proportion to the subject's lighting condition. Within its image field, the viewfinder features LED AF pointers, one of which lights up to indicate the user-selected AF sensor. The diopter adjustment mechanism built into the viewfinder eyepiece allows the user to adjust the viewfinder image between -2.0m-1 and +1.0m-1 to obtain the clearest view of the subject.

11. 2.5-frame-per-second high-speed motor drive
The high-speed motor drive winds the film at a speed of 2.5 frames per second. The user can select either single-frame advance or consecutive advance with simple pushbutton operation. It also simplifies film loading and rewinding operations.

12. Effortless auto bracketing
With a single shutter release, the photographer can capture three different exposures of the same subject (in order of proper exposure, underexposure and overexposure) in all exposure modes (except Bulb mode). The desired compensation value (±0.3EV, ±0.5EV or ±1.0EV) can be selected using one of the custom functions. The use of auto bracketing as well as the selected compensation value are indicated in both the LCD panel and the viewfinder display.

13. Easy-setting exposure compensation and AE lock
Using the exposure compensation button and the select dial, the photographer can easily set the desired compensation value within a range of ±3EV in 1/2EV increments (except when the Metered Manual mode is selected). Positioned at the upper right-hand corner of the back panel, the AE lock button makes the camera memorize the measured exposure value for approximately 20 seconds, during which period the photographer is free to re-compose the image.

14. Creative multi-exposure
The photographer can make two exposures on a single frame with pushbutton ease to produce dramatic, eye-catching images. To expose the same frame more than three times, the photographer simply needs to repeat this operation after each exposure.

15. Depth-of-field preview
The depth-of-field preview function is electronically operated for easy confirmation of the in-focus area in the image field before actually taking a picture. It allows the photographer to create the desired visual effect more consistently.

16. Handy wireless remote control
In combination with the accompanying remote controller, the *ist offers the convenience of remote shutter release from a distance. The user can select either an instant release or a three-second-delay release using one of the custom functions. The operation is confirmed by the self-timer indicator on the camera's front panel.

17. Durable metallic lens mount
The *ist features a durable metallic lens mount to minimize wear caused by countless lens changes over years and always hold the lens firmly in place.

18. Data recording capability
The *ist allows the user to automatically record the date, or day and time, of picture-taking on the photograph for quick, easy reference of captured images.

19. High-performance smc PENTAX 35mm lens system
PENTAX offers a selection of PENTAX FA- and F-series autofocus lenses for use with the *ist to meet the diverse requirements of its users, from ultra-wide angle to super telephoto, and to special-effect lenses such as fish-eye, macro and soft-focus. To minimize the overall size of the *ist with a lens attached, PENTAX developed two compact, high-performance zoom lenses as ideal partners for the *ist: the smc Pentax-FA J Zoom 28mm~80mm F3.5~F5.6 AL and the smc Pentax-FA J Zoom 75mm~300mm F4.5~F5.8 AL. All smc PENTAX lenses are treated with the acclaimed Super-Multi-Coating to reproduce sharp, high-contrast images with minimal aberrations.

20. A wide range of optional accessories
Most existing PENTAX 35mm-system accessories can be used with the *ist, including the AF360FGZ dedicated flash unit. In addition, the new BG-20 battery grip, which is exclusively designed for use with the *ist, is powered by four AA-size batteries to greatly extend the camera's operation time; it features an enlarged grip and a vertical-position shutter release button.