Pentax *ist DL review
I bought a lightly-used *ist DL for $360, after carefully studying the DSLR market for many years.
I was shooting 35mm on a Nikon F80, and assumed that I would jump to the D50 or it's replacement... unfortunately the D80 was very overpriced, and the D40 wouldn't work with most of the autofocus lenses I was interested in. The disappointment of the D40 led me to seriously consider other options.
The whole Pentax DSLR line is worthy of consideration -- Pentax have resisted "crippling" their cameras to make them cheaper, they will just use simpler construction (like the pentamirror instead of pentaprism). The ergonomics are similar across the line, and the newer cameras are not radically different or better than the *ist line. I test-drove a K100D and K110D in the store, determined that I didn't really need the shake reduction, and really enjoyed the ergonomics. The camera is tiny, but has a solid grip and well-placed buttons. The K100D really identical to the *ist DL in handling. The big beautiful LCD is the same, the interface is identical. The only real difference is the SR.
The real advantage of the Pentax over a similar Nikon is the features. Consider what the *ist DL (or any Pentax) offers over Nikon:
- the ability to fully utilize ALL of the Pentax K lenses, going back decades.
- seamless support for even more lenses with the M42 screw-mount (I paid $6 for an adapter.) I love shooting with these lenses -- metering is simple, focussing is a joy.
- mirror-lock up (to get the sharpest possible landscape or night exposures.)
If I went for the latest models (K10D or K100D) then I'd also get SR...
Pentax offer a well-made camera, with features that don't appear in Nikon's lineup until the (EXPENSIVE) D200. The Sony sensor is the same one that Nikon uses. Shooting RAW, there is really no difference between any of these cameras. So why would I pay the premium for a Nikon price tag? I am so pleased with the *ist DL, that if I ever have need for "more" camera I will be happy to purchase the K10D (or whatever the top camera is then.)
Two topics seem to come up all the time regarding Pentax -- first is lens selection. This is kind of a non-issue for me because I love having 50 years worth of Pentax Takumar glass available for use. Also, the latest rumblings from Pentax suggest there will be a much broader selection of digital-only lenses coming out very shortly. (My guess? Pentax were holding off on new D lenses, thinking that full-frame DSLRs might take over. But the market seems to have settled into APS-C sized sensors, and larger-format sensors seem to have receded somewhat -- witness Pentax cancelling their planned MF digital.)
The other topic is batteries. I LOVE using AA NiMH batteries in my *ist DL! The batteries last a long time, and are so cheap that I have lots of them. No-name cheapy 1600 MAH batteries are giving me 450 shots, half with flash. If I bought better batteries, I'd get even better performance. The AA's are small and light -- I wrap four of them in a rubber band, drop them in my pocket, and have backup power anywhere I go. I know that in an emergency (or 20 years from now) I can always find AA power (even lithium) and not worry about finding an exotic one-off battery from the manufacturer.
This is not a problem -- just an observation -- that Pentax does not "over-sharpen" the JPGs in the camera. This actually preserves image quality and allows you to control the sharpening yourself for different size prints. Turn up the in-camera sharpening if you want to skip that step in Photoshop, or don't care about such things.
Again, I shoot RAW, so I have complete control over sharpening, color temperature, etc.