Pentax *ist D Review
The *ist D is supplied with two photo applications, Pentax Photo Browser (image browsing and organization) and Pentax Photo Laboratory (RAW converter).
Pentax Photo Browser
Photo Browser is a simple image browsing application which supports JPEG, TIFF and Pentax's RAW .PEF format. The main Photo Browser window is divided into four panes: folder list, thumbnail view, image preview and EXIF exposure information. Photo Browser also has support for folder creation, drag-and-drop and cut-and-paste file organization and a single image view mode.
|Main Photo Browser window, other thumbnail sizes: Smallest, Medium, Large|
Note that the 'Image Data Pane' provides a wide range of information about the selected image from the EXIF header, including the lens name (something third party EXIF browsers won't be able to do).
Image Data Pane example
smc PENTAX-FA 28-105 mm F3.2-4.5 AL [IF]
Double click on an image thumbnail (or select 'View Image') to open it in its own single image viewer window. This window also provides Image Data for the displayed image as well as the ability to rotate (although the rotation is not recorded). You can also magnify or view the image at 1:1 and pan around the magnified image (click here). One thing which does seem to be missing from this view mode is the ability to continue to browse the images in the current directory.
|Single image viewer|
Pentax Photo Laboratory
Photo Laboratory can be launched on its own (as a stand alone application) or from Photo Browser's toolbar with a RAW file selected in the browser window. Launched in the later mode Photo Laboratory loads the PEF image currently selected in the browser window and automatically switches if you click on another. One annoyance with this mode of operation is that there is no warning and no 'do you wish to save changes?' prompt.
The Photo Laboratory window is small, surprisingly so, and this is probably its main limitation. There is no way to stretch the window size or magnify the current image, you are forced to work on a 376 x 250 image. To be honest while the rest of Photo Laboratory's functionality is relatively good this is a major limitation to RAW conversion with the *ist D.
|'Full Auto Processing'||'Custom Processing'|
Select the 'Custom Processing' icon on the toolbar and the Photo Laboratory window expands vertically to provide control of White Balance, Tone Curve, Sensitivity, Contrast, Saturation and Sharpness. The number of adjustable parameters is fairly standard if a little basic, at least Photo Laboratory gives you more latitude of adjustment for parameters such as Contrast, Saturation and Sharpness as well as custom Tone curves. Adjustments once made can also be stored and retrieved later (Photo Laboratory doesn't remember adjustments on a per image basis).
RAW images can be output as JPEG, TIFF or TIFF16 and conversion times were not very impressive taking around fifteen seconds to convert a RAW to JPEG on a Pentium 4 3.06 Ghz workstation. It is possible to convert a batch of RAW files with the same settings by selecting multiple files in Photo Browser before launching Photo Laboratory.
While Photo Browser is functional it has no spectacular features which make it stand out from the rest, it would probably only be useful for providing lens information not available from other image browsers which support EXIF data. Photo Laboratory feels like a programmers first attempt at a RAW converter and while it provides some level of adjustment it's really very difficult to know if the adjustments are appropriate when all you have is a very small representation of the final image. Lets hope Pentax fix these issues and release a new version of Photo Laboratory soon.
There is also no tethered capture capability available with the *ist D, although a grayed-out icon on Photo Browser's toolbar which has the tooltip 'Pentax Remote Assistant' hints at a future application.
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