Conclusion - Pros

  • Superb build quality for the class, weather-sealed body
  • Efficient image stabilization (not as good as Pentax claims though)
  • Top LCD (but no backlight)
  • Largest and brightest viewfinder in its class
  • Reliable flash exposure
  • Wireless flash
  • Intuitive menus and displays (but slightly dated design)
  • Optional battery-grip improves handling
  • In-camera RAW-development (but limited options only)
  • Good range of JPEG customization options
  • 11-point AF, Accurate and fast auto-focus
  • White Balance fine-tuning
  • User-controllable High ISO noise reduction (4 levels)
  • Sensitivity Priority shooting mode
  • Excellent white balance presets (but poor Auto WB results in tungsten light)
  • Efficient long exposure noise reduction
  • Excellent, sharp and clean image results when shooting RAW
  • D-Range gives you about one stop additional highlight range (ISO 200 - 1600 only)
  • Occasionally useful 'digital preview' allows you to take a test shot which isn't saved
  • Customizable Auto ISO (200 - 800/400/1600/3200)
  • Mirror lock-up implemented as part of the self-timer
  • Comprehensive software package (Silkypix RAW converter and browser)

Conclusion - Cons

  • Default JPEGs too contrasty, oversharpened and smeared
  • JPEG engine not making the most out the camera's RAW data
  • No live view
  • Few direct buttons (but Function menu sort of makes up for it)
  • Dynamic range in the highlights slightly below average (but efficient D-Range tool)
  • Limited continuous shooting capability, slower than average and small buffer
  • Flash must be raised for AF assist (although AF works even in very low light)
  • No Kelvin white balance option

Overall conclusion

The Pentax K200D is competing in a very crowded segment of the marketplace. All manufacturers have been increasing the number of features and the quality of their cameras over the past couple of years or so and the entry-level segment is characterized by fierce competition. So, was the step that Pentax made from the K100D to the K200D enough to stay a serious alternative to the big boys in this bracket of the market?

As usual there is no simple answer but the K200D certainly looks like a well-rounded package. The build quality is superb and a nice contrast to the Fisher-Price plastic you sometimes hold in your hands when testing a 'budget' DSLR. The K200D is also the only entry-level camera that comes with a top LCD display and a dust- and splash-proof body. Combine this with the largest viewfinder in the segment and there'll be very little to complain about.

In terms of features the Pentax is a bit of a mixed bag. It comes with a CCD-shift type 'Shake Reduction' system, Dust Removal and Pentax' 11-point Safox VIII AF system. What you won't get though is a live-view system. Most of the K200D's direct competitors nowadays offer this feature but you'll have to decide yourself if live view is essential for your photography or just another gimmick that you can do without.

The K200D's image output is a bit of a double-edged sword. When we first looked at the JPEG images we weren't exactly thrilled. In its default settings the Pentax produces oversharpened and a little oversaturated images with visible artifacts and jagged diagonals. To be fair, the JPEGS are not unusable (I've shot almost 1000 of them and most of them are pleasant enough to look at) but they are just not quite as good as some of the competitors' output.

Luckily there are two ways of working around this limitation though. You can either modify the default settings or, even better, shoot in RAW. If you do the latter you'll be very pleasantly surprised. With the right processing the K200D is actually capable of producing clean, very detailed and pin-sharp images that should satisfy even the most dedicated pixel-peepers.

All in all, the excellent image quality you can get out of the camera's RAW files, the build quality and good overall feature-set are enough to let the K200D slip into our Highly Recommended category. Before you now go out and buy one though, make sure you can live without a live-view system and, if image quality is paramount, you'll be willing to shoot in RAW.

Detail (D-SLR) Rating (out of 10)
Build quality 9.0
Ergonomics & handling 8.0
Features 8.0
Image quality 8.0
Performance (speed) 8.0
Value 8.5

Highly Recommended (if you shoot in RAW)

Highly Recommended

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