Page 2, continued from page
1 Posted Feb. 2005 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief
Image Resolution and Quality
The *ist DS takes superb shots, with excellent
sharpness and extremely high color accuracy. Image resolution was
very high in our tests, equaling the Digital Rebel's and we noticed
a bit less noise in the Pentax's shots, especially in shadows and
in large expanses of blue sky. While some users felt the default
sharpening on the *ist D was a bit soft, the *ist DS is plenty
sharp (but not overdone) for prints up to 8" x 10". Of
course, you can change the in-camera sharpening or use Photoshop's
Unsharp Mask, and we used a light dose of USM for some 8" x
10" prints. Pentax' JPEG compression is impressive, and our
images averaged 2.5 megs at the highest resolution and quality
Resolution in megapixels is only a part of the
resulting image quality. The superior sensor on digital SLRs and
better lenses (even a relatively cheap SLR lens is superior to
fixed lenses found on all-in-one cameras) mean that the Pentax
and other digital SLRs blow away photos from all-in-one digicams
of the same resolution. See our sample photos below to get an idea
of image quality. Noise at ISO 200 (default) and 400 was extremely
low, 800 was quite low, 1600 was decent for that sensitivity and
3200 is actually usable. The *ist DS has the least noise of any
camera in this price range and takes truly compelling shots up
to ISO 800.
The zoom lenses bundled with SLRs (digital or
film) are never something to write home about. They're generally
equivalent to $100 to $150 zooms purchased separately. They're
not terrible (the manufacturer wouldn't want you to think your
new camera took horrible photos), but you can always do better
if you have the money to spend on a $350 zoom. That said, the included
Pentax SMC DA 18-55mm f3.5-5.6AL lens is decent and has relatively
low barrel distortion and pincushioning for a starter lens (see
the SF MOMA architectural sample photo below). We did notice more
noise with this lens than expected, though. The lens, equivalent
to 28 - 85mm in 35mm film photography, is a "DA" lens
designed and optimized for Pentax digital SLRs and will not work
with film SLRs.
The Pentax *ist DS digital SLR
with kit lens
Is it worth it to buy the camera with the kit
lens? If you don't have a good Pentax zoom already, and you don't have
$300 or more to spend on a better lens, then definitely yes. It takes
very pleasing shots, is optimized for the APS sensor size and will
get you going right out of the box. If you do have a little more money
to spend, some photography stores offer an alternate bundle with Pentax'
higher end DA 16- 45mm f4 lens. Its faster fixed aperture will help
with low light shots, and it exhibits less noise, though the tele end
of the zoom is a little short for our tastes. I found that the Tamron
SP AF28-75mm f2.8 Di LD aspherical (IF) macro lens, which sells for
under $400 is an excellent companion to the *ist DS. This fast fixed
aperture lens has excellent optics and corner sharpness, and is optimized
for digital SLRs. However, the Tamron is not a light lens compared
to the featherweight Pentax kit lens and it may not go wide enough
to suit landscape photographers.
Advanced Shooting Features and Auto Pict
Those of you looking for point and shoot simplicity
will adore Auto Pict. Slide the dial to Auto Pict and you'll be taking
excellent photos with a press of the shutter button. Auto Pict takes
uncannily good shots, setting the aperture and picture mode (i.e.: portrait,
landscape, macro) based on available light and subject distance. In fact,
it made the same decisions we'd have made most of the time; correctly
identifying landscape, macro and portrait shots and setting
an intelligent aperture and shutter speed.
The camera has five scene modes which you'll select
using the dial: Normal, Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Moving Object (sports)
and Night Scene Portrait. In addition you can chose Flash Off mode which
disables the flash and uses the normal mode. As you'd expect on an SLR,
the *ist DS has five standard program modes: P (program), Tv (shutter
priority), Av (aperture priority), M (manual) and B (bulb). You can set
EV compensation from -2 to +2 in 1/2 or 1/3 steps and use three shot
autobracketing. The camera offers AE-lock, focus lock and has several
white balance settings including manual.
The camera has four drive modes: single shot, continuous
(approx. 2.8fps), self-timer, remote control (remote not included) and
auto bracketing. Auto white balance works decently but wasn't at the
top of the pack when it comes to tricky indoor shots and mixes of natural
and incandescent light (photos are too warm). You can select from 6
other white balance presets: daylight, shade, cloudy, fluorescent, tungsten,
flash or set white balance manually. To do so, select manual white balance
from the Fn display and release the shutter while aiming the camera at
a white or gray card (remember to change to manual focus as the lens
will fail to focus on a blank background and you won't be able to release
The pop-up flash works quite well and has good enough
rise to avoid vignetting with all but very short wide angle and extremely
long tele lenses (the manual has a table indicating lens comparability).
The flash works well for subjects at a 2.2 to 12 foot range, and offers
four modes: auto, manual (i.e.: fill flash or daylight sync), auto red-eye
reduction and manual red-eye reduction. You can easily disable the flash
when necessary or use an external flash in the hotshoe as well as external
slave units. We found that the flash, which has guide number of 22 at
ISO 400, provided a reasonable amount of fairly natural lighting for
indoor scenes at night and the auto setting worked very well for tricky
backlit and fill flash situations, yielding very balanced exposures.
Taken at maximum resolution and quality in JPEG format. Taken
with kit lens unless noted. Click on an image to see the full
size original. Warning: each original full size image is 2.5
f8, 1/250, ISO 200, 90mm focal length, Tamron SP AF f2.5 90mm macro lens. Macro
San Francisco, MOMA building.
f9.5, 1/350, ISO 200, 55mm focal length. Auto Pict mode.
Chinatown, SF. Not the best lighting
situation, but there's a great amount of detail in the banners.
f8, 1/350, ISO 200, 55mm focal length, Tv (shutter priority).
Indoors with natural lighting
and auto fill flash.
f2.8, 1/500, ISO 400, 60mm focal length. Tamron SP AF28-75mm f2.8 Di LD aspherical
(IF) macro lens. Av (aperture priority) setting.
f8, 1/500, ISO 200, focal length 33mm, Auto Pict mode. (Full size image has
Pentax includes their Photo Browser 2.0 application
for Windows and Mac. With Photo Browser you'll be able to browse,
save and print your photos. If you like to shoot in RAW format,
you may indeed rely on the included Pentax Photo Laboratory 2.0
to work with your photos, or you can take your chances with Photoshop's
RAW plugin. The software has a good feature set for working with
RAW, so do give it a try if RAW is your thing. That said, JPEG
photos come out so well with this camera, you may find yourself
using it rather than RAW. The *ist DS has a USB 2.0 interface and
comes with a cable for transferring images to your computer. Alternatively,
you can use a card reader to transfer and browse your photos. In
addition, the camera supports PictBridge for direct printing to
a PictBridge enabled photo printer.
Definitely a winner! Perfect for serious photographers
and beginners alike thanks to a full set of manual settings and
program modes for the experienced photographer and Auto Pict mode
for the newbies. In fact, Auto Pict works so well, experienced
photographers will find themselves replying on it too.
Pro: The camera is very
compact and light, yet it's well-built and laid out. The metal
body and stainless steel lens mount are an added bonus in a digital
SLR in this price range. Wonderful photos of excellent resolution
and color accuracy. Exceptionally low noise (even in JPEGs) and
great shadow and highlight detail. Can shoot ISO 800 and get good
shots, ISO 200 and 400 are to die for! Easy to find AA batteries
mean you won't run out of juice on the road. Flash is well-balanced.
Fast and accurate AF with Pentax and 3rd party lenses, including
Con: SD card slot won't
thrill those with an extensive collection of CF cards. Auto and
preset white balance could be better for indoor and mixed lighting
shots. No program shift.
SLR, 6.1MP. APS sized CCD sensor (1.5 multiplier
to 35mm lens focal length). Pentax KAF Mount (metal)
which accepts K, KA, KAF and KAF2 lenses. Body construction:
metal. TTL auto focus and built-in retractable P-TTL
auto flash. 11 point autofocus system.
Kit Lens:SMC DA 18-55mm f3.5-5.6AL. Equivalent to
28-84mm in 35mm film photography. 12 elements in 9
groups. KAF mount. 52mm filter size, weighs 7.9 ounces.
LCD and Viewfinder: 2"
color LCD viewable outdoors and indoors (210,000
pixels). Standard Pentaprism design. 0.95x magnification
viewfinder that shows 94% of the picture area,
diopter adjustments. Etched focusing screen with
11 selectable autofocus zones. Optional focusing
screens available: AF Split-Image matte and AF
and RAW formats. JPEG: 3008x2008 pixels, 2400x1600
pixels, 1536x1024 pixels. RAW: 12 bit, 3008x2008
pixels. JPEG quality settings: good, better, best.
Color space: Adobe RGB and sRGB.
File Formats: JPEG
(Exif 2.21), RAW, DCF (Design rule for Camera File
system), DPOF (Digital Print Order Format), PRINT Image
AE, Auto Picture, Picture, Shutter-priority, Aperture-priority,
Manual, and Bulb.
AA batteries (rechargeable NiMH recommended) or two
CR-3V (supplied). About 750 shots on a high capacity
set of NiMH batteries or two CR-3V's.
Flash:Built-in pop-up flash and hotshoe. Works with
many flashes designed for Pentax AF SLRs.
Auto, Preset and Custom white balance. The Preset
mode allows the instant selection of one of eight
different white balance settings: Auto, Daylight,
Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten light, Fluorescent light,
Flash and Manual.
and over-exposure. Users have a choice of two exposure
ranges: ±1.0 EV
in 1/3 EV increments and ±1.5 EV in 1/2