Pentax K2000 SLR Review
By Mike Flacy
Pentax's new entry level dSLR camera, the K2000, was designed and built with the idea of making it easy to switch from a point and shoot to a dSLR. The light-weight and compact body makes carrying and handling the camera similar to a large point and shoot, while the auto shooting and SCN modes bring the ease of a smaller camera. To further the transition, Pentax has included a help button on the top of the camera that describes and informs you about the features and settings of the camera, creating an easy environment for you to learn about the camera at your own pace. For anyone upgrading from a Pentax film camera, the K2000 is compatible with every Pentax lens ever made.
Small and light-weight, the Pentax K2000 features a 10.2-Megapixel CCD imaging sensor mounted on their specially designed body-based shake reduction system. Having this built into the camera allows you to use this feature with any lens for your camera, not just a specialty lens as with some other manufacturers. This model also features AUTO and several SCN modes, a 2.7-inch high-resolution LCD screen and six presets for custom image modes. The custom image mode presets allow you store custom settings in the camera so you can quickly restore them for specific shooting situations.
Built to be one of the smallest dSLR cameras on the market, the light-weight K2000 is also very comfortable to carry and handle. Because of the small size, the image sensor has to be moved into position when capturing an image. This is similar to the way some dSLR's with Live View function. It does not appear to affect the performance but it does block your view through the viewfinder, which can hinder your ability to follow a moving subject while shooting in continuous modes.
Taking up the majority of the back is the 2.7-inch high-resolution LCD screen, viewfinder and camera controls. The controls are well placed along the right side of the back and on top of the grip on the right side. Only the flash button and Auto/Manual focus switch are not located here. They are located on the left, flash on the back and focus on the front. As the only screen on the camera, the LCD is where all of the shooting information is displayed. From this screen, most of your shooting settings can be changed by first pressing ok, then selecting and changing your settings. Pressing the INFO button will turn this screen on and off. Viewing your images and navigating menus is also done via the LCD screen. One thing the LCD does not provide you with is a Live View mode. All of your shooting is done with the optical viewfinder, while all of the shooting information displayed on the LCD screen is also shown along the bottom. Providing a 96% coverage area of your image, the Penta-mirror viewfinder can also be combined with the cameras digital preview (an alternate setting for the help button) to correctly frame and compose your shots.
Performance from the K2000 is good for an entry-level dSLR. It has a quick start up time and is able to capture its first image in 7/10 of a second after turning the power switch. When the camera is pre-focused, the shutter lag (time between you pressing the shutter release and the camera capturing the image) is less than 1/10 of a second. When you allow the camera to focus the lens, it takes between 2/10 and 4/10 of a second depending on the shooting situation.
For a dSLR, the K2000 has a rather small buffer which fills quickly when shooting multiple shots or in burst modes. In single shot mode, I was able to capture 4 images in 1.2 seconds without the flash before filling the buffer. With the flash it took 3.9 seconds to capture 4 images. Once the buffer is full, the camera will not capture another image until there is sufficient space. The more shots taken quickly with the flash, the longer it takes for the batteries to recharge the flash.
There are also two continuous shooting modes or burst modes. These modes allow you to hold down the shutter release and the camera will continue capturing images until you let go or the buffer fills. In low-continuous mode, the camera can capture 10 images in 7.2 seconds while in high-continuous it can capture 10 images in 3.8 seconds. In high-continuous, the buffer fills around 7 images and then begins to slow. When using the flash in continuous mode it does not matter which setting you use, because the camera can only capture the images as fast as the flash can fire. I was able to capture 10 images with the flash in 13.7 seconds.
All of the above tests were completed shooting with JPEG images only. When shooting with RAW+JPEG, the continuous modes have a big change in performance. In low-continuous mode, the camera is only able to capture 4 images in 2.8 seconds before the buffer fills and the camera stops to clear some space. High-speed continuous takes .7 seconds to capture 3 images before filling the buffer. All of our tests were completed using a 4GB OCZ Technology Class 6 SDHC memory card, program mode, flash off, JPEG only and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise. Times may vary depending on camera settings, lighting conditions, media, etc.
Image quality from our outdoor images is very good, providing us with a well exposed image and rich colors. The included 18mm-55mm lens is excellent for shooting landscape and portrait shots, but you will need to purchase a telephoto lens in order take close-up shots of distant objects. With the included lens you will see some barrel distortion on the wide end of the zoom. You will also find some aberrations along high contrast areas, with the included lens or with the zoom lens (talked about below) as seen in our museum and the shot of the coach.
Our indoor image quality was excellent. Again the exposures were very good and the auto white balance did an excellent job of matching colors between shots with and without the flash. The colors are rich and natural, providing realistic skin tones when shooting in program auto mode. Shooting in the camera's portrait mode gives the images a cooler tone. Image noise is also well controlled, only starting to show noise in dark and shadow areas at ISO 400 and above. ISO 800 and 1600 have very acceptable levels of noise for the settings.
One of the best features is the cameras ability to use all of the lenses that Pentax has ever made. I was able to dig up a JCPenny (Pentax) f/2.8 135mm lens (No. 896843) that came with an old Pentax K1000 SLR camera. I had no problems following the directions to allow the lens with no auto aperture or auto focus to work with the camera. With this lens the camera only works in Aperture priority or Manual mode. Even though it does not focus automatically, the camera does tell you when your subject is in focus, taking some of the guesswork out of focusing your subjects. The swimming samples were taken with this JCPenny lens.
Battery life in the K2000 is excellent. Pentax claims that 1,650 images can be captured on one set of Lithium AA batteries. We tested the camera with 2850mAh NiMH batteries and were able to capture 400+ images on a single charge and still leaving some juice left in them. The use of AA batteries allows you to easily keep spare sets handy at all times and in a bind you can pick some up almost anywhere.
Bottom Line - The Pentax K2000 is a good transition camera for those looking to break into the world of dSLR cameras. They have made the process of switching from a point and shoot as seamless as possible and the INFO (?) button is a great first hand teaching tool for you to learn the camera. With overall good performance, very good quality and a MSRP of US$699, this is worth looking into if you are looking for your first dSLR.
Pentax has announced updated firmware versions for the K2000
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