Pentax K200D SLR Review
The latest PENTAX entry-level dSLR, the K200D, is a replacement for the K100D. PENTAX may be marketing the K200D as an enthusiast-level dSLR but it has an impressive list of features including a weather-resistant body, the PRIME image processor, anti-shake and dust removal systems. As you might expect the resolution has increased also and the CCD sensor is now rated at 10.2-megapixel resolution. After further examination the K200D appears to have more in common with the K10D than the K100D.
I think you'll be impressed with of the K200D's ergonomic design. If you're replacing an older camera you'll be surprised at how lightweight the K200D is. The camera body dimensions are (W x H x D): 5.2 x 3.7 x 2.9" and it weighs under 25 oz with memory card and lithium batteries. The new lenses are also very lightweight. The controls are a breeze to use even without looking at the manual, and the menus are informative and easy to read on the 2.7" color LCD. The monochrome data LCD display is very useful displaying Shutter speed, Aperture value, Flash mode, and many other important settings at a glance.
PENTAX claims the shake reduction technology in their current K200D helps produce sharp photos without using a tripod - even with telephoto lenses. I used the PENTAX DA 200mm f/2.8 ED (IF) SDM to shoot some of the images on the Samples page and I have to agree that the new SR system has made hand-held photography easier for me with the longer lens. This system is integrated into the camera body so it works with whatever lens you choose.
If you're new to digital photography you'll love the Auto Picture mode that will automatically select one of the four Picture modes (including Portrait, Landscape and Macro) by calculating available conditions to achieve a proper exposure. Also the Scene mode allows you to select from eight pre-configured settings such as Night Scene, Portrait, Sunset, or Pet mode. You just select the mode that most closely matches your subject and the K200D automatically sets the proper exposure, white balance, and other settings to capture the best picture possible. When you're ready to use the K200D in manual mode all exposure adjustments are easily accessible through the controls of the camera. You have full access to 23 custom options with 52 settings that allow you to adjust how your K200D operates.
We all dread the dust that gets in when changing lenses - and ruins our shots. Thankfully, PENTAX has built in systems to help shoot spot free images. The K200D has been designed with multiple seals around the body to protect the inner components against the penetration of contaminates. The optional battery grip is also specially constructed to keep humidity and dust out. The high-rigidity, stainless steel chassis of the K200D is resistant to corrosion. And the reinforced polycarbonate body provides plenty of strength for every day use. The K200D is certainly a sturdy and durable camera designed to provide many years of service.
Some dust might get past all those barriers when you change lenses, so the K200D has some nifty technology to help there too. A special coating on the surface of the low pass filter helps keep dust from adhering to the sensor. And the SR system physically shakes the CMOS at high speed to dislodge dust that is then captured on a special adhesive material so it can't return to the surface. Finally, a Dust Alert system analyzes the sensor to determine if and where any dust remains after the Dust Removal system is activated, and the results are displayed on the LCD screen so that you can remove particles from the sensor manually.
The crisp 2.7-inch color LCD monitor has a total of 230,000 dots and a wide-viewing angle. The LCD offers digital zooming of playback images up to 32x and can be adjusted to display correct colors in most common lighting conditions. Like the K20D, PENTAX offers two improvements in the menu of the K200D: scrolling menu items offer you a complete description of each menu option and the function it provides, while an enlarged letter option allows you to boost the font or letter size by 50 percent vertically for easy viewing.
Featuring a Penta-Mirror design, the K200D's viewfinder offers an approximately 96% field of view and an approximately 0.85X magnification (w/ 50mm f/1.4 at infinity). Look in the viewfinder and you'll see the standard LF-80 Frame Matte focusing screen. You'll also notice a lot of important shooting information is displayed so you don't have to take your eye off your subject. There is a diopter adjustment of -2.5 to 1.5 available should you require it.
The K200D uses a 10.2-megapixel Interline interlace CCD image sensor with a primary color filter and integrated shake/dust reduction sensor movement system. The image quality is excellent and our test images were consistently well exposed with good color saturation as you see on our Sample page. Sharpness at the K200D's normal setting was excellent - exactly what you would hope for with a modern dSLR.
Performance of the K200D is similar to the K100D, though it starts up faster and recovers faster when using the built-in flash. It took 3/10 second from power on until the first shot was captured which is a little faster than the K100D. Shutter lag was impressive requiring less than 1/10 second when pre-focused and 4/10 second using the autofocus with the provided PENTAX 18-55mm DA lens. Using continuous AF provided an AF lag time between 4/10 and 5/10 of a second. The shot-to-shot capture interval in single drive mode varied from 4/10 to 9/10 of a second. The interval between flash shots averaged 9/10 and shutter lag when using red-eye reduction mode of the internal flash measured 7/10 second. Continuous capture in the Hi mode setting allowed me to shoot 10 JPEG images in 5.3 seconds before the buffer filled using Large mode (the camera took 5 seconds to save these files to the memory card) and 4 images in 1.6 seconds using RAW mode (the camera took 11 seconds to save these files to the memory card). Continuous capture in the Lo mode setting allowed me to shoot 8 JPEG images in 5.2 seconds before the buffer filled using Large mode (the camera took 5 seconds to save these files to the memory card) and 4 images in 2.8 seconds using RAW mode (the camera took 10 seconds to save these files to the memory card). These tests were obtained using a PENTAX 18-55mm DA lens, shooting Large/Fine JPEG images, Program mode, image preview On, ISO set to 100, with a Kingston Elite Pro 50x 2GB SD memory card. I was able to capture a total of 210, 10.2-megapixel, JPEG images on the 2GB memory card. Your times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
When you're ready to shoot in the RAW format mode the RAW button on the K200D allows you to activate the RAW file format while shooting - without having to navigate through the menus. You may customize this button to switch to your preferred format and to either remain at that setting, or remain there for only one exposure. There's also an in-camera RAW converter for those times you want to print an image but don't have access to a computer to process the RAW file. The resolution, quality setting, white balance, sensitivity, Custom Image mode, and Noise Reduction may all be adjusted before output.
Our K200D came with a set of Energizer Lithium batteries. PENTAX promises long battery life up to 1,100 images from a single set of Lithium batteries. I know some photographers prefer a dedicated battery pack but you have to admit that since AA batteries are easily available you should never be without power on your K200D. Also the optional BG-3 battery grip takes four AA cells and features an additional shutter release that is very practical when you're shooting in vertical orientation. As with consumer digicams, we recommend using high power rechargeable AA batteries.
Image quality was superb and noise was well controlled throughout the camera's 100 - 1600 ISO range. Our standard settings on the K200D produced well saturated images. The ISO tests from 100 to 400 are free of serious noise. ISO 800 starts to show some noticeable noise when viewed at 100 percent magnification on screen. At ISO 1600 images are sharp, and while shadow detail appears to decrease, the images are still usable. As we noticed with the K20D, Auto white balance did not produce a pleasing image when shooting under our "ambient light" fluorescent lights. However when I changed the white balance to the White Fluorescent setting everything looked great. I did not encounter any other problems with Auto white balance.
Bottom line - the K200D is a very nice entry-level dSLR. The new 10.2-megapixel CCD image sensor, combined with a lot of modern technology creates a wonderful camera for the price. The in-body Shake Reduction capability and improved Dust Reduction system show that PENTAX is serious about providing a great camera for the beginner. I might have liked to see a Live View function but would the novice photographer miss it? The K200D is a fantastic value both at US$699 for the body alone or in a kit with the PENTAX DA 18-55mm II lens for US$799.
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