Pentax *ist DS SLR Review

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Pentax *ist DS

First Look posted 11/29/2004
Full review posted 01/18/2005

Click on the *ist DS for a QuickTime VR tour

PENTAX has downsized digital SLR photography again with the *ist DS digital SLR. Even smaller than last year's *ist D SLR, the *ist DS is one of the smallest and lightest digital SLR cameras available. Measuring just 4.9 x 3.6 x 2.6 inches and weighing under 18 ounces, it has a durable stainless-steel chassis, multi-layered electronic circuit boards and delivers superior image quality in a very compact design. Despite its size, the *ist DS offers 6.1 million effective pixels of resolution and PENTAX original image processing technology. The camera is compatible with most existing PENTAX interchangeable lenses to meet a wide range of applications and visual creativity.

The *ist DS hosts an array of advanced, user-friendly features including a high-magnification viewfinder, a 2.0 inch color LCD monitor, a generous LCD data panel, and an innovative Auto picture mode for automatic selection of the proper exposure program. Offering quick, effortless operation and easy portability, the *ist DS is the ideal digital SLR for all levels of photographers, including first-timer digital SLR users and families. The *ist DS is equipped with a true glass pentaprism viewfinder offering a 95% field of view and a 0.95X magnification. The camera features a large, bright viewfinder image equal in size, clarity and brightness to viewfinders incorporated in conventional 35mm-format SLRs.

The *ist DS is equipped to make camera operations simple and effortless for the user. From the multi-function four-way controller to the responsive electronic select dial and the large, easy-to-use mode dial, all switches and dials are efficiently and functionally laid out around the *ist DS's compact body to assure smooth, fingertip control. Its innovative Auto picture mode automatically and instantly selects the optimum combination of exposure settings for a given subject or situation, including shutter speed, aperture, white balance, saturation, contrast, and intensity of edges. The built-in auto flash automatically pops up in dimly lit or backlit situations. The *ist DS records up to 8 images consecutively at a speed of approximately 2.8 frames per second, allowing the user to capture a series of the subject's action or movement.

A wide range of compatible PENTAX lenses are available for use with the *ist DS including K, KA, KAF, and KAF2 mount lenses; screw mount lenses, 645, and 67 series lenses (adapter required). Some functions may not activate depending on the choice of lens.

Pentax *ist DS Features:

  • One of the smallest and lightest dSLR cameras, stainless steel chassis
  • High resolution, large-area 6.1-Megapixel CCD image sensor
  • Image sizes are: 6M 3000x2008, 4M 2400x1600 or 1.5M 1536x1024
  • Choice of JPEG with 3 quality levels or RAW recording formats
  • Software included to manipulate RAW format image data
  • Compatible with Pentax K, KA, KAF, and KAF2 mount lenses; screw mount lenses, 645, and 67 series lenses (adapter required)
  • Pentaprism viewfinder with 95% field of view, superimposed AF points
  • 16-segment metering with Multi-Segment, Spot and Center-weighted options
  • 11-point AF sensor (SAFOX VIII) fast and precise focusing
  • Shutter speeds from 1/4000 to 30 seconds plus Bulb
  • Auto pop-up flash with red-eye reduction, external flash units can be used with P-TTL hot shoe
  • High-speed flash sync at 1/180 sec.
  • Auto Picture, Standard, Program AE, Shutter-Priority AE, Aperture-Priority AE, Manual, Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Action, Night Scene and Flash Off exposure modes.
  • 2.8fps Continuous sequential capture up to 8 frames
  • 18 Custom Settings to customize camera operations
  • Noise reduction function activates for long exposures
  • 2.0-inch, 210,000-pixel LCD monitor for easy, high-precision viewing
  • Playback functions; histogram, nine-image thumbnail and 12X zoom display
  • Uses removable Secure Digital flash memory cards
  • High-speed USB 2.0 connectivity, PictBridge and Print Image Matching III compatible
  • Powered by 4 AA batteries or 2 CR-V3 Li-ion batteries
  • Optional wireless remote controller and wired cable release

The Pentax *ist DS will be available as a kit bundled with the Pentax-DA Zoom 18-55mm F3.5-F5.6 AL lens for around $999 or in a body-only configuration for about $899 and is available now.

DIWA Silver Medal Award

DIWA Award

2. September, 2005: DIWA (Digital Imaging Websites Association), a world-wide organization of collaborating websites, today announces that Pentax has received their first DIWA Award for a D-SLR camera. Their *istDS model is honored with a Silver medal for outstanding test results.

Pentax has a long and glorious history from camera manufacturing, at times the most successful of any SLR manufacturer. Thanks to this legacy, the *istDS has a very compact body with excellent handling comfort, an excellent SLR pentaprism viewfinder, outstanding metering and exposure performance, as well as a wide range of high quality Pentax lenses. The *istDS passed the rigorous DIWA testing procedure with excellent results, also many of its digital qualities were highly praised by the DIWA reviewing experts.

Kai Thon, DIWA's test manager, says: "Despite their late arrival on the digital SLR arena, it's a pleasure to see that Pentax come well prepared. The *istDS is a most successful evolution of the original *istD, with most of the features intact, at a highly competitive price. Optical performance, ergonomic handling, compact design and an ingenious exposure system are established Pentax goodies, conveniently integrated in the *istDS. An added bonus is the highly competitive price tag".

The *istDS will not only appeal to former Pentax users, but also to newcomers in the exciting D-SLR world. Many of the camera's features are unique in design and performance, far exceeding many of its more popular competitors. The camera body has excellent handling comfort with a bright and user-friendly pentaprism viewfinder, its high resolution 2" LCD screen with 210.000 pixels simplifies image review and menu control, whilst the 11-point AF system provides fast and precise focusing with superimposed finder display and manual selection. Outstanding image quality is provided by the fine Pentax quality lenses and a high-sensitive 6.1 megapixel CCD, with an option of RAW format image storing on SD memory cards. The *istDS can shoot eight continuous frames at a speed of 2.8 fps.

Based on the final results from DIWA experts in Europe and USA, the overall averaged score for the Pentax *istDS was excellent, consequently honoured with a Silver medal for high performance, comfortable handling and supreme image quality, all at a reasonable price.

Physical Views

Pentax *ist DS, image (c) 2004 Steve's Digicams

Pentax *ist DS, image (c) 2004 Steve's Digicams

Pentax *ist DS, image (c) 2004 Steve's DigicamsPentax *ist DS, image (c) 2004 Steve's Digicams

Pentax *ist DS, image (c) 2004 Steve's Digicams

Pentax *ist DS, image (c) 2004 Steve's Digicams

Compare *ist DS and Nikon D70

Pentax *ist DS, image (c) 2004 Steve's Digicams

Pentax *ist DS, image (c) 2004 Steve's Digicams

Compare *ist DS and Canon Digital Rebel

Pentax *ist DS, image (c) 2004 Steve's Digicams

Pentax *ist DS, image (c) 2004 Steve's Digicams

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*ist DS Specifications

Lens Mount PENTAX KAF bayonet mount (by using AF adapter)
Usable Lens PENTAX KAF2-, KAF-, and KA-mount lenses.
* Power zoom function not available. K-mount lenses usable with restrictions. S-mount lenses usable with adapter.
67/645 lenses usable with adapter and with restrictions.
Focal length multiplier: 1.5x
Sensor Total pixels: 6.31 megapixels
Effective Pixels: 6.1 megapixels
Interline interlace CCD with a primary color filter
23.5mm x 15.7mm
Color Depth 8 bit (JPEG) or 12 bit (RAW)
Recorded Pixels JPEG:
[6M] 3008 x 2008
[4M] 2400 x 1600
[1.5M] 1536 x 1024
[6M] 3008 x 2008
Recording Formats JPEG (Exif 2.21), RAW, DCF (Design rule of Camera File system), DPOF (Digital Print Order Form), PRINT Image Matching III
Image Formats Compressed: JPEG - Baseline (: Best , : Better, : Good)
Non-compressed: RAW
Storage Media Secure Digital (SD) memory card
Sensitivity 200,400,800,1600,3200 (ISO equivalent)
Focusing System Type: TTL Phase-matching 11-point autofocus system (SAFOX VIII)

Applicable illumination range: EV0 - EV19 (at Standard Output Sensitivity 200 with 50mm F1.4 lens)

Mode: AF-single (with focus lock); Manual focus
AF-continuous available when you select Action mode.

Exposure Control Metering System: TTL open-aperture 16-segment metering (coupled with lens and AF information)

Metering Mode: (1) Multi-segment metering (2) Center-weighted metering (3) Spot metering

Metering Range: EV 1 - 21.5 (at Standard Output Sensitivity 200 with 50mm F1.4 lens)

Modes: (1) Auto Picture mode (2) Picture mode (3) Program AE (4) Shutter-Priority AE (5) Aperture-Priority AE (6) Metered Manual (7) Bulb [Picture mode] Standard, Portrait , Landscape, Macro, Action, Night scene portrait, Standard Flash-Off

Exposure Compensation: ±2 EV (1/2EV steps or 1/3EV steps)

Auto-bracketing: 3 frames within range of ±0.5EV, ±1.0EV, ±1.5EV (0.5EV steps) or ±0.3EV, ±0.7EV, ±1.0EV (0.3EV steps)

Drive Modes Single-frame advance, continuous advance (2.8fps up to 8 frames), self-timer, auto bracket and remote control
White Balance Auto, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy,Tungsten Light, Fluorescent Light (W, D, N), Manual setting
Shutter Type: Electronically controlled vertical-run focal plane shutter
Speed: 1/4000 - 30 sec. and bulb
Viewfinder Type: Pentaprism
Focusing screen: Natural-Bright-Matte focusing screen
Field of view: 95%
Magnification: 0.95X (with 50m F1.4 lens, -1m-1)
Diopter adjustment: -2.5 - +1.5m-1
Viewfinder Indication (1) AF frame; (2) Spot AF frame; (3) Focus point indication (high lighted in red)
Viewfinder LCD
(1) Flash information; (2) Picture mode (Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Action, Night scene portrait); (3) In-focus; (4) Shutter speed; (5) Aperture value; (6) Exposure compensation factor; (7) Manual white balance; (8) Manual focus; (9) ISO sensitivity warning; (10) Auto exposure lock signal
Mode Dial Indication (1) Auto Picture mode; (2) Standard mode; (3) Portrait mode; (4) Landscape mode; (5) Macro mode (6) Action mode (7) Night scene portrait mode; (8) Standard Flash-Off mode; (9) Program AE; (10) Shutter-Priority AE; (11) Aperture-Priority AE; (12) Metered Manual; (13) Bulb
Data LCD
Panel Indication
(1) Shutter speed; (2) Aperture value; (3) Flash Information (Auto, Flash-On, Flash-Off, Red-eye reduction); (4) Single frame advance/Continuouse advance; (5) Self-timer; (6) Remote control; (7) Metering Information; (8) Focus point indicator; (9) Auto bracketing; (10) Preset/Manual white balance information; (11) Battery information; (12) Exposure compensation factor; (13) Exposure frame number
LCD Monitor 2.0 inch, low-temperature polysilicon TFT color LCD monitor (Approx. 210,000 pixels)
Built-in Flash Type: Series-control retractable P-TTL pop-up flash
Guide number: 15.6 (Standard Output Sensitivity 200/m)
Angle of view: coverage 28mm wide-angle (equivalent to 35mm)
Flash Synchronization With RTF and via hot shoe
Sync speed: 1/180 sec. set automatically with RTF or PENTAX dedicated flash unit at recharge completion
Self-timer Electonically controlled type with 2-second or 12-second delay. Cancellation possible.
Custom Function 18 custom-programmable functions available
Main switch (1) ON; (2) OFF; (3) DOF Preview
Time World Time: 68 cities (28 time zones)
Language English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Korean, Chinese (Traditional/Simplified), Japanese
PictBridge Print mode: Single image print, All images print, DPOF auto print
Interfaces USB 2.0 (HI-SPEED)
Video Output Compatible with NTSC and PAL formats
Power Sources Four AA (lithium, alkaline, and rechargeable Ni-MH) batteries, two CR-V3 lithium batteries.
Optional AC adapter also available.
Dimensions 125(W) x 92.5(H) x 66(D)mm (4.9 x 3.6 x 2.6 inches)
Weight 605g (21.3oz.) loaded and ready
505g (17.8 oz.) without batteries and SD memory card.

Storage capacity
Recorded Pixels 3008 x 2008 3008 x 2000 2400 x 1600 1536 x 1024
Quality Level
128MB 11
256MB 22 78 149 242 111 201 330 220 354 549
512MB 46 167 311 498 234 415 674 453 722 1115
1GB 90 330 607 966 459 807 1397 880 1397 2151

System requirements
PENTAX PHOTO Browser 2.0 / PENTAX PHOTO Laboratory 2.0
OS: Windows Me, 2000, and XP HomeEdition/Professional
CPU: Pentium III or later (Pentium 4 or later)
Memory capacity: Over 256MB (Over 512MB)
Hard disk capacity: Over 250MB (Over 500MB)
Language: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Korean, Chinese (Traditional / Simplified), Japanese

OS: 9.0 or later installed
CPU: POWER PC G3 or later (G4 1.0GHz or later)
Memory capacity: Over 256MB (Over 512MB)
Hard disk capacity: Over 250MB (Over 500MB)
Language: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Korean, Chinese (Traditional / Simplified), Japanese

For smooth operation, suggested system requirments are shown in parentheses.


OS: Windows Me, 2000, or XP HomeEdition/Professional
OS: 9.01 or later with CarbonLib 1.5 or later

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