Pentax *ist D SLR Review

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Pentax *ist D

Review posted 10/18/03
Conclusion posted 11/12/03

Click on the *ist D for a QuickTime VR tour

The PENTAX *ist D digital SLR camera combines a high-performance, APS-sized 6.1 effective megapixel CCD image sensor, Pentax K lens mount, pentaprism viewfinder, and a 1.8 inch LCD monitor in one of the world's smallest and lightest camera bodies in the digital SLR category. The *ist D measures a very compact 5 x 3.7 x 2.3 inches and weighs just 18 ounces without batteries.

The *ist D captures images in standard compressed JPEG with three quality levels and uncompressed TIFF and RAW modes. Pentax Photo Laboratory software is included to manipulate the RAW format images. User-selectable image sizes are: 3000x2008, 2400x1600, 1536x1024, 1152x768 or 960x640. Images can be stored on any CompactFlash Type I or II device including Microdrives.

An optical pentaprism viewfinder developed especially for the *ist D makes viewing easy with an ample 95% field of view and 0.95X magnification. A superimposed display function assists composition by illuminating the AF points in red. The high precision viewfinder has a subject magnification of 0.95 (50mm F1.4 lens at infinity) to improve accuracy in manual focus. The information display along the bottom of the viewfinder image keeps you informed of the camera's settings without taking your eye off of your subject.

The *ist D features Pentax's new SAFOX VIII phase-matching autofocus system, the 11-point AF sensor covers a wide area of both horizontal and vertical image fields with exceptional speed and precision, even in poor lighting conditions. The photographer can manually select any one of the 11 AF sensor points or let the camera do it for you. The user-selected AF point is superimposed in the viewfinder with a red LED indicator. The continuous-AF mode allows for recording up to six images at the rate of 2.6 frames per second.

Exposure control is handled by a sophisticated 16-segment multi-pattern metering system with Spot and Center-weighted modes available for more complicated lighting conditions. The exposure system features six distinctive modes: Green Program, Aperture-priority AE, Shutter-priority AE, Bulb, Hyper Program (shift exposure with Tv or Av dials) and Hyper Manual. In Hyper Program the user can choose from High Shutter Speed Priority, Depth Priority, MTF Priority or normal Program.

There are 22 user-adjustable custom functions to reprogram important camera functions to suit individual preferences. Custom functions and all camera menu operations are carried out on the high resolution 1.8-inch TFT color monitor. This also allows for instant review of images as they are captured and the playback of images with thumbnail and up to 12X magnified playback. There is also a top-mounted status LCD monitor to provide information about camera settings at a glance.

A wide range of compatible PENTAX lenses are available for use with the *ist D 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. Along with the introduction of the *ist D, PENTAX announces an exciting wide angle lens for 35mm AF SLR cameras, the smc PENTAX-FA J Zoom 18-35mm F4-5.6 AL.

Pentax *ist D Features:

  • One of the smallest and lightest dSLR cameras, stainless steel chassis
  • High resolution, APS-sized 6.1-Megapixel CCD image sensor
  • Image sizes are: 3000x2008, 2400x1600, 1536x1024, 1152x768 or 960x640.
  • Choice of JPEG, TIFF and RAW recording formats
  • Software included to manipulate RAW format image data
  • Pentaprism viewfinder with 95% field of view, superimposed AF points
  • Compatible with Pentax K, KA, KAF, and KAF2 mount lenses; screw mount lenses, 645, and 67 series lenses (adapter required)
  • New 16-segment metering system with Spot and Center-weighted options
  • New 11-point AF sensor (SAFOX VIII) fast and precise focusing
  • Fast 1/4000 sec. shutter speed and high-speed flash sync at 1/150 sec.
  • Continuous shooting up to 6 images at approx. 2.6 fps
  • Individual dials for shutter and aperture selection
  • Builtin pop-up flash with red-eye reduction, external flash units can be used with hot shoe or standard PC sync connector
  • Green Program, Hyper Program, Shutter-Priority AE, Aperture-Priority AE and Hyper Manual exposure modes.
  • AE Bracketing of three images with three orders and six exposure ranges.
  • 22 Custom functions allows settings to be fine-tuned to satisfy user preferences
  • Noise reduction function activates for long exposures
  • Compatible with MicroDrive and CompactFlash Type I/II
  • PC-based camera control and easy data transmission with USB 1.1 compatibility
  • 1.8 inch, 118,000-pixel LCD monitor for easy, high-precision viewing
  • Playback functions; histogram, nine-image thumbnail and 12X zoom display
  • Powered by 4 AA batteries or 2 CR-V3 Li-ion batteries
  • Optional D-BG1 battery grip works along with internal batteries
  • Optional wireless infrared remote controller

Pentax *ist D, image (c) 2003 Steve's Digicams

The *ist D outfit includes the *ist D camera body, neck strap, Video Out cable, USB cable, S-SW10 CD-ROM contains the RAW-format data processing software PENTAX PHOTO Laboratory and the browser software PENTAX PHOTO Browser.

The *ist D camera (pronounced ist-dee) will begin shipping in October 2003 to the United States. Initial pricing as follows: $1699.95 for the body and $1899.95 for the body plus the 18-35mm lens.

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Physical Views

*ist D Specifications

Type Interchangeable lens Single-Lens-Reflex type digital still camera with TTL auto exposure,autofocus and built-in TTL auto flash.
Lens Mount PENTAX K AF mount
Compatible Lenses PENTAX 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.
Image Sensor Interline interlace CCD.
Size: 23.5mm x 15.7mm (diagonal line: 28.40mm).
Total pixels: 6.31 megapixels
Effective Pixels 6.1 megapixels.
Recorded Pixels Large: 3008 x 2008 pixels.
Middle: 2400 x 1600 pixels.
Small: 1536 x 1024 pixels.
(Switchable to 1152 x 768 pixels or 960 x 640 pixels by custom function.)
Sensitivity Equivalent to ISO 200 to ISO 1600 (3200 available as Custom Function)
File Formats Exif 2.2, DCF, DPOF
Quality Levels Compressed: JPEG-baseline with compressibility rates of 1/3, 1/6 and 1/12.
Uncompressed: 8-bit TIFF-RGB Ver.6.0 and 12-bit RAW.
Storage Media CompactFlash cards (Type I and Type II) and MicroDrive
Color Composition JPEG: YCbCr (4:2:2).
TIFF: TIFF-RGB (4:4:4).
RAW: RAW data of CCD.
White Balance Auto: TTL control using image sensor.
Preset: Daylight, Cloudiness, Shade, Tungsten light and Fluorescent light (W, N, D).
Manual: 3 settings.
LCD Monitor 1.8 inch, 118,000 pixel low-temperature polysilicon TFT color LCD with backlight
LCD Function Single frame, zoom in/out up to 12X, nine-image, slide show, image rotation, shooting data indication (including date and histogram), quick view (instant display of image after shooting)
Delete Function Single-frame-deletion, All-frame deletion, card format, protect
Video Output NTSC/PAL switchable
Interfaces USB 1.1
Exposure Modes Auto exposure with Hyper Program, Programmed AE, Shutter-Priority AE, Aperture-Priority AE, Metered Manual, bulb
Shutter Electronically controlled vertical-run focal-plane shutter with electronic release.
Auto shutter speeds:1/4000 sec. to 30 sec.
Manual shutter speeds:1/4000 sec. to 30 sec. (0.5EV steps) and bulb.
Shutter lock at power-off position.
Viewfinder Eye-level-type fixed pentaprism viewfinder with Natural-Bright-Matte focusing screen.
Field of view: 95%.
Magnification: 0.95X (with 50mm F1.4 lens at infinity, -1m -1).
Diopter adjustment: -2.5m -1 to +1.5m-1
Viewfinder Indication Out of image area: Built-in flash status, AF sensor pattern, in-focus, shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation factor, bar graph. Within image area: AF frame with superimposed AF sensor point, spot AF frame.
Data LCD Information Quality level, Tv dial, Av dial, shutter speed, aperture value, exposure compensation, exposure frame number, battery exhaustion warning, RTF recharge, flash status, RTF function, red-eye reduction flash, wireless flash mode, high-speed synchronization, remote control, self-timer, film advance mode (single-frame/consecutive), multiple exposure, auto bracketing, auto white balance control, preset white balance control, manual white balance control.
Illumination activated by preview lever.
Exposure Metering TTL open-aperture 16-segment metering.
Spot metering and center-weighted metering selectable.
Metering range (at ISO200 with 50mm F1.4 lens): EV0 to EV21
(EV1 to EV21.5 with multi-segment metering).
Exposure compensation ±3EV (in 1/2EV steps), ±2EV (in 1/3EV steps)
Auto Bracketing 3 frames (proper/over/under) within range of ±1.5EV (1/2EV steps) or ±1.0EV (1/3EV steps)
Simultaneous use with exposure compensation possible.
AE Lock Pushbutton type with approx. 20-second timer.
Extendable with shutter button half-pressed.
Drive Modes Single-frame advance, continuous advance (2.6 fps.) up to 6 frames (at noise reduction off).
Autofocus TTL phase-matching autofocus system.
Applicable illumination range: EV0 to EV19 (at ISO200).
AF-Single, AF-Continuous, Manual Focus switchable.
Focus lock available.
AF sensor point selectable.
AF auxiliary illumination by built-in flash available.
Built-in Flash (RTF) Guide number: 15.6 (at ISO200/m), Guide number: 11 (at ISO100/m).
Angle of view coverage: 18mm.
Synchronization speed: 1/150 sec.
Flash-Off, flash-on and red-eye reduction functions available.
Flash Synch Via hot shoe (with X-contact for dedicated flash unit).
Standard PC flash sync connector
Sensitivity range: ISO200 to ISO1600.
Flash synchronization: up to 1/150 sec.
High-speed synchronization, wireless remote-control synchronization and P-TTL synchronization functions available with dedicated flash unit.
Self-timer Electronically controlled type with 12- or 2-second delay.
Mirror lock-up mechanism available.
Mid-operation cancellation possible.
Remote Control Infrared wireless remote control with optional remote controller.
Effective range: 5m (16.6 ft.) from front side of camera.
Instant release or 3-second-delay release switchable.
Preview Electronic preview.
Available in all modes.
Power Source 2 CR-V3 batteries or 4 AA-sized batteries (lithium, Ni-MH, alkaline).
Optional AC adapter available.
Battery Life CR-V3: Approx. 1000 frames no flash used.
Lithium batteries: Approx. 900 frames no flash used.
Ni-MH batteries: Approx. 450 frames no flash used.
Alkaline batteries: Approx. 110 no flash used.
Dimensions 129.0mm x 94.5mm x 60mm (5.1 x 3.7 x 2.4 inches)
Weight 550g (19.4 oz.) for body only (without batteries and memory card)

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