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DCRP Review: Pentax K100D
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: August 31, 2006
Last Updated: February 4, 2008
On the outside, the new Pentax K100D ($599 body only, $699 with lens) looks a lot like its predecessor, the *ist DS2. Pentax didn't just change the name, though (but I'm glad they did) -- inside the K100D is a CCD-shift image stabilization system. This system, which Pentax calls Shake Reduction, lets you take sharper photos at slower shutter speeds than on an unstabilized camera -- and with ANY Pentax lens ever made.
Other features on the K100D include a 6.1 Megapixel CCD, full manual controls, a 2.5" LCD display, and all the expandability you'd expect from a digital SLR. And did I mention that it uses AA batteries?
To save $100 you can also check out the K110D model, which is the same as the K100D, except that it lacks Shake Reduction.
The entry-level D-SLR field is very competitive. Read our review to see how the K100D compares!
Since the two cameras have much in common, I will be reusing portions of my Samsung GX-1S review here.
What's in the Box?
Like many D-SLRs, there are two "kits" available for the K100D. One has just the body and bundled accessories, while the other includes all that plus a lens. Here's what you'll find in the box for each kit:
As is the case with all D-SLRs, Pentax does not include a memory card with the K100D, so you'll have to factor that into the total purchase price. The camera uses Secure Digital (SD) and MultiMediaCards, and if you're using firmware version 1.01 or later you can use the new SD High Capacity (SDHC) cards as well. I'd suggest picking up a 512MB card for use with the camera, and a "high speed" card will be worth the extra dollars.
If you get the lens kit then you'll find a Pentax F3.5-5.6, 18 - 55 mm lens in the box. This lens can be purchased separately for a little over $100. The 18-55 is a good, but not great, lens that is good for everyday shooting, though it does have a bit of a problem with vignetting. More on this subject later.
The K100D is one of a select few D-SLRs that uses AA batteries without needing an expensive adapter. Pentax gives you four alkaline batteries in the box, which will quickly find their way into your trash can. To save money and the environment, do yourself a favor and pick up a set or two of NiMH rechargeable batteries (2500 mAh or higher) and a fast charger.
Since most manufacturers don't publish battery life statistics about their D-SLRs, it's hard to compare the K100D against the competition. Pentax says that you can take 300 shots per charge (with 50% flash use, CIPA standard) using 2500 mAh batteries. Canon's new Digital Rebel XTi can take 370 shots per charge, the old Pentax *ist DS2 took around 500 shots, while the Sony Alpha DSLR-A100 can take a whopping 750 photos under the same conditions. I don't have CIPA numbers for Nikon's cameras, unfortunately.
There is no battery grip available for this or any Pentax D-SLR.
However, there are plenty of other accessories. Naturally you can choose from Pentax's large assortment of lenses, and the new Samsung-branded models will work too. If you want more flash power the you can choose from two external flashes (from Pentax -- third party models work too): the AF360FGZ and AF540FGZ. If you want to use the camera without laying a hand on it, you can pick up the CS-205 remote shutter release or the Remote Control F. To power the K100D without draining your batteries then you'll need the K-AC10 AC adapter. There are other items out there -- too many to list here -- but they include various viewfinder and hot shoe accessories.
Pentax Photo Browser 3
Pentax includes two pieces of software with the K100D: Photo Browser and Photo Laboratory. There are Mac and Windows versions of each.
Photo Browser 3 is a fairly typical photo organizer. It'll download the images off of the camera and put them into the usual thumbnail view. As you'd expect, the thumbnail size can be adjusted. Information about the currently selected image is shown below the thumbnails.
If you double-click on a thumbnail you'll arrive at the above screen. Here you can rotate and crop images, as well as print them. While there is an auto enhance feature, I was surprised to see that there was no redeye removal tool.
While Photo Browser can view RAW images, it can't edit any of the properties that make the format useful. For that, you'll want to use...
Pentax Photo Laboratory 3
... Photo Laboratory! This is a pretty hardcore product, letting you adjust almost every RAW property imaginable. It's got basics like exposure, saturation, contrast, and sharpness covered. There are nice white balance controls, plus you can reduce noise, chromatic aberrations, and lens distortion as well. If that's still not enough, you can play with tone curves to your heart's desire.
By the way, at the time this review was written the K100D's RAW files could not be read by Photoshop CS2.
What's the big deal about RAW anyway, you ask? RAW images contain unprocessed image data from the camera, which must be converted on your computer into more common formats like JPEG. Since the image data is untouched, you can edit the properties mentioned above without reducing the quality of the image. So if you screwed up the white balance, RAW gives you a second chance.
A complex camera requires a pretty hefty manual, and Pentax gives you one. The layout of the manual isn't terribly user friendly, though the information you're looking for is there. The large font size is a nice change from the usual manual which requires a magnifying glass to read.
Look and Feel
Put the K100D next to the *ist DS2 and you'll have an awfully hard time telling them apart. The two things that give away the difference (besides the labeling) are the Shake Reduction button on the back of the K100D, and the fact that the new camera is a little larger than the old one.
The K100D feels like a much more expensive camera with its in your hands, aside from a few cheap plastic doors. It's got a stainless steel core with solid plastic shell, and it's very well put together. The large right hand grip makes the camera easy to hold, and the important controls are right where they should be.
Now let's see how the K100D compares to other entry-level D-SLRs in terms of size and weight: