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DCRP Review: Pentax K10D
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: March 8, 2007
Last Updated: February 4, 2008
The K10D is the flagship camera in Pentax's digital SLR lineup. It arguably has more bang for the buck than any other camera in its class, with a 10 Megapixel CCD, optical image stabilization, dust removal system, support for two RAW formats, and a solid, weather resistant body. The K10D sells for under $1000 with an 18 - 55 mm kit lens.
The K10D has a "twin" in the Samsung GX-10. They are the identical except for minor cosmetic differences and no support for the PEF RAW format on the GX-10 (it still supports the DNG format). For more on the GX-10, check out its mini-review.
Is the Pentax K10D the ultimate midrange D-SLR? Find out now in our review!
What's in the Box?
There are two kits available for the K10D: body only, and with an 18 - 55 mm lens. Here's what you'll find in the box for both of these kits:
As is the case with all D-SLRs, Pentax does not include a memory card with the K10D. So, unless you already have some SD cards laying around, you'll need to buy one. The camera supports SD, MMC, and the new high capacity SDHC cards, and I'd recommend buying a 1GB card to start with. A high speed card is recommended for getting the best performance out of the camera.
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 decent lens that is good for everyday shooting, though it does have a bit of a problem with vignetting that I'll illustrate later.
The K10D uses the D-LI50 lithium-ion rechargeable battery for power. This battery packs a whopping 12 Wh of energy, which is about as high as you'll find these days. How does that translate into battery life? Have a look:
The K10D's battery life is a bit below average, but not by much. If you want more juice, then you'll need this:
K10D with optional battery grip and F2.4L, 70 mm lens
Yes, it's a battery grip, known as the D-BG2 (priced from $144). It takes a second D-LI50 battery, effectively doubling your battery life. It also offers a few additional buttons, which come in handy when you're shooting in the vertical orientation.
I suppose I should mention the usual downsides about proprietary batteries like the D-LI50. They're expensive (priced from $50), and you can't use off-the-shelf batteries when you run out of juice. That said, only the "old" Pentax K100D supports AA batteries straight out of the box. A few others let you use them in their optional battery grips.
When it's time to charge that D-LI50, just pop it into the included charger. It takes about three hours to fully charge the battery. This isn't one of those handy chargers that plug directly into the wall -- you must use a power cable.
Let's talk about accessories now. Being a D-SLR, the K10D supports just about every thing you can imagine. I've compiled some of them into this handy table for you:
There are a few other accessories out there not on the list, most of them related to the optical viewfinder.
Pentax Photo Browser 3
Pentax includes two pieces of software with the K10D: Photo Browser and Photo Laboratory. There are Mac and Windows versions of each, and the former is Universal, meaning that it runs at full speed on Intel-based Macs.
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, and there are various ways of sorting through your photos. Information about the currently selected image is shown below the thumbnails. The software can displays selected photos in a slideshow, if you wish.
Photo Browser can open RAW images and convert them to JPEG or DNG format. It cannot, however, edit the RAW properties -- you'll need the Photo Laboratory software described below for that.
If you double-click on a thumbnail you'll arrive at the above screen. Here you can rotate and crop your photos, as well as print them. While there is an auto enhance feature, I was surprised to see that there was no redeye removal tool.
Pentax Photo Laboratory 3
Pentax includes their Photo Laboratory software (which is based on SilkyPix) for all your RAW editing needs. It lets you adjust things 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.
If you don't want to use Photo Laboratory, you can also import the RAW files directly into Photoshop using the latest Camera Raw plug-in.
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 hasn't been touched, you can edit the properties mentioned above without reducing the quality of the image. So if you screwed up the white balance, RAW lets you redeem yourself.
The K10D is very unique in that it supports two RAW formats. Naturally, it supports Pentax's own proprietary PEF format, but it also allows you to use Adobe's open standard called DNG. While the photo quality will be the same with either format (since they're both RAW), there are some differences in performance that I'll detail later in the review.
Being a pretty complicated camera, it's not too surprising that Pentax includes a pretty thick manual in the box with the K10D. It's in-depth and covers all the camera features. Extra points to Pentax for using a font size that doesn't require a magnifying glass.
Look and Feel
The K10D is an exceptionally well-built, midsize digital SLR. It's just the right size (at least for me) -- not too small, not too big. There's a large grip for your right hand, so you never feel like the K10D is about to fall out of your hands. The camera has a sturdy plastic shell over a metal frame, and it feels really solid in your hands. The various buttons, dials, and ports on the camera are dust and weather resistant, so the camera can be out in the elements without a problem. Speaking of buttons, while the K10D has many of them, it's still fairly easy to just pick up and use.
Now let's see how the K10D compares to other entry-level D-SLRs in terms of size and weight: