Pentax *ist DL
- Great transition camera, nice images, robust functionality
- Battery life is a bit of a problem, some minor layout irritations
A great budget SLR.
Price$ 999.00 (AUD)
When the Pentax *ist DL came into the office, the first problem we encountered was exactly how we were going to talk about it. How does one pronounce *ist DL? Browsing the Internet revealed everything from "star-ist-dee-ell" to "eye-ess-tee". We here at the Good Gear Guide preferred the simple route and referred to it as the Pentax Star. Whatever you want to call it, one thing was clear: we liked this camera a lot.
The *ist sports a 6 megapixel sensor and a full set of manual functions, including white balance, focus, aperture, shutter speed, saturation, contrast, colour balance and a selection of ISO sensitivities ranging from 200 to 3200. The functions are quite comprehensive, but small corners have clearly been cut, such as the 1/8000 shutter speed present on higher-end models.
There are also a few preset shooting modes, such as portrait, landscape, night mode and action shots, as well as a fully automatic shooting mode. The *ist provides an easy learning curve for more complicated functions by still allowing you to automate what you feel comfortable with.
Picture quality was a mixed bag. The sharpness and clarity were incredible when compared with non-SLR 6 megapixel models. Colour quality was somewhat lacking, however, with green and yellow tones being a little oversaturated. The manual ISO controls also seemed a little sensitive, creating images that were washed out and dull. Nonetheless, for a budget SLR, we were very satisfied with the picture quality.
The design itself is quite good. The camera is not too big (as SLRs go) and the lens is easily attached and removed for easy storage. It sits very comfortably in the hand with a standard SLR grip. The body feels flimsy in parts, with a large portion being constructed from plastic, but overall it is sturdy enough.
We did find the button layout a little irritating, however, particularly the function wheel. It is on the top, at the left-hand side of the camera, and you have to switch grips in order to use it properly. We also found the battery slot difficult to close.
The rest of the controls are well laid out. The very pretty 215,000 pixel, 2.5" LCD is ringed by the menu, information and directional pad buttons. There is a second screen on the top, which gives basic information regarding the aperture, shutter speed, battery life and flash settings. The two key manual settings (aperture and shutter speed) can be controlled by a single wheel below the second screen, which makes changing things on the fly a breeze.
The Pentax supports either lithium ion or AA batteries. We tested it with alkaline AAs, and we chewed through a set of four AAs in about 250 shots with the battery saving mode on.
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