Pentax *ist DS

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Pentax *ist DS

Pros

  • Compact, fast startup times

Cons

  • Image quality is slightly lower than competitors

Bottom Line

The *ist DS is certainly a great camera, combining 6.1 megapixel resolution, decent build quality and great controls for beginners.

Would you buy this?

Pentax's oddly named *ist DS has a 6.1 megapixel CCD sensor that delivers images with 3008 x 2008 pixel resolution and sufficient detail to make good-looking A3 colour inkjet prints. Like most other digital SLRs, the CCD sensor is physically larger than those in consumer digital cameras, allowing lower noise levels even at high sensitivities.

Also like most digital SLRs, the *ist DS's sensor is smaller than a frame of 35mm film. As a consequence, all lenses have their focal length effectively multiplied 1.5 times. So, for example, the Sigma 18 to 125mm lens optionally sold with the *ist DS has an effective range of roughly 27 to 190mm.

The *ist DS's K-mount can use any Pentax lens, directly handling K, KA, KAF and KAF2 models and even screwmount or medium-format optics with an adapter, which is great news for anyone who already has Pentax gear, or for those who like browsing the second-hand market.

To save space, Pentax has only equipped the *ist DS with a slot for Secure Digital (SD) memory cards. A while back, the prospect of a digital SLR that couldn't use CompactFlash cards was unthinkable, but these days SD cards offer decent capacities at affordable prices. Images can be stored with three different levels of JPEG compression or in RAW mode. Best-quality JPEGs measure around 2.7MB each.

Next to many of its rivals, the *ist DS looks truly compact. It's comfortable to hold, well built and good looking. There's also a 2" LCD on the back and decent-sized LCD status screen on the top.

The main control dial allows photographers to select the traditional program, manual, shutter and aperture priority modes. Users can also choose from one of seven scene presets or allow the Auto Pict mode to do it for them. Sensitivity runs from 200 to 3200 ISO, and the burst mode can capture up to eight JPEGs at 2.8fps.

Power comes from four AAs or a pair of CR-V3 lithium packs, and Pentax supplies a mains adapter and a disposable pair of lithium CR-V3s.

The *ist DS was quick to start and take its first shot. In our tests, it resolved slightly less detail than some of its key competitors, while noise levels were fractionally higher.

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