- Great image quality, Dust protection, Image stabilisation, Awesome design
- JPEG images a little soft, Noise response could be a little better
If you regularly shoot in JPEG then Pentax's K10D may not be the best choice for you, but those who prefer to use RAW will find it to be a powerful, versatile and sturdy camera that comes at a bargain price.
Price$ 1,699.00 (AUD)
Pentax is a company that slipped a little off the SLR radar in recent times, taking a back seat to old hats Canon and Nikon, as well as new entries from companies like Olympus and Sony. However, with the K10D, they have firmly re-established themselves. It sits at an interesting place in the market, as a competitor to mid range entries like the Canon 40D and the Nikon D80, and its low price tag and bundle of features should prove very popular with photo enthusiasts. Our only complaint with the unit was its JPEG pictures, which do have a tendency to come out a little soft.
Sporting optical image stabilisation along with dust reduction technology and a 10 megapixel sensor, the K10D is equipped with all the features necessary to meet the demands of modern photographers. We found the image stabilisation to be effective and this is definitely a huge boon when shooting with long telephoto lenses. Meanwhile, the dust reduction operates very similarly to that in Olympus' line of SLRs, shaking the sensor free of dust every time the camera is powered up. While this may not seem like a big deal to the average user, professional photographers are regularly changing lenses, which eventually leads to dust getting trapped on the sensor and ruining pictures. In a few years time, dust protection will probably be standard across most digital SLRs, so it is good to see Pentax getting on board now.
Its 10 megapixel sensor measures 23.5mm x 15.7mm, which is slightly larger than Canon's sensors and on par with Nikon's. In general it performed well in our imaging tests, although with one caveat; you really want to be shooting in RAW mode to take proper advantage of it (It offers both Pentax's proprietary RAW format as well as standard RAW).
We typically shoot most of our test shots at the highest quality JPEG settings, but with this configuration our pictures often came out a little soft. Edges weren't as clean and crisp as we'd expect from a 10 megapixel SLR. That said, by playing around with the sharpness settings in the menu a little we were able to correct this a little, and with this configuration the K10D scored 1614 in Imatest's sharpness test. This is a little behind some competing units, but is consistent with what we saw in our test shots. If you switch to RAW shooting however the clarity jumps up remarkably and the K10D becomes more than competitive with other models.
In our other tests it performed better. Noise response was good with Imatest awarding the camera a score of 0.58% at ISO 100. Our shots had little in the way of visible noise here. As we cranked the sensitivity up the noise increased as anticipated. At ISO 400 it was much more visible but still controlled enough to be usable, however by ISO 800 we'd say the shots are good for little besides standard 4in x 6in prints.
Colour response was excellent; the K10D achieved an Imatest score of 6.0 in this area, which is a brilliant result. Colours were accurate and well balanced, with only minor error visible in shades of red, which is a relatively common occurrence.
Chromatic aberration was slightly higher than usual, but still well within acceptable limits, with Imatest giving the K10D a score of 0.075% here. There was a little haloing and vignetting evident in our test shots, but this is generally expected and is caused by the stock lens, which is usually one area where camera manufacturers cut costs. This unit's default 17mm-70mm lens is slightly better than those from competing companies, but we'd still recommend purchasing a better quality one if possible. This is one of the limitations of buying a Pentax camera, as they don't have the huge variety of lenses that Canon and Nikon have.
The feature set is fairly standard in comparison to the new breed of 10 megapixel SLRs hitting the market, although Pentax has thrown in a few extra exposure control modes which should please users after a little extra flexibility. On top of the usual shutter, aperture and program priority modes there are also two ISO priority modes. One allows you to set the sensitivity and it adjusts the aperture and shutter speed accordingly, while the other adjusts ISO sensitivity according to the aperture and shutter speeds. While not everyone will make use of these settings they are a nifty addition. Of course full manual mode is also present, along with a "user" option, which switches to a predefined configuration of settings of your choosing.
ISO sensitivities extend from 100 to 1600 and white balance comes with both preset options and the obligatory manual mode. Shutter speeds extend from 60 seconds to 1/4000th of a second and there are 11 focus points to use with spot focus.
One of the really cool things about the design of this model is that basically everything has its own control. It is a little difficult to puzzle out at first, but once you know where everything is it makes it much quicker and more intuitive to flick between various settings. The exposure metering for example is controlled by a small switch located under the function wheel; practically invisible if you don't know it's there, but in the perfect place once you do.
The unit is also extremely well constructed, offering a dust and weather proof design that is a big boon for the modern photographer. Many people miss photo opportunities for fear of taking their camera into harsh conditions, so it is great to see Pentax making improvements to help rectify this. The also K10D sits very nicely in the hands and is very nicely weighted, which is important for long photography sessions.
Unlike many other companies, Pentax hasn't abandoned its twin LCD setup, with the main display used to navigate the menu, and a second monochrome panel on top showing all the relevant settings.
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