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Pentax K10D Overview

by Shawn Barnett
with Siegfried Weidelich
and Mike Tomkins
Review posted: 04/05/2007

The Pentax K10D is based around an APS-C sized CCD imager with an effective resolution of 10.2 megapixels. It uses a 22-bit Analog-to-digital converter (output is 8-bit JPEG or 12-bit RAW), and a new processing engine dubbed "PRIME" (Pentax Real IMage Engine). This is coupled with a Pentax KAF lens mount that's compatible with an impressive array of K-, KA-, KAF- and KAF2 lenses, as well as screw-mount / 645-system / 67-system lenses with an adapter. Pentax also notes that the camera body is designed to be compatible with new "supersonic motor-driven" AF lenses which are currently in development. The K10D has a dust-proof, weather resistant body with a stainless steel chassis and some 72 seals that allow the camera to be used in dusty and/or rainy environments. The sensor sits on a free-floating electromagnetically controlled platter that can move horizontally, vertically, and even rotationally.

Other sensor shift mechanisms are mounted on fixed rails and hence only able to move the sensor horizontally and vertically, according to Pentax. Courtesy of this sensor-shift mechanism, called "Shake Reduction," the K10D can offer image stabilization with every Pentax-branded lens that can be fitted to the camera. Some older lenses that don't transmit focal length information to the camera body require the user to manually enter the focal length through the menu system. The Shake Reduction system was first seen in the K100D digital SLR. While in that camera Pentax said you could get up to 2 to 3.5 stops slower, they expect that the K10D will offer from 2.5 to 4 stops of compensation.

As with several other manufacturers (pioneered by Olympus, and also including Canon and Sony), Pentax has equipped the K10D to fight a common problem of digital SLRs: dust. First, they've employed a vapor-deposited "Super Protect" fluorine compound coating to protect against stains and repel dust. Second, courtesy of the Shake Reduction mechanism, the K10D can vibrate the sensor at high speed to shake any remaining dust off. An adhesive strip positioned at the bottom of the mechanism captures the dust.

The K10D has a 2.5" LCD display with 210,000 pixels and a 140-degree horizontal/vertical viewing angle. The viewfinder is a pentaprism TTL optical design with 95% field of view, 0.95x magnification, diopter adjustment from -2.5m-1 to +1.5m-1, and a Natural-Bright-Matte II focusing screen. The K10D autofocuses with Pentax's SAFOX VIII phase matching system with 11 autofocus points, while auto exposure metering choices are 16-segment multi, center-weighted, and spot. Shutter speeds from 30 to 1/4,000 second are possible, and there's also a bulb mode. The shutter mechanism is rated for 100,000 releases. ISO sensitivity varies from a minimum of 100 to 1,600 equivalent, and as well as the usual Program, Shutter-priority, Aperture-priority and metered Manual exposure modes, the K10D offers two unusual options. A Sensitivity-priority AE mode allows you to quickly select an ISO sensitivity and have the camera select an appropriate shutter speed and aperture. Alternatively, a Shutter & Aperture-priority AE mode allows the user to select a shutter speed and aperture manually, and have the camera automatically select a corresponding ISO setting.

The Pentax K10D offers automatic or preset white balance, with six options (Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Flash), plus a manual white balance mode. A built-in five-mode popup flash has a guide number of 15.6 (ISO 200/m) and covers up to a 28mm (35mm equivalent) angle of view, and there's a hot shoe for mounting an external flash. Flash sync speed is 1/180 second. There's also a three-frames-per-second burst mode which can capture up to 12 RAW frames, or an unlimited number of JPEG frames. Other features include a number of digital filter modes, a two or 12-second self timer, and a zero or three-second remote control mode.

Images are stored on Secure Digital cards, and the Pentax K10D is compatible with the new SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) standard, which extends the maximum flash card capacity to a theoretical 32GB, with sustained transfer rates of up to six megabytes per second. In addition to JPEG compression, the K10D can store images in RAW format -- either in Pentax's proprietary PEF format, or Adobe's DNG format. Connectivity includes USB 2.0 High Speed data, and NTSC / PAL video connections, and power comes courtesy of a proprietary D-LI50 Lithium Ion rechargeable battery.

 

Pentax K10D User Report

by Shawn Barnett

A series of interruptions, not the least of which was PMA 2007, kept me from quickly reviewing the Pentax K10D. It turns out that was good, because reviewing the K10D quickly would be a mistake. It is not like other digital SLRs on the market, and it's taken me a little longer to realize that. There are foibles, to be sure, but I've found things that I thought were foibles that are actually features only a photographer could love. I just had to approach the K10D a little differently.

Ethos. (Skip down to Traditional Build if you just want to hear what the camera is like) A conversation with John Carlson, Product Manager for Pentax Imaging, helped confirm what I've been thinking while working with the K10D. The K10D is a camera for those who like to work the same way they worked with film: with planning and forethought.

Like the Canon 5D, the Pentax K10D has no Scene modes, and though it has a Green zone and some interesting helper features, these features are aimed at the experienced photographer, not the novice.

When I reviewed the Pentax K100D last year, I really enjoyed my experience and the pictures, but I was disappointed with its indoor performance. White balance and autofocus just didn't match what I've experienced with other digital SLR cameras. I concluded that for consumers to enjoy the K100D, they'd do well to purchase a Pentax flash for indoor shots, and use the bounce feature liberally. The AF540's AF-assist beam eliminates focus problems across the frame, and exposure and white balance become irrelevant under its powerful strobe.

Thankfully, the white balance problem isn't as severe with the K10D as it was with the K100D, but the AF system is still a little slow, stubborn, and slightly random. I don't attribute the AF issues to this Pentax digital SLR ethos, but I do think the continued white balance issue can be attributed to the philosophy of the line's designer, Pentax's Hisashi Tatamiya.

Mr. Tatamiya has worked hard to keep Pentax's SLR line working more like film. That includes its Auto White Balance setting, where he tries to keep a sunset the way the eye sees it, with reds and oranges, rather than trying to turn it white as some white balance systems would do. That could be why I have more trouble with indoor white balance with the K10D, especially with tungsten lighting.

"Pentax wants to do as little processing as possible, but still give you a good image," said John Carlson, Pentax Imaging Systems Product Manager. "We want it to be as film-like as possible."

I'm used to the way Canon and Nikon cameras handle a scene in Auto White Balance when I'm just taking snapshots of the family. I don't like to think about white balance with casual shooting. But back in the film days, you'd have to either change films or add a filter to compensate for certain types of indoor light, depending on what kind of film you had loaded. With the K10D, it's easier than that: you just change your white balance setting manually.

As Dave Etchells has pointed out in our discussions of the K10D, Pentax's approach goes against what Auto White Balance is supposed to be. If you set a camera's white balance system to Auto, you want it to adjust the white balance correctly for you regardless what you point it at; all the other presets are there for you if you want to pretend you're changing rolls of film or adding filters. Instead of seeking white balance in Auto mode, though, Pentax says they're trying to ensure that experienced film photographers get what they've come to expect.

White Balance is a tough task, no matter how you look at it. Incandescent light is slightly yellow to my eyes. So I do expect to see some of that yellow if I'm taking a picture in the kitchen with incandescent lights. Depending on a camera's programming, I'll either see yellow or pure white. I think many cameras fail our indoor incandescent test because the camera programmer wants to leave a little yellow in when incandescent light is detected. However, if I'm shooting under fluorescent lights with film, I don't want it to be green, because I don't see green when I look at things under fluorescent. That's where Auto White Balance usually comes in. Just know that Pentax's approach to Auto is a little different on purpose.

Leave it to me to do all that analysis before getting to the actual User Report. I think it's important when considering the K10D to understand this ethos before you buy. I don't think this is a camera for the casual shooter who just wants reasonably good pictures indoors and out without much thought. Though it has a green mode, that green mode uses the Auto White Balance bias I just described as well.

I don't want to come off like an apologist for the Pentax digital SLR ethos, but I think you have to understand this ethos to know how to work with the K10D, especially if you're used to digital SLRs from other manufacturers. Though I consider myself an experienced photographer, I don't find shooting indoors with the Pentax K10D or K100D to be easy. For spontaneous photos of children, I prefer other cameras. I have gotten excellent photos with window light and the *istDS and the K100D, but I've had as many bad shots as good, almost always due to white balance issues.

It's imperative to understand that the Pentax K10D is designed for the experienced intermediate to advanced photographer, one who wants to take the time to learn its particularly photographer-centric approach.

Left grip: I started using it before I noticed it was there.

Traditional Build. At first glance, the Pentax K10D is a handsome, larger, professional-grade digital SLR. It's about the same size as a Canon 30D, and looks all business. The grip is solid and comfortable, bolstered by a rubbery, comfortable thumbrest that is positioned just right. Its tapers and contours look good; I came to find that at least one of them served a purpose.

The right grip, though I say it's comfortable, is a little short for me, leaving my pinkie half on and half off. It becomes quite a bit more comfortable with the optional battery grip, which I'll get to later. I'm more impressed with the grip on the left side of the Pentax K10D. That's right, both the front and back of the K10D have a groove that gives your fingers a secure hold on the left of the camera body, and the thumb can ride in the matching groove on the back, easily selecting the four control buttons to the left of the 2.5 inch LCD.

Though it's a little high for my taste, I otherwise like the shutter button and power button arrangement, including the digital depth-of-field preview mode. Just twist the power switch past ON, and the K10D will capture an image at the current settings and display it onscreen. It's borrowed from the K100D, but it's just one of the ways Pentax is thinking digital (Nicholas Negroponte will be proud), even as they try to emulate film.

Memory door.

Seals. The body of the Pentax K10D is sealed against rain and moisture, so the SDHC card door is sealed with a pressure flange that seats into a rubber gasket. You have to flip up a little metal hasp and turn to the left to release the springloaded door, which swings open with a boing. The hasp is a little small, but it works in this application.

Battery release: Tough to grasp, but the door seems well-sealed.

Where the same hasp doesn't work as well is on the battery cover door. This door is also sealed, but with a different method. A ribbed moisture seal surrounds the thicker door, applying pressure all around the sides, and my thumb and forefinger can't get a good enough purchase on the small hasp to pull the door open without some effort. To tell the truth, it's not that hard for me, but others have complained, and I think it's a valid point. Once the door is open, it's easy enough to release the battery lock and slide the B-shaped lithium-ion battery out.

Sealed port door: A solid hinged door is much easier to work with than a rubber door.

The connector compartment door is hinged and opens via a simple edge that you pull open with your thumb. Here you'll find another flange and flat gasket arrangement, concealing the DC IN, USB port, and the wired remote port.

Front and back: Having an IR remote port and Self-timer lamp on both the front and back is not only inspired, it's so obvious it should be ubiquitous.

Smart choices. I could go into the layout of the controls, how I like the position of the AF button, or the e-dials. They're good, but fairly generic. Where the K10D shines is in the unique features, like the dual IR remote sensor/self timer lamps. As is common on many digital cameras, there's a little red window on the front of the K10D's grip where these two items live. What's particularly thoughtful -- and so painfully obvious everyone else should be ashamed for not doing it already -- is that there's one on the back as well. How many times have I held my little IR remote out in front of my camera to take a picture while I'm standing behind my camera? Too often. On an intermediate camera like this, both the infrared remote and self-timer light are going to be used more often from behind the camera than from the front, so this is absolutely brilliant and long overdue.

Dedicated RAW button: A single press puts you into RAW mode for the next shot.

Okay, that's one. Want another? How about the RAW mode button on the left of the K10D's lens mount? Press it, and your next frame will be captured in RAW+JPEG. By default, the camera then reverts to JPEG only. Change the custom setting, and the RAW button becomes a toggle, turning RAW off and on at will. Beats looking at the back of the camera and operating a menu. Pentax is a camera company that thinks about how its target customer shoots, and builds accordingly.

Green button: Bring Manual exposure within range quickly with the press of a single button.

Revolutionary modes. Capture modes are another area where Pentax has innovated, building in a quick-exposure button and creating two entirely new modes. First is the Green button. As with Program mode on most digital SLRs, you can either accept what the camera decides, or turn one of the dials to adjust it. With the K10D, you turn the back dial to change the aperture, and the front dial to change the shutter speed, and the Hyper-program mode will adjust the other to keep the exposure correct. But if you can't remember what the camera initially selected, you can just press the Green button just behind the shutter button to return to the K10D's original choice. Not a big deal, but an interesting idea.

I prefer using the Green button in Manual mode, though. Again, like most digital SLRs, the Pentax K10D remembers what your manual settings were last time you turned the camera off. I've frequently turned on a camera and found it set for 30 second exposures, or 1/4,000 sec, and I just need it at 1/125 and f/5.6 right now. But instead, I'm left turning the dial over and over until I get to my desired setting. With the Green button on the K10D, just one press turns the meter on and sets the exposure, taking me from 30 seconds to 1/125 in an instant. From there, I can make my adjustments and fire. It's another smart application of digital technology. After all, why should I have to turn a pseudo-analog dial past thirty settings when the actual computerized value can be set more quickly with the press of a button? With a single button, Pentax has proved that they're not just playing catch-up.

Further proof can be found in the K10D's two entirely unique modes. Time was, you set the ISO and forgot it. Just pick the film from your bag, drop the roll in, and that was it. You'd be shooting ISO 100 for 36 shots, period. If you were good, and your camera was manual enough, you could rewind the film mid-roll, leave the tail out, and mark the canister with the number of frames captured; then load a roll of ISO 400. But times have changed. You can change ISO with each shot, with just a few button presses; and many cameras, like the K10D or Nikon D80, will change it for you automatically if it senses the need. You can even place a limiter on this ability, locking out ISO settings that you deem too high--or too low. But the K10D has two new modes that open new possibilities.

Mode dial: Some new and unusual modes here: Sv is Sensor priority, and TAv is Shutter/Aperture priority mode; both both, the variable is ISO.

Marked by Sv on the dial, Sensor priority mode allows you to quickly select an ISO and the camera will pick an exposure. That's not much different from leaving it in Program mode and changing the ISO via the Function button, but it is a little faster. If you think you'll be changing ISO frequently, it allows you to decide when you want to and make the change with a glance at the top status display.

I can see myself using the next mode a little more. Rather a cross between Program and Manual mode with an ISO twist is TAv, or Shutter/Aperture Priority mode. Yes, you could leave the camera in Program mode and let the camera pick the ISO if necessary, but TAv mode allows you to set a particular aperture and shutter speed that you want to maintain, and the camera will adjust ISO to make it happen. Shooting an indoor wrestling match with a 100mm lens? Say you want to maintain f/2.8 to blur the background and 1/125 second shutter speed to freeze most of the action while helping the Shake Reduction keep images sharp: Just set TAv mode and let the camera compensate for any minor changes in the exposure as the players move in and out of the light. It doesn't seem necessary at first, but I can imagine a few more scenarios where having the camera automatically set the ISO while I control the exposure is just what I've been needing.




White balance tuning: The first shot using Auto White Balance was a little yellow. Switching to Tungsten gave a technically correct result, but lost some of the amber tones I wanted to maintain. Tweaking up toward yellow/green was good, but moving down toward amber was better, returning more of the color of the wood.

Scenes? Unlike the Canon 30D I compared it to earlier, the K10D has no Scene modes, further testament to its enthusiast bias. It's more akin to the EOS 5D, which also does not bother with Scene modes. Instead, there are more practical functions available, some via the Function button.

Just press this little button, nestled beneath the four-way controller, left of the Shake Reduction switch, and a menu comes up offering four choices to adjust with the aforementioned four-way controller. We've touched on ISO, where you can make your pick or set a range for Auto to select from, but it's more interesting to press left, and access the White balance control. To the left appears a long list of icons. You can leave it in Auto and get good results outdoors, but as I've mentioned, Auto isn't as good indoors. Instead, the K10D was designed for those who like to tweak, and take their time. So let's take a moment.

I'll take a picture in Auto mode first. Here's a case where the K10D records a relatively true interpretation of the light (when I did this same exercise last night, it actually detected the Tungsten light and made it white). I'd like a little less yellow, but just a hint to keep the same late-night flavor. So I press Function, press the left arrow, and there's the shot I took. If I scroll down to Tungsten, that yellow light source turns white. But I don't have to accept that. If I press the right arrow, I move down to the color chart in the lower right of the display, and I can tweak the color I see. (When I did this last night, I had to switch to daylight to get my yellow back, but let's stick to today.)

First I move to the upper right corner, toward the greatest combination of yellow. But that leaves too much green. So I move it down toward amber, and get some of the color of the wood back, while the highlights on the Samsung GX-10 come back from green toward a warm white.

It's a tough scene to render, to be truthful, with wood tones, a yellow, green, and red lamp shade that casts mostly red light around the room. But the K10D made a decent guess; more importantly, its smart interface made it incredibly easy for me to match its setting to exactly what I am seeing here at my desk.

SLRgear mode (almost). Shortly after we created SLRgear.com, I began to wish. Our blur plots show where a lens's best aperture settings lie, and where the undesirable settings are; where the lens goes soft in the corners, for example. Wouldn't it be great if I could tell my camera to lock out those undesirable settings? Well, with the Pentax K10D, you can set Program mode to do just that via a Custom function. The function is "Program line," and you set it to MTF to enable this mode. Unfortunately you can't select which apertures to lock out, but certain lenses apparently know, and transfer this information to the camera. It even changes the bias as you zoom the lens, according to Pentax's John Carlson, which is important given what we've seen on SLRgear.com. That might be why this particular Program line is called MTF, which stands for Modulation Transfer Function. What that means, I don't know; but set it, and your camera will automatically set for the sweet spots with DA, D, D FA, FA, and FA J lenses. It's just another example to show that Pentax has realized the possibilities that digital has to offer and is already building them into its cameras and lenses. In fact, Carlson tells me they've had this function in various film and digital cameras for about 12 years.

Shake Reduction. The K10D's Shake Reduction seems to work as well as the K100D's does. I call it the best body-based image stabilization I've used to date. Its bearing-mounted sensor can not only move in four directions, it can even rotate to compensate for excited shutter mashers. The more ways a camera can compensate, the better, because only a robot can limit their shaking to just four directions. For more on this, see the K100D review.

The K10D also has a Dust Removal mode. It's off by default, but you can either activate it or enable it with every startup cycle in another Custom Function. If you enable the startup function, the camera rattles noisily for about a second every time you turn it on.


Vertical grip: The K10D becomes compete with the D-BG2 vertical grip attached.

Battery grip. The battery grip is an excellent addition to the K10D. The camera is more comfortable in my hands with than without it. I like how easily the grip stows in a bag when disconnected. It doesn't have the awkward tower used on other manufacturer's vertical grips, designed to reach into the battery compartment to make its contacts. Instead it has a small post that mates with a set of 17 pins on the K10D's bottom. A rubber door covers these contacts; and there's even a little silo for the rubber door on the battery grip for storage.

My only complaint about the grip is that it's too easy to press the vertical shutter release while holding the camera in horizontal mode. There's an off switch, of course, but I'd use it enough that turning off the vertical release would be a pain.

Less fiddling. You don't have to remove the battery door from the camera with this grip, just take off the rubber seal and seat it in the silo as shown here.






The grip does not work with the Samsung GX-10, by the way. The surfaces do not mate properly, and the grip doesn't work when connected.

You're also presented with a peculiar choice when you mount the grip. If you only have one battery, you can take it out of the body and put it into the grip's battery tray. If you have two, you can load one in the body and the other into the tray. You can tell the camera which battery to use first, too. But when you want to charge the battery that's in the body, you'll have to remove the vertical grip to get to it. That's a bit of a nuisance.

You can stow an extra SD card in the battery tray, by the way, and also an optional IR remote control unit. I would personally prefer more room for that second -- or third -- battery, but it's still a nice touch. The Pentax D-BG2 battery grip runs from $150 to $190.

Foibles. While the Pentax K10D's photographer-centric design is truly excellent, it's unfortunate that its Auto White balance isn't biased more to act like other digital cameras than like film. Too often when taking shots of my kids indoors with both the K10D and K100D, the Auto white balance was just plain wrong. Sometimes it was actual tungsten light, sometimes just window light filtered through almond-colored blinds. You could argue that other cameras might do the same given the same light, but I shoot with other cameras, and they usually get it right. I agree with Mr. Tatamiya's desire to make the K10D work more like film when I'm setting the mode myself, but I really want to be able to switch into Auto mode when I don't have time to check the lighting, and get a reasonably good result. Don't count on that with the K10D's current firmware.

Not Christmas in the attic: The most dramatic example we saw of Phantom Pixels was here in our routine Far shot, enlarged here by 200%, where there appear to be Christmas lights peeking out from the louvers. (Click on the image above to see for yourself.)

Figments of pixelation. More unsettling, though probably of little consequence to most shooters, is the phenomenon we're calling "Phantom pixels." Frequent Imaging Resource readers know that we take a lot of pictures with the cameras we review. We also make the full versions available for download so you can inspect them yourselves. Well, a few of the 214 shots we've posted with this K10D review have densely packed horizontal lines that reveal a peculiar error in the K10D's pixel mapping software, and also illustrates just how many pixels are marked bad on the typical high megapixel sensor. After a good deal of testing, we're pretty sure there's nothing unusual about the number of affected pixels on the Pentax sensor vs other sensors, it's more about how Pentax's software replaces a bad pixel when faced with horizontal lines of the right frequency.

I first noticed it when looking at our resolution target: strange color pixels appeared between the lines designed to measure horizontal resolution. You can see them here, and in our Exposure section as well. Dave thought to look in our Far shots to see if they appeared there, in a more real-world shot, and lo: there they were in the mini-blinds and attic vent louvers. On the worst unit we tested, they even appeared in the horizontal lines that define the rain gutters on our test house, just above the mini-blinds.

Two more cameras were sent for our testing, and these latter two were not as bad, but they still had the problem. Ever the curious one, I printed up a test target to see how widespread the phenomenon was. It had dozens of black lines on a white paper, with a cross in the middle to help the K10D focus. I found hundreds of little off-color pixels, and white pixels in the middle of dark lines, as well as dark pixels in the middle of white lines. These don't appear unless there are horizontal lines of the right frequency or width in the shot. If I turn the camera or paper, the dots go away. When I shoot the same target with the Samsung GX-10, the phenomenon doesn't appear. When I shoot it with a Canon Rebel XTi, it doesn't appear. Curiously, I do see unmapped dead pixels occasionally, but only one or two, compared to hundreds, and the effect is not the same.

I'm hoping Pentax can make an adjustment to how they substitute for bad pixels on the sensor. I have to oversharpen and enlarge images to 11x14 to see them on paper, so as I mentioned, it's a minor issue; but I think it's important to know about in case you plan to do a lot of cropping and enlarging. In the case of the FAR shots, I can still see the colored pixels in the louvers at 11x14, and they become more noticeable from a distance at 13x19. Download and print them for yourself if you're curious what kind of impact it'll have on your pictures.

The cameras in question are back in the hands of Pentax to be analyzed, and I'm very interested in the outcome, though we've heard nothing so far. If you'd like to read a further analysis of the Phantom pixel phenomena, click here.

Strengths. With that out of the way, I can get back to the positive aspects of the Pentax K10D, as there are many. First, there's the price. It's astonishing that you can get a 10-megapixel SLR with the build of a Canon 30D for under $900. That you can get it with a lens is even better; and the bundled 18-55mm lens is built very nicely, made of metal, and quite handsome. Its performance is decent, just a little above most kit lenses; but serious photographers will want to check out Pentax's tough-to-find prime lenses.

In-camera editing: They revised the interface to work better with the dual e-dials, but the post-capture filters are still available on the K10D.

And don't forget that it's really easy to buy old manual Pentax K-mount lenses and stick them right onto the K10D for a nostalgic trip to true manual photography. The K10D's focusing screen is more reminiscent of a real focusing screen: You can actually see the focus change, and it pops when you reach it.

It's out of the scope of this User Report, but do make sure to visit our Imatest page to see our analysis of the K10D's dynamic range. Pentax goes to great lengths to mention their 22-bit Analog to Digital conversion and how it is supposed to maintain a good deal more nuance in the color mapping. Imatest seems to bear out at least part of that story, with more of the data dedicated to expressing the highly illuminated colors; yet it drops off more quickly as you move into the shadows. The result seems to be color with greater hue accuracy, but more plugged shadows overall. Use that RAW button more liberally, and you can get a lot out of the K10D's files.

The printed results tell more of that story. The K10D's images really impressed us. We noticed the detail hold together far better, especially in the reds of our test target. Reds are almost always pumped excessively, but the K10D's more conservative approach preserves detail like few we've seen. And that holds true even at ISO 1,600. The ISO 1,600 Still Life shot looked amazing at 11x14. ISO 100 images from the K10D looked great at 16x20.

Appraisal. The Pentax K10D is a solid offering from one of the major names in photography. They've taken a different approach to how the camera makes images. Think what you like about it, difference is good. All the world is not perfectly white balanced, and no camera can be made to see how our eyes do. The most exciting part about the resurgence of the SLR in the last few years is how it's reconnecting the photographer to the camera. People who've grown accustomed to Program mode are switching back to Aperture priority, and remembering with a twinkle how wonderfully a prime lens can render the world. Shoot close to wide open with a prime, or even a zoom, and you can make it see a special person the way your mind does: isolated, with everything else a soft blur.

The Pentax K10D is designed to help you reconnect with photography in a way that I admire. Don't take it lightly, though. You will have to learn how to use the K10D, and won't be able to rely on it as much to make important color temperature decisions for you. Though it's mostly only a problem indoors, there you'll have to take time, and at least one test shot as I've demonstrated above.

The K10D is for photographers committed to the process, and who want to work as they did with film. But as with film, once you learn how to use the K10D's special features, like the Sv and TAv ISO adjustment modes, you may find a whole new dimension to photography. Given its excellent ISO 1,600 performance, there's some room to explore.

Though Pentax's beautiful Limited edition lenses are tough to find, they're worth the search. I hope Pentax gets the message and runs a few more next time they do a Limited release. These lenses are exciting, and bring back more of the analog allure to photography that's been lost these past thirty years. The K10D is designed to bring some of that back too, while at the same time exploring the new possibilities of digital like no other. I like the direction Pentax is taking, and I think the K10D is a great camera for the right kind of photographer.

 

Basic Features

 

Special Features

 

In the Box

The retail package contains the following items:

 

Recommended Accessories



 

Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Compatible with an extensive list of Pentax K lenses
  • Responsive with a good shutter lag time, very good shot-to-shot speed
  • Good color accuracy
  • Easy white balance adjustment
  • Bright, powerful built-in flash
  • Good quality in kit lens
  • Fairly quick Continuous Shooting mode
  • RAW button for quickly entering RAW mode
  • Two RAW modes for greater compatibility
  • Green button for bringing settings back to average
  • Body sealed against moisture
  • Digital depth-of-field preview mode
  • Extended bracket mode for bracketing White balance, Saturation, Sharpness, and Contrast
  • Use of SDHC cards for greater capacity
  • Special setting locks out bad aperture settings for certain lenses
  • In-camera Shake Reduction among the best we've seen
  • Very good low-light shooting capabilities
  • Image noise is impressively low all the way up 1,600
  • Printed results are very impressive, producing decent 11x14 inch images up to ISO 1,600!
  • Enjoyable to use
  • Very warm color balance in low-lighting and warm outdoors
  • Auto white balance had a hard time with household incandescent lighting
  • Shadow detail lacking in JPEG images
  • Slightly high contrast, especially outdoors in full sun
  • Phantom pixels with contrasty horizontal lines
  • Slow AF indoors

 

The Pentax K10D is unique. It's easily Pentax's most capable SLR yet. But it's not for everyone. Tuned for the advanced photographer, or anyone wanting to discover Photography's basics, the K10D has no true "easy" mode. You have to understand white balance to use the K10D well, even in Green mode, especially indoors; so I don't recommend this camera to novices. The indoor white balance issue was a bugaboo that I first found in the K100D, and it persists, apparently by design. The good news is that the Pentax K10D has an excellent method for adjusting white balance, if you take the time to use it. And the K10D produces stunning prints, good for 16x20 enlargements, and even ISO 1,600 images are good for 11x14 inch prints; quite a performance.

The K10D was thoughtfully designed with the photographer in mind, and it uses the advantages of digital technology to reach beyond the boundaries of long-accepted boundaries. ISO sensitivity is no longer locked to a roll of film, so Pentax decided to build two exposure modes around that fact. Most lenses have aperture settings that should be avoided, so they built the ability to avoid those settings into custom functions. Brilliant! Some of these exclusive features are good enough that K10D users might get forever locked into the Pentax system, and that certainly wouldn't be bad. Their impressive and broadening array of lenses will meet the need, and the K10D's backward compatibility goes back over fifty years with the use of adapters, so it's easy to get lost in Pentax's optical history.

Coming in at under $1,000 with a lens, the Pentax K10D is a lot of camera. Its body-based Shake Reduction is best-of-breed, and the kit lens is well-built. Smart design features, like an IR sensor on both the front and back of the K10D, and a left-side grip surface, make the camera easier to use. All of these smart, thoughtful features combine with a sturdy water-resistant body to create a fine SLR. Despite the caveats about white balance and phantom pixels, the K10D is a solid photographic tool, designed for the photographer, and worthy of a Dave's Pick.

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