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Pentax's *ist D digital SLR. Image provided by Yamada Kumio / digitalcamera.jp. Used by permission. Pentax Digital SLR: Second time lucky? (UPDATED)
By Michael R. Tomkins, The Imaging Resource
(Wednesday, February 26, 2003 - 10:00 EST)

Pentax USA Inc. has today announced that it is preparing a new single-lens reflex digital camera. (This item has now been updated with actual camera photos courtesy of Yamada Kumio / digitalcamera.jp)

As predicted last October by the Japan Industrial Journal, the camera will have an APS sized sensor. The resolution of 6.1 megapixels (effective) is roughly equivalent to current competing cameras from Canon and Nikon, and should offer plenty of resolution for most users' purposes.

The project follows in the footsteps of Pentax's first digital SLR, the unnamed MZ-S based camera which was abandoned in October 2001. Where that camera was to have featured a full 35mm-frame sized sensor - something that would have made it difficult to bring it to market at a competitive price - the new project seems much more realistic, and Pentax seem determined to succeed this time around.

The new "*ist D" (we have no idea how to pronounce it - you're reading right, that is 'asterisk-ist D') will, barring other announcements in the meantime, be the smallest and lightest digital SLR on the market when it ships. The ship date is currently predicted for July 2003, but pricing information has not yet been released. Should it prove competitive price-wise with Canon, Nikon and Fuji, though, Pentax could really help heat up the DSLR market.

No pictures are currently available, but the camera is to be just 7mm wider and 11mm higher then Pentax's just-announced *ist film SLR - and actually 4mm less deep than that camera. (We have a picture of the film camera, but since there is no way to know if it looks anything like the *ist D, we are not posting that picture to avoid causing confusion). Canon's EOS D60 is 21mm wider, 12mm higher and 15mm thicker; the Nikon D100 is 15mm wider, 21mm higher and 21mm thicker; Fuji's FinePix S2 Pro is 13mm wider, a considerable 37mm higher and 19mm thicker. The *ist D will weigh just 510 grams without batteries.

Small size is not the *ist D's only qualification though. The camera features an 11-point autofocus sensor, shutter speeds to 1/4000 second, flash-sync at 1/150 second, a 2.7 frames per second burst capability, CompactFlash Type-I / II storage compatible with Microdrives, a 1.8" LCD display and a lot more besides. Power comes from 4 AA batteries or 2 CR-V3 Lithium Ion batteries. Advanced users will be pleased to find a RAW mode (with decoding software included in the bundle), whilst both JPEG and TIFF are also available. Connectivity will be USB 1.1, the same as the EOS D60 and Nikon D100 currently use.

Initial details courtesy of Pentax follow in the press release below. We will be covering the PMA 2003 show live, and hope to bring you photos of the *ist D under glass from the show floor. Further specifications will be forthcoming just as soon as we can tell you more...

UPDATED 2003-02-26 22:20PM: Yamada Kumio of excellent Japanese digital imaging website digitalcamera.jp has posted the first two photos we have seen of the Pentax *ist D digital SLR. Yamada-san has kindly given us permission to reuse the same pictures here: without any further ado, the Pentax *ist D can be seen below (and it looks quite a bit different to the film SLR that was announced recently):

Pentax's *ist D digital SLR. Image provided by Yamada Kumio / digitalcamera.jp. Used by permission.

Pentax's *ist D digital SLR. Image provided by Yamada Kumio / digitalcamera.jp. Used by permission.


Incidentally, Mike Johnston on the Luminous Landscape has offered a plausible- sounding explanation of the source of the *ist D's name. Obviously the D implies that this is the digital variant of the camera, but *ist is a little less obvious. Mike provides the following explanation, courtesy of Ken Takashita (we honestly can't think of a better way to explain it ourselves):
"This is the new brand name of Pentax SLRs, combining the asterisk, which is one of the wild card characters in the computer language, and the English suffix -ist which means people who do or believe in certain things. The * can be replaced by various words, composing, for example, Artist, Liberalist, Idealist, Naturalist, Humanist, etc. The *ist was named in tribute to those who have their own ideals and live a proactive life."

Original Source Press Release:

PENTAX Announces New Digital SLR Camera: Long Anticipated *ist D Offers Inter-Changeable Lenses

ENGLEWOOD, Colorado (February 18, 2003)… Patience soon will pay off for digital SLR enthusiasts when PENTAX USA delivers the lens-interchangeable *ist D digital SLR camera. With the clarity of 6.1 effective megapixels, a pentaprism viewfinder, and a 1.8 inch LCD monitor, the *ist D will feature one of the world’s smallest, lightest camera bodies in the digital SLR category.

Along with the *ist D, PENTAX announces an exciting wide angle lens for 35mm AF SLR cameras, the smc PENTAX-FA J Zoom 18-35mm F4-5.6 AL.

These latest PENTAX digital advancements will be showcased under glass at the 2003 Photo Marketing Association’s (PMA) Show in Booth C140 from March 2-5 in Las Vegas. PMA hosts an annual trade show where manufacturers in the photography industry showcase their newest products

The *ist D will officially launch in July 2003.

PENTAX U.S.A., Inc. is an innovative leader in the production of digital and film cameras, binoculars, lenses, mobile printers, scanners and internet cameras. For more than 80 years, Pentax technology has developed durable, reliable products that meet the needs of consumers and businesses. With corporate headquarters located in Englewood, Colorado, PENTAX U.S.A., INC. is a wholly owned subsidiary of PENTAX CORPORATION.

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*ist D DIGITAL SLR FACT SHEET

6.1 effective megapixels
With a high-performance CCD measuring 23.5mm x 15.7mm and unique image processing technology, the *ist D achieves impressive 6.1 effective megapixel resolution for the recording of precise, superior quality images.

One of the world’s smallest, lightest camera bodies
The design of the *ist D combines compact dimensions with surprisingly light weight. Measuring 5 inches (129mm) x 3.7 inches (95mm) x 2.3 inches (60mm) and weighing just 18 ounces (510g) without batteries, the *ist D will be one of the smallest, lightest lens-interchangeable digital SLR cameras available.

A wide range of compatible PENTAX lenses for flexible shooting
A wide range of compatible PENTAX lenses are available for use with the *ist D, allowing the user to compose satisfying scenes regardless of the type of subject.*
*Compatible lenses: K, KA, KAF, and KAF2 mount lenses; screw mount lenses, 645, and 67 series lenses (adapter required). Some functions may not activate depending on the choice of lens.

New pentaprism viewfinder
An optical pentaprism viewfinder developed especially for the *ist D makes viewing easy with an ample 95% field of view and 0.95X magnification. A superimposed display function assists composition by illuminating the AF points in red.

Other major *ist D features

  • New 16-segment metering system achieves more accurate exposure
  • New 11-point AF sensor (SAFOX VIII) realizes enhanced focusing
  • Fast 1/4000 sec. shutter speed and high-speed flash sync at 1/150 sec.
  • Continuous shooting at approx. 2.7 fps
  • 2-dial system separates aperture and shutter speed settings
  • With individual dials for shutter and aperture selection, Hyper program makes it easy to switch between Shutter-Priority AE and Aperture-Priority AE.
  • Hyper manual let you achieve the proper exposure with simple button operation.
  • Custom function allows functionality to be tuned to satisfy user preferences
  • Noise reduction function activates for long exposures
  • Compatible with MicroDrive™ and CompactFlash™ Type I/II
  • Takes four AA batteries or two CR-V3 lithium-ion batteries
  • PC-based camera control and easy data transmission with USB 1.1 compatibility
  • 1.8 inch, 118,000-pixel LCD monitor for easy, high-precision viewing
  • Convenient playback functions, such as nine image- and 12X magnification-display
  • Choice of JPEG, TIFF and RAW recording formats
  • Comes complete with software compatible with RAW format data
  • Special battery grip (availability to coincide with *ist D)

New Interchangeable lenses
A new wide angle lens for 35mm AF SLR cameras, the smc PENTAX-FA J Zoom 18-35mm F4-5.6 AL, also will be displayed at PMA 2003 together with the *ist D. The lens is comprised of 12 elements in 10 groups and it has a focal length equivalent to 28-54mm in 35mm format when used with the *ist D.*
* Specifications and capabilities subject to change.

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