Pentax K200D Review

 
Camera Reviews / Pentax Cameras i Review
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Pentax K200D
Resolution: 10.20 Megapixels
Sensor size: APS-C
Kit Lens: 3.00x zoom
18-55mm
(27-84mm eq.)
Viewfinder: Optical / No LCD
ISO: 100-1600
Shutter: 30-1/4000
Max Aperture: 3.5
Dimensions: 5.2 x 3.7 x 2.9 in.
(132 x 94 x 74 mm)
Weight: 26.9 oz (763 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $800
Availability: 03/2008
Manufacturer: Pentax
Full specs: Pentax K200D specifications
10.20
Megapixels
PENTAX KAF; KAF2, KAF, KA lens APS-C
size sensor
image of Pentax K200D
Front side of Pentax K200D digital camera Back side of Pentax K200D digital camera Top side of Pentax K200D digital camera Left side of Pentax K200D digital camera Right side of Pentax K200D digital camera

Pentax K200D Overview

by Andrew Alexander, Dave Etchells, Shawn Barnett,
and Zig Weidelich

Review Posted: 12/05/08

The Pentax K200D is based around the same APS-C sized CCD imager found originally in the K10D, having 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 Pentax's "PRIME" processing engine. This is coupled with the standard 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. The K200D is compatible with Pentax's newer SDM ("supersonic drive motor") AF lenses and has a dust-proof, weather resistant body with a stainless steel chassis and 60 seals that allow the camera to be used in dusty and/or rainy environments.

Pentax came early to the shake reduction party, building the system into the body to enable shake reduction in any lens attached to the camera. The sensor of the K200D sits on a free-floating electromagnetically controlled platter that can move horizontally, vertically, and even rotationally. Pentax advertises that the K200D will offer from 2.5 to 4 stops of compensation. Pentax has made further improvements in its efforts to deal with the problem of dust. The K200D continues to employ both of the strategies used in the previous K10D and K100D cameras, namely, vibrating the CCD to dislodge dust particles ("dust reduction"). Pentax has also added a "dust alert" function which assists more conventional cleaning methods, by showing exactly where on the CCD stubborn dust particles reside.

The Pentax K200D has a 2.7-inch LCD display with 230,000 pixels and a 160-degree horizontal/vertical viewing angle. The viewfinder is a lightweight pentamirror TTL optical design with 96% field of view, 0.85x magnification, diopter adjustment from -2.5m-1 to +1.5m-1, and a Natural-Bright-Matte II focusing screen. The Pentax K200D maintains the autofocus system of the K10D/K100D, Pentax's SAFOX VIII phase matching system with 11 autofocus points. 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 dedicated bulb mode. ISO sensitivity varies from a minimum of 100 to 1,600 equivalent, in full-stop increments, or in whatever increments EV compensation is set to.

In addition to the usual Program, Shutter-priority, Aperture-priority and metered Manual exposure modes, the Pentax K200D adds the SV (Sensitivity-priority) exposure mode first seen in the K10D, allowing you to select an ISO sensitivity and have the camera select an appropriate shutter speed and aperture. The Pentax K200D offers 6 scene modes also seen in point-and-shoot camera models on the selector dial: Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Moving Object and Night Scene Portrait. With the Scene (SCN) selection on the mode dial, eight additional scene modes are available: Night Scene, Surf and Snow, Food, Sunset, Kids, Pets, Candlelight, and Museum. Functionally, these are the same options available on the previous K100D model, the only difference being that the "Text" scene mode has been swapped out for the "Food" scene mode.

The Pentax K200D 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 13 (ISO 100/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 4 RAW frames. A new "RAW" button, brought over from the K10D, allows the user to quickly enter and exit RAW mode. 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 (SD) or Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) cards. In addition to JPEG compression, the K200D 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 4 AA batteries.

Pentax K200D Pricing and Availability

The Pentax K200D ships from March 2008, priced at about $800 including the new smc PENTAX DA 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL II kit lens.

 

Pentax K200D User Report

by Andrew Alexander

Pentax offers two categories for its digital SLR line: the more expensive, more advanced platform now represented by the K20D, and the more economical, user-friendly consumer platform represented by the K200D. The K200D has a fairly long legacy in "digital camera" years, being the sixth generation Pentax has produced in this category. Pentax has made refinements and upgrades to each generation, keeping pace with technological advancements as they become both available and practical.

The K200D can be thought of as a combination of the small, consumer-oriented K100D body, and the high-fidelity sensor of the pro-oriented K10D. Pentax has changed a few things cosmetically, but under the hood, the K200D adheres to the same design philosophy that produced the K100D. The K200D is a good bridge camera, allowing point-and-shoot users to migrate easily from digicams to an SLR with automatic and scene modes, and then explore more advanced settings such as aperture priority and manual mode.

Pentax has made some structural changes under the hood of the K200D, as the camera has actually grown very slightly from the K100D (2 millimeters wider and longer, and 4 millimeters higher) but has shed 37 grams of weight. The memory card activity light has changed position from below the four-way directional pad to above it, and two additional control buttons have been added. The first is the RAW button, allowing the shooter to quickly enable RAW or RAW+JPEG mode for one-shot or continuous shooting; the second is the "Green" button, which is used to enable aperture selection in manual mode or clear exposure compensation modifications.

Presto RAW. The RAW button, borrowed from the K10D, allows you to switch into RAW quickly without having to mess with the menu.

Look and Feel. The K200D takes a standard approach to camera design, with both a rear LCD for viewing photos and making menu adjustments, and a top LCD for showing relevant shooting information. Among the smallest digital SLRs on the market, the K200D maintains the the excellent feel of quality we noted in the K100D. The grip is well-sculpted, with a reasonable size for most hands. A durable texturized rubber finish adorns the grip in two sections, providing very good traction. This texture now also covers the position where your right thumb naturally comes to rest, providing excellent purchase and making it easier to hold the camera for long periods. Shooters with larger hands may appreciate the D-BG3 battery grip, which in addition to providing more real estate for your little finger to hold onto, adds an extra shutter release button and four AA batteries for extended shooting time.

Pentax has changed the cosmetic appearance of the K200D very slightly from the K100D, refining the design of the body to show a more graceful fluidity of lines between the various points of the camera. This is most obvious where the pop-up flash is inset into the camera, and even then, it's a subtle change. The camera balances very well in the hand, though the balance is going to depend largely on the lens attached at any given moment, as well as the batteries being used. I tend to use Energizer lithium-ion AA batteries, which are very light: rechargeable NiMH AA batteries add a bit more weight to the camera.

We were provided with three lenses in order to test the K200D: the standard "kit" lens (18-55mm f/3.5-5.6), a telephoto zoom (50-200mm f/4-5.6) and a fisheye zoom (10-17mm f/3.5-4.5). The 18-55mm and 50-200mm are lighter, mostly plastic-bodied lenses, making for a very light combo with the K200D. The fisheye zoom was slightly heavier, but the camera was still very easy to hand-hold and balanced well. Longer lenses come equipped with tripod mounts and will have you balancing the camera by the lens rather than the body.

K200D K100D Super

Apart from some slight cosmetic changes, the front of the K200D is essentially unchanged from that of the K100D Super. The Pentax logo is slightly different, and the pop-up flash housing has been modified. The infrared remote terminal is positioned at the front of the handgrip.

K200D K100D Super

The changes to the back of the K200D are also relatively inconsequential; the memory card activity light has been repositioned to above the four-way directional buttons, perhaps to accommodate the larger LCD screen. The screen increases its resolution from 210,000 pixels in the K100D Super to 230,000 pixels in the K200D, as well as becoming slightly larger at 2.7 inches (up from 2.5 inches). It's also easier to view the screen, which increases from a viewing angle of 140 degrees to 160 degrees.

K200D K100D Super

The top of the K200D is also similar to that of the K100D Super. The mode dial now includes the SV mode first seen in the K10D, allowing the user to select an ISO setting and have the camera decide aperture and shutter speed settings based on the meter reading of the scene (that may seem no different from just changing the ISO in Program mode, but Sv mode puts ISO under the command of the rear control dial). The LCD display has been reconfigured and simplified, and a new "green button" has been added which is used to enable a small variety of fine control options. The button can be configured to automatically select an appropriate aperture or shutter speed in those respective priority modes, essentially transferring a camera suggestion from automatic settings. The button can also reset exposure compensation dialed into the camera by pressing both buttons simultaneously.

Sealed. The SD card slot is protected from the elements with a rubber gasket.

The body of the Pentax K200D is sealed against rain and moisture, so the SDHC card door is sealed with a pressure flange that seats into a rubber gasket. Though not as sophisticated as the K10D, the memory card door is resistant to accidental opening. The battery compartment is similarly engineered to prevent accidental opening, with a switch that needs to be pulled in one direction before the battery compartment door can slide out of the way. The switch is flush with the base of the camera, so I can't see this happening by accident unless you are particularly unlucky. The USB, video, and AC adapter ports are tucked into a compartment on the left side of the camera, and are similarly weather-sealed.

With the 18-55mm kit lens attached, the Pentax K200D weighs just over 1.88 pounds (854g). The pairing is light and agile, not completely effortless to hold, but substantial enough that it feels very solid.

Controls. As I mentioned, the Pentax K200D has inherited many features that were available only on the pro-level K10D. The operation of the camera is fairly straightforward, and anyone who's used a point-and-shoot should have no trouble adapting quickly to the Pentax K200D. The Mode dial on the top of the camera selects whether or not you're shooting in a basic mode such as AUTO or a Scene mode, or whether you're shooting in an advanced mode such as Aperture or Shutter priority. Helpfully, when you switch modes on the camera the LCD briefly displays what the impact of that setting will be. For example, switching to Aperture priority mode informs the user that turning the Rear command dial will adjust the aperture; selecting the SCN option will display what Scene mode is selected, as well as what the various buttons and dials will do.

The Pentax K200D has also inherited the K10D's RAW button, which allows the user to enter RAW mode on the fly. The user can customize how this happens: whether RAW mode will apply to just the selected image and revert back to regular JPEG shooting after, or it can also act as a toggle between RAW and JPEG mode. It's fairly flexible. All of the camera's settings can be adjusted through the use of the MENU button, which offers access to Shooting, Playback, Custom and Set-up options. A quicker way to change camera settings can be found with the "Fn" (function) button, which displays a smaller selection of camera settings that can be quickly altered. In particular the white balance, shooting mode (single, continuous, timer, etc), ISO, and flash settings are controlled by the four-way directional buttons; the central "OK" button allows the user to adjust an item pertinent to the selected Mode as chosen by the top mode dial. For the majority of time, this selects the "Custom Image" function, which allows the user to do all manner of adjustments to the image, in-the camera. For example, in addition to selecting preset "looks" such as "Vibrant," "Portrait," and "Natural," you can set up a Monochrome profile with a high degree of precision. If you forgot to bring your red filter, the camera can emulate the look; in fact, it can even emulate the look of an Infrared filter. Sharpness, Hue, Saturation, and Contrast can be modified to suit the user's tastes across all profiles.

The K200D's RAW mode button.

While the K200D only has one command dial set on the rear of the camera, I don't think most users will yearn for a subcommand dial (and if they did, they're probably already looking at the K20D). For the small number of settings the front dial is actually used for, it's made up for by using the Green button in conjunction with the rear dial.

The navigation buttons, surrounding a single "OK" button, provide the main input into the camera's settings. My chief complaint with the K100D was that it felt "slow" when navigating control options, and it's a complaint I'd make again with the Pentax K200D. It feels like the processor in the camera isn't fast enough to keep up with my presses of the directional buttons when navigating the camera's various menus. You can hold down buttons to move rapidly through menus, but then you're overshooting the selection you want. This wouldn't be a problem if I didn't have to enter the menu every time I wanted to change the metering mode, or the autofocus mode, which don't have dedicated switches or dials on the body. The image deletion system also leaves something to be desired, in my opinion; you must press the delete button, then press up to select "Delete" (or down to select "Cancel") and then press OK to delete the image. Three button presses to delete an image: while Pentax can be applauded that you probably won't accidentally erase an image, it can be pretty slow going if you want to erase multiple images. It's the exact same thing if you want to protect an image from deletion.

Autofocus. The Pentax K200D maintains the same focusing system as is found in both the K100D and K10D cameras -- the SAFOX III. This system provides 11 phase-matching autofocus points: a grid of three-by-three in the center of the frame, and then an extra point on the extreme left and right of the center. Using the Pentax K200D made me think about how different manufacturers prioritize autofocus in a camera. Some manufacturers put more responsibility on the shooter to provide a scene that can be focused on by the camera; if there isn't enough contrast or light, or both, this style of camera will give up pretty quickly. The Pentax SAFOX III seems to be a tenacious system; generally, the K200D focused quickly and accurately, focusing in quick increments that seem to find the general area rapidly, and then it refines the focus until it determines it is properly focused. The camera can hunt, but where other manufacturers' cameras would give up, the K200D will keep on hunting, taking several seconds until it finds focus. There were only a few cases where it didn't find focus, and I had to present it with some pretty challenging situations. The K200D doesn't come equipped with a focus lamp to assist focus, but the pop-up flash can be employed to give the same effect, with the camera sending out several strobing pulses to assist the autofocus sensors.

It's worth noting that in AF-C (continuous) shooting mode, autofocus performance is positively snappy, adjusting from point to point very rapidly and accurately.

Shutter. There's no information available regarding the rated shutter life of the K200D, but the K100D was rated for 100,000 activations and I can't imagine the K200D is any worse. The camera's top continuous shooting speed is 2.96 frames per second, but the buffer fills up quickly; after five frames, there is a delay and then you are limited to a shooting speed of about one frame per second. You can extend this number to nine frames by shooting at the lowest resolution and quality, but that's it. The shutter isn't especially quiet when shooting, with a noticeable "spring" sound. Shooting modes available for the K200D include single-shot, high-speed continuous, low-speed continuous (around one frame per second), self-timer (12 seconds, or 2 seconds with mirror lock-up), remote control, and three-shot auto bracketing (1/3 EV to 2 EV increments).

Depth-of-field preview is located on the power switch surrounding the shutter release. The new "Green button" is nearby.

Pentax digital SLRs have long had a unique depth-of-field preview system: the on/off switch surrounding the shutter release button has a third momentary position to engage depth-of-field preview. In addition to the regular action of simply stopping down the lens to see the result through the viewfinder, the camera can essentially take the photograph and display it on the LCD, at the stopped-down aperture. The K100D also had this feature, but the Pentax K200D can now save the previewed images in case you like what you see.

ISO performance. The Pentax K200D offers ISO sensitivities ranging between 100 and 1,600, removing ISO 3,200 as an option that was available on the K100D, but providing ISO 100, which wasn't. Image noise is quite well-controlled between ISO 100 and 400, and our review of 13x19-inch prints at these sensitivities showed excellent performance. You can see some digital grain in shadow areas at ISO 400, but it's not objectionable. At ISO 800, we note obvious noise and color issues in both shadow and color areas of the image. Shadow areas show purple and green mottling, but edge detail is still quite well preserved. 8x10-inch prints are still excellent at ISO 800. ISO 1,600 however, shows quite substantial issues with both grain and color noise, and edge detail is affected. We have seen much worse performance at ISO 1,600 on other cameras, and 8x10-inch prints are still quite good, even at ISO 1,600.

ISO Comparison series
Test scene ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800 ISO 1,600

The Pentax K200D can also automatically regulate the ISO setting used to ensure a reasonable shutter speed is available when metering a scene. The Auto ISO system seems to adhere to the "shutter speed as focal length" rule, meaning if the focal length is 200mm, a shutter speed of 1/200s is desirable. When selecting Auto ISO, by rotating the command dial the user can establish the "ceiling" of automatic ISO selection, ensuring the ISO selected doesn't go beyond a certain level. The minimum ISO selection cannot be changed from the default level, however.

Noise reduction. The Pentax K200D offers two options for contending with noise: slow shutter noise reduction, and high ISO noise reduction.

Slow shutter noise reduction ("SSNR") is activated with a custom setting, and only activates when the shutter speed is set to 1/8 of a second or slower. SSNR is presumably dark frame reduction, as the camera takes as long as the frame you just shot to process the results through the noise reduction process: thus, a fifteen-second exposure will take thirty seconds before you can see the results.

SSNR is effective at dealing with hot pixels that tend to show up in long exposures. "Hot pixels" are defective photosites on the camera's sensor that don't properly register the light that hits them (for more information on this topic, see our article on Hot Pixels). Visible even at two-second long exposures, they became obvious at eight seconds and longer. Fortunately the Pentax K200D comes equipped with a set-up function to deal with the issue of hot pixels ("Pixel mapping"), and you shouldn't hesitate to employ it if you are noting an excess of hot pixels in your exposures. It didn't completely erase the problem, but it made a significant difference in our test photos. As for the effectiveness of SSNR, the following shots show that it makes a significant difference in long exposures, but doesn't take care of everything.

SSNR Disabled SSNR Enabled
ISO 100, f/16, 30 seconds. Intentionally underexposed to emphasize hot pixels.

The second form of noise reduction, High ISO noise reduction (HINR) is also activated with a custom setting. HINR offers three levels of noise reduction: weakest, weak, and strong. HINR only activates with ISO settings of 800 or higher. In practice, HINR works on detail noise rather than color noise, thus any color mottling will be present, with HINR smoothing over granular noise and attempting to preserve detail. There are subtle differences between "weakest," "weak," and "strong," allowing for the user to use a level of noise reduction suitable for their tastes. The only problem with either of these noise-reduction functions is that the settings are available only in the custom menu, so it takes a fair amount of button pushing to get to them.

ISO 400 (No effect)
HINR Off HINR Weakest HINR Weak HINR Strong

ISO 800
HINR Off HINR Weakest HINR Weak HINR Strong

ISO 1,600
HINR Off HINR Weakest HINR Weak HINR Strong
HINR Off HINR Weakest HINR Weak HINR Strong

D-Range. The Pentax K200D offers a setting that allows the camera to capture more highlight detail than in regular shooting. Called "D-Range" (Expanded Dynamic Range), the feature "makes it more difficult for bright areas to occur in the image" (adapted from Pentax user manual). When employed, ISO 100 becomes unavailable, making 200 the base ISO option. In practice, the system preserves highlight detail that would otherwise be blown out if the scene is significantly overexposed. It's worth noting that the Pentax K200D is relatively conservative when metering for exposure, so blown highlights are rare anyway; you'd have to have a suitably challenging scene to see the effects of D-Range, or use exposure compensation. When D-Range is active, it affects images captured in either RAW or JPEG format, so be aware of this when using the setting. D-Range does seem to work as advertised, though the actual range of highlight detail that is maintained could be a subject for long discussion (Pentax claims a figure of 200%, but it's not clear what this figure refers to).

D-Range Disabled D-Range Enabled
ISO 400, f/5.6, 2.5 seconds, flash at 1/16 power and 27" distance, pointed at instruction manual.
Luminosity channel overlaid.

White balance. The Pentax K200D offers automatic white balance detection, manual white balance calibration and several white balance presets that cover Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, 3 fluorescent settings, Tungsten, and Flash. Manual white balance calibration is fairly complicated, allowing the user to shoot a test image and read a white balance off either the average of the scene captured, or to move a smaller selector box around the image and select a smaller area for white balancing. You can see detailed results of our white balance testing by clicking on the Exposure test results tab. In summary, under normal incandescent lighting, color balance was very warm with the Auto white balance setting, with a strong orange cast; it was a bit on the cool side with the Tungsten light setting, and the default manual color calibration pegged it best. Outdoors, the Pentax K200D fared a little better with auto white balance, providing an accurate color read with just a slight amount of warmth.

Shooting and Scene modes. The Pentax K200D provides a plethora of modes: 14 in total. Six of these can be termed the advanced settings, with standard selections of Shutter and Aperture Priority, Bulb and Manual exposure; the other 8 are dedicated scene modes, from Sports and Macro settings, to automatic and further scene selections. The LCD provides a good amount of information regarding the shooting mode that has been selected, though I would consider this a bridge camera, Pentax could have been a bit more helpful with the help text than can be shown with the various scene selections. For example, selecting the Portrait scene mode and pressing the Info button provides this information: "Use to take pictures of people such as portraits or group pictures." Really? Never could have guessed from the name.

Tiger lilies, with and without the Infrared filter effect.

Custom Image settings. By pressing the Fn button and then the central OK button, the Pentax K200D offers the user the ability to modify custom image profiles. For example, by default the Portrait image profile has a very neutral placement of saturation, hue, contrast and sharpness; if you want your portraits to be more saturated, you can override this setting to your preference. The Pentax K200D offers four image style settings by default: Bright, Natural, Portrait, Landscape, and Vibrant. A Monochrome (Black and White conversion) option is also available, with the ability to simulate the use of ten different color filters, everything from basic color filters to an infrared filter effect. The filter effects are quite convincing, a natural extension of how the CCD can be used, and might convince you to leave your filters at home. The B&W conversion can be further modified with a Toning adjustment that allows you to dial in an amount of either selenium style processing (blues) or sepia style processing (browns). Contrast and sharpness can also be adjusted with this filter. Helpfully, the interface allows you to take a sample image with the depth-of-field preview button, or shows you the last image shot, to use as a reference image; adjustments made in the interface are simulated in the sample image.

Post-processing modes. Pentax has integrated a great deal of functionality into the K200D for reviewing and processing photographs in-camera. By pressing the Fn button in playback mode, the user has a few options available, including the ability to set up DPOF direct printing, play a slideshow, convert from RAW to JPEG, compare photos side-by-side, and add post-processing effects. Post-processing effects include black and white or sepia desaturation, color treatments, a softness filter, an intense illustration-style effect, HDR (high-dynamic-range) processing, brightness modification, and a questionable "Slimming" mode. It's interesting to play around with these functions, and new images can be created with the processing effects added.

Storage and battery. The Pentax K200D uses SD or SDHC memory cards for image storage. Even though MMC is technically the same format, you won't find mention of it anywhere in the K200D instruction manual, suggesting that Pentax no longer officially supports the standard. The largest files you'll be recording on a memory card are images saved with the RAW+DNG quality level, which top out at around 16.6 megabytes. On a 4GB memory card, you'll be able to store around 250 of these images. A full-quality (3-star), 10-megapixel JPEG image runs around 4 megabytes, and if you're looking to fill your camera with thousands of images, you can shoot at a reduced 2-megapixel level, where the lowest-quality (1-star) option produces a file of just over 300K. Obviously these numbers for JPEGs will change somewhat depending on the complexity of the scene you're shooting. The number of photos available is capped at 999 in the viewfinder and top LCD.

The Pentax K200D eschews proprietary batteries in favor of more conventional AA batteries. Pentax recommends the use of lithium batteries for optimum performance, advising that regular alkaline batteries don't give a lot of run time (200 shots without flash, and as low as 50 shots with 100% flash use). With rechargeable 2500mAh NiMH batteries, the company says you can expect about 240 shots with 100% flash, 400 with 50% flash, and up to 700 shots without flash. With lithium batteries, Pentax suggests you can get between 350 shots with 100% flash use, and 1,100 shots without. While disposable Lithiums may give the best performance, we recommend getting a few sets of high quality rechargeable NiMH AA's, and a good charger, as they will be much more economical in the long run.

A dust alert reference photo, with helpful lens mounting orientation dot. Dust shows up as black dots; this sensor is clean as a whistle.

Dust cleaning. In addition to the dust reduction system originally implemented in the previous K10D and K100D models, where the sensor physically vibrates at a high rate to shake dust loose, Pentax has added a "Dust Alert" function which produces an image of the sensor, with dust particles highlighted. This mode is useful in combination with a conventional dust cleaning regimen, as you get a precise indication of where the dust is, complete with a visual reference to the lens mount, so you know exactly where to sweep your dust brush or blast your air pump. Obviously, the dust reduction system isn't infallible, prompting Pentax to include this Dust Alert function, but it probably extends the time between cleanings. The vibration system can be configured to do a light pulse when the camera is turned on, and can also be activated at any time with a more thorough pulsing.

Metering. The Pentax K200D offers 16-point multi-segment, center-weighted, and spot metering. Over a range of different shooting scenarios, I found the meter to be very accurate, if very sensitive; it was not uncommon, when set to multi-segment metering, for multiple shots of the same scene, shot within seconds of each other, to vary by a 1/3 EV increment. Center-weighted metering provided more consistent results. Spot metering takes its measurement from the central circle of the viewfinder. Neither center-weighted nor spot metering adjust to follow a selected autofocus point; they're locked to the center of the viewfinder.

Flash. The pop-up flash of the Pentax K200D is fairly powerful, having a guide number of 13 (ISO/m). The effectiveness of a flash depends on the distance to the subject and the aperture of the lens being used, and our testing has shown that the flash works as well as Pentax advertises. The sync speed of the flash (the fastest shutter speed that can be used when using the pop-up flash) is 1/180 second, which is a bit slower than I'd like. The flash covers a field of view of 28mm in 35mm film terms, which means that when using the K200D, it will fill the field of view produced by using an 18mm lens. A custom setting allows the camera to automatically set its white balance mode to "Flash" when the pop-up flash is used, or remain with whatever white balance mode has been selected by the user.

There are a variety of different flash modes to dictate how the flash will or will not contribute to the overall exposure of the scene being photographed. In the automatic or scene modes, setting the flash to "Auto Discharge" mode will cause the flash to pop-up automatically if the camera decides the flash is necessary to properly expose the image. With any other flash mode in the same circumstance, the flash icon will blink in the viewfinder and on the top LCD, to alert the user that the flash may be necessary to get a properly exposed image. In addition, now-standard modes of forced flash and red-eye reduction are available. Lastly, the Pentax K200D can use its pop-up flash to wirelessly activate AF540FGZ or AF360FGZ Pentax flashes; however, it's unclear what level of control the K200D has over remote flashes. In this scenario, the pop-up flash can be set to act solely as a controller, or to contribute to the final exposure, as well.

Shake Reduction. Pentax doesn't mention any changes with regard to its Shake Reduction technology as implemented in the K200D. Pentax advertises the effectiveness of its shake reduction system as allowing the user to shoot up to four stops below what would normally be required to secure a sharp image in handheld shooting (the classic rule of thumb is to use a shutter speed more or less equal to the focal length being used). Thus, for a focal length of 200mm, a shutter speed of 1/200s should be used, and using SR should allow the user to get away with a shutter speed of 1/13 second (1/200, 1/100, 1/50, 1/25, 1/13) and still get a sharp image. Shake reduction systems only augment the ability of the shooter, so if you are shooting with a sloppy technique, you won't see amazing results. But in some casual shooting, being very strict with my technique, I can attest to the four stops of additional range.

The Pentax version of Shake Reduction, which is built into the camera body, offers the very real advantage of turning the entire Pentax lens collection into the equivalent of shake-reduced lenses. For older lenses, the focal length must be entered manually into the camera, so it can properly judge the amount of shake reduction required. The only disadvantage is that one cannot see the effect the shake reduction is having during composition; the system only engages while the shutter is open. A corresponding advantage is that no additional power is consumed, because the system is only active while the sensor is recording the image.

Pentax notes that its Shake Reduction system doesn't properly address panning subjects, and that the system should be switched off when the camera is attached to a tripod. Further, Shake Reduction is automatically disabled (even if the switch is set to On) when the camera is set to Bulb mode, Remote control shutter release, Self-timer, or when wireless strobes are being used.

Appraisal. The Pentax K200D has many features to commend it: Shake Reduction, dust removal, and several systems to combat high ISO noise all help to improve the quality of the image being taken. There are also a lot of features in the Pentax K200D that are just plain fun, such as the pictures effects, used either during or after the creation of a photo.

In addition to these surprisingly powerful features, the Pentax K200D is also a very approachable camera, in many ways the definition of a bridge camera, allowing users new to the operation of SLR cameras the ability to use familiar automatic settings. When they're comfortable and want to take a bit more active control over the decisions being made by the camera, all it takes is a switch of the mode dial. For your average point-and-shooter, the Pentax K200D has a pretty smart feature set.

For these strong points, though, on its introduction the Pentax K200D had the unfortunate problem of being priced slightly higher than its contemporaries. Introduced in January 2008, it was roundly criticized as being not enough camera for the price. The Pentax K200D has come down in price since then, but other manufacturers have had time to come out with new models at the same price or lower.

In the Box

Included in the box with the Pentax K200D are the following items:

  • Pentax K200D body with body cap, eyepiece cap, eyecup and hotshoe cover
  • 2 packs of 4 AA lithium batteries
  • O-ST53 camera strap
  • I-USB17 USB cable
  • I-VC28 video cable
  • Pentax Software Suite CD-ROM and Pentax Photo Browser/Laboratory 3 manual
  • Operating Manual and Quick Guide
  • Registration kit

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Pentax K200D Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Rugged construction with stainless steel chassis and full environmental sealing
  • Nice 2.7-inch LCD
  • Built-in shake reduction makes every lens image-stabilized
  • High resolution with excellent detail, especially from RAW
  • Superb print quality
  • Function menu provides quick access to common functions
  • Top status LCD (but not backlit)
  • Over a dozen scene modes make this a good bridge camera for novice users
  • Sensitivity-priority exposure mode
  • 11 autofocus sensors, better than other cameras in its class
  • Very flexible RAW shooting options, with option to save RAW files as DNG (or PEF+DNG)
  • Very good dynamic range from RAW files
  • Tenacious autofocus performance that only gives up in truly poor lighting conditions
  • Compatible with all Pentax K-mount lenses
  • Good viewfinder accuracy
  • Better than average exposure accuracy in good lighting
  • Nice, tight noise grain
  • Very good preservation of fine detail at high ISO
  • Adjustable noise reduction
  • Digital filters, very flexible custom image profile adjustments
  • Very interesting post-processing image manipulation options
  • Dust reduction system
  • Can wirelessly activate remote Pentax flashes, as well as contribute to final exposure
  • Good flash range, decent recycling speed
  • Fine-grained Contrast/Saturation controls make it easy to tailor camera to your personal preferences
  • Good shutter response
  • Very fast file downloads to computer
  • Uses AA batteries which are easy to find
  • Some Scene modes are listed in the optical viewfinder
  • Frame rate 3 fps for only 5 frames, then ~1 fps
  • No live view mode
  • No focus lamp; if light conditions are poor, camera relies on strobing flash to achieve focus
  • Sluggish response in menu interface
  • Auto white balance handles incandescent lighting poorly
  • Some common functions only accessible in menu system (autofocus type, metering mode, quality settings)
  • Chroma noise limits high-ISO performance somewhat
  • Autofocus struggles under dim lighting (but keeps trying!)
  • Exposure is highly variable (inaccurate) under very dim lighting
  • Contrast adjustment significantly affects saturation
  • Default color saturation is too high for our tastes (but easily dials down)
  • Slow buffer clearing when shooting RAW or RAW+JPEG
  • Camera won't fire if you press the shutter button too quickly between shots
  • Kit lens shows a fair bit of chromatic aberration in the corners at wide angle
  • Mediocre battery life, except with expensive Lithium AA's
  • Viewfinder eyepoint is low
  • Minor pixel-mapping errors

 

The Pentax K200D is a capable digital SLR, a very good choice for consumers who are starting to chafe against the limitations of a point-and-shoot digital camera and want to work with a more advanced camera. I'm calling it a bridge camera, as it has plenty of functions built-in that will be familiar to point-and-shoot digicam users, but also maintains the advanced modes and features of regular SLR cameras. For owners of Pentax film SLRs and lenses who haven't yet made the switch to digital, the Pentax K200D offers enough customization to keep more advanced users happy. Autofocus in low light is slower than other models we've seen, but the K200D often comes to a decision where other digital SLRs just give up. Color is quite good, though sometimes on the warm side, but both the built-in flash and accessory bounce flash eliminate this problem. Pentax has shifted gears a little in the transition from the K100D to the K200D, removing the high-ISO option of 3,200 but adding a ISO 100 option. Performance is excellent to ISO 400, still very good at 800, only showing some issues with chroma and edge degradation at ISO 1,600. The addition of Extended Dynamic Range is interesting, providing some preservation of highlights in high-contrast scenarios, though it's not so much of a sea change that people noted in other cameras attempting the same idea.

As we were impressed with the Pentax K100D, we're equally impressed with the K200D; Pentax hasn't messed anything up with an already-good design, they've just refined and improved on many areas. Pentax is bringing an impressive collection of lenses to bear, some standard and some unusual, that deliver excellent optical performance. As for the Pentax K200D, it's a small, well-conceived SLR design with solid image performance. The Shake Reduction system in the K200D is very good, as good as or better than other competitor's offerings, and provides the bonus of turning your entire lens collection into shake-reduced lenses. The K200D is not without its shortcomings: there's the poor low-light metering, the minor pixel-mapping / hot pixel issues, the menu is slower than we'd like, and the buffer fills up quickly with images shot in rapid succession. However, despite its shortcomings, the Pentax K200D offers more bang for the buck than competing systems in this range. It's definitely worth considering if you're shopping for an entry-level digital SLR, and worthy of a Dave's Pick.


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