Pentax K100D And K110D Review

With the K100D (and K110D) Pentax unexpectedly superseded the previous DSLR series and founded a new DSLR series, to which the K10D now also joins. With this, one says goodbye to the cryptic names and recalls the traditional “K”, which is not only found in the name of the bayonet, but was also used at that time (1975) in numerous SLR bodies. Especially characteristic of the K100D is Pentax’s own Shake Reduction System (SR), which is now entering the Pentax DSLRs.

Short evaluation

Pros

  • Built-in image stabilizer (works with all lenses)
  • z. T. intelligent special functions (e.g. quickshift focus lenses, hyper manual mode, test image function, etc.)
  • Monitor with high resolution and low viewing angle dependence
  • standard AA/Mignon cells or CR-V3 lithium batteries can be used
  • good noise behaviour
  • extended sensitivity level range (ISO 200 to 3,200) with automatic
  • good price/performance ratio
  • high exposure latitude (input dynamics) or professionally tuned tonal value reproduction
  • intelligent sharpening
  • respectable selection of digitally matched lenses
  • extended lens compatibility (also to old lenses with Pentax K mount and – via adapter – to the medium format lenses of the 645 series)
  • well thought-out operation and ergonomics (despite very compact camera dimensions)

Cons

  • weak automatic white balance in warm ambient light (candlelight, incandescent light)
  • Set lens with imaging weaknesses (especially in the wide-angle range)
  • higher quality (telephoto) lenses probably not available until 2007
  • no battery or portrait handle available
  • built-in flash unit cannot be used as control unit in wireless TTL flash mode
  • comparatively “lean” flash unit program with other camera systems (e.g. no ring or pliers flashes)
  • Light sensitivity level range only starting at ISO 200
  • Weaknesses in detail preparation and artifact formation
  • modest buffer memory capacity or low number of frame rates
  • Viewfinder mat screen not replaceable
  • less ergonomic camera grip
  • little discrete AF auxiliary light (via flash salvo)

The question is actually quite simple: With or without built-in image stabilizer? Because that is all that distinguishes the two “candidates” from each other. While the new Pentax DSLR K100D is equipped with the so-called shake reduction system, the cheaper sister model K110D does not have this feature. What is interesting here is the fact that – as with the Optio A10 compact digital camera from the same manufacturer – the compensation of camera shake is also achieved here by movements of the CCD sensor (in the opposite direction to the trembling movements of the photographer’s hand). Previously, it was assumed that (Konica-)Minolta held the patents on this technique or type of image stabilization and would have licensed it to its new partner (and now also “heir”) Sony and Ricoh. But Pentax claims to have developed the shake reduction system itself and has even applied for various patents (including application number 20050265705) in the USA. This raises the question of how Pentax’s Shake Reduction System differs from Konica Minolta’s Anti-Shake System.

Pentax K100D And K110D Review

Old photo fans and followers still remember the “term of office” of the analog SLRs K2, KX, KM and K1000 from 1975 to 1980 (the K1000 even ruled into the late 90s), which at that time – when they were still being photographed on 35mm film – held high-ranking functions within the Pentax “faction”. In the year 2006, the term of office of the *D series is over, and Pentax again poses the so-called “K question” with new candidates, the K100D and K110D. Which of the two cameras the consumer’s choice will fall on actually depends only on one question

From the rest of the equipment and technology (the design is new on its part) the K100D and K110D take partly with the *DL2, partly with the tDS2 bonds. From the *DL2 the K100D and K110D take over the viewfinder (characteristic is the 0.85x magnification of the viewfinder image with an image field coverage of 96%), while from the *DS2 they take over the number of autofocus measuring fields (11-point AF). This is all the more interesting, as the two *D models do not exist in some areas such as Britain and the European Union (at least not under Pentax names) and will probably never exist in these areas either, since the new K series (which apparently pays homage to the K models from the years 1975 to 1997) practically replaces the *D series, which is somewhat controversial from a naming point of view. Those who know the “alter egos” of the *DS2 and *iDL2, namely the Samsung DSLRs GX-1L and GX-1S, also know the other functions and features of the K100D and K110D. These include the high-speed shutter (1/4,000 s in normal mode and 1/180 s in flash mode), fast continuous shooting mode (max. 5 JPEG images in succession at a frame rate of approx. 2.8 frames per second), 8 different subject programs (some with automatic selection), 19 user functions, 16-field matrix measurement, digital effect filter collection (B/W or Monochrome, sepia, blur, stretch/ squeeze, brightener), the PictBridge-compatible USB 2.0 high-speed interface, the polyvalent power supply (AA/Mignon cells, CR-V3 lithium batteries, mains), two image or “colour dynamics” settings (natural/bright), a 2.5″ colour LCD with 210,000 pixels – and last but not least the optical and electronic preview function. By the way, the optical preview means nothing else than the fade-out button or function, while the electronic preview (not to be confused with a real live image preview) should not be expected to be more than a kind of test image function.

Pentax K100D And K110D ReviewIn expectation of a potential K10D with 10 megapixels, the K100D and K110D remain at a net resolution of 6.1 megapixels. The size of the CCD image converter also remains unchanged at 23.5 x 15.7 mm; its signal can be amplified to a corresponding sensitivity of ISO 200 to ISO 3,200 (optionally with an upper limit for automatic sensitivity control or ISO automatic). New for owners of some Pentax DSLRs might be the possibility to select the file name format. The image files (JPEG or RAW images) are then recorded on the memory card (SD card) either in the usual form (i.e. with consecutive numbering) or in the date format (three-digit image number + month + day such as 058-0522).

The price Pentax is targeting for the two K-models is very aggressive. The K100D (i.e. the better equipped model with image stabilizer) will be launched at the end of July or beginning of August with a set lens/standard zoom at an official list price of around 700 EUR; the K110D will follow at the end of August with a price of almost 650 EUR (incl. set lens).

The Pentax-SR system is not dissimilar to the Anti-Shake of (Konica) Minolta, but the image sensor in particular is moved with a different technique. Further explanations of the SR system and its functionality can be found in the “Optics” section. In addition to this innovation, the K100D inherits all the features of the  DL2, which is only available in Britain and European Union as the Samsung GX-1L (and has also been tested by us), although the K100D has also inherited a feature detail of the *DS, namely the autofocus module with eleven autofocus measuring fields. Also cosmetically the K100D looks similar to the *ist-series, but has undergone some changes, especially the case dimensions have grown a bit. Also not uninteresting is the price of less than 700 EUR at which the K100D is delivered – it is clearly aimed at the lowest entry-level segment. In any case, we recommend to read our test of the Samsung GX-1L, because many details also apply to the K100D and we will not go into it again – this applies in particular to the section Optics and the detailed statements on the lens system, which are only slightly supplemented in this test.

Ergonomics and workmanship

The housing material of the Pentax K100D consists of plastic, as already with the previous series, however, “under the hood” something should have changed, this plastic is now according to Pentax statements fiberglass-reinforced. On the contrary, the plastic feels a little less valuable than with the Pentax previous series, which, with a market launch price of 1,000 EUR, also played a price class higher. Anyway, the K100D still makes a stable impression – for the 700 EUR price class – and doesn’t have to hide from the competition like a Canon EOS 350D or Nikon D50. Inside, the camera also has a stainless steel sheet chassis, which provides the necessary stiffness of the camera and the necessary stability of the metal bayonet. The tripod connection, which is exemplarily located in the optical axis, is then guided outwards as a metal part, whereby even a screwed-on exchange plate does not block the battery compartment door. The latter has remained as fiddly as in the previous series, i.e. a small slider must be operated and held, while at the same time the large door must be pushed out of the lock before it is opened by the pressure of the batteries. There is no spring to keep the flap open. The battery compartment still has room for four AA rechargeable batteries, although two disposable lithium batteries in CRV3 format can be used as an alternative. This makes the power supply very versatile, even if you should rely on very high-quality batteries or better still rechargeable batteries, because the camera needs a stable, high voltage with sometimes high current peaks, such as when triggering. If the voltage drops, the camera must be switched off. With high-performance AA NiMH rechargeable batteries you can take about 300 photos with 50% flash usage, with CRV3 lithium batteries 630 photos are possible after all. This is considerably less than with the *previous DS/DL, which is mainly due to the higher energy requirement of the SR system (which always needs power regardless of the activation, more below) and the stronger or faster autofocus motor.

Also springless, and thus changed compared to the previous series, is now the flap for the SD memory card compartment. Instead of a small slide switch that unlocks the compartment and opens the flap, you now have to push it to unlock it and open it manually – it just seems “cheaper”. The memory card compartment is compatible with SD cards up to 2 GBytes and SDHC cards with larger capacity (current firmware required). The flap that protects the connections on the left side of the camera remains unchanged. This folds open, slightly opened with the finger, by spring completely and releases the connections for USB/TV, mains input and the remote release connection.

Pentax K100D And K110D Review

A highlight of the camera is the new 2.5″ (6.35 cm) monitor on the back, which can not be used as a viewfinder replacement (with a few exceptions from the FourThirds system), but only for image control and menu display. This monitor is not only high-resolution (210,000 pixels) and very bright and rich in contrast, it also has an extremely high viewing angle of 140° in all directions. This means some comfort, as previously installed camera monitors are difficult or even impossible to read from below, especially from a slant. Even people standing next to you can now view pictures without color and brightness distortions – at this point a big compliment to Pentax and the hope that other manufacturers will also install such monitors in the future.

The praise for the great monitor has to be followed by a rebuke: If the monitor improves the ergonomics enormously, this is reduced by the new housing form in particular in the area of the handle in our opinion. If the previous DS/DL was still good in the hand due to a sufficiently wide, sufficiently protruding handle – also for the fingers the bulge between lens and handle was deep and wide enough, the K100D deteriorates in this discipline. The handle is narrower – especially in the lower area – which looks nice but is not very ergonomic. Worse still, the bulge between the handle and the lens is less deep due to the thicker body, making the fingers uncomfortable to touch and the camera’s posture slightly crampy. This doesn’t make the already quite compact camera particularly comfortable for large hands – the non-slip rubber coating of the handle doesn’t help either.

In the other disciplines, on the other hand, ergonomics are right again. The Mirror Finder enlarges 0.85x (which is larger than Nikon D50/70 and Canon EOS 300D/350D) and covers 96% of the later image – adding a few pixels to the final photo’s edges compared to the viewfinder’s view. The fixed and thus unfortunately (officially) not changeable mat screen offers a clear and bright picture, on which you can focus manually with some practice. By the way, the viewfinder is also completely visible for spectacle wearers. In addition, all important image acquisition parameters are displayed below the viewfinder image, including exposure time, aperture, focus indicator, flash mode, number of remaining images, exposure compensation, and the active autofocus point. What’s new is that you can program the OK button to display the currently set sensitivity instead of the remaining number of frames in the viewfinder when you press it – this also applies to the LCD status display on the top of the camera, which has no illumination, but displays the same information (and a few more) as the viewfinder. In addition, it is also possible to display numerous camera settings by pressing the Info button on the rear monitor.

Pentax K100D And K110D Review

The combined on/off switch with dimming function (duty cycle 0.9 s) is ergonomically arranged around the shutter release, the thumbwheel for setting the exposure parameters is exactly where it belongs, and the exposure correction button and the AE-L button are also easily accessible with the right hand. For the most important shooting parameters such as flash function, white balance, sensitivity and shutter release function (single-frame, continuous, bracket, self-timer, mirror lock-up, infrared remote control shutter release, available as accessory, optionally with or without delay), there is a function menu which can be called up via a separate button. The main menu is divided into four areas for recording settings, playback settings, camera settings and extensive user settings to personalize various camera functions (e.g. the sensitivity auto work area or to personalize the OK button). The menus are easy to read, have a logical structure and remain sufficiently clear even with five settings per menu page (2-sided recording menu, 1-sided playback menu, 3-sided settings menu and 4-sided user menu). The beginner won’t miss any essential functions except for small things (e.g. there is no program shift), even a few image processing possibilities or filters are given. The program dial has no less than 13 settings for the usual auto and semi-automatic modes, manual mode, bulb long exposure, and a total of 14 scene modes.

If you normally cannot find an exposure preview on digital SLR cameras, the Pentax K100D, on the other hand, has something similar integrated, namely a so-called digital preview. This can be called up with a setting in the user function menu as an alternative to the classic dimming function. If you then pull the dipping lever, instead of simply dipping the lens down, a picture is taken that can be checked on the display but cannot be saved. It is possible to display the overexposed image areas by flashing, a histogram can also be displayed. However, there is no magnifying glass for focus control and no possibility to change image parameters in order to assess their effects on the test image. So the sense of this digital preview is at least questionable – in the Pentax K10D this will be better solved (magnifying glass, white balance preview etc.).

Optics

As mentioned earlier, the Pentax K100D has the Pentax K lens bayonet, to which a variety of lenses can be connected. The image sensor has only APS-C size, which means that all image angles are reduced by a factor of 1.5 or it appears that the focal length increases by a factor of 1.5 – this gives the photographer additional telephoto focal length, but robs wide angles. A 28mm wide angle becomes such a 42mm normal lens, you have to reach for an 18mm super wide angle to achieve a 28mm wide angle. The K bayonet goes back in its history to 1975 – it has been further developed ever since (various contacts for aperture and data transmission were added, there were power contacts at times and there have been again since the K10D) – but the bayonet has not changed mechanically, so that even ancient manual lenses (with limitations) can still be used. What the bayonet of the K100D lacks is the aperture simulator, which reads the value set on the aperture ring of the lens, and on the other hand there are no power contacts, so that it is not possible to control the power zoom of some lenses of the FA series or to support ultrasonic focusing with new Pentax lenses (available since 2007). The missing aperture simulator leads to the fact that M and K series lenses can only be used in the manual program of the camera by selecting the aperture on the lens and then measuring the exposure with the AE-L button before releasing the shutter. By the way, in the M program it is also possible with newer lenses to measure the exposure with AE-L – you are then (adjustable) in the automatic aperture or time mode, i.e. the appropriate value is determined. Pentax calls the whole thing hypermanual – but unfortunately without adjustable exposure correction, so that you have to do it manually, which is not difficult in manual mode. Starting with the A series (electric aperture transmission), aperture control is possible from the camera. This means that you can use the lenses without restrictions (except for the missing autofocus), but the aperture ring must be in position “A”. Finally, lenses of the F and FA series also have an autofocus, which is mechanically controlled by the motor in the camera by means of a rod drive. The latest lens series are DA and DFA. The former can only be used on cameras with an APS-C large image converter, as they do not illuminate the 35mm film format, whereas DFA lenses have a larger image circle.

Limited lenses are not generally “limited edition”, but only in daily production, in addition, the lenses are handmade and of extremely high optical and mechanical quality. Limited lenses are only available as fixed focal lengths made of metal, whereby the new DA-Limited series is characterized by its compactness (pancake lenses with focal lengths of 21, 40 and 70 mm). Lenses marked with an *, on the other hand, form the high-end class of the “normal” lenses, normally these are the particularly fast lenses. More details about the history and features of the Pentax lens series can be found in our review of the Samsung GX-1L.

Pentax K100D And K110D Review

If you take a look at the current lens program of Pentax and leave out the older lenses that are no longer available, there is a sad picture in some areas. There is a lack of fast fixed focal lengths (aperture 2.0 or better) as well as higher quality telephoto lenses (no matter if zoom or fixed focal length). On the one hand this may be due to the fact that the old lenses sold out faster than expected, on the other hand to the fact that Pentax fully relies on the digital age and accordingly newly calculated and constructed lenses (adapted coating, adapted beam path). And a small company like Pentax can’t conjure up new lenses out of its hat. Another reason was revealed in a press release: The planned, higher-quality lenses come – at least in part – with ultrasonic drive. Whether these lenses can then be used on a camera like the K100D or the older models of the previous series without restrictions (i.e. with autofocus functionality) is still questionable at this point. The fact is that there is currently only one telephoto lens beyond the 100 mm focal length, although this lens is anything but high quality or fast. It is only a, albeit good, entry-level zoom of 50-200 mm with a speed of 4.0 to 5.6. On the other hand, there are enough lenses in the price range up to 600 EUR (street price) from the high-quality Limited fixed focal lengths over a 10-17mm fisheye zoom up to macro lenses and standard zooms. Don’t forget that Tamron and Sigma also produce compatible lenses.

As a so-called kit lens, a 3.5-5.6/18-55mm lens is optionally included in the scope of delivery of the K100D for a small surcharge. This lens is quite well processed for a kit. In terms of a 35 mm camera, the focal length of the lens ranges from 27 to 85 mm, i.e. from the wide-angle to the light telephoto. The light intensity can be described as rather weak, but is typical for this type of lens. In addition to the “light weakness”, this lens has other weaknesses, but more about this in the section “Image quality”. Anyway, the lens is the same one we used in the Samsung GX-1L test. The autofocus of the K100D has improved. The motor of the K100D grips noticeably and audibly faster, turns at a higher speed, which is especially noticeable in the speed when driving through the entire focus range. More important, of course, is how fast the camera focuses on average. And this speed has noticeably improved – despite the Pentax-typical “rare sound” until the final focus point is found. If we still called the autofocus of the Samsung GX-1L “2nd class” (even if it wasn’t really slow), the K100D is now catching up with the competition, even if it’s still just missed. Nevertheless, the average focus speed of only 0.3 seconds is impressive. If the subject contrast or the light is worse, the autofocus takes more time, but usually remains usable with 0.7 seconds even under more difficult conditions. The focusing speed, however, depends on another factor – the lens. If the adjustment distances are small or the mass to be adjusted is low, the camera focuses faster – the 18-55mm lens is not one of the fastest, so that there are also reserves in the speed.

One cannot complain about the accuracy of the autofocus, at best the automatic focus field selection was sometimes wrong and did not focus on the intended main subject. With its eleven measuring fields, the K100D is generously equipped, nine of the measuring fields are even high-quality cross sensors, i.e. they are sensitive to both horizontal and vertical contrasts. A measuring field lies exactly in the middle and is squarely “framed” by eight more, on the left and on the right outside there is a line sensor each. The user can freely select the AF sensor, set the autofocus to spot, or leave the automatic function to choose which focus point to focus on. If you don’t like the distance determined by the autofocus, you can use DA and DFA lenses, which have a so-called quickshift focus system, to correct manually after automatic focusing. Another possibility is to switch off the autofocus by a switch near the lens bayonet and focus manually. The AF fields remain active and support the user by flashing when the focus is found. Continuous autofocus is also available for tracking moving subjects and can be activated via the menu setting.

Pentax K100D And K110D ReviewA novelty at Pentax is the Shake Reduction System (SR). Previously, Pentax had no image stabilization, but the power contacts on the bayonet alone were missing to supply power to a stabilizer built into the lens. Pentax is following the same path as the pioneer of this technology, Konica Minolta. Instead of moving lens elements in the lens to stabilize the image, Pentax opted for an image stabilizer in the camera at the sensor level. Although the system works on the same principle as Konica Minolta, Pentax uses a completely different technique to move the sensor. In the camera there are gyro sensors which record the camera movements and forward them to the camera processor. This calculates – with the help of the focal length – the necessary counter movements of the sensor. Nothing new so far. With Pentax, however, the sensor is suspended completely freely – you can tell by the fact that the sensor in the camera rattles freely – except during exposure. At first glance, this seems to inspire little confidence, and one can only hope that this is not really a problem, as Pentax asserts. Electric magnets are used to hold the sensor in place or move it to where the camera processor has calculated it during exposure (Minolta uses piezo elements). These are active even when the SR is switched off during exposure to fix the sensor, which is why the energy consumption is independent of whether the SR is switched on or not. Pentax states that the sensor can be moved about 2-3 mm in any direction (which is slightly less than the 5 mm Minolta indicates), and it is even possible to rotate the sensor to a limited extent to compensate for slight tilting during “blurring” – but unfortunately it is not possible to align the sensor in this way for a straight horizon. With the help of the SR it is possible to keep exposure times up to eight times as long as without SR shake-free. However, when using a tripod and when taking pictures with the camera, the SR should be deactivated – when taking pictures with the flash in wireless P-TTL mode, the SR will even be deactivated automatically.

Since the Pentax K100D also works with lenses that do not transmit their focal length to the camera, but that require this information for the SR (in wide-angle mode, fewer sensor movements are required than in telephoto mode), the camera prompts the user to enter the focal length manually when such a lens is detected, so that the SR also performs excellently with old lenses. One has even thought (at least after a firmware update) of writing the focal length set in this way into the EXIF data as well – very practical. The SR works very reliably and also offers the compensation specified by the manufacturer in practice. So it is no problem to take pictures with a 40mm lens (60mm 35mm equivalent) with 1/8 second exposure time out of your hand. The only disadvantage of the SR system compared to stabilized lenses is mainly in the telephoto range, as the viewfinder naturally does not provide a stabilized image – but you have image stabilization in every lens at no extra charge. Don’t forget that no image stabilizer can compensate for rapid subject movement, only a large aperture and high sensitivity will help to keep the exposure time short.

Flash

The Pentax K100D has of course a built-in miniature flash. This is indicated with a guide number of 15.6 at ISO 200 (the lowest possible sensitivity of the K100D), which would correspond to guide number 11 at ISO 100. Compared to the previous series, the flash jumps up much higher, which not only reduces the tendency to red eyes to a minimum, but also ensures that large lenses do not shade the flash so easily. The illumination angle reaches down to 18 mm for lenses (about 28 mm in 35 mm equivalent), where the flash actually illuminates even the corners well. The colour neutrality of the flash light is also very good, which also applies to the exposure, which is a bit tight rather than too strong, so that the dreaded lime faces normally don’t appear. The flash has a number of modes, including automatic pop-up in scene mode and full auto, if the camera feels the flash is necessary. In all programs it is possible to open the flash by pressing a button. In the Fn menu, you can select various flash modes, including auto with and without red-eye pre-flash, and manual shutter release with or without red-eye pre-flash, although the auto modes are not available in the creative programs (P, Av, Tv, M, B). A synchronisation to the second shutter curtain (i.e. a flash release at the end of the exposure) cannot be set with the internal flash, also a special long time synchronisation mode is missing. The latter, however, can be easily achieved (and better controlled than with an automatic) in manual mode – or in night portrait mode. In addition, the flash light can be adjusted in its strength within limits – a flash exposure correction is accessible via the menu and ranges from +1 EV to -2 EV in ½ or 1/3 EV steps.

Pentax K100D And K110D ReviewPentax has its own flash protocol called P-TTL (P-TTL = Preflash-TTL – not to be confused with the older programed-TTL that once existed at Pentax). Here there is a short, barely perceptible measuring flash before the actual exposure to determine the necessary flash quantity – taking into account the ambient light and the set focus distance. With P-TTL, wireless flash control and high-speed synchronization are also possible – but both functions are annoyingly only available with an external P-TTL flash attached. The flash’s sync time is only 1/180 second, which makes fill-in flashes in daylight or in the sun particularly difficult. If, on the other hand, one of the two available flashes is attached to the corresponding system flash shoe, all functions can be used. This ranges from synchronisation to the 2nd shutter curtain (adjustable on the flash unit) to high-speed synchronisation and wireless control of other system flash units. The two available flash units are the Pentax 360 FGZ with a maximum guide number of 36, which can only be swivelled vertically but not horizontally, and the new 540 FGZ, which not only has more power, but can also be swivelled horizontally (important for portrait format pictures taken indirectly over the ceiling) and has a Powerpack connection to minimize flash charging times. Both flashes also feature a red AF auxiliary light, eliminating the annoying stroboscopic flash salvo of the internal flash to assist focus in low-light conditions. What Pentax is looking for in vain is a P-TTL ring flash. If this was compensated by the fact that the Pentax former D and former DS still used old flashes to control so-called A-TTL, where the flash output was determined during exposure, and Pentax still had its old A-TTL ring flash in its product range, the A-TTL functionality of the K100D was cancelled. There is also no P-TTL ring flash available from other manufacturers at the moment. A further disadvantage of P-TTL is the pre-flash, which causes people and animals to close their eyes during exposure with a rapid reaction, or even to have a flight instinct.

Picture quality

The Pentax K100D uses the well-known 6 MP Sony CCD in APS-C format, which has already been on the hump for several years and has proven itself in various other cameras (Nikon D50, D70, D100, Pentax *ist D series, Konica Minolta 5D and 7D). The image quality of this CCD is on a high level, especially it is very low-noise. The only thing that has changed about the Sony 6 MP chip over the years are the anti-aliasing filters and microlenses used to focus the light. The dilution of the AA filter in particular led to a higher image quality, especially with fast or wide-angle lenses, but causes increased aliasing and moiré effects, which are sometimes unpleasant, especially with fine patterns (e.g. blinds, curtains, fine fabric patterns, etc.). So the aliasing/moiré effects are also some of the few image quality problems that the Pentax has to struggle with. Especially with a high-resolution fixed focal length such as the DA 2.8/40 mm, the image weaknesses are clearly visible on fine structures, but they are also visible on the less high-resolution kit lens. The resolution and the efficiency are fine – even if no records are set here, the camera still moves at a high level. In particular the lens and the focal length used play an important role here. For example, the resolution of the kit lens at 18 mm focal length is lower in the center and at the edge than at half the image height, while it is equally good at higher focal lengths. With the net file size, on the other hand, the camera plays in its class rather in the lower league. The direction dependency of the resolution is clearly scattered in the different color channels – which can be attributed mainly to the aliasing effects.

On the other hand, the sharpening is pleasing again. Pentax has set it up extremely intelligently by hardly sharpening in the light and dark areas, which effectively prevents clipping, while sharpening is strongest in the medium brightness areas, leaving a crisp image impression. The usual lens weaknesses of the kit lens are shown not only in the resolution but also in the vignetting and distortion. Especially at 18 mm the vignetting is very clear, which leads to visibly darker corners. The distortion is strongly barrel-shaped, so that lines running parallel to the edge of the picture are clearly bent towards the edge of the picture. In the medium and telephoto focal length range of the lens, however, vignetting does not play a significant role; distortion in the medium focal length is low, as expected, before it becomes slightly cushion-shaped at 55 mm, so that lines parallel to the image edge are visibly bent towards the center of the image.

The camera is exemplary when it comes to colour reproduction. It offers the two color dynamic settings “neutral” and “luminous”, whereby the latter leads to a quite strong, but still very good color rendering. In addition to the colors, the “Shining” setting also affects the contrasts and sharpness, which are more aggressive, which should please those who prefer good images without much image processing from the camera, e.g. to print them directly. In addition to adjusting the color dynamics, you can also adjust the sharpness, the contrast and the color saturation with three separate controls in five steps in order to adjust the image reproduction to your own taste. Even in RAW format, these settings have an effect – at least on the image you see on the camera monitor. For quick viewing and zoom, the Pentax embeds a high-resolution JPEG in medium compression in each RAW. Although the K100D does not offer a special RAW+JPEG mode, RAW always records in this mode, so to speak – there are even programs available to extract these JPEGs from the RAW images.

The very good white balance also contributes to the positive results – but there is a big minus point here: the automatic white balance cannot cope with warm color temperatures at all. Depending on the light source (e.g. incandescent lamp or candlelight), there are clearly red-orange tinted images. A remedy is provided by the white balance preset “Incandescent light”, which largely eliminates the color casts. In addition to incandescent light, there are numerous other presets ranging from sunlight, clouds and flashlight to shadows and three different neon light colour temperatures. If you don’t like the automatic white balance or one of the presets, you have to resort to a manual white balance using a photographed grey card (or white sheet of paper), because the K100D doesn’t offer a white balance fine tuning. As a last resort there is of course the RAW file format, where you can make the white balance during the image processing.

The good noise behaviour of the Sony CCD mentioned at the beginning can also be seen in the pictures of the Pentax K100D. Especially in the lights and shadows, the noise is barely noticeable, while on closer inspection a slight noise can be detected in the medium brightness ranges, but at ISO 200 it is very low. Up to ISO 800 the noise remains so low that one can adjust this sensitivity without hesitation. Even ISO 1.600 still offers an amazing quality, only at ISO 3.200 the noise becomes noticeably disturbing – but here you can still get a lot out of a good RAW converter, which has noise reduction algorithms built in. The tonal value reproduction, which is downright professional and in combination with the good input dynamics of 8.6 f-stops represents a very good basis for image processing, must also be praised. The output dynamics offer a high-contrast reproduction, which has a very linear rendition, especially from the lights to the darker areas, while the shadows become a little softer.

Good input dynamics won’t help if the exposure is roughly off. The K100D doesn’t show any nudity here and exposes very reliably in all lighting situations, sometimes a bit tightly, but outliers towards the top are rare. Also the striking differences in exposure of the Pentax former DS depending on the lens used (digitally calculated correctly to just exposed, lenses of the F and FA series rather clearly too bright in high-contrast light situations) have improved dramatically, so that there are hardly any complaints here. Finally, the images have to be captured on the memory card, whereby the Pentax K100D offers three different JPEG compressions in addition to the raw data format. Although the slightest compression is already quite strong, it is still free of compression artifacts, which is far from true of the strongest compression setting. Instead, it is recommended to reduce the resolution and use the medium compression level.

All in all, the Pentax K100D – except for a few weaknesses in detail processing – has a very good image quality that can compete with the competition and is sufficient for high-quality photos. The image quality reaches in particular a good compromise between fast photography and more demanding processing possibilities, whereby one can adjust the parameters just here very well to one’s own wishes. The supplied lens shows clear weaknesses especially in the wide angle, but is otherwise good for the entry or the price. With a higher quality lens, however, the image quality can be improved even further.

Miscellaneous And Special Functions

Of course, the K100D has a continuous mode. However, this is not quite up to date anymore, but for a beginner camera it is quite okay. The frame rate is still quite good, but not the number of images possible at maximum speed (approx. 2.5 frames/s). With JPEG, the buffer only lasts for five images (then it goes on with about 1.2 images per second), with RAW only three images fit into it. Despite the gyro sensors used, which should also provide the information as to whether the camera is held horizontally or vertically (portrait format), the camera is not able to evaluate this data – so that portrait format images must later be rotated manually on the computer. But the Pentax offers other little refinements that are not visible at first glance. For example, when the resolution or image quality is set, the remaining capacity of the memory card with the setting is displayed immediately before the setting. Particularly worth mentioning or almost self-evident for Pentax is the presence of a mirror lock-up combined with the self-timer with 2 seconds delay and the dipping lever with classic dipping or a digital test picture already mentioned in the first section. With all the innovations, Pentax has unfortunately forgotten the built-in AF auxiliary light and uses the internal flash instead, which fires unpleasant flash volleys that frighten or impatient every model. The only way out is an external flash, here both Pentax models have a reasonable, built-in auxiliary light that projects a red line pattern and thus allows the camera to focus reliably even on homogeneous surfaces.

Pentax K100D And K110D Review

Spartan equipped is the camera in the possibilities to manipulate captured images. There are histogram, hotspot warning (flashing of overexposed image parts), a magnifying glass (up to 12x), slide show and some digital filters (sepia, black and white, adjustable color tone, compression/stretch, adjustable blur and brightness filter) available, but there are no further processing options such as the development of RAW images, cutting, resolution change, etc.. Thus, there are hardly any possibilities to optimize the images before the possible direct printing from the camera (assuming DPOF or PictBridge compatible printer) – but this is also not absolutely necessary, as the camera already makes very good, print-ready JPEG images, especially in the luminous setting. A USB cable can of course be connected for direct printing or image transfer to the computer – current operating systems do not require an additional driver thanks to mass storage compatibility – the camera registers as a normal mass storage device. The interface complies with the USB 2.0 Highspeed standard, so that image transmission is fast. In addition to the ability to transfer images via the USB port, you can also use remote control software on your PC to remotely control the K100D. Here you can set all the necessary recording parameters and the recorded image will be saved in RAW file format right on the computer. The cable for the TV display of the camera images also comes to the USB port, so that you can, for example, make a slide show in large format directly from the camera on a television (NTSC or PAL).

The included software also deserves a special mention – in both a positive and negative sense: The editing possibilities with the new Photolab 3, which contains the Silkypix engine, are very extensive, e.g. noise, vignetting, distortion and much more can be corrected, the white balance fine correction is not only magenta to green, but also amber to blue possible. Very good are also the color reproduction and the general image quality, which are possible with the RAW converter. However, this is contrasted by an extremely “habitual” user interface – tens of windows, which cannot be changed in their size and also cannot be linked to each other, make the desktop very small, so that one should already have a high monitor resolution – preferably 1600×1200 pixels – in order to be able to work sensibly with it. Also the workflow is not quite optimal, for single pictures no different development profiles can be saved. Although the RAW converter can create DNG files, it cannot read or process them again. Very good is again the possibility to extract the JPEGs embedded in the RAWs and save them separately. To top it all off, Photolab 3 is unfortunately very unstable and also has a few bugs that will hopefully be fixed. Maybe there is a little update with the Pentax K10D. Pentax also makes the software updates available to buyers of older cameras so that they can benefit from the improvements and new functions free of charge. In general, Pentax is not sparing with updates, especially concerning the camera firmware. Older cameras also benefit from new functions, recently there was a software update for the K100D to version 1.01 with which SDHC cards (in addition to SD cards) can now be used in the camera. The focal length set for the SR for manual lenses is also stored in the EXIF recording information of the images.

Bottom line

With the K100D, Pentax has launched a very mature and functionally balanced camera with a built-in image stabilizer at a low price. Beginners in the DSLR sector and owners of Pentax lenses should include this camera in their purchase decision. Although the resolution of 6 megapixels is comparatively low, it is sufficient for normal applications. Pentax uses this CCD very well, especially for the image quality, the tonal value reproduction is excellent, also the sharpening is solved intelligently. The handling of the camera, the user interface logical and the monitor as well as the viewfinder are very good – only the handle needs to be improved. In the accessories program, however, Pentax (still) has to make some compromises, but one can fall back on sufficient foreign accessories and the second-hand market. In any case, the fear should be off the table that Pentax is the next takeover candidate after Konica Minolta – because since this year’s Photokina it should be clear that Pentax is now really “stepping on the gas pedal”.

Short evaluation

Pros

  • Built-in image stabilizer (works with all lenses)
  • z. T. intelligent special functions (e.g. quickshift focus lenses, hyper manual mode, test image function, etc.)
  • Monitor with high resolution and low viewing angle dependence
  • standard AA/Mignon cells or CR-V3 lithium batteries can be used
  • good noise behaviour
  • extended sensitivity level range (ISO 200 to 3,200) with automatic
  • good price/performance ratio
  • high exposure latitude (input dynamics) or professionally tuned tonal value reproduction
  • intelligent sharpening
  • respectable selection of digitally matched lenses
  • extended lens compatibility (also to old lenses with Pentax K mount and – via adapter – to the medium format lenses of the 645 series)
  • well thought-out operation and ergonomics (despite very compact camera dimensions)

Cons

  • weak automatic white balance in warm ambient light (candlelight, incandescent light)
  • Set lens with imaging weaknesses (especially in the wide-angle range)
  • higher quality (telephoto) lenses probably not available until 2007
  • no battery or portrait handle available
  • built-in flash unit cannot be used as control unit in wireless TTL flash mode
  • comparatively “lean” flash unit program with other camera systems (e.g. no ring or pliers flashes)
  • Light sensitivity level range only starting at ISO 200
  • Weaknesses in detail preparation and artifact formation
  • modest buffer memory capacity or low number of frame rates
  • Viewfinder mat screen not replaceable
  • less ergonomic camera grip
  • little discrete AF auxiliary light (via flash salvo)

Pentax K100D Datasheet

Electronics

Sensor CCD sensor APS-C 23.6 x 15.8 mm (crop factor 1.5
)6.3 megapixels (physical) and 6.1 megapixels (effective)
Pixel pitch 7.8 µm
Photo resolution
3.008 x 2.008 pixels (3:2)
1.920 x 1.080 Pixel (16:9)
1.536 x 1.024 Pixel (3:2)
Picture formats JPG, RAW
Color depth 24 bits (8 bits per color channel), 36 bits (12 bits per color channel)
Metadata Exif (version 2.21), DCF standard

Lens

Lens mount
Pentax K

Focusing

Autofocus mode Phase comparison autofocus with 11 sensors
Autofocus Functions Single AF, Continuous AF, Manual, AF Assist Light
Focus control Dipping key

Viewfinder and Monitor

Reflex viewfinder Reflex viewfinder (prism viewfinder) (96 % image coverage), diopter compensation (-2.5 to +1.5 dpt), replaceable focusing screens
Monitor 2.5″ TFT LCD monitor with 210,000 pixels, transreflective
Info display additional info display (top)

Exposure

Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement over 16 fields, spot measurement
Exposure times 1/4,000 to 30 s (automatic
) bulb function
Exposure control Program automatic, Aperture automatic, Time automatic, Manual
Bracketing function Bracket function with maximum 3 shots, step size from 1/3 to 1/2 EV
Exposure compensation -2.0 to +2.0 EV with step size of 1/3 EV
Sensitivity to light ISO 200 to ISO 3.200 (manual)
Remote access Remote tripping
Scene modes Documents, Indoor, Candlelight, Kids, Landscape, Night Scene, Night Portrait, Close-up, Portrait, Sunset, Sports/Action, Beach/Snow, Animals, and Full Auto
Picture effects Soft focus
White balance Auto, Cloudy, Sun, Shadow, Flash, Fluorescent lamp with 3 presets, Incandescent lamp, Manual
Continuous shooting Continuous shooting function max. 2.8 fps at highest resolution and max. 5 stored photos
Self-timer Self-timer with 2 or 12 s interval
Shooting functions Live histogram

Flashgun

Flash built-in flash (hinged
)flash shoe: Pentax, standard centre contact
Flash number Guide number 15 (ISO 100)
Flash functions Auto, Fill Flash, Flash On, Flash Off, Slow Sync, Red-eye Reduction

Equipment

Image stabilizer no optical image stabilizer
Memory
SD
Power supply Power supply connection
Power supply 4 x AA (standard battery
)2 x CR-V3 (standard battery)
4 x AA (standard battery)
Playback Functions Image rotation, highlight / shadow warning, playback histogram, image index, slide show function
Ports Data interfaces: USBUSB type
:USB 2.0 High Speed
AV connectors AV output: HDMI output Micro (Type D)
Supported direct printing methods PictBridge
Tripod socket 1/4″
Features and Miscellaneous 11-point autofocus with auto or manual AF field selection, and single autofocus and AF focus adjustment switching range
from -1 to 19 EV Distance MemoryExposure Metering MemoryMeasuring rangefrom 1 to 21.5 EV Playback Zoom
(max. 12x)
Display of shooting information19
User FunctionsWorld Time Clock
with 28 Time Zone Alarm Function and 70 CitiesProbe Image FunctionSR Shake Reduction System(Image Stabilization by Moving CCD Sensor)

Size and weight

Dimensions W x H x D 130 x 92 x 70 mm
Weight 655 g (ready for operation)

Other

included accessories Pentax FK (Hot Shoe Cover
)Standard BatteriesVideo Connection CableUSB Connection CableBajonet CoverStandard Viewfinder DiscNatural-Bright-Matte IIICamera Software
Pentax Photo Laboratory 3 for Windows (2000/XP) and for Macintosh (System X/or higher)
Image Management Software Pentax Photo Browser 3 for Windows (2000/XP) and for Macintosh (System X/or higher)

 

Pentax K110D Datasheet

Electronics

Sensor CCD sensor APS-C 23.6 x 15.8 mm (crop factor 1.5
)6.3 megapixels (physical) and 6.1 megapixels (effective)
Pixel pitch 7.8 µm
Photo resolution
3.008 x 2.008 pixels (3:2)
1.920 x 1.080 Pixel (16:9)
1.536 x 1.024 Pixel (3:2)
Picture formats JPG, RAW
Colour depth 24 bits (8 bits per color channel), 36 bits (12 bits per color channel)
Metadata Exif (version 2.21), DCF standard

Lens

Lens mount
Pentax K

Focusing

Autofocus mode Phase comparison autofocus with 11 sensors
Autofocus Functions Single AF, Continuous AF, Manual, AF Assist Light
Focus control Dipping key

Viewfinder and Monitor

Reflex viewfinder Reflex viewfinder (prism viewfinder) (96 % image coverage), diopter compensation (-2.5 to +1.5 dpt), replaceable focusing screens
Monitor 2.5″ TFT LCD monitor with 210,000 pixels, transreflective
Info display additional info display (top)

Exposure

Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement over 16 fields, spot measurement
Exposure times 1/4,000 to 30 s (automatic
) bulb function
Exposure control Program automatic, Aperture automatic, Time automatic, Manual
Bracketing function Bracket function with maximum 3 shots, step size from 1/3 to 1/2 EV
Exposure compensation -2.0 to +2.0 EV with step size of 1/3 EV
Sensitivity to light ISO 200 to ISO 3.200 (manual)
Remote access Remote tripping
Scene modes Documents, Indoor, Candlelight, Kids, Landscape, Night Scene, Night Portrait, Close-up, Portrait, Sunset, Sports/Action, Beach/Snow, Animals, Full Auto, 0 More Scene Programs
Picture effects Soft focus, image squeezing effect
White balance Auto, Cloudy, Sun, Shadow, Flash, Fluorescent lamp with 3 presets, Incandescent lamp, Manual
Continuous shooting Continuous shooting function max. 2.8 fps at highest resolution and max. 5 stored photos
Self-timer Self-timer with 2 or 12 s interval
Shooting functions Live histogram

Flashgun

Flash built-in flash (hinged
)flash shoe: Pentax, standard centre contact
Flash number Guide number 15 (ISO 100)
Flash functions Auto, Fill Flash, Flash On, Flash Off, Slow Sync, Red-eye Reduction

Equipment

Image stabilizer no optical image stabilizer
Memory
SD
Power supply Power supply connection
Power supply 4 x AA (standard battery
)2 x CR-V3 (standard battery)
4 x AA (standard battery)
Playback Functions Image rotation, highlight / shadow warning, playback histogram, image index, slide show function
Ports Data interfaces: USBUSB type
:USB 2.0 High Speed
AV connectors AV output: HDMI output Micro (Type D)
Supported direct printing methods PictBridge
Tripod socket 1/4″
Features and Miscellaneous 11-point autofocus with auto or manual AF field selection and single autofocus and AF focus adjustment range
from -1 to 19 EV Distance MemoryAEASE lock rangefrom 1 to 21.5 EV Playback Zoom
(max. 12x)
Display of shooting information19
User FunctionsWorld Time Clock
with 28 Time Zone Alarm Function and 70 City Sampling Function

Size and weight

Dimensions W x H x D 130 x 92 x 70 mm
Weight 580 g (ready for operation)

Other

included accessories Pentax FK (Hot Shoe Cover
)Standard BatteriesVideo Connection CableUSB Connection CableBajonet CoverStandard Viewfinder DiscNatural-Bright-Matte IIICamera Software
Pentax Photo Laboratory 3 for Windows (2000/XP) and for Macintosh (System X/or higher)
Image Management Software Pentax Photo Browser 3 for Windows (2000/XP) and for Macintosh (System X/or higher)

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here