The DLSR with the strange name is a nimble camera that combine modern digital image capture with the decades of optical excellence still avaliable in some of the best lenses ever made.
But don't just take my words for it; pro photographer Vuk Vuksanovic calls it “The prince of affordable DSLRs” with a bright viewfinder and the ability to use the many excellent Pentax lenses available. Mike Johnston says: It's just about "perfectly sorted," in his column The K-1000 of Digital SLRs. In a German foto MAGAZINE test the small *istDS has the best dynamics and lowest noise among the budget DSLRs.
Moe and Reina admiring the back of my *istDS that has few buttons and a large display.
Unless you already own one or more suitable lenses, it is tempting to get one of the two Pentax lenses usually bundled with the camera body. For about $100, the Pentax SMC-DA 18-55/3,5-5,6 AL represents good value, and is a better, if not a much better, lens than its price or its status as a basic kit lens might indicate. The Pentax SMC-DA 16-45/4 ED AL is both wider and sharper, but costs an additional $150. It is also larger, zooms backwards, and is therefore unusuable with the built-in flash. Fine examples from roman! Even better is the superb and fast Sigma EX 18-50/2,8 DC.
Another interesting new lens from Sigma is the 30mm F/1.4 EX DC which is comparable to the full frame 50mm standard lens. Admire the great photos by Derek Leung.
If you don't plan to get more than one lens for your DSLR, the new super-zooms from Sigma and Tamron may be worth looking into. According to foto MAGAZINE, the Sigma 18-200/3,5-6,3 DC and the Tamron 18-200/3,5-6,3 XR Di II Macro perform virtually identically on a DSLR. These are large and heavy lenses, however!
For that everyday point-and-shoot feeling nothing beats the tiny pancake Pentax SMC-DA 40/2,8 Limited (except perhaps the original smc PENTAX-M 1:2.8 40mm although that is a fully manual lens).
These new lenses are made for the DSLR with an APS-sized sensor. Pentax also offers a number of current autofocusing lenses made for film cameras that performs just as well with the *istDS. The one exception is that their effective focal length will increase by the factor x1.52. While this may be an advantage for a telephoto lens, it greatly reduces the value of a wide-angle lens.
Finally, there are many excellent vintage Pentax lenses that can be found at eBay. The more recent ones (A) will allow automatic aperture control, although they have to be focused manually. Only bayonet lenses will fit the *istDS directly, but with a suitable adapter both medium format lenses and the old screw mount Takumar lenses can be fitted, as well as many other brand lenses.
Used lenses can often be bought for a song, but the more attractive ones are often quite expensive, a slight disadvantage of the unique Pentax experience! You can get more information about Pentax lenses on Bojidar Dimitrov’s Pentax K-Mount Page and read about how they perform in Stan’s Pentax Photography site. German digitalkamera.de offers Alte Juwelen – Analoge Objektive an DSLRs. For 3rd party lenses, se Jens’ impressive collection!
Excellent viewfinder, big and bright.
Compact and light, feals great and handles well with few controls.
Low noise, even at ISO 800, and excellent dynamics.
Excellent image quality.
It is easy to manually override the autofocus.
Very good backward lens (and flash) compatibility.
Uses ordinary AA batteries or very long life lithium CR-V3.
Stores images on SD cards.
Please see Phil Askey’s review where he sums things up in his Conclusions.
The set lens good is good value but perhaps not the sharpest around.
Some fiddling required to change white balance, ISO, and other parameters.
The autofocus can have some difficulties in low light conditions.
No backlighting on the top data LCD.
The shutter release mechanism is noisy.
Lowest sensitivity ISO 200.
Does not record JPEG and RAW simultaneously.
Phil notes that the JPEG processing in the *istDS results in an image that is inferior to what can be acomplished by saving in the RAW format, perhaps more so than in other cameras (but not everyone agrees on this). So should you use the RAW format? The differense in image quality will be demonstrated elsewhere on this site. Other factors to consider are the larger file size which takes longer to save between exposures, and the much slower image processing in the computer, although this depends on your hardware and software, of course. In addition, I found the Pentax Mac software rather awkward and slow on my PowerBook. On the Mac, Graphic Converter is faster but feels quirky to a Photoshop user.
Be sure to set the Hot spot wrnng in the playback menu in addition to displaying the histogram during picture review after exposure. This gives you a fair chance to catch over (and under) exposure already in the camera.
In program mode Manual, pressing the AE lock button sets the basic exposure as if Program had been chosen. From there, you can adjust the aperture and exposure time, as required.
When setting the white balance manually, it is easiest to do this with a spot reading. Choose this alternative in the Custom menu; Man. WB Measurement; 2.
Pressing the Delete button (dust box) twice while in picture preview will bring up the Delete All menu.
Consider getting the cable release to reduce camera shake when using long exposures (on a tripod). In addition you can use the 2-sec self-timer which will lock up the mirror at the release, 2 secs before the shutter operates.
Pentax has released the V2.0 *istDS Firmware Update. More info and download on this page. The gist is that this update will give the *istDS some of the functionalty of the new *itsDS2. The new functions are listed on the Pentax page and explained on a separate page.
All custom settings in the camera are reset when upgrading. A result of this is that the photo count will be reset to zero too if an empty memory card is present. Having a partially filled memory card in the camera when you upgrade will prevent this, however.
ZEDNet Japan *istDS
IR and modding by Jens Rösner Working with the Pentax *ist DS
Japanese blog with fine photos It is not possible to live without *istDS
Recensioner på fotosidan.se (Swedish) Pentax *ist DS
Photozone review by T Wong.
Digital Photography Review Pentax SLR Talk Forum
megapixel.net Pentax *istDS review
Steve’s Digicams Pentax *istDS
PhotographyBLOG Pentax *istDS
Phil Askey dpreview.com Pentax *istDS Review
Mo’s Talk Forum Pentax FAQ
Pentax *istDS FAQ
Pentax *ist DS SLR Digital Camera Sample Photos PBase Photo
Pentax Lens Wiki Main
Pentax Lens Compatibility Chart
I love my *istDS, it handles just like an SLR should
with the convenience of digital storage.