Pentax K10D Review
Performance - How well does it take pictures?
Ultimately, it is the image quality that makes a camera worth buying. For an SLR, image quality greatly depends on the lens used. While color, noise, exposure and contrast are properties of the camera, distortion, vignetting and chromatic aberrations are properties of the lens. Sharpness depends on the weakest link. That is, the camera cannot capture more details than the lens lets through. Conversely, it is possible for a lens to transmit more details than the sensor can capture.
Exposure is generally good with the K10D, specially with subjects that fall within the camera's dynamic range. When a subject has more contrast then the K10D can capture, it consistently exposes conservatively. This means that highlights are rarely overexposed but images may appear darker than expected. Since this is not optimal for printing unmodified images, more positive exposure-compensation than usual is required for scenes with very bright highlights.
The Pentax K10D shows good color accuracy in its natural mode. The bright color mode gently increases color saturation but keeps colors looking natural. The white-balance system is very accurate when preset and manually set. Automatic white-balance is generally good except under artificial light where it leaves a noticeably warm color cast. This problem unfortunately occurs with most digital SLR cameras. However, since the K10D has a digital white-balance preview feature, it is very easy to select an accurate white-balance and fine-tune it until satisfied.
Noise levels are extremely low until ISO 400, very low but noticeable in shadow-areas at ISO 800 and low at ISO 1600. Compared to competing 10 megapixels DSLR cameras, the Pentax K10D is about average in terms of image noise. This is a great performance, although the Canon Digital Rebel XTi produces smoother images with just as much detail. The Nikon D80 also produces images with less noise but at the expense of fine detail. Still, the Sony Alpha A100
Sony Alpha A100 and Nikon D200 show more image noise at high sensitivities.
Image sharpness is controllable in 7 steps. At the default setting, images appear slightly soft, but this is easily corrected by increasing sharpness in-camera. It is common for high-end DSLR to produce slightly soft images by default since those images fair better during post-processing. Remember that final image sharpness is dependent on the lens, focal-length and aperture used. Overall, the Pentax K10D can produce high-quality images with plenty of details and no sharpening artifacts.
In operation, the Pentax K10D is speedy and responsive. There is rarely a moment where the photographer has to wait for the K10D. The focusing system is fast and accurate, with some variation depending on the lens used. Shutter-lag is always very short. Image playback and zoom is nearly instant as well. While Pentax claims the K10D shoots continuously indefinitely at 3 FPS, we found that shooting speed varied between 2.8 and 3.3 FPS for at least 24 shots. After that, the continuous drive became more erratic. While this is better than most DSLR cameras, the Sony Alpha A100 does better by sustaining 3 FPS until the memory card gets full.
Even though there are no formal ways of measuring the performance of image stabilization, weeks of testing suggest that Pentax's implementation is less efficient than Konica-Minolta's Anti-Shake. Although there is no doubt that the K10D's Shake Reduction works and makes a difference, result consistency was lower than expected. As for dust-reduction, it also makes a difference but the sensor may still requires occasional cleaning for stubborn dust.
With so much excellent competition, the Pentax K10D distinguishes itself by an unequaled feature set. Even though image quality is on-par with its peers, the combination of stabilization, dust-reduction, weatherproofing and unique features is what makes this camera so appealing. In terms of handling, the Pentax K10D is exceptional. The two control-wheels and well placed buttons allow the camera to be controlled with unprecedented efficiently.
The only disappointing part of the K10D's performance was its built-in stabilization system which is not as efficient as advertised. Since there are no stabilized Pentax lenses, nothing can be done if it does not provide sufficient stabilization. Continuous drive was also somewhat erratic but still maintained a good average speed.
The bottom line is that the K10D cannot be beaten feature-wise. It brings some unique features and exposure modes into a very thoughtful and ergonomic design. In terms of image quality, the Canon Digital Rebel XTi and the 8 megapixels Canon EOS 30D still have the advantage, specially at high-ISO. Neither of these cameras have built-in stabilization or weatherproofing though. The XTi has an useful eye-start sensor but its ergonomics and capabilities are limited compared to the K10D. The 30D has the advantage of having a consistent 5 FPS continuous drive which is better suited for action photography.
The Pentax K10D has a nearly identical twin, the Samsung GX-10. Unlike previous clones of Pentax DSLR cameras by Samsung, there are some cosmetics and interface differences between these two cameras. The only functionality differences between these two cameras is that the GX-10 only support Adobe's RAW format called DNG, while the Pentax K10D also supports Pentax's own compressed format, called PEF. For more details on the differences between the K10D and the GX-10, see DC Resource's difference review.
Pentax K10D Facts
SLR digital camera
|10 Megapixels DSLR||ISO 100-1600|
|Pentax K Mount|
Sensor-Size: 24 x 16mm
Actual size when viewed at 100 DPI
|2-Axis Built-in Stabilization||Full manual controls, including Manual Focus|
|Custom white-balance with 2 axis fine-tuning|
|Built-in Dust Reduction||Hot-Shoe & Sync-Port|
|3 FPS Drive, Unlimited Images||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|2.7" LCD 230K Pixels||Secure Digital High Capacity|
Since no camera is perfect, here are our suggestions to Pentax for improving upon the K10D. Hopefully, we can see several of them in a firmware update rather than wait for the K10D's successor.
Update: Now that thePentax K20D was reviewed here
Pentax K20D, we can see that 4 of these 14 wishes were addressed. They are labeled K20D below.
- Revise the Shake-Reduction system to increase its efficiency and consistency. Providing a shake indication would be quite helpful as well.
- Add an option to disable the flashing Flash icon.
- Optionally allow the flashing icon in green mode only.
- Automatically reset the 12-second self-timer after each use.
- Allow reset values to be specified for parameters reset at power-off.
- Provide metering-line options to control the behavior of multi-segment metering (average, preserve-highlights, maximize-shadow-details).
- Improve consistency of continuous drive speed. K20D
- Improve image sharpening at edges. K20D
- Provide a usable ISO 3200 (or higher) option. K20D
- Improve automatic white-balance accuracy under artificial light. K20D
- Make a battery grip that supports AA batteries for the K10D and make its successor use AA batteries directly.
- Allow the camera to read the aperture from lenses when their aperture-ring is away from the A position.
- Add an eye-start sensor to automatically turn off the LCD when the viewfinder is in use.
- 100% coverage viewfinder.
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