Pentax K10D Review
Usability - How easy is it to use?
The ergonomics of the Pentax K10D are simply exceptional. The K10D has a deep hand-grip with a protrusion in front above the index-finder and another protrusion to the right of the thumb. This shape provides a very secure grip and comfortable access to the shutter-release, both control wheels and most important buttons. The camera feels very solid with a confidence-inspiring weight.
The K10D has the largest pentaprism viewfinder among cropped-sensor DSLR cameras. It provides a bright and clear image with 95% coverage. Only much higher-end DSLR cameras have more coverage. While gripping the camera, users can easily reach the exposure-compensation, auto-focus-lock (AF) and auto-exposure-lock (AEL) buttons using their thumb. There is also a green button behind the shutter-release which can be reached with the index finger. The green button is used to perform various operations depending on the mode-dial's position. Pressing the green button and exposure-compensation simultaneously resets the exposure to its default.
The two-control wheels were put to excellent use by providing direct access to exposure parameters. A great usability feature of this DSLR is that whenever aperture or shutter-speed can be changed using a control-wheel it appears underlined in the viewfinder. This provides a good indication as to the current exposure mode. It would have been even more helpful if the parameter controlled by the front control-wheel had a line above it instead of below. In program mode (P), called Hyper-Program, the control-wheels are used to enter aperture-priority (Av) mode and shutter-priority (Tv) mode. Pressing the green button in this mode resets the exposure along the program-line. An excellent customization option of the K10D is the choice of four program linesFast-shutter, maximize depth-of-field, optimal aperture (MTF) and normal. In sensitivity-priority (Sv) mode, one control-wheel selects the ISO sensitivity, the other shifts exposureChanges between equivalent aperture and shutter-speed combinations.
In Av and Tv modes, one control-wheel selects the main exposure parameter, the other either performs exposure-compensation or selects the ISO sensitivity. When the second control-wheel controls ISO, the green button can be pressed to have the camera automatically set the sensitivity. A great touch is that the K10D reports the selected sensitivity in the viewfinder and on the top-mounted LCD panel.
In TAv and M modes, one control-wheel selects the aperture, the other selects the shutter-speed. The difference is that M mode uses a fixed ISO while TAv mode attempts to achieve a correct exposure by selecting the ISO. In M mode, the green button sets the exposure according to the camera's metering mode and the AEL button, in combination with a control-wheel, shifts the exposure. This provides a good starting point for manually setting exposure.
Both control-wheels are also put to good use during image playback and menu navigation. The rear control-wheel zooms in and out of images while the front one moves between images without changing the zoom level. This provides an effective way to inspect a detailed area of multiple images of the same subject. To speed up menu navigation, the two control-wheels can be used: one to iterate over pages of a single menu and another to iterate over menus.
ISO is selectable from 100 to 1600. There is also an automatic ISO setting which can be customized by selecting the minimum and maximum allowable sensitivity. Additionally, a custom setting controls the appearance of an ISO warning. There is also a flash-recommendation warning which unfortunately cannot be turned off. This warning appears as a flashing lighting icon in the viewfinder when the shutter-speed falls below a certain fixed threshold. Having a flashing icon does get annoying after a while, so we hope Pentax will add an option to disable it via a firmware update. This warning is not really useful as using a flash is frequently ineffective and can ruin the photograph.
A function-button (Fn) on the camera's rear brings up a menu to select the drive-mode, ISO sensitivityIncluding Flash-Compensation, flash-modeChanges between equivalent aperture and shutter-speed combinations or white-balance. The K10D also has a 4-way controller which can be used for navigating the menu system and selecting the focus-point. While reviewing images, the center-button zooms-out completely. While taking pictures, the center-button toggles between showing the number of frames remaining and the current ISO sensitivity. Being able to see the currently selected ISO is very practical. The only thing better would be to have it permanently displayed.
A switch on the front of the camera body selects between the 3 focus modes: single, continuous and manual. In single-focus mode, the camera will not take a picture unless focus-lock has been established. This can be done by pressing the shutter-release halfway or by pressing the AF button on the camera's rear. The continuous-focus mode is fairly typical. In manual-focus mode, the camera very conveniently reports when one of the sensors has achieved focus. Focus confirmation is indicated in the viewfinder and, optionally, by a beep.
In the spirit of keeping things clear, the K10D displays on its rear LCD a summary of its settings each time it is powered on or the mode is changed. The info-button can be used to display the settings on the rear LCD on-demand. The information screen even displays the current lens' focal length. It would be preferable if the information screen did not disappear instantly when a camera setting is changed.
During testing, two minor usability issues with certain lenses were found. The first one is that the aperture-ring was difficult to reach when the lens-barrel widens just in front of it. The second problem is that the K10D does not report the lens aperture when the aperture-ring is not in the auto (A) position. Neither problem should be an issue unless you plan to use old lenses without an A position on the aperture-ring.
Since a DSLR does not provide a live-preview, it is common to leave a setting such as white-balance or exposure-compensation incorrectly set. This can ruin a large number of images. Several Pentax digital cameras, including the K10D, allow to specify which setting is reset on power-offFlash mode, drive mode, white-balance, sensitivity, exposure-compensation and auto-bracketing. It would have been even better if the user could specify the reset value as well. This simple change is implementable via firmware.
The Pentax K10D supports two file numbering systems. A sequential numbering system names files numerically and groups about 500 images per folder. This apparently arbitrary limit is somewhat annoying as it frequently requires copying multiple directories from each SD card. The other numbering system names files using the current date.
Pentax K10D Facts
|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|
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