Pentax K10D Review
With the K10D, Pentax has the most feature-rich 10 megapixels DSLR currently available. This digital SLR camera boasts built-in stabilization, dust-reduction, weather-sealing, unlimited continuous shooting, the largest viewfinder among cropped-sensor cameras, and a wealth of unique photographic controls. Of course, image quality, performance and usability are just as important as features. As such, the K10D became the most anticipated camera of 2006. After all, with all those advanced features, photographers want this camera to excel at image quality.
This review takes a close look at the K10D's features, ergonomics, usability, image quality, performance and unique photographic controls. Similarly to most recent DSLR cameras, the K10D sports the following features:
- 10 Megapixels image sensor, 1.5X crop-factor.
- Automatic and selectable ISO from 100 to 1600.
- 1/4000s to 30s shutter-speeds, plus bulb mode
- Exposure compensation, -3..+3 EV, 1/5 EV inc or -2..+2, 1/3 EV
- Automatic, preset, kelvin and custom white-balance, all fine-tunable
- 11-point auto-focus system, with 9 cross-type points.
- Focus-point selection: automatic, manual or center.
- Focus modes: single-shot, continuous and manual.
- Metering modes: multi-segment, center-weighed and spot
- Full manual controls, including PASM modes.
- Exposure bracketing, 3 or 5 images, 0.3-2 EV inc.
- Contrast, saturation, sharpness and white-balance bracketing, 3 images.
- Self-timers: long and short with automatic mirror-lock-up
- Auto-Exposure-Lock, Auto-Focus-Lock and auto-focus override
- Customizable saturation, sharpness and contrast, 7 steps
- 2.5” LCD 210K Pixels, 140 degree viewing-angle
- 0.95X Magnification viewfinder, 95% coverage
- Image review with magnification and histogram, luminance and RBG
- Depth-of-field preview
- JPEG and RAW modes
- Built-in flash
- Lithium-ion battery
- Secure Digital High Capacity memory
The Pentax K10D also stands-out by having all of the following advanced features, several of them being unique to this digital SLR camera:
- Shake-reduction, provides stabilization to all lenses at no additional cost
- Dust-reduction, diminishes the necessity of cleaning the image sensor
- Weather-seals, enables photography in adverse weather
- Unlimited 3 FPS continuous shooting
- Auto-ISO with selectable minimum and maximum
- Unique hyper-program, sensitivity-priority, hyper-manual and shutter-aperture-priority modes
- Direct ISO control in sensitivity-priority mode and optionally in aperture-priority and shutter-priority modes
- Dual-control wheels, for efficient parameter selection and navigation
- Multi-exposure photography mode
- In-camera RAW image conversions
- Selectable DNG or proprietary RAW file format
- Support for huge selection of legacy Pentax lenses.
- Illuminated top status panel
Suitability - What is it good for?
Since DSLR cameras represent the high-end of digital cameras, they are generally suitable for most types of photography. The versatility of interchangeable lenses brings SLR cameras their greatest potential. The Pentax K10D is no exception, it is suitable for every type of photographic subject.
Feature-wise, a few DSLR cameras are better suited for action-photography. Even though the K10D can shoot at 3 FPS indefinitely, some cameras can shoot faster. Specifically, the 8 megapixels Canon EOS 30D and the 10 megapixels Nikon D200 both shoot continuously at up to 5 FPS.
For specific photographic subjects, lens versatility is quite important. While the Pentax K10D supports an incredibly large collection of lenses, most of these lenses are no longer in production. In terms of modern lenses, Pentax offers a rather small lineup, certainly smaller than the lineups of Canon and Nikon. Alternate lenses with common focal-lengths are available from third-party manufacturers such as Sigma and Tokina.
The Pentax K10D is larger and weighs more than similarly priced DSLR cameras. This, plus its weather-sealed body, makes it more suitable for rougher environments. Conversely, its bulk is more noticeable and less discrete. This is somewhat a disadvantage for street and candid photography. Indeed, during testing this camera was noticed more than any other. While the smallest 10 megapixels DSLR, the Canon Digital Rebel XTi, weighs roughly 30% less, it is worth noting that the lens used can significantly contribute to a camera's bulk.
Capability - What can it do?
As noted in the introduction, the Pentax K10D has everything expected from a DSLR plus an impressive amount of extra features. Headline features include built-in stabilization, called Shake Reduction by Pentax, a dust-reduction mechanism, a weatherproof body, unlimited continuous drive and selectable RAW image formats, either Pentax's PEF or Adobe's DNG. Built-in stabilization is not only a cost-saving feature, it also works with all lenses, even those without any stabilized counterparts such as prime, bright, tilt-shift and fish-eye lenses.
The Pentax K10D's power-switch has 3 positions: off, on and preview. The preview position is used for depth-of-field preview and digital preview. In all shooting modes, the behavior of the preview button is controlled by a setup option. Depth-of-field preview simply stops down the lens aperture to the one metered or set manually, this is the usual behavior. Digital preview takes a picture without storing it and displays it on the LCD. The digital preview is also used when setting white-balance. This is an innovative way to ensure that the proper white-balance is selected. While scrolling through white-balance options and fine-tuning white-balance, the preview image is updated accordingly.
The shutter-release on this DSLR is a standard 2-stage release with a distinct halfway point. By default, pressing the shutter-release halfway locks focus but not exposure. Exposure can be locked using a dedicated AEL-button or by pressing the shutter-release halfway when a custom option is set. Focus can also be locked by a separate AF-button which can be configured to disable auto-focus instead. When exposure is locked, whether using the AEL-button or half-pressing the shutter-release, an asterisk is displayed in the viewfinder. This is an important indication of which behavior is in effect.
The mode dial of the Pentax K10D has 10 positions. Five of these modes are ubiquitous on modern DSLR cameras: automatic (called Green-mode), program (P), shutter-priority (Tv), aperture-priority (Av) and full manual (M) mode. Notably absent from the mode-dial are scene modes which frequently control the camera in mysterious ways. The remaining 5 modes are: sensitivity-priority (Sv), shutter-aperture-priority (TAv), bulb (B) and flash-sync (X). Sensitivity-priority is unique to the Pentax K10D, letting the user directly select the ISO sensitivity. Shutter-aperture-priority complements sensitivity-priority by letting the user select both shutter-speed and aperture, letting the camera select the ISO sensitivity. Bulb mode keeps the shutter open as long as the shutter-release is pressed, other DSLRs make it part of manual (M) mode. Finally, flash-sync mode keeps the shutter-speed at 1/180 which is the flash-sync speed. Surrounding the mode-dial is the metering selection switch. The 3 metering modes available are 16-segment metering, center-weighed metering and spot-metering.
The Pentax K10D has detailed control over white-balance including automatic white-balance, preset white-balance [daylight, shade, cloudy, tungsten, flash and 3-types of fluorescent], manual white-balance and color-temperature. All white-balance options can be fine-tuned in 15-steps from blue to amber and magenta to green. White-balance fine-tuning can be reset by simply pressing the green button from the preview screen.
Exposure compensation can be adjusted in 1/2 or 1/3 EV increments using the exposure compensation button combined with a control-wheel. When the increments are set to 1/2, the range is -3 to +3 EV. Otherwise, the range is -2 to +2 EV. The Pentax K10D can bracket exposure for 3 or 5 frames, with increments between 1/3 and 2 EV. It also supports extended bracketing which produces 3 images from one image capture. Images can vary in saturation, sharpness, contrast or white-balance. Flash compensation can be adjusted between -2 and +1 EV using the function menu.
This DSLR supports the standard drive modes [single, continuous, self-timer, remote-control] and multiple exposure. In continuous drive mode, the Pentax can shoot an unlimited number of JPEG images or up to 9 RAW images. Continuous shooting speed is always around 3 FPS. The self-timer can trigger after 2 or 12 seconds. With the 2-second self-timer, the mirror is automatically locked-up. Unfortunately, the 12-second self-timer does not reset after each use. This would avoid the common mistake of forgetting to reset the long self-timer. This is so simple that Pentax could correct this using a firmware update. Multiple-exposure can combine between 2 and 9 images with or without automatic exposure adjustment.
Every DSLR can produce both RAW and JPEG images but the Pentax K10D adds two extra features to its RAW support. The first feature is a choice of format, either Pentax's PEF or Adobe's DNG. The main difference is that PEF is more precisely suited to the K10D while DNG is more portable. The second feature is in-camera RAW development. This feature allows to use RAW images without spending time using conversion software. The difference between capturing JPEG images and processing RAW-images in-camera is that white-balance, image parameters and sensitivity can be adjusted after capture. To aid experimentation with RAW images, the K10D also has a dedicated button to take the next shot in RAW+JPEG mode.
Pentax K10D Highlights
Sensor-Size: 24 x 16mm
Actual size when viewed at 100 DPI
|10 Megapixels DSLR||ISO 100-1600|
|Pentax K Mount|
|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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