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The enthusiast level Digital SLR market in India is primarily dominated by Canon's Digital Rebels and Nikon's D series. Though there were quite a few models launched by other manufacturers, the market monopoly in this segment still stood strong with these two brands.
Does the Pentax K100D manage to hold its own against these bigwigs? Let's test this one out and see for ourselves.
Just like most other D-SLRs, the K100D sports a hard plastic body with a rubber grip. The overall body by itself weighs 660g but the four AA batteries and the lens add in an extra few hundred grams to the overall weight, which is still quite acceptable for a D-SLR. The camera body itself is not too bulky at 129 x 93 x 70 mm.
The top of the camera has the standard pop-up flash and a digital display panel that gives you various readings including a battery meter. Along with the regular shutter release, the camera also has a very interesting main switch, which expands into a digital preview-shutter release switch. Through this switch, the camera shoots a picture with the applied settings, without automatically changing the focus or applying any other automatic settings like the camera flash. This is a great feature for checking out the depth of field, as the pictures taken from this switch are not saved on the memory and are excellent for experimenting with manual settings without worrying about deleting the test shots later.
To the left of the flash is a scene mode dial where casual users can make use of presets like Auto mode, Sport, Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Night and Scene modes, and also switch between manual modes like Manual exposure, Bulb, Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority.
The back of the camera body has the 2.5", 210,000 pixel LCD display for reviewing your photos and setting the menu options. All the options for the camera's settings are also found at the back. While the ISO level, white balance flash and drive modes can be easily accessed from the function menu, there is a switch present solely for image stabilization. Among the other buttons are the review options, present to the left of the LCD display and the dial to change the camera's exposure settings.
Overall, the K100D felt heavy, yet sturdy. Nothing about the design looked complicated, which is great for amateur photographers who have been holding off a D-SLR upgrade, because of the complexities involved.
The Pentax K100D is an amateur photographer's delight! Though it has a camera resolution of only 6 megapixels, it does have enough helpful features to make shooting great pictures a lot easier. For an SLR, it's very forgiving for new users.
For example it boasts optical image stabilization built into the body itself, which helps reduce blur caused by jittery hands.
As mentioned above it has a whole range of shooting modes and a scene mode that includes options like Text, Museum, Pet, Kids and so on for making things easy for users without technical knowledge. It was a bit odd at first to see modes like this in an SLR camera, but when you think about how much stuff like this will appeal to compact camera users, it seems ingenious. Advance users are definitely going to cringe at this though.
The K100D has an eleven point autofocus system, but you can also select a point to focus on by pressing the shutter release halfway, like in all consumer cameras. The good part is that you can select the continuous focus option where you can move the camera around by keeping the shutter release half-pressed and it will keep changing the focus according to the subject till you completely press the shutter release. This is an excellent mode for clicking pictures of people or objects in motion.
The one thing I didn't like about the K100D was that though it shot in RAW format and in JPEG format, it didn't have a RAW+JPEG mode. RAW+JPEG mode allows you to retain the original image in RAW as well as have an image with the special effects that you may have applied through the camera at the time of shooting, which is essential for a lot of pro photographers.
As you can probably tell by now, the K100D is very simple to operate, no matter what kind of a camera user you are. But does the increase in simplicity result in less than stellar performance? Let's find out.
When using a D-SLR camera, you do expect a good level of sharpness from your images and a decent amount of noise reduction at higher ISOs, but the results I got from the Pentax K100D were nothing short of outstanding.
Firstly the results were perfectly sharp—not too much and not too little. In the image below you can notice little details on the subject like the skin texture, hair details and even the little stubble on the chin. The clarity is absolutely impeccable.
Next, the colors in the results were top notch. The automatic white balance did an excellent job of setting itself appropriately for all kinds of lighting conditions. I did use manual white balance in some of my tests, but soon realized that there was no point n that, as the auto white balance gave a better warmth in its colors than I achieved in manual. The reds, pinks, oranges and every other color were perfectly reproduced.
The Pentax K100D surprisingly has the lowest sensitivity level of ISO 200, which is pretty high by normal standards, but still the images were perfectly noise-free in regular lighting. The camera goes all the way up to ISO 3200, where there is a decent amount of noise, but shooting at that high a sensitivity level is never really required unless you're shooting in pitch black lighting conditions. For an average night mode, like in the scene below, setting the sensitivity level to ISO 400 or 800 should suffice.
As for the camera speeds, it definitely doesn't disappoint there either with speeds like 0.5 seconds in between shots in continuous shooting mode without flash and a little below 2 seconds with flash.
The image stabilization works very well, with a noticeable reduction in blur when I shot even in less than adequate lighting, where otherwise the images would have come blurred beyond recognition.
In all my shooting experience, the Pentax K100D was more than enjoyable, and the results speak for themselves. Even casual users can stick to the auto mode and find excellent results, as the camera practically takes care of everything for you. It's great to find a camera of this category that's this user-friendly.
Pentax provided us with a price point of Rs. 46,000 for the K100D, but I think if you look in the right places, you can find it closer to Rs. 37,000 (just the body). At either price, the K100D is very highly recommended to casual photographers and amateur photographers alike.
|LCD Type||2.5", 220,000 px|
|Effective Pixels||6 Megapixels|
|ISO Sensitivity||Auto, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200|
|Shutter Speed||30-1/4000 sec + Bulb|
|Scene Modes||Kids, Text, Action, Sunset, Landscape, Night scene, Surf & snow, Portrait mode, Night portrait|
|White Balance||8 positions, plus manual|
|Flash||Auto, On, Off, Red Eye Reduction|
|Self Timer||2-12 secs|