Pentax K100D Super £399
24th Sep 2007 | 23:00
Pentax's entry-level SLR gets a revamp and a price drop
We were rather scathing in our write up of the K100D Super's predecessor, the plain old K100D.
Our grumpiness was largely because the design hadn't changed much since the days of the *ist D - if anything this incarnation is larger, yet at the same time less fussy - and, with a six megapixel resolution it felt overpriced at £600 when you could buy a 10MP DSLR for a similar outlay.
Taking note where due, Pentax have addressed that cost criticism, keeping the same pixel count but dropping the recommended price to £399, and still including an 18-55mm kit lens into the bargain. Did I say 'bargain'? The price certainly gives Nikon's similarly specified D40 a close run for its money.
This 'new' camera is as easy to use and responsive as its similarly named sibling, yet adds in dust removal (something the D40 doesn't bother with) - by way of a protective coating on the chip plus high-speed vibration of same - while maintaining compact dimensions and a solid build that belies its budget pricing.
The main controls are uncluttered, ergonomically placed, clearly labelled and fall readily under forefinger and thumb - from the outside at least, there seem to have been few if any compromises made in bringing the Super to market at this knocked-down price.
Unusually on a budget model you even get a separate LCD display window atop the camera, enabling you to review essential shooting options at a glance.
The only slip is that you don't get a rechargeable battery supplied, which is disappointing. Instead you're just given four 1.5v AAs housed in the comfortably rounded grip claimed to last a mere 80 or so captures (though we managed closer to 195).
Shake, rattle and roll
With a flick of the on/off switch that encircles the shutter release button, you're up and rattling off images in around a second. The K100D Super's 11-AF points are fast to lock on to the subject of your shot with a beep of confirmation.
It copes impressively with crowded scenes and any shutter delay that might occur is imperceptible. Dedicated modes for the likes of moving subjects, close ups and night portraits enable you to point and shoot from the off - with consistently effective results.
These share space on the dial with the more creative likes of program, aperture priority, shutter priority, manual and, unusually, a bulb mode for subjects requiring a slow shutter speed such as fireworks and night scenes. This is where the Shake Reduction feature - activated via a simply slider at the rear - comes into its own, though you'll need to back it up with a tripod for the latter setting.
However, under normal daylight shooting conditions, and with the kit lens attached, you'll find you're rewarded with impressively colour-rich scenes, metering that's spot-on and a good handling of contrast, with results visibly grainy if you opt for the top whack ISO3200, but certainly not throwaway either.
Though there's some barrel distortion when shooting at maximum wide angle and softness at the edges, neither is especially pronounced. The main LCD is still visible in bright sunlight, and the menu folders easy to navigate.
A press of the Function button - marked 'Fn' - which is located just below the four-way controller, brings up a virtual version onscreen that affords quick access to changing drive mode, flash mode, white balance and ISO speeds, handily avoiding the need to waste any time delving into sub folders.
This price point means that it'll no doubt be snapped up in droves by doting dads, which means that shooting portraits will be important for many buyers. In this respect, it delivers just the right degree of softness to be flattering but still manages not to become annoyingly devoid of detail either.
Auto white balance, though occasionally varying from shot-to-shot, is more reliable than some. It's a moot point as to whether the target beginner audience for this camera is going to truly benefit from dust removal. Those looking for an inexpensive entry into digital SLR photography probably aren't going to be chopping and changing optics with any degree of regularity, but, along with the handy built-in anti-shake, it represents another way of Pentax trying to get one over its direct competition.
Cut-price super hero
If you're happy not playing the numbers game and aren't going to be printing much larger than A3 poster size, the K100D Super offers a solidly fashioned, well performing, all-round option for those wanting a fuss-free route into digital SLR photography.
A pity about the AAs only lasting about a day and a half of shooting time, but budget for a rechargeable set and you have a camera that puts some DSLRs costing twice as much to shame.