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Friday, January 12, 2007

Buyer's Guide 2007: D-SLR Systems

For your best images, digital SLR systems offer the latest technologies and flexibility

The Pentax D-SLR system currently consists of three economically priced camera bodies, 25 lenses, two flash units and a number of accessories. Additionally, most previous Pentax lenses can be used with the D-SLR bodies.

Cameras. The *ist DL is the one remaining member of the company's initial *ist D-SLR line and provides good performance and a nice feature set, especially considering that it's the lowest-priced D-SLR on the market at a street price of $439.

The top Pentax model is the K100D, which offers excellent performance and a host of features, including 11-point AF (with 9 cross-type sensors), 16-segment metering, ISOs from 200 to 3200, a 2.5-inch LCD monitor, many picture and scene modes, and in-camera Shake Reduction that works with all lenses. The K110D is essentially the same camera but without the Shake Reduction function.

Lenses. Currently, Pentax produces 21 AF lenses and four manual-focus lenses. Pentax D-SLRs can also use all K-mount lenses (and even Pentax medium-format and old screw-mount lenses via optional adapters).

FA-series lenses provide all camera features. Economically priced FA-J lenses provide all features but an aperture ring. DA-series lenses are optimized for the D-SLRs' APS-C image sensor and thus can't be used on Pentax film SLRs. A-series lenses provide all camera features except autofocusing. K-series lenses provide manual focusing only and lack an A setting on their aperture rings, thus eliminating program and shutter-priority AE operation.

The current autofocus lenses range in focal length from a unique 10-17mm ƒ/3.5-4.5 fish-eye zoom and 12-24mm ƒ/4.0 superwide zoom to a 300mm ƒ/2.8 super-telephoto. The current manual-focus lenses include the A-series 400mm and 600mm ƒ/5.6 super-telephotos. Pentax also offers 1.4x and 2x teleconverters. The cameras' 1.5x focal-length factor means 35mm camera-equivalent focal lengths of 15mm through 900mm are available to Pentax D-SLR users.


Flash. Pentax D-SLRs provide P-TTL flash (with pre-flash) with the AF-540FGZ (ISO 100 GN 148, in feet) and AF-360FGZ (ISO 100 GN 119) flash units, including wireless operation, high-speed sync and contrast-control flash. All Pentax D-SLR models also have handy built-in TTL automatic flash units (the built-in units can't be used for wireless control of off-camera units).

Accessories. Accessories include power supplies, an AC adapter, remote controls, a right-angle finder and a viewfinder magnifier. Software includes Pentax Photo Browser 3 for downloading images and conversion to JPEG or Adobe DNG format and Photo Laboratory 3 for RAW conversion, direct printing of RAW images and image editing, including noise, distortion and chromatic aberration correction.



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