Pros: Compact dimensions and solid construction, anti-shake compatibility with huge range of the makers legacy lenses, including early screw-fit.
Cons: Lowly six-megapixel resolution. Inexcusably limited continuous shooting.
Pentax may have been the first Japanese manufacturer to market with a 35mm SLR back in the 1950s, but the maker has been slow to capitalize on the seemingly insatiable demand for digital SLRs.
Fortunately, after going it alone to produce the oddly named six-megapixel ist D models and then a brief spell of co-operation with Samsung Tecwhin last year culminating in the K100D and K110D and semi-pro 10-megapixel K10D models, the K100D has emerged from Pentax’s quiet perseverance.
Although essentially an upgrade to the K100D, with its diminutive dimensions, solid build and great picture quality, the latest Pentax has its roots in the past, inheriting its predecessor’s anti-shake features in the form of an integral CCD-shift mechanism. Dispensing with guide rails used by rivals and adopting an electromagnetically controlled free-floating sensor, the Pentax uniquely corrects movement rotationally around the lens’ axis as well as both horizontally and vertically.
Although the effect isn’t visible in the viewfinder, the results are said to mimic rival lens-based stabilized systems with shutter speeds varying between 2-3.5 stops slower (depending on the lens) than would normally be expected. With the bundled 18-55mm kit lens, we found it provided around two-stops compensation.
Images are smooth and noise levels low, even in shadow areas at ISO800. The K100D’s Auto White Balance, however, can’t accurately balance fluorescent lighting.
More importantly perhaps, with an optional adaptor the system is compatible with every lens the maker has ever made, including early screw-fit and 6x7cm medium format.
With the limited choice in resolution of APS-C size sensors available, and with the extremely low price, we can understand why the K100D Super carries the same six-megapixel CCD as its predecessor, but we can’t sympathize. The chip simply can’t match the clarity and detail of the most affordable 10-megapixel offerings.
Still, noise levels are very low and the maker has upgraded the moving CCD platform to include the anti-dust features of the K10D. Although not infallible, it includes a special anti-static coating on the low-pass filter, as well as the ability to vibrate the sensor, shaking the distracting particles from the surface of the filter pack.
The Pentax K100D Super does well to get the most from the six-megapixel resolution CCD, but detail doesn’t match that from rival 10-megapixel offerings.
We like the Auto ISO option, especially as it doesn’t restrict access up to the ISO 3200 maximum, and we’re sure novices will appreciate the Auto Picture mode, where the camera uncannily chooses the right scene-based mode time after time.
We even like the unique preview mode, where the Super provides a snap that can be checked for focus and depth of field as well act as an example for various white balance settings.
But while there are some very compelling and attractive features, the K100D Super, like its predecessor, has limited buffer capacity. It allows just five Raw files or, worse still, six best quality JPEGs with a high-speed SD card before slowing down. Also disappointing is the choice of either raw or JPEG capture, there’s no option to shoot both simultaneously.
Ultimately, while we might recommend the K100D for hobbyists on a very tight budget taking their first step up from a compact camera, if you’re looking for fast operation and highly detailed prints, there are far better choices available.