Pentax K200D (with 18-55mm lens)
CNET Editors' Rating: 3.5 / 5
The good: Sensor-shift image stabilization; wireless flash control; sensitivity-priority mode; dust and water resistant.
The bad: Inaccurate, though still pleasing colors; tends to underexpose images; no live view mode.
The bottom line: Pentax's K200D entry-level SLR gives a lot of bang for the buck and has better performance than last year's model. Despite low noise and pleasingly detailed images, technically inaccurate colors keep it from capturing the gold medal for image quality.
Design, Features & Performance (out of 10)
In the last three years, there have been a slew of advances in the realm of digital SLRs, and Pentax's K200D includes a lot of them. We've seen the megapixels grow to the point that entry-level models now sport 10MP sensors. Advanced color controls let you shift the white balance to add a little warmth or compensate for especially strange lighting. In some entry-level dSLRS, including this one, you can even find wireless flash control. That doesn't mean that advanced amateurs and pros don't have reasons to step up to fancier models. It does mean, though, that SLR newbies have access to cameras that can keep pace with their growing photographic prowess.
The K200D sports a compact body design with an understated and comfortable grip. It has a slight arc inward at the top and protrudes far enough forward to give you something solid to hold onto. Four AA batteries find their home inside the grip and, if you use lithium batteries, they'll last longer than rechargeables or alkalines. According to Pentax, lithiums will give you 550 shots, assuming that the flash was fired for half of them. NiMH rechargeables will give you 400 shots under the same conditions, while alkalines only serve up 80. The environmentalist hippie in me says that you should use the rechargeables. Pentax also says that the K200D's body includes 60 rubber seals, making it water and dust resistant, though not waterproof, so don't try using it underwater without a proper underwater housing. You can feel a little better about taking it skiing with you, though.
Like most entry-level SLRs, the K200D keeps a lot of the controls in the menus. Recognizing that there will be a fair number of users stepping up from compact cameras, Pentax includes the Fn menu, which is organized much like the four-way rockers found on compacts. Of course, the menu button brings you to more intense setup and custom settings menus. The Fn menu gives you access to things you'd need to change regularly, such as ISO, white balance, drive mode, and flash mode/flash compensation. As you'll find on most SLRs of this class, there's only a single thumb wheel to change shutter speeds and aperture, instead of both a thumb and finger wheel, as you'll find on pricier models. I tend to like having two wheels, but the single wheel is an acceptable concession for this camera's low price. When in full manual-exposure mode, you'll have to hold down the exposure compensation button (just behind the shutter button) to change apertures.
One of the niftier shooting modes Pentax includes is the Sensitivity-priority mode, which lets you select the ISO sensitivity you want while the camera selects the shutter speed and aperture you need based on your selection. This is useful if you know you have to raise the ISO to get a fast enough shutter speed to freeze a subject that's in motion, but want to keep the ISO as low as possible. Even if you have the Fn menu set to select ISO in full stop increments, Sensitivity-priority mode offers 1/3-stop increments, so you can quickly get a finer sensitivity scale if needed.
Cementing a trend in dSLRs this year, Pentax includes an Enhanced Dynamic Range mode, which tweaks the tone curve to eke out some extra detail in the highlights of an image. It's a subtle effect, but it does work. There's an example of the effect in the slide show that accompanies this review. The K200D's version is a little more subtle than Canon's Highlight Tone Priority--at least the version I saw in the 1Ds Mark III--though that camera is an unfair comparison, to say the least. Olympus also offers a similar type of feature that they call Shadow Adjustment Technology, though they group it with metering modes, while Pentax puts it in the ISO section of the Fn menu. Sony's Dynamic Range Optimizer and Nikon's D-Lighting also work to eke out detail in the darkest and the brightest portions of images, though they function more as software-type adjustments made to images after capture, rather than during capture.
The kit lens is the typical 18-55mm focal length range and f/3.5-5.6 maximum aperture range as most kit lenses, especially in entry-level models. It's not the sharpest lens ever, but it is good for a lens of its price and I like that it has a decent focus ring. Both Canon and Nikon make you rotate the front edge of the lens barrel instead of offering a real focusing ring on their entry-level kit lenses. Also, this Pentax kit lens has a metal lens mount, while Canon and Nikon use plastic for theirs. I noticed some barrel distortion at the lens' widest setting, but that's to be expected on a lens of this class, and a little distortion isn't always such a bad thing.
One of the nice things about Pentax's K lens system is that you can use the vast majority of the lenses the company has made with the K200D. If you're willing to buy an adapter on eBay (but I'd stick to the official Pentax-made adapters), you can even use screw-mount (aka M42) lenses dating back to the 1960s. I recently found a very nice 28mm f/3.5 screw-mount lens on eBay for about $100. I have to focus manually when I use it, since it wasn't made for autofocus, and you have to compensate the exposure manually for the decreased light that smaller apertures let in (modern lenses don't close the aperture blades until you press the shutter button fully), but it's a nice bargain if you can deal with those limitations.
Like Sony does in the A200 and Olympus does in the E420, Pentax includes wireless flash control in the K200D. Nikon reserves that feature for its D80 and pricier models, while Canon forces you to buy its 580EX flash or the dedicated wireless controller if you want wireless flash control. Granted, the Canon system offers a higher level of control than the Sony, Olympus, or Pentax entry-level versions, but it's nice to have some wireless flash functionality at the entry-level. The K200D lets you use the built-in flash to trigger either the AF540FGZ or AF360FGZ flash units. You can't group flashes or set ratios between flashes, but you can control the flash output with the camera's flash-compensation setting, which is conveniently changed in the flash setting part of the Fn menu. Also, you can set the camera to use the built-in flash along with one or multiple wireless flashes, or you can set the built-in flash to just control the wireless flashes and not fire when the picture is taken. In case you're wondering, the wireless flash works with Pentax's P-TTL flash metering.
Performance was pleasing and on par with the competition. It's also very similar to the K100D, though it starts up faster and is significantly faster between flash shots compared with its predecessor. The camera started up and captured its first JPEG in a blazing 0.2 second, though that doesn't include focusing time, since this test uses a prefocused lens. After that, the K200D takes 0.5 second between JPEGs or RAW images with the flash turned off. With the flash turned on, it takes 0.6 second between shots. Shutter lag measured 0.4 second in our high-contrast test and 1.3 seconds in our low contrast test, which mimic bright and dim shooting conditions, respectively. Continuous shooting yielded an average of 3 frames per second, which is slightly over Pentax's stated claim of 2.8fps and slightly more than you'll get from Sony's A200 or Nikon's D60, though shy of the Canon Rebel XSi's 3.4fps.
Images from the K200D are very nice. Colors didn't measure as very accurate in our lab test, but they still look pleasing. This was also the case with Nikon's D60. In both cases, you're not likely to notice unless you're intimately familiar with a certain color, and even then, the result will probably be acceptable. With both, I noticed a difference in the color of a red support beam at the Penn Station A train subway platform, but I see that beam almost every work day and often end up standing next to it for a total of more than an hour a week, since my naturally methodical nature leads me to stand in the same place on the platform most days.
Images are pleasingly sharp and retain a lot of detail even at the camera's highest sensitivity setting of ISO 1,600. I would've liked to see Pentax include ISO 3,200, but most of their competitors don't either and it's nice to be able to shoot at any of the camera's ISO setting and know that you'll get an acceptable print. Even at ISO 1,600 images are pleasingly sharp, and while shadow detail decreases noticeably, it doesn't fall off completely. You'll definitely see image noise at ISO 1,600, but if you're not too picky, you might not notice it at ISO 800, which is impressive for an entry-level SLR.
Pentax's K200D is a very nice entry-level dSLR. Its biggest omission is a live view shooting mode, though I didn't miss that much in my field tests and I think that wireless flash control is more useful. Canon's Rebel XSi has more megapixels than this Pentax, a live view mode, and sharper images when using their respective kit lenses, but it's also significantly more expensive. Also, Pentax's lenses and accessories tend to be less expensive than Canon's. If you're not extremely picky about your images--for example, if you don't think you're going to print your images larger than letter size, the Pentax K200D offers an economical alternative to Canon's entry-level blockbuster Rebel XSi.
(Smaller bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Raw shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim light)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Average User Rating: 3.5 / 5
User Rating Breakdown
5 Star: 8
4 Star: 2
3 Star: 0
2 Star: 0
1 Star: 0
Nothing wrong with color inaccuracy
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on August 11, 2008
9 out of 9 users found this review helpful
Pros: Great price, AA battery powered, clear, sharp images, large amount of lenses available
Cons: Lens cap is easily lost, doesn't stay on filters when attached
Summary: The Pentax K200D is a well priced, entry level DSLR for those stepping up to a new, more advanced camera who also want some advanced features. Aside from body only, one can purchase a kit with an included lens, ready to shoot out of the box (providing of course one has a memory card to store any photos taken with the camera)
The camera itself feels sturdy, the body well constructed and solid in my hands which aren't so small. The buttons respond very well.
After reading the review for this camera, and looking for a good, less expensive DSLR I found this one (initially I was going with the Canon or Nikon offerings of similar price range that most people tend to purchase.) And while the sensor on the Canon is great and the lenses for Nikon are just the same, I couldn't imagine shelling out almost $100 more for a similar camera, with less advanced features (Canon doesn't have spot metering on the lower end cameras) or specific, newer lenses (from what I understand neither Canon nor Nikon support certain lenses on their newer DSLRs).
Pentax has both. Spot metering and support through a hardware mount (hey, nothing is ready out of the box these days) that supports legacy K lenses.
I think the really smart move by Pentax was including the weather sealing that their more expensive, advanced cameras have which from what I understand is not available on any other, lower priced DSLR. Or one in the same price range, for that matter.
Those points coupled with a low price tag and some rechargeable AAs were more than enough to convince me that Pentax was the way to go.
Also: I read from the reviewer the colors weren't accurate. This is not true, I have no issues with the colors from the camera and if you really do, go out and get a filter. A polarizer's good and that would be enough to enhance the color, though you could do that in-camera as well.
I have no problem with "inaccurate colors".
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on July 4, 2008
4 out of 4 users found this review helpful
Pros: I like everything about the camera, especially the price.
Cons: No live preview.
Summary: I have had my camera 3 days and have taken a lot of pictures indoors with and without the flash, and outdoors. I am very pleased with the accuracy of the colors. They are rich and well saturated. I would have not purchased the camera after reading CNet's review (which I consider a good guideline the majority of the time). Fortunately I am a Pentax fan, having bought my first one in 1970, and bought it on past reputation. The flash works very good, even close up with no wash-outs. I would have preferred a live preview mode, but I have been looking through the viewfinder for 40 years, so I guess I can continue. Bought it from Amazon.com for $655, and after the $100 rebate it became a very good camera for the money. Also, I can use my older Pentax lens on it, which is a HUGE bonus because I have several. Thanks Pentax for your backwards compatibility.
Can't put it down!
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on July 1, 2008
3 out of 3 users found this review helpful
Pros: Solid build, above average kit lens, easy to use, in-body stabilization
Cons: A bit heavy (but solid), no live view
Summary: I can't believe no one has written a review on cnet about this camera yet. I've had it for about a month and I'm loving the thing. I take it everywhere with me...I think my wife might be sorry she bought it for me. It is my first DSLR and it has been easy to learn and there is plenty of room to grow with full manual controls. You can shoot in full automatic mode or shoot in full manual as you get more comfortable. I love to shoot in Apeture priority and open up the f stop as much as possible to get those great blurred out backgrounds.
One of the main reasons I bought this camera over a Canon or Nikon is that it has in-body stabilization instead lens based stabilization. One bonus to this is that you can use Pentax lenses that date back to the sixties and still have them stabilized. You cannot use all of them in full automode but, it's fun to play with old glass and manually focus. Another reason for the purchase is that it is built like a tank. It is solid feeling in your hand and it has a ton of weather seals that add to the quality feel. The Nikon D60 and the Canon XTI just felt a little more plasticky and were not as comfortable in my hand. The Pentax just has great ergonomics (at least for my hands which are medium to large sized).
My biggest concern was that it didn't have live view. I know a lot of DSLR's don't have this option but, it is becoming more common. This has not been a problem once I started looking through the viewfinder again and not at the lcd screen. You can take a preview picture by turning the on-off knob in the opposite direction of off. You can then see the effects that different filters and white balances would have on your shot.
Then menu systems are very straight forward and anyone familiar with a point and shoot will be comfortable right away. This camera can be as advanced as you want (unless your a professional) or as easy as you want. I was able to pick it up and start shooting all the modes with reading the manual. I have since gone back and read it to learn some of the fine details but, you can just pick it up and start shooting.
Overall, I couldn't be happier with my decision to go with this camera. As everyone says on cnet, "after months of research...", I don't have any regrets with this purchase.
Wonderful camera for anyone of any skill level.
Rating: 4.5 / 5
on August 6, 2008
1 out of 1 users found this review helpful
Pros: Very solid, very well made, and great image quality
Cons: 3 FPS for 5 frames
Summary: This is a great camera. I have read where it's slow to focus and slow in performance but I don't think so. This is a really good camera. Yes, it would be nice it it took unlimited shots at 3 frames per second but it's not a deal breaker for me. I have used it at car races and horse races and I have gotten wonderful shots.
Weather and dust sealing is a fantastic bonus and something that you usually get on much more expensive cameras.
Rating: 5 / 5
on September 17, 2010
0 out of 0 users found this review helpful
Pros: Takes great outdoor photos with very little effort. Takes great indoor pictures, but with a little more work. I like the fact that I can set it to take three pictures, one underdeveloped, one at the exposure you set and one overdeveloped.
Cons: Problems getting prints to look like the image on the computer. But I don't think this is the problem of the camera.
Summary: Bought this camera for my wife, but find that I use it most of the time. I went with Pentex because I have lenses from my old Pentax that I can use, but my telephoto is an aftermaket lense so I will probably buy a new lense. I really like the camera.