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Pentax *ist DS
Pentax *ist DS
3.4
1

Pentax *ist DS

D+
We've given the *ist DS a grade of D+.

Editor's Review

The Pentax *ist DS offers a remarkable combination of portability and power. With a 6-megapixel image sensor and a body that is noticeably smaller than the competition, the *ist DS offers all the capability of an SLR without usual size and weight. Despite it's small size, the Pentax *ist DS offers big camera features like a 2" LCD screen, high speed shooting, and an 11-point autofocus system. Unlike most other digital SLRs, the Pentax *ist DS is compatible with AA-size batteries, which is a great advantage for travelers who may not always have access to a power source.

Specifications

  • 6.1 megapixels (effective)
  • auto and manual focus
  • program and manual exposure
  • JPEG and RAW file format
  • ISO range 200 - 3200
  • 4 AA batteries. Accepts interchangeable Pentax KAF
  • KAF2
  • and KA lenses -- lens not included
  • Part Number: 18033
  • UPC: 027075110618
  • Release Date: Sep 15, 2004

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Pentax *ist DS Reviews

Pentax *ist DS Reviews by Digital Camera-HQ Users

  • 5.0 out of 5
Best DSLR for the $ (George — 04/24/2008)

I've been a Pentax user for many years, so I was predisposed to purchase a Pentax DSLR. I was partly influenced by the backwards compatibility with older Pentax lenses, of which I have a few, and partly by legendary pentax quality and ergonomics.

Eventually I got tired of waiting for the price of a K10D to fall within my reach and started looking at other models and makes. Doing some research I came accross some favourable reviews of the *istDS and was lucky enough to find a used body in excellent shape at a very good price, just after Christmas.

I am really impressed with this camera. Despite the luke warm opinions in some reviews of it's JPEG image processing capabilities - verified by my own experience - the RAW image quality is outstanding. It is feature packed, yet very easy to use (this from a guy who made the leap to electronic autofocus camers just a year ago). I love the multi autofocus modes and exposure modes. I don't use the preset modes much, but often use aperture priority.

The viewfinder is excellent: large and very bright with lots of information without data overload. The brightness is an essential feature if you want to use manual focus lenses, and is a result of using a solid glass prism instead of a mirror box. I understand proper split image and microprism focus screens are available for this camera, but haven't tracked any down yet.

My only problems were shooting fast action under poor lighting conditions in a hockey arena. Autofocus struggled and auto white balance just gave up. This is partly due to unfamiliarity with the camera (use the flash for focus assist, set white balace manually). Also, in my experience, the compatibility with AA rechargeable batteries is greatly exagerated. I got no where near the claimed number of exposures with AAs. Stick to the CR V3 litium batteries.

In summation, the *ist DS is a very well thought out camera. Image quality in RAW format is second to none. I foresee no problems obtaining prints up to 16x20 with the DS. The autofocus is fast and reliable, at least in normal lighting, as is exposure control.

The camera has been out of production a while but is still available on the secondhand market for about $300 CDN or less. If you see one - grab it. You won't be sorry.

  • 4.0 out of 5
Pentax istDs (victor vesuna — 10/26/2006)

An excellent and user friendly camera, my only comment is that it does'nt come with a proprietary recharble lithium ion battery

  • 4.0 out of 5
It is a good Camera (anonymous — 07/18/2006)

I bought Pentax ist DL one month ago with Pentax 18:35 lenses the result is not good enough Pics.
Then I bought Tamaron 28-200mm Super Zoom It is perfect.

The only bad thing I found it so far the LCD it's realy so bad you can not look at it from any angle you will see any the only way from frant.

Thx
Tadros

  • 5.0 out of 5
I take professional fashion and portrait photos with this and it works great!!! (anonymous — 07/18/2006)

I do alot of portrait photography and some fashion, to tell you the truth.. u dont need a camera that cost as much as a car like the canon splurge.. all u need is skill, experience, a good lens and creativity. u can capture great professional photos with this camera.. im not kinding either, this is the camera i work with. i even use the stock lens dont need anything else. get paid big bucks with the photos i take with this camera. :) very happy.

  • 5.0 out of 5
If you don't like this camera, its you, not the camera (anonymous — 07/18/2006)

Easy and user friendly, I do 40 wedding a year and have 2 of these, NEVER HAS LET ME DOWN!!

  • 5.0 out of 5
The perfect Digital SLR (anonymous — 07/18/2006)

16 years of using nikon cameras (f-301, fm, fm3a), I have been waiting for a digital camera that is built as well as those, is compact, and does not get in the way of my photography. The nikon d50 lacks a couple of features I wanted and feels like a child's camera, the d70s had everything that I wanted but is the size of a small truck, the canon 350d also feels like a toy with fisher price build quality.

The istDS feels perfect in hand, is easy to control without delving into menus and I can use old manual lenses, so manual focussing remains precise. I cannot thank Pentax enough. I only wish their marketing was better, so that people did not seem to think that pentax/nikon was the only choice.

  • 5.0 out of 5
The question was Nikon 70DS, Canon 350D or Pentax DS ? �..mmmm. (anonymous — 07/18/2006)

After 20+ years using film, it was time to go digital. Comparative quality between film and digital at 6 mp is already there for enlargements of up to A3.

The question was Nikon 70DS, Canon 350D or Pentax DS ? �..mmmm.
After looking trough the viewfinder there was no question anymore. The Pentax DS is in a complete different league from the Nikon and Canon. The viewfinder is very clear matching the expectations from a decent SLR camera. Nikon and Canon opted for a cheap optical system and it reflects on the quality of their view finders.
Another good point, is the fact that the ist*DS uses AA batteries opening the gap even further. I use 2500mA rechargeable batteries, and they last for more then 1000 shoots (including viewing, downloading etc.).
On the downside, I didn�t like the 18-35 mm zoom, it�s not to the standard of older Pentax lenses, and for a fraction of the price you can by a top class zoom if you are ready to compromise on a manual second hand. I bought a Carl Zeiss 28-70/2.8 including the adapter to Pentax K, for the ridiculous sum of �20 ( ~$35). The clarity of photos from this lens is astonishingly good and only challenged by my Pentax 50mm/1.4 (�25 including vat).
This camera takes all older Pentax lens including the screw lens (needs dedicated adapter ~�12), in some cases with some limitation.
This is a very good Digital SLR camera and if you are a Pentax veteran and have plenty of Pentax lens go for this one.

Some of you may find the following comments useful;
1) If you use Pentax old lenses you will need to change the default setting of the camera to enable the use of these lenses (check in your manual)
2) You can upgrade your camera software version. There is a firmware upgrade for the camera in Pentax home page, can be downloaded and it�s free.
3) If you are using Manual Lens and the camera doesn�t shoot, check that the Auto/Manual switch is in Manual mode.
4) If you are thinking to buy the ist*DL, go the extra mile and buy the DS.
5) The focal length of the lens will increase by a factor of 1.5 but keeping the original aperture (Great for telephotos) crap for wide angle lens. My 17mm Pentax fish eye is now a 26mm.

  • 5.0 out of 5
The question was Nikon 70DS, Canon 350D or Pentax DS ? …..mmmm. (anonymous — 07/18/2006)

After 20+ years using film, it was time to go digital. Comparative quality between film and digital at 6 mp is already there for enlargements of up to A3.

The question was Nikon 70DS, Canon 350D or Pentax DS ? …..mmmm.
After looking trough the viewfinder there was no question anymore. The Pentax DS is in a complete different league from the Nikon and Canon. The viewfinder is very clear matching the expectations from a decent SLR camera. Nikon and Canon opted for a cheap optical system and it reflects on the quality of their view finders.
Another good point, is the fact that the ist*DS uses AA batteries opening the gap even further. I use 2500mA rechargeable batteries, and they last for more then 1000 shoots (including viewing, downloading etc.).
On the downside, I didn’t like the 18-35 mm zoom, it’s not to the standard of older Pentax lenses, and for a fraction of the price you can by a top class zoom if you are ready to compromise on a manual second hand. I bought a Carl Zeiss 28-70/2.8 including the adapter to Pentax K, for the ridiculous sum of £20 ( ~$35). The clarity of photos from this lens is astonishingly good and only challenged by my Pentax 50mm/1.4 (£25 including vat).
This camera takes all older Pentax lens including the screw lens (needs dedicated adapter ~£12), in some cases with some limitation.
This is a very good Digital SLR camera and if you are a Pentax veteran and have plenty of Pentax lens go for this one.

Some of you may find the following comments useful;
1) If you use Pentax old lenses you will need to change the default setting of the camera to enable the use of these lenses (check in your manual)
2) You can upgrade your camera software version. There is a firmware upgrade for the camera in Pentax home page, can be downloaded and it’s free.
3) If you are using Manual Lens and the camera doesn’t shoot, check that the Auto/Manual switch is in Manual mode.
4) If you are thinking to buy the ist*DL, go the extra mile and buy the DS.
5) The focal length of the lens will increase by a factor of 1.5 but keeping the original aperture (Great for telephotos) crap for wide angle lens. My 17mm Pentax fish eye is now a 26mm.

  • 5.0 out of 5
72 dpi guy is wrong!! (anonymous — 07/18/2006)

I got this camera for my birthday. I was nervous because I saw the review on this page that said the images are 72 dpi, but I got it anyway. The first time I uploaded my pictures and opened them in Photoshop, I looked at the image size and nearly freaked out - 72 dpi! Then I noticed it's 3008 X 2000 pixels (and just over 41X27 inches). I changed the dpi to 700 and printed one out at 8x10 size. Absolutely crystal clear. I don't know why photoshop lists it at 72 dpi, but the information is all there.

  • 5.0 out of 5
Great easy to use camera (anonymous — 07/18/2006)

Clean lines. Light, well built, strong reliable camera.
Uses all old Pentax film lenses.
Great images
New Firmware upgrade make it a 1STDS2 for less money ... good value

  • 5.0 out of 5
Whatever camera you have now -- (anonymous — 07/18/2006)

—trade it in for this one!

Well, possibly some of the other Pentax SLR's are as good.

After 35 years of manual SLR's I waited to go digital until I was sure of what I was doing. Thank Gods for Pentax.

I witnessed friends with digitals and witnessed their problems.
I've edited photos submitted by other digitals, and saw their problems down to the pixel level.

The picture quality and color quality exceeds anything I've ever taken on film. I spend a lot of time taking photos of what seems "invisible" to other folk, the subtle variations of rocks and minerals out in the field. The originals are spectacular, but for me, even more terrific — yes, you can further enhance to bring the "invisible" out so even non rock people can pick out the details. Other digital photos I've edited simply didn't possess any large spectrum of colors to work from — the Pentax photos have a spectrum that challenges any film camera, with the advantage that, well, it's digital.

The use of simple batteries was a must for me in selecting a camera. With two months and some extended shoots, I still haven't run the batteries down — we're talking 200 or so shots per shoot, and downloading, slide-showing etc using battery power. I've heard the horror stories of those who suddenly need to "recharge" when they're up on the mountain, so I keep spare batteries with me, but haven't touched them yet. I haven't had any camera freeze due to cold batteries yet, though I've taken shoots in freezing temperatures.

The view finder is, by far, the best I've ever seen. None of this "look at the LCD" garbage to take a shot, I'm seeing my shot and framing it and it comes out perfect. I haven't yet had the time to investigate some of the details, such as the 7 spot focus configuration which ought to be fantastic for rocky outcrops. As it is, I'm getting excellent crystal reflections even without my polaroid filter (which works on the camera, but doesn't seem to be needed), and have even shot straight into the sun and got tremendous pictures.

The computer interface is fast and easy on both my Mac laptop in the field, and my office PC.

Perhaps most important, this camera bonds with the photographer immediately if you're coming from a manual SLR background. It feels a good real weight, well balanced. Comfortable in your hands. No feeling like it's a toy.

If anyone is hovering, go for it. This or the other Pentax SLR's.

  • 5.0 out of 5
Great Photos (anonymous — 07/18/2006)

I have used Medium format Pentax for years doing aerial photography for a living. I was hoping for a camera from Pentax that would compete with medium format quality. The ist has accomplished all that and more. I just had to admit I was not as smart as the camera and let it do it's work without me interfering. I also do lots of lanscape work and print 16x20s and they are great. The camera is more than I had imagined.

  • 4.0 out of 5
Pentax brand loyalty paid off! (anonymous — 07/18/2006)

I've had a pentax SFX (film) SLR for the past 15 years and decided digital was now good enough to compete on quality. because I already had 3 pentax af lenses, it made sense to stick with them and buy a 'body only' *istDS. It's the business alright, they know how to build an SLR afetr all these years of being in the business. And the first reviewer who commented "This camera jpeg is set at 72 res when printed at lab from the SDcard. DO NOT buy this camera", is evidently not very knowledgeable about digicam pictures. All digital photos do that on a PC monitor — you have to manually re-size them downwards to push the resolution up to around 250/300 ppi. Please ignore the first reviewer's misleading statement —- can't believe he knows so little if he thinks he's ready for a DSLR!

  • 1.0 out of 5
72 res (anonymous — 07/18/2006)

This camera jpeg is set at 72 res when printed at lab from the SDcard. DO NOT buy this camera.

  • 5.0 out of 5
Near Perfect SLR (anonymous — 07/18/2006)

Have been waiting for SLR for awhile, had held off getting the Nikon for this Pentax and it was well worth the wait. Have used this on a photoshoot this past August and have problems whatsoever. The istDS comes close to my 35mm Pentax LX in quality and ease of use. For anyone looking to replace their 35mm you can't go wrong with the istDS.

  • 5.0 out of 5
The thrill is back (anonymous — 07/18/2006)

I still remember how thrilled I was when I bought my first Pentax Spotmatic nearly 30 years ago. The precision of through the lens viewing, ease of use and outstanding picture quality made photography enormous fun. I felt much the same excitement when I first began shooting with the *ist DS. Solid, compact and easy to use, I was reluctant to put the camera down during my vacation in northern Michigan this summer. The 18-55mm zoom lens made composition a snap, and I could move in for a closeup of an insect in macro mode almost instantly. Colors came out brilliant and saturated with a range of contrast that rivals the finest transparency film. My first Pentax taught me to love photography; the *ist DS has rekindled the flame.

  • 5.0 out of 5
Pentax ist DS - The RIght Choice! (anonymous — 07/18/2006)

I'm right there with all the folks who researched this along with the Nikon and Canon. I could not get my hands on one of these in town - I bought it sight unseen and couldn't be happier. Though I'd heard mixed reviews about using older pentax lenses, within minutes of taking this camera out of the box, I had great shots with my old (manual) Pentax 50mm 1.7 and two sears lenses - a 28mm and a 80-200 zoom (all from my old Pentax ME Super from 24 years ago). Then I took out my old vivitar bounch autothyristor flash I used on my ME and it worked beautifully as well. I am amazed at the quality! And, I can't believe that I can take handheld photos at as slow as one second!! This camera is fantastic - I paid 650! and I have the kit lens, all my lenses and a flash!

  • 5.0 out of 5
A very good camera (anonymous — 07/18/2006)

I must say that I read dozens of reviews of the Pentax ist*DS, Nikon D70 and Canon Rebel XT. It was not an easy task but finally I decided to buy the Pentax. I am glad I did.

I am very pleased with my Pentax. It is easy to use, light (as opposed to Nikon D70 that feels like a brick)and it takes fantastic pictures just out of the box. I shoot ot of RAW pictures, but lately I have been shooting JPEG "best quality" and am very happy with the results. I will slowly build a good selection of lenses and enjoy my Pentax even more. All things considered, if I could go back, I would buy the Pentax all over again..

  • 5.0 out of 5
I just love it! (anonymous — 07/18/2006)

I must have read dozens of reviews in the internet and asked the opinion of several professionals before deciding to buy my *ist DS. I am glad that i did it! The camera is extremely easy to use and the results are fantastic. I have been shooting in RAW and JPEG and I am happy with the results. In short, this is a great camera, well built, well conceived and a joy to use. Now I will buy the lenses that I want and use my Pentax to its fullest.

  • 2.0 out of 5
Bad Camera (anonymous — 07/18/2006)

Save your money, look elsewhere, its a beautiful camera and when it works the shots with the standard Pentax zoom are just gorgeous.
The problems is erratic exposures, sometimes they are perfect, dead on, most of the time they are way off, overexposed and underexposed, badly.
I sent the camera back to Pentax, it took 5 weeks to get it back, worked great for about15 minutes then back to square one, they fixed nothing, sent it back again, its now 5 weeks and still don't have it back, enough is enough.
I have used Pentax equipment for years , just loved Pentax, now, its junk.

  • 5.0 out of 5
Great DSL Camera (anonymous — 07/18/2006)

I tried several SLR cameras, prior to purchase. *ist DS was the lightest, smallest of the bunch. My impression was that the Pentax had the brightest viewfinder and the a large 2x2 lcd screen so I could review my pictures. But most of all the camera body had a comfortable "feel".
If the camera does not feel right, not withstanding all of its good features, you don't pick it up. So this was very important.
The features are easy to learn, such as resetting ISO speed on the fly, metering mode, etc. The picture quality is ex cellant, a tad soft on sharpness (I do not shoot in raw mode) but I 'touch up' all of my pics on photoshop anyway, so it is not a problem.

  • 5.0 out of 5
For the money, One of the Best SLR Digitals! (anonymous — 07/18/2006)

I have owned the camera for 4 months and have yet to be disappointed by the camera. The camera does a wonderful job all around with capturing sharp images in many different modes. The quality of the photo, even in JPEG mode, is beautiful, resulting in images that can be easily printed for stunning results. One particularly flattering feature is the user-selection of ISO speed. While the 3200 ISO rating does show noticeable grain, it still will take great photos and allows you to take so many indoor shots without flash that you would normally miss or have serious shadowing using a flash. Bump it down to 1600 ISO rating and the grain has all but disappeared and you only lose one f-stop! This ability makes the camera stand out among the rest of the SLR digitals. I took some pictures inside a temple in Japan, where flash photography is prohibited, and amazed my friends who were with me at the quality of the image. All other features work wonderfully and have made me a believer again in Pentax. I used to own the PZ-1P 35mm SLR and now can use all my lenses to the full potential with the *ist DS. Did I mention that on the first round of batteries I took 1380 photos (2 Li Ion Batteries supplied)! Granted, most of those were without flash, and the ones that included flash I used my off camera flash and hotshoe. Still, almost 1400 photos on one set of batteries!!!! I will continue to buy the Lithium batteries as long as this performance continues, and still keep my NiMH AA batteries as a backup, another plus feature. Overall, it is a phenomenal camera, and if you have ANY Pentax equipment from a previous camera, a choice you can't pass up! Thank you Pentax!

  • 5.0 out of 5
Ecstatic that I Chose Pentax (anonymous — 07/18/2006)

I did extensive (OK, excessive) research and read all the reviews in deciding between the Pentax *istDS, Nikon D70 and Canon Rebel XT. I have had many Pentax cameras over the past 30 years, but was ready to go to Nikon or Canon for my new digital SLR, if warranted. It finally came down to an instinctive choice based on feel. Now that I have owned and used it, I have no doubt the Pentax was the right choice. I need light and small, as most of my photography is travel and hiking, so the Nikon was a bit cumbersome. Also, I have been using a Nikon Cool-pix 5000 for a couple of years, with much frustration over the incredibly complex and counterintuitive controls and manual. The Rebel XT looks great in the reviews, and is small and light, but the ergonomics simply do not match the Pentax. The things that matter - usability, feel, and response made Pentax the choice for me. I have taken several thousands pics now, in all formats, and am tickled by the camera and the photos. My eye cannot discern any difference in detail in the shots taken in raw format and those in large JPEG. While we can always find some nitpicking thing to change, this camera has most everything right for me. It is totally intuitive...the manual is almost superfluous. And the readouts are clear, the viewfinder bright and significantly larger than the competition. And, for this long-time Pentax user, it is great using my favorite lenses, especially with the 33% boost in telephoto zoom. This camera seems to be to be seriously underrated and under promoted.

  • 5.0 out of 5
tiny (anonymous — 07/18/2006)

I really like this camera for the size. It fits in a large outer windbreaker pocket with the 18-50mm kit lens. Excellent for street photogs.
With the 3200iso setting it is fantastic for low light snaps & event pixs. The focus is slow unless one is quick with the manual focus in these conditions.
What I don't like is that it is menu driven with frgmntd mnu chcs (fragmented menu choices).
I came over from an all manual SLR. The cross over time was quick. Basically select manual, learn where the controls where and I was shooting in minutes.

  • 5.0 out of 5
JPEG is just fine (anonymous — 07/18/2006)

I have owned Pentax SLR's in the past and when digital came along I bought Canon..still own G3.
Glad Pentax brought out istDS! I love it, and the JPEG pictures are great contrary to some others opinions. I just entered one of my JPEG flower pictures in local contest and won first place. RAW is great also, but takes up too much of SD card. If JPEG need tuning up, just use a Photoshop Elements 3.0 to really make the print or image shine.

  • 5.0 out of 5
Now I am taking professional quality pictures ! (anonymous — 07/18/2006)

I am pretty new in photography. Usually the cameras with this much settings are intimidating but *ist DS was not. With about a week of reading manual, trials and errors, reading forums got me hooked with taking photos with *ist DS. Now I get a lot of Woo~~ Ahh~~~ from my friends and families.

I've looked around many reviews and compared to Cannon and Nikon but it was very confusing for me. I think they all take great pictures

I choose *ist Ds simply

1. Highest rating by users in DSLR
2. Can use AA (I always forget to charge the OEM batteries before kid's birthday)
3. Smallest and looks good

Good luck with your choice

  • 5.0 out of 5
About time (anonymous — 07/18/2006)

I have been in the aerial photography business for 20 years and have used Pentax medium format all that time. I had been disappointed that Pentax had not kept up in the digital industry so Fuji had my business and their camera was great don't get me wrong but I just purchased the ist and its ease of use was amazing. I can also finally get to use the 35 mm lens's that have been collecting dust. Overall it is a great camera and finally affordable to compete in the digital industry.

  • 5.0 out of 5
The Pentax *ist DS is fantastic! (anonymous — 07/18/2006)

I've been shooting 35mm film with my Pentax zx-5n for several years and naturally I have a nice compliment of lenses to go with it. So when it came time to look towards buying a digital SLR my goal was to look immediately to Pentax.

I was not disappointed...

When I picked up the *ist DS and began shooting with it I was immediately impressed! The quality of the pictures and the ease of use was unbelievable. I especially liked the location of the DOF preview and the ability to adjust the shutter speed and aperture.

The camera feels nice and solid. The quality of components appears exceptional. The pictures it is capable of delivering are impressive. What I really enjoy is the fact that a single 512MB SD memory card holds 160+ HQ pictures!

In summary the best thing of all is that it compliments my zx-5n and can share lenses. The only question now is which camera gets more shooting time? (LOL)

  • 5.0 out of 5
Pentax lives again (anonymous — 07/18/2006)
I started out with pentax 18 years ago. Switched to nikon then to canon. I have come full circle with the *ist ds. Almost every feature that I was looking for except multiple exposure. The camera has a solid feel to it. Having to use the menu button to change settings can be tiresome; But not having all those little buttons all over gives the camera a cleaner look. Color depth and saturation are excellent. The pictures that I have taken are just a tiny bit soft(I have high standards for anything that cost more than five bucks), but are still amazing. I too was debating between the canon 300d the minolta a2, but I am very happy that I went with the pentax. Look on the pentax web site from Canada for the manual it should answer any tech info. Pentax lenses are usually easy to find at pawn shops and flea markets, sometimes very cheap. In conclusion if someone out there is trying to decide between pentax and whatever truly consider the pentax over the others.
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