capsule review

Pentax *ist DL

At a Glance
  • Pentax Ricoh Imaging Company *ist DL, Megapixel, SLR, Digital Camera (6.1MP, 2008x3008, SD)

    TechHive Rating

Pentax *ist DL
Artwork: Rick Rizner, Chris Manners

With a street price of $600 (as of March 21, 2006) and a basic feature set, the Pentax *ist DL represents a good entry-level option for aspiring digital SLR shooters on a budget. Though it isn't long on features, the *ist DL provides the automatic and manual features that most photographers need, wrapped in a small body with a simple control layout. Unfortunately, the camera suffers from many of the same image quality problems as its predecessor, the *ist DS.

The *ist DL is a very well-designed camera. Its compact yet comfortable body is small without feeling cramped. Pentax deserves credit for making a smaller camera than the *ist DS that is no less comfortable. Build quality is excellent and free of creaking or flexing parts. A simple top-mounted LCD status display supplies basic camera stats, though I wish it included an ISO readout.

Pressing the function button on the back of the camera brings up a menu that lets you change ISO, white balance, flash mode, and drive mode. But while the interface is fairly simple, it doesn't work as speedily as dedicated buttons. You select the shooting mode by using a top-mounted dial, and a control wheel changes parameters within each mode. Fortunately, Pentax retained the exposure compensation button--a frequently used feature on any camera.

The power on the *ist DL is easy to access because it's a rocker switch surrounding the shutter button. One of Pentax's nicest interface innovations is the depth-of-field preview control, which you access by sliding the power switch into a third position. Because the control is right next to the shutter button, it's easy to reach with your shutter finger.

The *ist DL falls down in image quality. In JPEG mode, the camera's shots are soft and occasionally look underexposed. Increasing the default sharpening setting helps make images look crisper; and once you're used to the underexposure, you can compensate for it. We also had occasional trouble with JPEG artifacts, but the *ist DL lets you shoot in RAW mode, eliminating this issue. RAW shooting requires more storage, though, and can lead to a more complicated workflow, depending on the software you use for your postproduction work.

Ben Long

This story, "Pentax *ist DL" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • TechHive Rating

    Compact camera offers simple controls and a good feature set, but some of our images looked a bit soft.

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