Don't be put off by its relatively low 6.1-megapixel resolution - this is plenty of camera for the price.


Pentax's K100D SLR camera is so user-friendly it practically smiles when it's powered up. Good ergonomics coupled with a stainless steel chassis and a killer price make it an ideal choice when you're ready to move up to a digital SLR camera but don't have the cash for a Nikon D80 ($1,299 with lens, www.nikonusa.com) or a Canon Digital Rebel XTi ($899 with lens, www.canonusa.com).


Although the K100D's 6.1-megapixel resolution may sound puny in today's 10-megapixel world, we found its resolution to be more than enough to roll color-brilliant, tack-sharp images out of our Epson Stylus 2200. The camera's stock lens, a smooth-as-butter Pentax f/3.5-to-5.6 zoom lens with a focal length of 18 to 55mm (27 to 83mm in 35mm terms), includes a sunshade and is perfect for general photography. When used at its widest focal length, however, slight vignetting (darkening) appeared at the extreme corners of the image.


The K100D has a built-in shake reduction mode that compensates for unsteadiness at slow shutter speeds when the camera is hand-held; it also works well for tight zooms and extreme close-ups. This feature works with any Pentax lens, and with an inexpensive adapter ($25), you can even use earlier screw-in lenses (which are of high quality and can be found dirt cheap at your local used-camera store), though you'll need to manually focus and set apertures.


The K100D's viewfinder has a diopter control that'll adjust for your eyesight with its big, accessible slider. The camera uses SD memory cards, has shutter speeds to 1/4,000 of a second, and has a flash that sits high enough above the lens to eliminate most red-eye.


The K100D can take awesome black-and-white infrared pictures - a secret not revealed in the otherwise well-written manual. We gave this a try by placing a visually opaque Tiffen 87 infrared filter over the lens. Though we then had to approximate where to aim the camera, the K100D was able to focus through the filter, calculate exposure, and usually selected shutter speeds from 1/6 to 1/30 of a second. Most other digital SLRs (if they can shoot IR at all) require long exposures and a tripod; with the K100D's shake reduction activated, we captured sharp, well-exposed images.


The K100D uses four AA batteries - the included alkalines went belly-up after 60 shots. Our Maha PowerEX 2700 mAh NiMH rechargeable batteries ($14.95 for four, www.mahaenergy.com) yielded over 400 shots.


The bottom line. The K100D is a quality camera that's fun to shoot with and delivers superb images, and it's available at a great price if you're looking for your first SLR.


CONTACT: 800-877-0155, www.pentaxslr.com
PRICE: $699 with 18-55mm (27-83mm 35mm equivalent) f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens
REQUIREMENTS: Mac OS 8.6 or later, Mac OS 10.1 or later, USB
Quality construction. Excellent images. Built-in shake reduction works with all Pentax lenses. ISO to 3,200 for extreme low-light photography. Uses AA batteries.
Continuous shooting limited to four to five frames before buffer fills. Four-way rocker switch not positive enough. Short battery life.





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