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Catch This Shooting Star
Within the weatherproof body of the new, 10.2-megapixel Pentax K200D beats the transplanted heart of the K10D—a sophisticated, semipro camera that garnered a Mac|Life Editor’s Choice last year (5 out of 5 stars, Jul/07). Almost every feature (and more) that made the K10D stand out is now integrated into the K200D—and for less money.
Compared to its predecessor, the 6-megapixel K100D Super, the K200D is a giant leap forward. An ergonomic change makes its grip one of the most comfortable in its class. Menu items can be set to display in extralarge type for quick and easy reading. Image processing has been refined to minimize noise and provide greater dynamic range. But features that worked on the K10D haven’t been tampered with—like the lens shade’s innovative, removable section for easy access to filters that need rotation.
Those who are new to shooting with an SLR camera will benefit from six automatic picture modes, including portrait, action, and landscape, and eight scene modes, such as surf and snow, night, sunsets, and food. Advanced photographers can fiddle with 23 custom programmable functions. One of these allowed us to compare similar photos side-by-side to check which one was sharpest. After zooming in 16x to reveal minute details, we could trash bad shots on the spot, giving us more room for keepers on the memory card.
We shot more than 500 photos with four of Maha’s AA Imedion rechargeable NiMH batteries, using flash about 25 percent of the time and doing a lot of “chimping” (reviewing images) on the large, bright 2.7-inch LCD. Pentax includes four AA lithium batteries it says will last even longer, but replacements run $10 a set. The user manual warns against using NiMH batteries, but that’s an error; NiCads are the bad guys. Using AA cells to power a sophisticated DSLR might seem incongruous, but the K200D is the only camera in its class that can use ordinary alkaline batteries—a boon to anyone who’s ever run out of juice unexpectedly.
The K200D has just the right controls, all in the right places. Changing exposure values on the fly (an awkward procedure on many DSLRs) is a cinch. Just slide your finger off the shutter release, press a nearby button, and twirl the control dial with your thumb as you check your settings, which are visible through the viewfinder. When you want to capture an image in RAW, you just hit the dedicated RAW button to switch settings and fire away. You can also set the camera to produce an identical JPEG image at the same time. Need to stop fast action? How about 1/4000th of a second? Is your SD memory card filling up? Turn down the resolution to 6MP or even 2MP.
The camera’s built-in shake reduction works with any existing Pentax lens. It’s a real money-saver over having to buy dedicated, image-stabilized lenses. The K200D shakes its CCD to remove loose dust on its sensor. But it also has a new dust alert system that shows the location of recalcitrant particles. Shoot and print that image and you’ll have a road map to areas of the sensor that need further work with a blower or one of Visible Dust’s sensor cleaners.
The K200D’s image quality is excellent. We shot pictures from ISO 100 to 1600—in dark alleys and on brightly lit beaches—and exposure was spot-on. Images were virtually noiseless at ISO 400 and only slightly grainy above that. Brilliant, color-perfect, 13-by-9-inch, tack-sharp prints rolled from our Epson R1900 printer. Whatever we asked for, the camera delivered.The Pentax K200D can be used with confidence right out of the box by novice and advanced photographers alike. And it won’t need to be replaced for a long time—the highest compliment a DSLR can earn.