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Pentax *ist DS *istDS Test Review
© 2005 KenRockwell.com

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WARNING: I've gotten a lot of hate mail about this page from people who really love this camera for its tiny size and lens compatibility. Some of these folks are in far-away foreign lands where the *istDs sells for much less than a Nikon D70. I offer my thoughts below because many people ask, even if I have no stick time with the *istDs yet. I'll be getting my hands on one soon and will be updating this. Till then I'm just one guy doing this website for fun so for now I just have a basic outline. If you're more comfortable reading glossy commercial magazines that say everything is perfect then you may want to avoid reading further. On the other hand, you may wish to express your hatred and . Read an unbiased community discussion group here of folks who forgot to read the disclaimer here. That community hates me so much they overloaded their thread! Hey, I'm just a guy like you who likes to make lots of photos and does this site for grins to help out those who find it useful.


This is a 6MP DSLR that competes directly with the Nikon D70 and Canon Digital Rebel. It sells for about $899 without lens, same as the D70 in January 2005.

In case you're not familiar with Pentax, just remember that Ansel Adams used their exposure meters just as I do for my most serious work. Pentax are very well known in professional circles for their huge line of medium format cameras. On the other hand, Nikon and Canon make no professional format cameras nor any light meters at all. Enough said.

If you own a collection of Pentax lenses by all means consider this camera. Unlike Canon and Nikon the *istDs works fairly well with even ancient manual focus lenses, but check me on this.

On the other other hand, since you can get the generally superior Nikon D70 or Canon DSLR cameras for the same price I see no reason to get this camera if you're starting from scratch, unless it's tiny size or compatibility with thirty years of Pentax lenses, including medium format, are paramount to you.

It's much smaller than either the D70 or Rebel. Unlike the Canon and Nikon cameras which only work well only with autofocus lenses, the Pentax can work with lenses back to about 1975 K mount and also their medium format lenses with an adapter, or so I'm told may be the case. See here for more info about lens compatibility, about a third of the way down the page.

I have not played with one, only read the press info.


6MP, 3,008 x 2,000 pixels

weighs only 21 oz or 605g including batteries, excellent!

1.5x mag factor, standard size 24 x 16mm DSLR CCD

2.8FPS, 8 JPG buffer

11 AF sensors, which are a lot

Sync speed only 1/180. This is poor compared to the Nikon D70 and Canon 20D. Read why sync speed is so important here.

ISO 200 - 1,600 (or maybe 3,200), standard for DSLRs and quite good

Battery: four AA or two CRV3. FLAW: other DSLRs include superior Li-Ion rechargeable batteries. The best you can do is use the old Ni-MH rechargeables, and have to juggle four cells each time you need to charge them. More on batteries here.

FLAW: Cannot use standard CF cards. Only works with SD cards which don't work in pro cameras.

Stainless steel lens mount, nice.


I haven't seen one yet. From what I read you can't set the metering, drive and focus modes unless you go to through a menu, which is a huge flaw compared to the D70 and 20D, and even compared to the *istD. Even worse, I see no direct buttons for the absolutely critical white balance, ISO and quality adjustments either. If you have to go through menus for these you should pass on this camera, since you need to get to these adjustments for just about every shot. Canon and Nikon's DSLRs provide the direct adjustments you need for the same price.

On the other hand, the *istDS has a couple of trick modes which might be fun for those without a computer, especially the mode to make people look skinnier.


From what little I've read so far this looks like something fun for the domestic Japanese market, but inferior to the Canon and Nikon cameras at the same price for real photography. The flaws are in usability, batteries and memory cards. Image quality is the same among these cameras, although non-photographers worry themselves silly with meaningless noise specifications posted elsewhere.

I'd skip this unless you already own Pentax lenses simply because Nikon and Canon make better, easier to use cameras for the same price. The inability to adjust critical items except through menus relegates the *istDS to the heap of history, unless of course you're already in the Pentax system.

If tiny size is paramount and you need a DSLR then give it, and the Olympus e300, a look.

I could be proved wrong after trying one, however since the price is the same as other cameras I doubt it.

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