- Sensitivities up to IS1600 with low noise, great colour balance, sensor-based stabilisation, dust reduction
- Some detail lost in HDR shooting, some minor under-sharpening
Pentax's K200D may not quite be enough to topple the Nikon and Canon empire in the entry-level SLR space, but it is a very solid alternative. It combines image stabilisation and dust reduction with some impressive images and a great build.
Price$ 1,119.00 (AUD)
These days, users are spoiled for choice in the entry-level SLR space. Whether you're a less experienced photographer looking to make the jump from your compact camera, or an experienced amateur who wants an upgrade, there are a slew of models out there to suit a variety of budgets and needs. Pentax's K200D is one of the newest units to hit the market, packing in a host of features such as dust reduction, image stabilisation and what Pentax refers to as "high dynamic range" (HDR) shooting. While it certainly doesn't crush the competition from companies such as Canon and Nikon, it is a solid choice, particularly if you have a Pentax lens collection.
Sporting a 10.2 megapixel sensor, the K200D is competitive with other entry-level models in terms of resolution. It captured crisp, sharp images that will be perfect for prints of almost any size. Imatest revealed a little under-sharpening at the default settings, but this can be corrected using the camera's onboard calibration options or in post-processing.
Chromatic aberration was relatively well controlled. There was a little detail loss towards the edges of the frame, but it was fairly minor; no purple fringing was evident at all in our outdoor shots, which was a pleasant surprise. There were tiny hints of haloing in some high-contrast indoor chart snaps, but again this wasn't problematic.
Colour response was excellent, with rich, very strongly saturated colours but nothing too over the top. Imatest revealed a fairly accurate balance, particularly in shades of green and yellow, which were basically flawless.
The K200D performed nicely in our noise tests. At very low sensitivities, Imatest revealed slightly higher levels of noise than some competing units. Even so, it is extremely tiny— almost unnoticeable unless you're really looking. Furthermore, everything up to ISO 1600 will be fine for small and medium prints. Noise is well controlled, with the only impact being a slight blotchiness.
It's worth noting Pentax's claim of HDR shooting. HDR is typically a term reserved for when photographers layer multiple shots on top of each other to achieve better lighting and balance between high and low contrast areas. It can have a huge impact on your shots, creating images far beyond what modern cameras are capable of.
On the K200D, the results aren't quite that impressive. In some of our test shots activating this mode brought out more detail in extremely bright areas such as the sky (which is often devoid of detail in many shots). In other instances no benefit was noticeable. Some detail seemed to be lost in other parts of the shot as a side effect. The overall impact feels similar to that of Nikon's D-Lighting or Sony's D-Range optimiser, but the detail loss was definitely a sore point.
The K200D's speed is on a par with competing models. It took less than 0.5 seconds to go from powering up to first shot; shutter lag was basically non-existent at 0.04 seconds. In single-shot mode it captures just over three shots in a second. Burst mode speeds it up to four.
Aside from HDR shooting, the unit also has sensor-based image stabilisation, which operates quite well, and dust reduction that cleans the sensor of dirt particles. Both of these features are becoming somewhat standard but it's nice to see them implemented well here. There is also a dust warning system that helps identify which parts of the frame are affected. The standard array of manual shooting modes is on offer, along with eight scene modes and a fairly robust tweak system that allows you to modify hue, saturation, sharpness etc.
A nifty thing about the K200D is its body, which is designed to be weather and dust resistant. While not waterproof, it is solidly built and contains many seals and gaskets designed to help keep water out of vital components. It is quite heavy and sits nicely in the hands.
Users should note this is the first SLR we've looked at that takes AA batteries. We've always had mixed feelings on this, as it is an added cost. However, it is quite useful if you routinely shoot in places with no access to AC power.
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