After replacing the venerable *stD range with the K100D and the K10D, Pentax became embroiled in a merger with Hoya. Post amalgamation, here's the Super to keep the entry-level model alive while R&D cooks up some new cameras. The headline features are that this is a 6Mp camera with Anti-Shake and now Dust Removal, taken straight from the K10D when it wasn't looking.
Pentax K100D Specifications
- Sensor: CCD - 6.31Mp
- Image Size: 3008x2008 pixels
- Lens: Pentax KAF mount compatible
- ISO range: 200-3200
- Shutter speed: 30-1/4000secs and bulb
- Focus: TTL 11-point autofocus system
- Exposure: Auto, SP, AP, Manual, Bulb
- Metering: Multi-segment, Centre-weighted, Spot
- Monitor: 2.5in. Colour TFT LCD (210k pixels)
- Movie Mode: No
- Storage: SD/SDHC Card
- Batteries: AA NiMh or CR-V3
- AC Adaptor: Optional
- Video Output: Yes
- Size/Weight: 129x92x70mm - 570g
- Transfer: USB 2.0
For exactly the same money, you can get a Canon EOS 350D with 8Mp, or a 400D with 10Mp for another £30, a Nikon D40x with 10Mp will cost you a mere £10 extra, but lens kits for these will add another £30 approximately onto the price, whereas Pentax offers a lens kit for just £1 more. Alternatively, there's the Olympus E-400 which, while having been superceded by the E-410, can be snapped up for just £379 and that boasts 10Mp and comes with a lens.
Pentax K100D Super Modes and features
There are three basic additions to the repertoire of the K100D Super. It now has the Dust removal facilities of the K10D, increased lens compatibility so it can use the new sdm, quiet ultrasonic lenses, plus SDHC card compatibility without the need for flashing the firmware, as is the case with the K100D. The shaking CCD technology is used to both compensate for movement, and to vibrate the CCD and drop muck onto a sticky pad. This needs to be set up in the menu system, either to perform the action or so that it occurs each time the camera is turned on. This gives a rapid, and heft, kick.
The good news is the Shake Reduction, being built into the camera, then benefits any lens you attach to it. There's a switch on the back to turn it on and off.
Aside from these technological advances, the 100D Super kicks things off with a rotating pull switch to turn it on and off and to illuminate the top-mounted LCD. This is the traditional way of doing things and is fast and easy. Inside the switch is the fire button. Next to this is a small button for exposure compensation which offers +/-2EV.
Over the top of the built-in flash, there's the mode dial which contains options for the standard program, aperture and shutter priority and manual modes, plus a host of extra modes for beginners. These include night portraits, no9 flash, sports, macro, landscape and portraits. Again, though the ability of the macro option is rather tied to whatever lens is being used, if it's used in conjunction with a macro lens, it will help the beginner get a better shot. There's also a Scene mode option which leads to yet more scenes needless to say, and an Auto Picture mode, for total help taking the photo. A button near this dial pops up the flash for when you want to force it into use.
The back of the camera is fairly straightforward, starting with the control wheel, which doubles up during image playback to provide magnification. This isn't the best place to put this it has to be said.
On the right side of the camera body is the slot for the memory card and the good news here is that it's been upgraded to take SDHC cards, which are the new, higher capacity versions of the SD card.
The LCD screen is a decent size at 2.5in. and good enough resolution for this marketplace. The four buttons down the left side of it cover the menu, delete images, provide info or activate playback. On the right all there is, is the joypad and OK button for navigating menus and the function button. A press of this brings up the shortcut menu on the LCD screen, offering flash, ISO, white balance and drive mode. It might have been more useful to have the metering modes instead of either of the latter two.
The metering options themselves cover the usual zone, centre-weighted and spot. Focussing is either on a single, central spot, or using a wide 11-zone collection of points, but there's no control over which element is used. The camera picks the one it feels is right and focuses away. This isn't fast as there's a slight lag while it thinks about it, but it's okay for this price point. Focussing can also be a single shot or continuous, as this then refocuses as the camera is moved.
Finally, battery power is handled by four AAs, rather than a dedicated Lithium Ion battery. The downside is that even rechargeables don't last as long, the plus side is that they are cheap to get backup sets as most supermarkets will stock them.
Pentax K100D Super Build quality and handling
Well here's the good news. Built around a metal chassis, the K100D Super has significantly better build quality than either the Canon or Nikon entry level cameras. The joypad buttons and indeed all the buttons on the back might be too recessed for comfort, but the command dial is solid and the physical build quality is sturdy and looks like it will take a knock or too. Even the chamber for power, video out and remote is accessed by a spring-mounted flap rather than just a rubber covering.
Handling is good because there's a decent handgrip to hold the camera with. The Function button allows fast access to the commonly used features, though not as fast as if there were individual buttons for these things. At least it saves having to slowly navigate menus though. The buttons are recessed a little too far which makes pressing them trickier than it should be. The flipside of this is that it makes them harder to activate accidentally while you are shooting. Speaking of which, if you use your left eye to view with then the thumbwheel is slightly in the wrong place for where the thumb naturally falls. However, that's a personal observation because noses, hands and thumbs are all different and it may be a perfect match for you.
Pentax K100D Super Flash options
The built-in flash has a Guide number of 15.6, which sounds great and much better than other cameras, but bear in mind that the K100D uses ISO200 as the base sensitivity. You can apply +/-2EV compensation to it for subtle, or overpowering effect. There's a hotshoe with 1/180sec sync speed, for connecting to your dedicated Pentax flashgun.
Pentax K100D Super Performance
Using a standard SD or a SDHC card and shooting JPEGs the camera knocks out the first five images fairly quickly, but then slows right down so that in the 10sec test it can only put out a sluggardly 14 shots. Switching to RAW is worse, with just five recorded shots in total. This is a pretty poor performance and shows that if you have very good build quality on one hand, you're going to pay for it somewhere else.
The fact that there's an ISO3200 mode is to be commended, but this comes at the expense of having an ISO100 mode. The upshot of this is that it's good for those wanting low-light or action shots that require a fast shutter speed, but it's bad for those looking for slow motion, creative effects like blurring waterfalls.
Colour reproduction is good, with bright reds and lively blues making for healthy portraits and vibrant scenery shots. These were the neutral settings, you can ramp up the colour even more if required. Sharpness at f/8 on the smc DA 18-55mm lens is quite good at the point of focus, though there can be fringing and some noise in ISO200 shots. Buildings and people tend to look good, but areas of complex detail like grass lack definition - the lack of high resolution not really helping.
The colour chart shows strong red and blue primary colours, leading to saturated landscapes and healthy looking portraits.
Nice result here with deep, strong colours on the flowers and decent sharpness though the edges are starting to bleed colour.
In Aperture Priority mode the skin tones are healthy and there's only a little variation and patches in the shadow areas.
In Portrait scene mode the skin is pinker, the exposure is the same and the blotchy chin is smoother.
The f/22 landscape shot has decent detail thoughout, though the far wall isn't in sharp focus. There's some fringing on the stanchions and there's noise evident.
The Landscape scene mode used f/9.5 where the lens is sharper, with more detail all the way through. There's more contrast, the colours are stronger and warmer.
At f/8 the point of focus shows good sharpness on the supplied smc 18-55mm lens though the lack of sensor resolution limits the detail.
Bright, late evening sunshine required exposure compensation of -1.5EV to avoid losing highlights on the stonework. The shadow detail is patchy.
Pentax K100D Super Noise tests
There's nice, sharp detail in the petals but noise can be seen in the grey card already. That's the problem with starting at ISO200. Moving up to ISO400 it's a little more noticeable, being green and blue but doesn't affect the usability of the camera. At ISO800 the grey card noise is harsher, and it's now visible in the black card and the yellow centre is slightly softer. Still usable though. ISO1600 sees the noise become more intrusive in the plain areas and it's starting to make the textured areas look bitty, though interestingly, the sharpness is being retained. At ISO3200 the noise is considerable and now the petals get darker and even though the image retains some sharpness, the sheer weight of noise starts to obliterate detail. I wouldn't use this for colour images, but for moody monochrome it would be very effective.
Pentax K100D Super Verdict
You can't knock the addition of sensor cleaning and sdm-lens compatibility, they're very welcome. However, a bit more spec-upgrading would have been nice to warrant the Super tag. With a good build quality, helpful beginner modes and largely easy-to-use controls you have a lightweight, yet solid camera, that's going to make it easy for the Pentax film upgrader or the newcomer to digital, to gain confidence in the DSLR world. The K100D Super has a better build quality than either the Canon or Nikon entry-level efforts. However, Nikon has progressed the D40 to the D40x and Canon has upgraded the 350D to the 400D, increasing resolutions along the way. This leaves the K100D Super lagging rather far behind at just 6Mp. The question has to be asked, is this enough for what you plan to do with it. If landscape photography is a major interest, where detail and resolution are vital, then really, this isn't going to be enough for large prints. Otherwise, the K100D Super keeps the Pentax entry-level brand ticking along nicely.
Pentax K100D Super Plus points:
Shake Reduction technology
Good build quality
High ISO ratings
sdm lens compatibility
Decent image sharpness with supplied lens
Pentax K100D Super Minus points:
Starts at ISO200
Functions on menus
Weak fps performance
Noise at ISO200
Lacks sophisticated focus options
The Pentax K100D Super is available from the ePHOTOzine shop at £369 for the body, or, bizarrely, for just a quid more, with the smc DA 18-55mm lens, here.