Announced along with a frenzy of interest at PMA 2006, Pentax's new flagship camera, the K10D has a few surprises up its sleeve. Gary Wolstenholme managed to take a closer look at the camera every dedicated *ist D user must have been waiting for.
10.2 effective megapixels
11-area SAFOX VIII AF
PRIME 22bit A/D converter
CCD-shift shake reduction system
Dust removal system
Environmentally sealed body
New exposure modes
Glass pentaprism viewfinder
Compatible with older manual focus Pentax lenses and newer Supersonic lenses
Continuous shooting at 3.3fps
2.5inch LCD screen
Lithium-ion rechargeable battery
SDHC card compatible
Features and controls
Built-in flash A built-in pop up flash is included, which is useful for fill-in in harsh lighting conditions, or as a last resort when light levels drop too much to achieve a sharp shot.
10.2 megapixel sensor and Pentax PRIME processing engine
The 10.2 megapixel sensor makes this the highest resolution Pentax digital SLR currently available. 22bit colour data is collected and processed by Pentax's specially developed PRIME (Pentax Real Image Engine) image engine. The extra colour information should produce images with smother gradation of colour, and RAW images process to 16bit should cope with bigger colour and contrast changes in editing. To facilitate rapid processing of all this extra information, the K10D employs DDR2 memory in its buffer.
Autofocus selector The selector located on the front allows quick selection between continuous servo, single servo and manual focus modes, without having to search through the camera's menu
The K10D is compatible with a huge range of autofocus and manual focus Pentax lenses. To ensure maximum compatibility with older lenses, the focal length of the lens can be entered to allow the CCD-shift shake reduction system to work effectively.
Optional battery grip An external battery grip is available that adds a vertical shutter release and space for one extra lithium-ion rechargeable battery. A handy slot for holding a spare SD card is also included in the side of the grip.
Glass pentaprism viewfinder
The glass pentaprism viewfinder produces a pleasingly bright, and surprisingly large image for easy confirmation of focus and composition.
2.5inch LCD screen
A large 2.5inch LCD screen allows for easy menu navigation and image review. The screen used in the K10D has a wide viewing-angle of 140degrees so that images can be seen as they should be from virtually angle.
SDHC card compatible Unlike the *ist D it replaces, the K10D uses SD cards for storage and is compatible with the new SDHC standard. SDHC cards have a higher data rate than conventional SD cards, and are available in larger capacities. The largest card currently available is 8GB.
11-area SAFOX VIII autofocus
The 11-area SAFOX VIII autofocus system has nine cross-type sensors arranged in a square in the centre of the frame. Cross type sensors can detect contrast that is either horizontal or vertical, which provides better, faster autofocus in low light or low contrast situations.
SR shake reduction The K10D is the second camera from Pentax to employ a CCD-shift shake reduction system. Powerful electromagnets move the CCD in the opposite direction to the camera to compensate for unwanted movement that could cause blurred images. The system has been improved since its debut in the K100D and now offers up to four stops of compensation. This means that when using a 50mm lens, a sharp shot should be achievable at shutter speeds as low as a quarter of a second.
Front and rear control dials
*ist D users will be pleased to learn that the K10D has control dials on both the front and rear of the camera to facilitate quick exposure adjustments.
The green button located near the shutter release can be used in the manual mode to set the shutter and aperture automatically. When this button is released, manual adjustments can be made as normal, which should make manual control much quicker.
The K10D is compatible with the current range of Pentax digital flashguns including the powerful AF-500FTZ announced at PMA and Focus 2006.
Exposure modes Pentax have put a lot of thought into the exposure modes on the K10D and produced some interesting new automatic programs that could change the way you shoot. The first of these is Sensitivity priority mode, where you can choose the appropriate ISO, and the camera will take care of the shutter speed and aperture. Another program of interest is the Shutter & Aperture priority mode. Here you can set a shutter and aperture and the camera will adjust the sensitivity to give the correct exposure.
During my time with Pentax, I also had a chance to look a a couple of recently announced lenses. These were:
Pentax 10-17mm fisheye zoom
Personally, I love the distorted ultra-wide view that can be achieved with a fisheye lens, and the ability to zoom makes what is normally a highly specialised lens much more useful.
The working sample I tried was sharp in the centre wide open, especially at 10mm, and was a lot of fun to use.
Pentax 40mm f/2.8 Limited
If you've ever wanted the extra sharpness of prime lenses, but hesitated at the thought of carrying a ton of lenses everywhere, then Pentax's new range of pancake lenses could be right up your street.
A Pentax DSLR with the 40mm f/2.8 limited lens fitted feels more like a bulky compact, than an SLR.
The pre-production sample I tried seemed nice and sharp, even wide-open.
Unfortunately, because the sample I used was a pre-production model, I cannot comment on the image-quality produced by the camera.
Pentax have certainly kept their loyal customers waiting for their new flagship model, but with all the extra features included in the K10D it seems it may have been worth that wait.
This camera will be the natural upgrade for existing Pentax users, but will it be enough to tempt photographers from other systems? On paper it seems so, but the real proof will come when we get hold of a production sample for review.