Shoot sharp and stay steady.
Pentax doesn't claim any improvements in battery life for the K100D, despite the newer processing engine. That leaves this camera in the same unfortunate battery condition as the *ist DS2, which has a CIPA rating of only 70 shots when loaded with four AA alkaline cells. We highly recommend buying a set of 2000 mAh (or higher capacity) NiMh AA rechargeables to boost the shot capacity-especially since the K100D's shake reduction (SR) system will drain the batteries even faster.
That extra drain is worth it for the benefits you'll get when shooting with the SR system activated. A unique Pentax design, the stabilization system on this camera is very different from that of the KM Maxxum 7D and 5D, and the Sony A100. Pentax claims that more than 30 patents have been filed for this system, which uses a ball-bearing-mounted oscillator and four electromagnets to float the image sensor. (Go to www.PopPhoto.com/october2006 for pictures and further details of how this system works.)
When the SR system isn't activated and the camera is turned on, the CCD locks in place for normal shooting. (Turn off the camera, and you can hear the sensor moving when you shake the camera.) When you press the shutter button, angular velocity sensors analyze vibration and camera movement (up and down, and side to side) and send control signals to the magnets to compensate.
Part of the compensation depends on the focal length of the lens, which the camera automatically acquires from an attached Pentax DA, FA, D FA, FA J, or F lens. For all other lenses you can dial in the focal length from 8 mm to 800mm using a menu panel.
Pentax claims the SR system can give you a 2- to 3.5-stop improvement over no SR. Using the DxO Analyzer 2.0 test target and Blur analysis software, our Certified Lab tests showed an average of 2 stops for shaky shooters and slightly less for photographers with very stable hands shooting slower than the recommended minimum shutter speed (based on 1/focal length).
For example, when shooting with the Pentax 80-200mm f/4-5.6 zoom lens set at 200mm (a 35mm equivalent of 300mm), most photographers could set the camera to 1/80 sec with the SR activated and get the same sharpness as they'd get shooting 1/200 or 1/320 sec with the SR off.
But the results were a bit more erratic than we found when shooting with the older KM Maxxum models and the Sony Alpha 100, and there didn't seem to be much improvement for shaky shooters when they set the shutter speed to a stop or two faster than the reciprocal value.
Pentax now includes improved versions of its Photo Browser and Photo Laboratory software. The Browser helps you keep track of images and preview RAW files, and it's also capable of converting RAW images into Adobe's DRG RAW format. For extensive RAW processing controls and batch processing features, the Photo Laboratory software is a real winner. It includes everything from Curve and Kelvin color temperature adjustments to chromatic aberration and lens distortion corrections. Nice bundle.
We still think the introduction of a new DSLR was a missed opportunity to add an 8MP model to the Pentax stable for improved sharpness and competitive advantage against the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT and Olympus Evolt E-330, but it's rumored that Pentax will be leap-frogging the 8MP class altogether.
Bottom line? Sony's new 10.2MP Alpha 100 costs just $180 more than this new $620 Pentax. And for many DSLR newcomers with a little extra to spend, the Sony could prove to be an irresistible upgrade.
But if you have a bagful of Pentax lenses or you want the savings in your pocket, the K100D gives you bang for the buck.