Looking through the *ist's viewfinder (which has a slightly smaller magnification than other mirror-prism SLRs), you can easily see the entire picture area and LCD information panel, even if you wear eyeglasses. On the screen are 11 black sensor indicators plus a circle representing the spotmetering area. Using the rear four-way controller, you can let the camera select the AF point, select the focus point yourself, or switch to the central sensor. When the point locks onto a subject, it flashes red-not the wimpy short flash you see on other camera AF screens, but a bright light that often illuminates the surrounding area as well. We also found the audible focus-OK signal very useful when we were not paying attention to the red flashes. An LCD diagram shows the AF sensors in use.
Camera: Pentax *ist 35mm AF SLR. Approx. street price: $300, body only; $360 with 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 SMC Pentax FA J lens.
Focusing and viewing: Nine cross sensors sensitive to both horizontal- and vertical-line subjects with single-line sensors at right and left. Full AF area, spot AF, or single AF sensors selected automatically or manually; single-shot mode with focus priority; continuous AF with release priority; AF sensitivity EV -1 to EV 18 at ISO 100 with 50mm f/1.4 lens; AF aidlight in flash head; manual focusing
option. Noninterchangeable mirror prism finder with fixed screen showing spotmetering circle; all AF sensor areas shown in black except operational one lit by red LED; depth-of-field preview; built-in -2 to +1 diopter correction.
Shutter and exposure controls: Shutter and exposure controls: Electronically controlled, vertical-travel, multiblade focal-plane shutter with speeds from 30-1/4000 sec plus B, nonshiftable program, aperture-priority, shutter-priority auto modes with auto picture; program and five subject modes lit on mode dial; metered manual exposure mode; correct
exposure shiftable to focusing point; AE lock; exposure compensation ±3 EV in 1¼2-EV steps; three exposure bracketing ±3 EV in 1¼2- or 1-EV increments; unlimited multiple exposures; 12- or two-sec self-timer, the latter with mirror lockup; audible ST and AF signal; built-in time and date printing; 17 custom functions.
Metering: 16-segment evaluative metering, centerweighted or spot from EV 0 to EV 21 at ISO 100 with a 50mm f/1.4 lens; provision for remote infrared and electronic cable shutter release; lighted rear LCD screen.
Loading and winding: Autoloading, winding, and rewinding with auto DX film-speed settings; manual ISO 6-6400; single-frame or continuous advance to 2.5 fps.
Flash: Pop-up flash covers angle of 28mm lens, retracts automatically when power is turned off; X-sync at 1/125 sec; ISO range 25-500; fill flash; slow shutter-speed sync; redeye reduction; high-speed and wireless sync possible with proper Pentax accessory flash units.
Other features: Two CR2 lithium batteries.
AF was adequately fast, as was performance in low light. As with many compact AF SLRs, the *ist's pop-up flash does two extra duties, preflashing to minimize redeye and acting as an autofocus aidlight. We found the subjects being photographed were often annoyed when they mistook these preflashes for the actual flash.