DSLR, lens, and flash for little cash
Everybody loves a bargain. And that's what Pentax promises with its new entry-level DSLR, the 10.2-megapixel K2000. For $577 (street), you get not just the camera body and 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom, but a small accessory flash that gives you about double the flash output of the camera's pop-up.
Add to that the fact that the K2000, like all Pentax DSLRs, accepts any lens the company ever made (though you may need adapters for some), and its built-in image-stabilization system will work with all of them. The K2000 becomes an even greater bargain.
The question is: How does this little starter model perform? Our tests in the Pop Photo Lab and in the field left us quite pleased-except in very low light. (Maybe that's the reason the standard kit includes that extra flash.)
Overall, image quality rated Very High from ISO 100 through ISO 800, dropping to High at ISO 1600.
For a 10.2MP camera, the K2000 showed impressive resolution in our test, capturing 2170 lines for a score of Very High under our new rating system (see Editorial, page 10). This means it nudged into the lead of a very tight field of entry-level DSLRs, just ahead of the Canon EOS Rebel XS, Nikon D60, and Sony Alpha 200, and a bit farther ahead of the Olympus E-420. But in practical terms, there's hardly a difference.
The Pentax fell ever-so-slightly behind, though, in color accuracy. In our test, it logged an average Delta E of 8.3, for an Extremely High rating. (The same four competitors each scored between 7.6 and 7.8, rated Excellent.) Few people will be able to see much difference in their own images, we think.
Noise is another matter. While the K2000 did very well up through ISO 800, at ISO 1600 noise hit a Moderately Low-mid-pack and not a terrible distraction to the eye. At ISO 3200, noise became Unacceptable in our tests, even with noise reduction at its maximum in Pentax's RAW conversion software. The Nikon D60 and Sony A200 fare better than this. (Not all of this Pentax's competitors actually reach ISO 3200-the Canon and Olympus both top out at ISO 1600.)
AUTOFOCUS AND METERING
The K2000 uses a 5-point autofocusing system that lets you choose either single or continuous AF, as well as Auto AF, which lets the camera choose for you depending on its analysis of the scene.
Although there's a menu item labeled "Select AF point," you can't choose a point outside of the center one. Instead, you can widen or narrow the area the camera uses to find focus.
In bright light, the AF system responded swiftly and accurately in our tests. As we turned the lights down, though, it began to lag. At EV 2 (about the same amount of light as a moderately lit living room), it took 1.32 sec to focus and capture an image, longer than its competitors. The AF system was still able to focus at EV -1 (a little brighter than the light of a full moon)-the Olympus E-420 could not-but it took 2.38 sec to do so, compared with 1.4 sec for the Canon Rebel XS and Sony Alpha 200 and just 1.1 sec for the Nikon D60.
A 16-segment, through-the-lens (TTL) metering system determines exposure. You can choose from Multi-Segment (i.e., evaluative), centerweighted, or spotmetering. But since you can't really select AF points, you can't link the meter to a specific off-center point as you can on some DSLRs, such as the Canon EOS Rebel XS and Nikon D60.