DSLR, lens, and flash for little cash
BUILT FOR BEGINNERS
Befitting a DSLR aimed at people stepping up from compact cameras or EVFs, the K2000 keeps most of its controls to the right-hand side of the body. That means you can operate it one-handed, as long as you're not changing between manual and autofocus (that switch is to the left of the lensmount), or popping up the flash. And the camera is small and light enough to use this way.
The camera also comes in shocking white (with black grip), in a kit with two matching white-barreled lenses, an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.4 DA-L and 50-200mm f/4-5.6 DA-L. Price: $680, direct from Pentax (www.pentaxwebstore.com).
Another nod to DSLR newcomers is the Help button. Just behind the shutter button, bearing the symbol of a question mark, it serves up explanations of various camera functions: Press it once, and text on the LCD describes the virtues of the shooting mode you're currently in. Press it twice, and it'll prompt you to press another button on the camera for an explanation.
Don't need that kind of assistance? In the menu, you can reset the Help button to control RAW capture, digital filters, or custom image modes, or to provide a digital preview. This last function captures the current scene, but doesn't write it to the SD card. It can be useful in previewing your depth of field, especially since there's no optical DOF preview. But we would rather have seen a live-view mode instead-something most new DSLRs have.
Power comes from four AA batteries. Though we tend to favor proprietary Li-ion rechargeables, AAs have some merits. If you're out shooting and your batteries run out unexpectedly, it's easy to buy new ones (look for rechargeable ones). Pentax says that the K2000 can capture about 1,650 images using lithium AAs (we didn't test this claim), and a set of four Energizer lithiums are even included in the box-so if you give this camera as a gift, it's ready to use as soon as the wrapping comes off.
Frugal folk will appreciate the built-in image stabilization, since you won't have to buy special lenses to combat the blur caused by hand-shake at slow shutter speeds or with very long lenses. You lose the benefit of seeing the shake compensation while it's happening, which some people find helpful in steadying their hands. But you still get IS even if you shoot with one of Grandpop's screwmount lenses from the 1960s.
Indeed, that's the beauty of Pentax's system. The K2000 accepts all Pentax lenses. You'll need adapters for some (such as the screwmounts), but most other DSLR systems, especially at the entry level, limit the types of lenses you can use
We popped a 50mm f/1.4 K-mount manual-focus Pentax lens on the K2000, using the aperture ring to control the f-stop (once we enabled this feature in the camera's custom functions), and shot in aperture-priority mode with no problem. Older lenses may come with restrictions in terms of metering and may not allow autofocus-certainly not if the lens is manual-only, like the one we tried.
If you're looking for a first DSLR, the K2000 shouldn't disappoint. It handles well and can produce beautiful images in moderate and bright light. (Low-light shooters may want to think twice before buying, however.)
Add to that Pentax's wide array of relatively inexpensive current lenses, plus the availability of low-cost legacy lenses, and the fact that this kit comes with the AF-200FG flash, and you've got yourself one sweet deal.