DSLR, lens, and flash for little cash
Imaging: 10.2MP effective, APS-C-sized CCD sensor captures images at 3872x2592 pixels with 12 bits/color in RAW mode.
Storage: SD and SDHC. Stores JPEG, PEF RAW, RAW DNG, RAW + JPEG.
Burst rate: Full-sized JPEGs (Fine mode): Up to 5 shots at 3.5 fps.
RAW: Up to 4 shots at 3.5 fps (12 bit). AF system: TTL phase detection with 5 non-illuminated focus points. Single-shot and continuous AF. Tested sensitivity down to EV -1 (at ISO 100, f/1.4).
Shutter speeds: 1/4000 to 30 sec plus B (1/3-, 1/2-, or 1-EV increments).
Metering: TTL evaluative 16-segment metering, centerweighted, and spotmetering (approx. 5%). EV 0-21 (at ISO 100). Exposure bracketing, 3 frames in 1/3- or 1/2-EV steps.
ISO range: ISO 100-3200 (in 1/3-, 1/2-, or 1-EV steps).
Flash: Built-in retractable P-TTL pop-up flash. GN 33 (at ISO 100, feet). Covers angle of view of 28mm lens. Flash sync to 1/180 sec. Supports wireless control of dedicated Pentax flashes. Hot-shoe with X-sync socket supports dedicated Pentax flashes.
Viewfinder: Fixed eye-level pentamirror. LCD: 2.7-in. TFT with 230,00-dot resolution.
Output: Hi-Speed USB 2.0, composite video.
Battery: 4xAA, CIPA rating, 1,650 shots with disposable lithium cells.
Size/weight: 4.8x3.6x2.7 in., 1.3 lb with card and battery.
Street price: $577 with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 Pentax DA-L lens and AF-200FG flash.
Accuracy: 96% (Excellent)
Magnification: 0.85X (Excellent)
Canon EOS Rebel XS
$490, street, with 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 EF-S lens
With less noise at both ISO 1600 and ISO 800, and comparable resolution, the Pentax K2000 stands up well against one of Canon's least-expensive EOS DSLRs. Both sport 10MP sensors, record to SD cards, and are physically small for DSLRs. While the Canon is slightly smaller, the Pentax has a 2.7-inch LCD, versus the Rebel XS's 2.5-inch screen. The Canon has speedier autofocus in low light. And while the Canon kit costs less, the Pentax comes with an accessory flash: Even Canon's lowest-price flash, the Speedlite 220EX ($125, street), would boost its total price above the Pentax kit. Add to all of this the fact that the K2000 has built-in image stabilization, and this Pentax sure looks like a winner.
Sony Alpha 200
$500, street, with 18-70mm f/3.5-5.6 AF DT lens
Sony's entry-level DSLR gives the Pentax a tough challenge. Again both have 10MP sensors, as well as 2.7-inch LCDs, plus comparable resolution results from our lab. The Sony manages to win both the AF speed and noise contests, though. Even at ISO 3200, the Sony manages to keep its noise rating to Low when the noise reduction in Sony's RAW conversion software is set to the maximum (as was the Pentax's in our test). However, the Sony's noise reduction left the A200 with a resolution of 1725 lines, compared with the Pentax's 1880 lines at ISO 3200-a notable difference. As with the Canon, when you add Sony's least-expensive flash, the HVL-F32X ($135, street), it makes the A200 a more expensive kit than this Pentax. But the Sony's kit lens goes to 70mm instead of 55mm at the tele end. Considering everything, the Sony/Pentax match-up might be a draw.