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A handy Fn button on the camera back activates an LCD monitor screen on which you can set white balance (auto, several presets, or custom for the lighting at hand), ISO equivalent (100–3200, with the higher settings exhibiting more noise and best reserved for “when really needed” use), Drive mode and Flash mode. You can also choose the color space (standard sRGB or wider-gamut Adobe RGB), via the Custom menu, and adjust the sharpness, saturation and contrast (via the Record menu).

The 2.0” LCD monitor is very easy to read and can display images singly (with or without data and histogram) or 9 at a time, magnified (zoomed), or as a slide show.

The camera incorporates four digital filters, which convert an image to black and white or sepia, soften it, or change the vertical/horizontal ratio.

Color rendition in Auto White Balance mode is accurate and lovely in sunlight. You might want to experiment with the other settings in predawn shooting. (This shot was made in mid-morning sun.)

In Use
This little camera is well built, with a high-rigidity stainless-steel chassis and metal lens mount. When we reviewed the original Pentax *ist DS, my main complaint was its tiny size. I found it difficult to hold steady with a long lens attached, and some controls were hard to operate. This Pentax *ist DS is hard to hold steady with a long lens, but despite its even smaller size, the controls are sufficiently large and well located and it is easier to operate than the original. And the larger LCD monitor (with larger type on the menus) is a blessing.

One of the reasons the controls are larger and easier to operate is there are fewer of them. The Pentax *ist DS requires you to use the LCD monitor menus to set such things as Metering mode and autofocus point, while some competitors let you do it more simply and quickly via external controls. In any event, you quickly get used to doing what you need to do to set the camera as desired.

Autofocusing performance is excellent except for subjects moving rapidly toward the camera. A relatively long lag time between button-pressing and image-recording means it takes some practice to nail precise moments in action work. Continuous autofocus is available only in Moving Object (action) mode; there’s no single-shot/continuous autofocus control.

Exposure accuracy and image quality were good with the *ist D, and the *ist DS uses the same metering system and image sensor, so I expected similar results with the newer camera. But the DS actually seems to handle high-contrast scenes a bit better than the original D model, which handled them quite well. If you nail the exposure, you’ll get a surprising amount of detail from shadows through highlights with a surprising range of subjects/scenes.

Key Features
• Small & lightweight, with rugged stainless steel chassis.
• Noise reduction system for optimum results with long exposures.
• 1/4000 high-speed shutter with 1/180 flash sync.
• High-precision 2” color LCD monitor.
• Versatile white balance control.
• 18 custom functions.

Specifications
CAMERA: Pentax *ist DS
LENS MOUNT: Pentax Kaf bayonet
RECORDING MEDIA: SD cards
FOCUSING: Phase-detection single-shot AF, continuous AF (Moving Object mode only), 11 AF points selectable by user or auto by camera; AF down to EV –1 (ISO 100); manual focusing via ring on lens
METERING: 16-segment, center-weighted average, and spot
EXPOSURE MODES: Shiftable Program AE, Shutter- and Aperture-Priority AE, Metered Manual, Auto Picture Mode, 7 subject programs
SHUTTER SPEEDS: 30 sec to 1/4000 plus Bulb for longer exposures
DRIVE MODES: Single-shot, or continuous 2.8 fps (for up to 8 images)
VIEWFINDER: Fixed eye-level penta prism type shows 95 percent of actual image area; 0.95x magnification; built-in adjustable eyepiece correction from –2.5 to + 1.5 diopter
LCD MONITOR: 2.0” color TFT, approx. 210,000 pixels
FLASH: P-TTL autoflash with built-in pop-up unit (ISO GN 15.6 150 200/m) and dedicated shoe-mount Pentax AF360FGZ (other Pentax flash units can be used); flash exposure comp provided
POWER SOURCE: Two CR-V3 lithium batteries (provided); 4 AA batteries; AC via optional adapter
DIMENSIONS: 4.9x3.6x2.6”
WEIGHT: 17.8 oz
STREET PRICE: $799.95; $899.95 with EF-S 18–55mm zoom lens
DISTRIBUTOR: Pentax Imaging Company; www.pentaximaging.com

Bottom line: This is a terrific move-up camera for consumer digicam users, especially those who have a collection of SD memory cards.

More Online
For more information on the Pentax *ist DS, visit our website at: www.photographic.com.

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