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Pentax *ist D

Build Quality 
User Interface 
Image Quality 
Reviews Views Date of last review
13 47,040 Tue October 17, 2017
Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
100% of reviewers $384.90 8.80
Pentax *ist D

Pentax *ist D
Pentax *ist D
Pentax *ist D
Pentax *ist D
Pentax *ist D


The 6 MP Pentax * ist D was the first DSLR from Pentax. It had for its time a very comprehensive set of features and most are accessible from buttons and dials so that "menu diving" largely can be avoided. It is very compact but still sturdy. In addition to P-TTL flash automation the *ist D also has TTL flash automation which is a big plus for flash photography with older lenses.

Camera Manuals:

Pentax *ist D
©, sharable with attribution
Year Introduced
In Production
No (Discontinued 2006)
Current US Price
In-Depth Review
Sensor Format
Sensor Type
2008 x 3008 pixels
AA Filter
Super Resolution
Bit Depth
Minimum ISO
Maximum ISO
ISO Range
200 - 1600 (200 - 3200)
Exposure Modes
Green, HyP, Av, Tv, HyM, B
Program Modes
Normal, Action, Depth of Field, MTF
Maximum FPS
Continuous Shooting
2.6 fps up to 5 frames
Shutter Speeds (Auto)
30s - 1/4000s (stepless)
Shutter Speeds (Manual)
B, 30s - 1/4000s
Shutter Life
Exposure compensation
+/-3 EV
Auto bracketing
3 or 5 frames
Expanded dynamic range
Exposure lock
Self timer
2 s with mirror lock-up, 12 s
Metering Sensor
Meter range
1 to 21.5 EV
Meter pattern
Multi-Segment,Center Weighted,Spot
Mirror lock-up
Interval shooting
HDR mode
Multiple exposures
Yes, additive, 2 to 9 shots
Pixel mapping
Scene Modes
Exposure modes with M and K lenses are restricted to Av (with aperture always wide open) and M (with stop-down metering)
Lens Mount
KAF (no aperture coupler)
Composition Adjustment
Power zoom
Not supported
Supported Lenses
All Pentax K-mount lenses except for lenses with the KAF4 mount variant and RE (retractable) lenses. Manual focus only with K-, M-, and A-series lenses and with KAF3 mount lenses. Stop down metering only with K- and M-series lenses. M42, Pentax 645 and Pentax 6x7 lenses with the appropriate adapters (stop down metering and manual focus only).
Lens correction
Autofocus (viewfinder)
Yes (SAFOX VIII, 11 focus points (9 cross type))
AF Points
Autofocus sensitivity
0 EV
Front/back focus correction
Autofocus with SDM
Autofocus assist
Stroboscopic Flash
0.95x, 95%
Viewfinder type
Diopter adjustment
-2.5 to +1.5
AF Points in viewfinder
Exchangeable screen
Depth of field preview
Digital preview
Live View
Focus Peaking
Back LCD
1.8 in. 118,000 pix
Weather resistant
Control wheels
Battery grip
D-BG1 with 4x AA
Card slots
Dust removal
Dust alert
Memory card type
CF Type I/II
Size (W x H x D)
129 x 94.5 x 60 mm
550 g
File format
Battery life
AA lithium: 900 images (800 images with 50% flash usage)
4 x AA
Built-in flash
Yes, GN 15.6 (ISO 200/m)
Sync speed
P-TTL flash
Flash functions
Auto discharge, On (leading curtain sync), Redeye reduction, Slow-speed sync, Trailing curtain sync*, High-speed sync*, Manual*, Wireless*, Contrast control* * Available when combined with external flash
TTL flash
Flash exposure comp
Resolution / Framerates
Exposure Modes
Movie mode restrictions
AF During Recording
Sound in Movie mode
Not Supported
Wired (native)
USB 1.10/Video out, DC in, X-sync, cable release
Latest Firmware
Version 1.12
User reviews
The *ist D and DS/DS2 are the only Pentax DSLRs with support for TTL flash. TTL flash works where P-TTL doesnt: With M and K lenses, bellows, manual extension tubes.
Price History:

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Veteran Member

Registered: March, 2012
Location: Joensuu (Finland)
Posts: 1,761

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: October 17, 2017 I can recommend the Pentax *ist D: Yes | Price: $40.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Robust construction, AA batteries
Cons: doesn't apply!
Years Owned: 1    Ergonomics: 6    Build Quality: 10    User Interface: 5    Autofocus: 8    Features: 6    Value: 10    Image Quality: 10    Noise: 5    New or Used: Used   

I bougth my copy in 2013. It looked like it had taken a beating, and it had! I bought it to use in very harsh environments such as dry, sandy deserts, beaches and wetlands. It did it's job and never skipped a beat. AA batteries made it much easier to manage power supply.
Swapping CF cards and AA batteries so often was tiring but not different from changing a film roll in the film camera I was using along side.
Given how old the camera I could not complain about the slow writing speed or low resolution screen.
Site Supporter

Registered: May, 2008
Location: USA
Posts: 609
Review Date: January 22, 2014 I can recommend the Pentax *ist D: Yes | Price: $170.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Wireless Flash, Dual Wheels, Small, IQ
Cons: Very slow writes, small buffer, small LCD, menu
Years Owned: 6    Ergonomics: 8    Build Quality: 10    User Interface: 8    Autofocus: 7    Features: 9    Value: 10    Image Quality: 10    Noise: 7    New or Used: Used   

I purchased my first *istD used to begin taking real estate photos. I have since shot over 50,000 photos with the same camera. It has never ever missed a beat. It is absolutely top rated for reliability in my situation. I leave this camera in a Pelican case in a truck with a sunroof in the super hot Mississippi summer heat and it doesn't seem to mind.

I recently had to upgrade, the slow write speeds were just slowing me down too much and the k-30 was calling my name.

I still use my old *ist D and I don't feel very handicapped with it either, at least not where image quality is concerned.
Junior Member

Registered: July, 2011
Location: Bellevue, WA
Posts: 34

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: October 14, 2013 I can recommend the Pentax *ist D: Yes | Price: $1,250.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Small & light
Cons: Slow writes, grip is not good
Years Owned: 9    Ergonomics: 8    Build Quality: 10    User Interface: 8    Autofocus: 8    Features: 9    Value: 8    Image Quality: 10    Noise: 9    New or Used: New   

I bought my *ist D in March of 2004, just after the price dropped by $300 from it's initial $1,600 price (about $1,550 street). I used it as my main camera for just under 8 years, until upgrading a couple years ago to a used K-7.

I had been using Pentax film SLRs; a Super Program for some time, and then more recently a ZX-L (MX-6), but was prepared to switch brands moving to digital if indicated.

The contemporary alternatives I considered at the time were the Nikon D100, Olympus E-1, and the first Canon digital Rebel. I hated the huge size and weight of the Nikon and Olympus. I liked the Canon's low price; at the time it was by far the cheapest DSLR at just under $1,000. And it wasn't as big and heavy as the Nikon and the Olympus. But I just didn't like it, and wasn't excited about the lenses.

I liked the Pentax, and liked the lenses (I had several, many of them old manual focus lenses), but boy was it pricey! I might have ended up with the Canon but then Pentax dropped the price by $300, and Adorama offered it in a kit with Pentax's first DA lens, the 16-45, which had already gotten very good reviews, for another $165 discount. That tipped the balance decisively, and I bought that Adorama kit.

That *ist D was my main camera for almost 8 years. Here's what I liked and disliked about it:

- Small size and weight. There has still never been a DSLR with better specifications that is smaller and lighter, by a long shot. For years I waited for a real D replacement, but it never appeared. Now Pentax doesn't even offer an entry-level model that small. If you want something this small today, you have to go to an entry-level Nikon or Canon. Have fun with that.
- Pentax lenses. Yes others have greater quantity, but narrowing it down to the lenses I might actually buy, Pentax's selection, both old and new, was more interesting.
- Compatible with TTL flash. It was the only Pentax DSLR compatible with TTL flash, and I used an old AF500FTZ for years. On all other models, the 500 is manual-only (no Auto Thyristor mode).
- Ability to set three completely separate sets of settings. Weird that the K-7 doesn't offer that. It was the one part of going to the K-7 that was an uncomfortable downgrade.
- Everything else was good enough. Though N/C are better at some things, there was no deal-breaker for my needs with the *ist D. It was a small, light camera that did everything I wanted and took the lenses I liked.

- Slow write times! Even with the fastest cards (Lexar with "Write Assist" technology), RAW write times were about 6 - 6.5 seconds. And the buffer was only 5 RAW files. So very often I'd fill the buffer and have to wait 6 seconds for each shot thereafter. This was by far my biggest dislike, bigger than all the others combined. My understanding is that it was the last DSLR to do writes in software; just months later the D70 appeared with much faster writes, doing it in hardware. Then the DS, and all other Pentax DSLRs, have had much faster writes.
- That grip. It was not great to hold. The battery grip made it better but at the cost of increased size. All other Pentax DSLRs have been much better to hold.
- Batteries. For best results you want to use CR-V3 batteries (NIMH rechargeables make the AF slower with lower voltage; Alkaline rechargeables could fry it with higher voltage). But they are expensive. Finally I found that I could find large lots of them in unusual brands on eBay, pretty cheaply. That was an improvement but still annoying. Yes it's nice that if you run out of battery you can find alkaline AAs just about anywhere. But in real life the only time I ever needed that was at a beach, far away from any place where I could get AAs.
- Can't control ISO with wheel. I mostly use aperture priority, so one of the two wheels usually goes unused. When the K-10D came out with the ability to control ISO on one of the wheels in aperture-priority mode, I wished they'd do a firmware update that allowed that on the *ist D. But no such luck.
- Control wheel. Hard to hit it right, and to hit it hard enough for it to respond. Not a good design. But I don't like the K-7 solution much better.
- Small, low resolution LCD. Much better on the K-7.
- Can't write both RAW and Jpeg. I don't have a lot of time for PP, but my wife uses my shots for scrapbooking. Converting all those shots to Jpeg was often an issue. When the K-10D came out with the ability to write both, I wished they'd do a firmware update that allowed that on the *ist D. But no such luck.

- ISO. When I first got it of course it was an improvement over film. But I do a lot of low light shooting, and as cameras got better and better at that I saw more and more shots that would have been improved with it.
- Focus speed. Yes it's slower than its competition, but I just kept it on center-point only and did a lot of pre-focus. It wasn't a big limiter for me even with fast-moving subjects. On the other hand, the K-7's faster AF is certainly welcome.
- Of course there's no weather sealing and no stabilization. When I was using it I didn't miss them because I'd never had them. But now after using the K-7 for a couple years (and now with a weather sealed lens, the 18-135), it would be hard to go back.
- CF cards. I like that they're harder to lose. But SD is nice in that they're so small I can carry more of them in my neckstrap pocket. But it's not very important to me either way.
- Hard to remove CF cards. Yes they're tight but I got used to it. Not really a big deal, but always a little annoying.
- Loud little shriek/squeal with every shot. The K-7 is so much quieter.
- Not compatible with lenses that can only autofocus with their in-lens AF motor. Can only AF with lenses designed to be screw-driven by the body. This is expected since the body predates that technology. But now that I've upgraded, it's nice that all those newer lenses are available, and the quiet DC motor on my 18-135 is very nice. No AF with that 18-135 on the *ist D.

Here are my thoughts about ISO noise with the *ist D. First, unlike current models, only full ISO stops were available, and starting at 200:
-- 200: Beautiful. Responds beautifully to unsharp mask.
-- 400: Looks as good as 200 but can't sharpen quite as much without introducing noise.
-- 800: Looks very good before sharpening, but almost no sharpening is possible before it gets noisy.
-- 1600: Significantly noisy; very much worse than 800. But still acceptable for those not so spoiled on today's cameras as to think any amount of noise is unacceptable. Also the noise is fairly even and similar to film noise, and looks somewhat better than good ISO 1600 color film. But don't bother trying to sharpen.
-- 3200: Very noisy. And it's ugly, blotchy noise. Use only in a pinch, and only for small-size viewing.
-- Beyond 3200, you can simulate higher ISOs by underexposing and then pushing the RAW by the amount of the underexposure. Works in a pinch if you do a lot of noise reduction, but expect very soft results, with flat color, and view only at small sizes.

Another thing to keep in mind about noise is that the more you enlarge, the more noisy the noise looks. And since this model's 6MP is a lot less than today's models, you're effectively enlarging more to view or print at the same size.

Two years after upgrading to the K-7, I still miss the small size of the *ist D. But not enough that I've ever gone back.

I suppose the closest Pentax ever came to a tiny D upgrade was the K-r. But the K-r gives up some nice things compared to the D. No front wheel, and more menu diving. For most D users including myself the actual D upgrade was the K-7 and later. But the K-7, though small and light for what it offers, is substantially larger and heavier than the D.

For the ratings, I've rated according to when I bought it, compared to alternatives at its general price level at the time like the Nikon D100, before the D70 was released. The price is what I paid in early 2004, but the chart puts it at today, so I've caused a strange price hike on the chart.
Veteran Member

Registered: August, 2009
Posts: 1,235
Review Date: August 31, 2011 I can recommend the Pentax *ist D: Yes | Price: $200.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Small, ergonomics, FPS/Raw buffer is decent.
Cons: Slow to write photos to the card (10 sec avg for RAW).
Years Owned: Less than a year.    Ergonomics: 10    Build Quality: 9    User Interface: 8    Autofocus: 7    Features: 9    Value: 10    Image Quality: 9    Noise: 7   

I recently bought this camera used at a backup body along with the interest in some features the *istD has that the newer bodies don't have (based on class or things Pentax dropped like true TTL).

Issues (now and/or then):
- The camera is slow to write to the card. This could also partly be with how long it takes for the camera to process the data, but speed does improve when using the small JPEG setting over medium and large (around 3 seconds for small, 5 for medium and large). PEF RAW take around 10 seconds and TIFF take a lot longer. Given that JPEG output isnít ideal, RAW should be used if possible.
- The camera uses compact flash cards instead of SD like every other Pentax SLR available. There are adapters available, but they might slow down image writing even more.
- The grip could stand to be thicker to accommodate people with long fingers. An add-on battery grip exists for the camera that should help.
- The camera needs a CR2016 lithium battery. Iím not sure how other DSLRs handle this, but this camera has a port on the bottom for easy access. That could actually be a plus instead of a minus if other cameras have a battery inside. The main reason for this battery is to avoid having the main AA batteries installed, but still keep the time and date accurate.
- Iím use to using DNG RAW files instead of PEF ones. One benefit of DNG is that a ďsidecarĒ photoshop .xmp file isnít necessary for each raw file as Adobe Camera Raw can save RAW tweaks inside the DNG RAW file itself, but it canít with PEF. The other benefit to DNG is that it is widely supported and should be the most future proof.
- The 4-way button is like a joystick instead of separate buttons, so it can be a bit difficult to use in practice.
- Having ISO, image quality, and white balance settings on the main function dial is a bit unusual. It works alright, but as you can see in my informational video that I didnít realize I was on ISO mode for a while when I tried taking a test picture.
- The main LCD is small and looks like it uses a composite connection from the way the screen colors look and the flickering nature. The viewing angles are not that great either.
- No weather resistance claims like the K10D and onward had.
- SDM lenses wonít auto-focus because the camera doesnít support that feature.
- No in-camera shake reduction.

Positives (now and/or then):
- Small yet featured body. Build construction and quality are high. The camera feels very solid in hand.
- It has a dedicated button for switching between single-shot, timer, multi-shot, and remote settings. I wish current cameras had that.
- It has a dedicated flash setting button for quick access. It also has a flash sync-port (PC port).
- The AC power port is a standard round style plug jack with markings stating the voltage (6.5v) and positive (interior pin) negative (exterior) orientation.
- Uses simple AA batteries. NiMH rechargeable work nicely with the camera.
- Three custom function saves. Allows you to have three different configurations of the custom settings menu options.
- The auto-focus point selection wheel is very easy to use. Easier than the one on the K-7 and K-5.
- It has a decent second LCD for settings with a light for night-time shooting. The panel is integral to operation because settings like ISO, output format, white balance, timer/remote/multi-shot/single-shot, and flash settings are controlled by a wheel or button plus the screen to show what setting is being used.
- It had many of the features current cameras have that improve usability. Info button quickly shows current camera settings. The green button with hyper-program. P/Tv/Av/M/Bulb modes. Metering switch, AF button, and othersÖ
- Results at low ISO are very good with a nice lens. 6 mega-pixels can be enough for many situations, especially if you primarily post content to the Internet.
- The penta-prism viewfinder is still better than most entry-level cameras.
- Bracketing control is easy to access and use (hold the bracketing/DPOF button down and use the front wheel to cycle through settings).
- Most likely a cheap price.

A lot more information, pictures, and two videos I made on my site for the camera:
Forum Member

Registered: April, 2009
Location: Treviso (Italy)
Posts: 87
Review Date: August 2, 2011 I can recommend the Pentax *ist D: Yes | Price: $280.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: dimension and function
Cons: bad high iso response, min iso 200
Years Owned: 2009   

It was the first dslr but it's still one of the most professional dslr.
Unfortunately has a bad response when you rise up iso and can't go to 100iso too.
Senior Member

Registered: February, 2011
Location: Seattle, WA
Posts: 123
Review Date: May 7, 2011 I can recommend the Pentax *ist D: Yes | Price: $150.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Tiny, many external controls, dual wheels, top LCD, did I mention it's tiny?
Cons: No SR, slow write speed to memory card, uses CF not SD cards.

I received the *ist-D when I bought a large Pentax kit off of Craigslist. I had never seriously considered the *ist line of cameras when I first got into DSLR's. I started with the K100d and ignored the *ist's, I just wrote them off as obsolete in my mind.

As soon as I put the camera to my eye I was surprised. The more I used it the more enamored I became with it. It really is a tiny wonder. The size is it's best asset. Equipped with a small prime lens you can fit it into a jacket pocket. it's the perfect camera to bring to a party, with say an FA-50 or DA-40, or DA-21 it would be ideal.

The viewfinder is big and bright. All of the basic features you need are on the outside of the camera right where you'd expect to find them. The controls are extremely well thought out and simple. There aren't a lot of extra features on this camera and to me that's a benefit. All of the essentials are there. There are 3 preset modes you can choose from for customizations.

The only negatives with the camera are not it's fault and are a direct result of the era in which it was built.

The LCD is tiny and almost unusable, but that's typical for 2003. You can verify the picture was taken, that's about it. The write speed to the CF card is slow, slow slow and the buffer is tiny. If you take a lot of shots you'll be waiting a while for the pictures to write to memory. Again, that was the state of technology back then. It has no SR, but Pentax hadn't come up with the feature yet.

The autofocus is a bit slow, and the shutter sound is louder than I'd like. It does have a cool film-like shutter sound that is rather distinctive.

Overall, if you are considering a *ist-D I unhesitatingly recommend it. There is nothing to lose considering the price these are going for used these days.
Inactive Account

Registered: August, 2010
Location: texas
Posts: 1
Review Date: December 5, 2010 I can recommend the Pentax *ist D: Yes | Price: $400.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Small, light, easy to use
Cons: none

Pros Small, light, easy to use
Cons none
Rating 10
Price (U.S. Dollars) $400 (new)
Years Owned 5

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
- Pentaprism, two command wheels, top plate LCD

- Compatible to Pentax K mount lenses

- Uses AA batteries

Camera Review
I am not listing the specifications here, you can find them everywhere on the net. Instead I just tell you how my *istD is used:

AA batteries are everywhere, don't worry that you didn't charge the battery. However it's better to have some Hybrid rechargable batteries available. Remember to insert a CF card or you will shoot all blanks. That's it and you are ready to go

The WB and ISO setting are a little annoying because they interfere with my exposure mode setting. The solution is that I just shoot RAW, set Auto WB and ISO 200

Mostly I use the top LCD, set shutter speed and aperture (always in manual mode) and shoot just like shooting film with my Pentax KX except there is no need to advance film

Lenses are mainly the Pentax SMC primes like 28mm, 50mm, 100mm. Sometimes I try a Albinar (made by Chinon) lens and my favorite Asanuma 35-105mm F3.5

LCD in the back and menus are rarely used, for flash I have some 200S from the old time or the popular Vivitar 283
Site Supporter

Registered: June, 2008
Location: Florida Hill Country
Posts: 17,297
Review Date: November 10, 2010 I can recommend the Pentax *ist D: Yes | Price: $159.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: small for dSLR
Cons: use compact flash cards; slow buffer

Pros small for dSLR
Cons use compact flash cards
Rating 8.5
Price (U.S. Dollars) $159
Years Owned n/a
I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
The only dSLR smaller than it is the Oly 410/420 bodies and not by much.

Camera Review
The primary reason I acquired this body was to use if with my screw mount lenses and manual focus lenses. This body has the dual wheel feature and more manual switches than most newer bodies. Plus, it has the ttl flash capability which will work with m42, k and M series lenses. The sensor in this camera was excellent in its day and still isn't a slouch. The buffer is slow but is mostly irrelevant when mf.

Edit: The reason I don't like compact flash cards is the ease of bending pins in cheap readers. the *istD had problems with the cable jack going out which makes direct down load problematic for many bodies out there.

Registered: January, 2007
Location: Toronto
Posts: 15,893

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: May 7, 2010 I can recommend the Pentax *ist D: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: N/A 

Pros: TTL flash, Excellent metering with K mount lenses, ISO 3200 performance
Cons: 8

Cons Technology has moved on
Pros TTL flash, Excellent metering with K mount lenses, ISO 3200 performance
Rating 8
Price $2100 Cdn
Years Owned 6 1/2

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
This camera was expensive at the time, and follow on models were lower initial purchase price, however for someone looking for a second body on the used market today, these are great cameras for the value.

They provide all the necessary features, and the TTL flash cability and accurate metering with Manual aperture lenses make this a must have body for anyone shooting legacy glass.

Camera Review
This really should be labelled the little camera that could, because the *istD can do it all.

I bought this camera within 1 month of the release, as the cost of this camera with the FA-J 18-35 kit lens actually exceeded the combined cost of my later camera purchases, the K10D and K7.

It was expensive at the time, but coming from film, I neither found it slow, or the viewing screen too small, because it was infinitely faster than film.

I have used, and still use this camera specifically with older lenses and flash, and in low light situations, because I feel it offers images with a quality that newer cameras can't offer.

The camera does lack hot pixel compensation however, and has more than a few which have developed over time, and compared to newer models, yes it does now seem slow, and have a small screen, but that should not detract from it being used properly.

While not weather sealed, and susceptible to getting wet, my copy at least survuved being swamped in a kayak, and after drying out in the sun for 4 hours with all covers open, has worked now for 6 years without fail, never being sent to pentax for service.

The only reason I would not rate this camera higher is that technology has moved considerably since it came out.

It is a great little camera, an excellent performer, but there are faster, higher resolution, and overall better performers out ther today.
Site Supporter

Registered: October, 2008
Location: Bedfordshire, UK
Posts: 175
Review Date: July 13, 2009 I can recommend the Pentax *ist D: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: N/A 


I've been using my *istD for a couple of years now. During these years I followed the trends in digital photography and how Pentax tries to follow it as well. I have handled some of their newer DSLR cameras, but none of them convinced me to upgrade. In fact most of them (including K10D and K20D) are a disappointment to me.

It seems that Pentax is slowly leaving behind their long lasting philosophy of producing simple, capable cameras, instead of ultra-electronised, over-featured ones. The *istD, as their first DSLR, still has the feeling of a (by modern standard) simple camera. No added, eye catching, but most of the time unused and useless features (maybe some, but not many) as trends and consumers demand (although consumers demand what they are told they need )

Concluding all these I join Ole saying that *istD is my digital Spotmatic (or rather my digital MX, as I have no Spotmatic) and I hope it will remain for long. And when it "dies"? I hope by then Pentax becomes sober again in their policy of making cameras like they used to do: simpe, easy to operate and maintaining more backward compatibility (considering here the flash system P-TTL vs. TTL and I personally would like to see a DSLR with aperture ring coupler).

Registered: September, 2006
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Posts: 4,165
Review Date: May 25, 2009 I can recommend the Pentax *ist D: Yes | Price: $1,000.00 | Rating: 9 


One of the reasons I'm hanging on to my *istD is the TTL flash. Unlike P-TTL, TTL allows for fully automated flash photography with any lens, extension tubes and bellows. The *istD has therefor become my digital Spotmatic, reserved for use with my Takumar screw mount lenses.

BTW, the DS and DS2 share the TTL flash feature with the D.
Community Manager

Registered: March, 2007
Location: Toowoomba, Queensland
Posts: 23,605
Review Date: May 24, 2009 I can recommend the Pentax *ist D: Yes | Price: $200.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Ergonomics, smooth operation, image quality
Cons: Limited clarity of rear LCD screen, slow buffer
Years Owned: 2    Ergonomics: 9    Build Quality: 9    User Interface: 7    Autofocus: 7    Features: 8    Value: 9    Image Quality: 10    Noise: 9    New or Used: Used   

This one came as Pentax's introduction to digital SLR camera bodies.
This is a feature-packed body with an outstanding sensor.
Being before the DA* lenses' time, it does not support SDM and AF is considerably slower than its successors, but it is a solid performer and includes the Pentax trademarks: hyperprogram and hypermanual modes.

Being top notch for its time, it retailed at US$1,700. This is a great camera.
I bought mine 3rd hand after clocking over 50,000 actuations and it has never missed a beat.
Very reliable, sturdy and solid in your hands without being too heavy or large.

The good for me:
- Sensor is excellent - 6Mp of beautiful colours and sharpness with good noise control
- Has all the important features at your fingertips - dedicated buttons for flash mode, timer/drive and WB, which become quite handy
- 2 e-dials with metering switch and focus point mode all on body - more versatility
- AA-battery powered - if that's your thing
- 5 image buffer
- TTL flash capability - useful if you have an external TTL flash
- 'sweet' sounding mirror up mechanism - quite subjective, I realise

The limitations (for me):
- front e-dial cannot be customised - would have been handy to be able to change ISO on Av/Tv modes
- slowish continuous shooting with very slow buffer dump to CF card - can be frustrating having to wait 5-6 seconds just to take another frame when buffer is full
- ISO feature seems 'out of place' on the mode dial - finnicky having to dial up ISO then dial back to Av mode all the time
- small screen - 1.5in is just about the lower limit of being able to see detail
- no instant review of histograms after frame captures - can only be viewed once images have been dumped to card and INFO button is pressed
- slow AF

Weighing all this up, this camera makes for an excellent backup body or very cheap entry to dSLR photography for a newbie wanting to experience Pentax!

Not disappointing at all for a first-generation dSLR given the caveats above.
Review Date: May 24, 2009 I can recommend the Pentax *ist D: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: N/A 


Ratings (1 = Bad / 5 = Good)
Performance (i.e speed) rating: 3/5
Overall rating: 4/5
Value Rating: 5/5

The *ist D lacks many of the modern “gimmicky” features, such as live view, face detection, AF tracking, smile shutter, etc. But it retains all of the essential ones – like viewfinder, sensor, and image processor.

My overall experience with the *ist D is mixed. I came from shooting with a Panasonic FZ7K for a little over two years, and the *ist D is my second camera ever, which I received as a gift in November 2008.

Here are the three interchangeable lenses which I currently use, also a TC and an external flash:

• Takumar-A ZOOM f3.5-4.5 28-80mm lens.
• SMCP-A 50mm F1.7 lens.
• PENTAX SMC PENTAX-F f2.8 100mm MACRO lens.
• SMC PENTAX-A* f4 300mm lens.
• 2X MC7 TAMRON-F AF tele-converter.
• PENTAX AF-330FTZ flash.

First off, handling: Excellent! The grip is actually quite ergonomic, matching the natural curves of the hand and fingers. However, if you have large hands, then you will not be comfortable holding this camera for long, as the grip is somewhat “shallow”. For small/medium-handed persons, the grip will be just fine, and allows room for the “pinky finger” – unlike my FZ7K.

I only wish that there was more room between the grip side and the lens mount. I find myself at times "digging in" to try to get a better hold. The grip surface isn't exactly glamourous either – thin, crinkly, plasticy/rubbery material. No big deal, though.

Body finish is nice and durable-feeling. Another thing worth noting is that the *ist D has a fair amount of levers/dials/switches on the body's exterior. Film SLR users might like it, kind of an "old fashioned" feel.

Menus and ease-of-use are OK. There is only 1 main menu page, but several “custom pages”, where the user can configure camera settings and preferences to suit his/her style of photography. I am impressed with the number of custom features available – there are so many, more than everything the main menu contains. You can set prefences like EV compensation steps of 1/2 or 1/3. Even stuff like pixel dimensions of the smallest file are customizable, and shutter release enable/disable without CF card inserted. Great job on the custom functions number, PENTAX!

But… all these great menu items are browsed by means of a flat, four-way contoller on the camera’s back. The contoller isn’t very predictable in which way it will go when pressed, and can be frighteningly possible to accidentally format the CF card while trying to set a custom number. Not a good design.

Burst mode is respectable, though not hyper fast. More like a steady “slap-slap-slap-slap-slap”, you can actually count along. Faster shutter-speeds increase burst speed, but this still isn’t an ideal camera for action photography. Also when using burst mode, I find that the camera will often "choke up" after a few shots, squeeze off a few more, pause, let loose a rapid sequence, freeze up temporarily, resume shooting, etc.. Not an issue-free burst sequence.

Image quality is definetely a big step up from any compact-digital. Pictures are perfectly useable all the way up to IS0 1600. ISO 3200 shows a moderate amount of noise. You will not be disappointed with the *ist D’s image quality, so long as you use good lenses and hold steady, since there is no "shake-reduction" mechanism.

Battery life is reasonably long, when you use rechargeables. Alkaine batteries will die very fast.

Image write times are rather slow. Even with a Lexar 133x speed professional CF card. TIFFS and RAW files are even slower to transfer. Browsing photos in "playback mode" is also quite slow.

Overall, this might be a great camera for the beginner to advanced amateur, or someone who is upgrading from a P&S/compact digital. A great camera to learn on!!!

• Smallish, not too heavy either.
• Green in-focus indicator lights up when using MF. This means that all you have to do is tap the shutter-button (or press the AF button), turn the focus ring and the camera will tell you when it thinks the subject is sharpest. Of course, you can completely ignore this feature, and use eyesight to focus manually.
• Relatively easy-to-use.
• Comfortable hand-grip for small/medium-sized handed people.
• Great image quality when the body is matched with the right glass.
• Low “noise” all the way up to ISO 1600.
• Solid, sturdy build.
• Great feature set, including DOF preview.
• Huge number of custom functions. You can literally "build" your own personal version of the camera with them. (No kidding).
• Viewfinder is big, sharp, clear and bright. Better than an EVF or tiny P&S optical one.
• ON/OFF switch is conveniently located right around the shutter-button.

• No live histogram.
• Flat, joystick-style four-way controller isn’t very predictable in which direction it will go.
• CF card compartment is awkwardly placed, you need to dig in with your fingers in order to extract/insert a card. People with bigger fingers and hands will likely need tweezers.
• No SR image stabilization system. (Better hold steady or use a tripod).
• Lack of automatic sensor cleaning function.
• Minimum ISO sensitivity is only ISO 200.
• Burst speed isn’t enough for fast-action photographers, and isn't "issue-free".
• Slow buffer-clearing time.
• Trouble AF'ing in low light or on very cloudy days.
• Smallish, 1.7in LCD screen. (By today’s standards, not at camera release date).
• WB, ISO and image resolution only accesible through mode dial.
• No live view on LCD screen.

Similar Products Used:
• No other DSLRs.

• Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ7K digital compact camera.
• Kodak C300 digital P&S camera.
• Kodak 835 Star AF 35mm-film P&S camera.

Customer Service:
• Emailed PENTAX Canada once with a few questions about my *ist D and they responded timely and politely.
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