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Pentax *ist DL

Build Quality 
User Interface 
Image Quality 
Reviews Views Date of last review
16 44,614 Thu December 19, 2019
Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
94% of reviewers $337.70 8.18
Pentax *ist DL

Pentax *ist DL
Pentax *ist DL
Pentax *ist DL


The Pentax * istDL resembles the *istDS2 but was offered at a lower price point made possible by replacing the pentaprism with a pentamirror and removing some features, hereunder TTL flash support and display of the active AF point in the viewfinder. It has 3 autofocus points where the DS2 has 11.

Camera Manuals:

Pentax *ist DL
©, 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 - 3200
Exposure Modes
Auto Picture, P, Av, Tv, M, B
Program Modes
Normal, Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Action, Night-scene Portrait, Flash Off
Maximum FPS
Continuous Shooting
2.8 fps up to 5 frames
Shutter Speeds (Auto)
30s - 1/4000s (stepless)
Shutter Speeds (Manual)
B, 30s - 1/4000s
Shutter Life
Exposure compensation
+/-2 EV
Auto bracketing
3 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
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, 3 focus points)
AF Points
Autofocus sensitivity
-1 EV
Front/back focus correction
Autofocus with SDM
Autofocus assist
0.85x, 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
2.5 in. 210,000 pix
Weather resistant
Control wheels
Battery grip
Card slots
Dust removal
Dust alert
Memory card type
SD (SDHC with firmware upgrade)
Size (W x H x D)
125 x 92.5 x 67 mm
470 g
File format
Battery life
AA lithium: 750 images (650 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
-2 to 1 EV
Resolution / Framerates
Exposure Modes
Movie mode restrictions
AF During Recording
Sound in Movie mode
Not Supported
USB 2.0/Video out, DC in, cable release
Latest Firmware
Version 1.03
User reviews
Price History:

Add Review of Pentax *ist DL
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Site Supporter

Registered: June, 2011
Posts: 365

1 user found this helpful
Review Date: December 19, 2019 I can recommend the Pentax *ist DL: Yes | Price: $20.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: These days super cheap! Nice colors
Cons: You'll notice limited high ISO abilities and autofocus
Years Owned: 1    Ergonomics: 8    Build Quality: 8    User Interface: 9    Autofocus: 7    Features: 7    Value: 10    Image Quality: 9    Noise: 6    New or Used: Used   

I know it may seem weird to rate this lens a 9 overall and 'would recommend' but hear me out.

I bought this for $19.49, and not even on a bid snipe or anything - that was the BIN price with shipping - and there are more and more of these around that price point popping up. This means a lot of things. It means you can get a DSLR for $20, and spend the rest of your money on excellent Pentax glass (make sure the autofocus is compatible). It means you could spend $20 on a DSLR and $10-20 on vintage Pentax lenses and get some images with effects you cannot get on even the excellent $800 smartphone cameras.

The camera has everything I need. Super simple controls. Small and light. Takes pictures.

If you are in the market for a cheap DSLR and can nab a cheap K-7 or K-5 for sub $100, then I would recommend that over this even if just for the upgraded body design with more dials. Otherwise, you cannot beat this camera for $20, really.

(straight out of camera JPEG with my cheap lens setup - $30 total for camera and lens everyday)

Registered: October, 2012
Location: Colorado
Posts: 1,427
Review Date: November 16, 2016 I can recommend the Pentax *ist DL: No | Price: $20.75 | Rating: 7 

Pros: Light, CCD sensor, few megapixels, inexpensive
Cons: Penta mirror instead of a penta prism, only the AF points

For less than $21, I couldn't pass on this. It's a dated and old camera, yes, but still amply capable and the CCD sensor delivered great image quality.
Site Supporter

Registered: June, 2013
Location: Nevada, USA
Posts: 3,346
Review Date: August 23, 2013 I can recommend the Pentax *ist DL: Yes | Price: $95.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Ease of optical preview, build quality, TTL metering
Cons: Clumsy menus, some operational steps, focusing
Ergonomics: 7    Build Quality: 8    User Interface: 3    Autofocus: 3    Features: 5    Value: 8    Image Quality: 8    Noise: 9    New or Used: Used   

I got this camera from a fellow forum member for two reasons. First, I wanted a low cost backup camera in case my K-30 is out of service. Second, I was really curious to compare a legacy Pentax DSLR to today's modern marvel. This camera satisfied both requirements wonderfully! I was delighted by some features present in this camera that are seemingly missing from my K-30. Some of the operational aspects do feel clumsy but the great image quality more than makes up for it.

I have to remind myself that this camera is from 2005/2006 and it is a simplified version of a camera that came out in 2003! With this in mind I see myself as using a 10 year old camera. That is ancient in the world of digital electronics. Yet, this camera still performs admirably if you consider it's used market price which may be less than $100. The image quality is great. Metering is spot on with both modern autofocus lenses and "vintage" manual lenses. The colors in my shots are evenly balanced and neutral with enough remaining dynamic range in the exposure for me to saturate them and make them more vivid or pleasing to the eye. This is the most important performance characteristic to think of here. All else is second to image performance.

Since my copy of this camera is somewhere around 8 years old I have to compliment Pentax on how well this camera has survived. There are lots of wear marks on the body from it being handled but nothing squeaks, rattles, or shakes. It's built well! The camera is also quite light too.

Ergonomics are generally good. Some of the buttons are in different spots than my K-30 but that's not bad. Once you get used to the differences you work with them. One feature I really like is the optical preview for depth-of-field presentation. It is integrated in the power switch as a spring loaded third position! This is missing from my K-30 and I would vote that Pentax/Ricoh restore this. On the flip side, having to hold down the central OK button to take a picture if the camera doesn't have autofocus is rough. I'm sure there must a setting somewhere that I can adjust but I have yet to comb through the whole owner's manual.

The menus are a bit crowded and awkward to move through. Text/Descriptions are too long so vowels were removed to shorten the lines. Bad. It's just too much to funnel through a small screen.

Focusing is a bit slow, especially in low light. In some cases the focusing fails and you have to go manual. The dim pentamirror system doesn't help with this.

The LCD is dim and is of low resolution compared to today's standards but you can still get a histogram which is really all you need from it at the end of the day.

In using this camera I can see how the Pentax theme must have evolved through their products to the K-30. Some things such as the preview zoom and menu item names stayed the same. That is comforting.

Designers and users had different goals and expectations. What may have acceptable in 2003 may seem awkward in 2013. Comparing to today's standards with a strict pass/fail filter in mind is the wrong way to go. Look at this camera as a historical piece that can be used by photographers as a nuts and bolts tool to learn the craft. There are no fancy features which can help make up for the photographer's deficiencies. It may lose a war on features and it will lose in the megapixels race but this camera can shine in the right hands of a good user.
Man With A Camera

Registered: June, 2010
Location: The Great Pacific Northwet
Posts: 21,318
Review Date: January 27, 2013 I can recommend the Pentax *ist DL: Yes | Price: $600.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: AA batteries and the ability to use the NiMh rechargeables. Lightweight. The Pentax K mount backwards compatability.
Cons: Within a short time after buying this camera, the K10D was released with better features and a higher resolution sensor.DSLR's lose their value too quickly.
Years Owned: Since 2006    Ergonomics: 9    Build Quality: 10    User Interface: 8    Autofocus: 8    Features: 9    Value: 9    Image Quality: 8    Noise: 8    New or Used: New   

I decided to make the change from film to digital around 2005. So after some research I settled on the *istDL. Because I already had a Ricoh XR2S and a number of Pentax and other brand K mount lenses, I chose to stick with Pentax, rather than move to one of the other DSLR brands and have to replace the lenses.

The camera came with the DA 18-55 F3.5-5.6 AL kit lens. A decent combination.

I also made use of a Pentax 40-80 manual lens that also had Macro, and a Sigma 600mm mirror lens I had. Having used manual lenses for so many years not having auto focus was not an issue, and the camera/lens combinations produced some great images.

The ability to use the AA NiMh batteries was one of the other factors that sold me on this camera. At the time the proprietary batteries that other cameras had were not well developed, and I felt that having to spend lots of money for a battery that may not perform well was too much of a risk.

The serial number is 1088738.

Here are a couple shots of the camera:

There have been some adjustments I have had to make since giving film up for digital.

I used an eyepiece cup on my film camera, and was disappointed that there were none available for the new DSLR cameras, and the one I had on the Ricoh would not fit.

It does kind of suck that these cameras cost so much new, and in a very short time they are worth so little.

But I no longer have to buy another file cabinet to store all the slides and negatives from the rolls and rolls of film that I burned through every year.
New Member

Registered: July, 2010
Location: Chico ca
Posts: 2
Review Date: March 29, 2011 I can recommend the Pentax *ist DL: Yes | Price: $300.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Better than my point and shoot, lots of lens available
Cons: Only 3 image burst (in raw), slow writing to card

Pros Better than my point and shoot, lots of lens available
Cons Only 3 image burst (in raw), slow writing to card
Rating 9
Price (U.S. Dollars) 300
Years Owned almost a year

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
Better than point and shoot. If you can find one new or barely used its about as much as an expensive high end point and shoot. Most of the feature are explained in the review.

Camera Review
I bought this camera last summer (july 10') for about 300 dollars, brand new on ebay. Its my first DSLR and I love it. Its served me well and I have only a few minor complaints, things that I easily overlook because of the fact that the camera does its job well. I have no complaints about the "only" 6MP size. If you get in photo shop and crop, you can crop like 1/30th(maybe more, just a guess, but really you can crop a really small portion of the picture) the size of the picture without it being pixelated. Pentax lenses are more common and probably cheaper, you also have the m42 adapter to expand your choice of lenses even more. The pictures it takes are pretty good, not as clear or sharp as other cameras, but I've no complaints about that. The lens its comes with is a great combination. My only complaints are the view finder is too small compared to my other cameras, it makes focusing a task and a half. The write speed to flash cards is agonizingly slow, and my biggest gripe with that is in RAW, you can only burst 3 pictures before it has to load those to the flash card. That sucks if say you're photographing sports, or in my scenario people discharging firearms. If you buy rechargable batteries they should last longer than regular double A's and they'll save you money too. The stop down feature ( think thats it) where it sets the exposure works pretty good, but I feel like it only gets you in the general area, I usually end up going a few turns higher in shutter speed.

I'm probably forgetting some things, but I'd say overall its a great camera despite its small draw backs, great entry level DSLR even today in the world of 12MP cameras and stuff. You learn to appreciate what you have, and also you know what you would LIKE to see in your next camera.

Flickr: fgmachine's Photostream
Senior Member

Registered: March, 2011
Location: Windsor, Colorado
Posts: 196
Review Date: March 13, 2011 I can recommend the Pentax *ist DL: Yes | Price: $450.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: small, light, solid build, top LCD
Cons: finicky with battery connection, 6MP

Pros small, light, solid build, top LCD
Cons finicky with battery connection, 6MP
Rating 9 (for its day)
Price (U.S. Dollars) $450 in 2006
Years Owned 5

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
Excellent image quality, LCD screen size large at the time, top LCD very handy, very reliable, works well even in very cold temps

Camera Review
My first DLSR. Hooked me on Pentax quality, and it's how I learned to appreciate the underdog attributes associated with comparing Pentax to the other big companies. I remember my first photo trip with it.....shooting landscapes in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming. My friend owned a Rebel XT and had to concede the build quality of not only the body of the DL, but the kit lens as well was superior to his model.

What I like about it most beyond the image quality is that it seems so durable. It fits your hands well and has a nice texture to it. It's perfect from a size and weight standpoint if you do a lot of hiking and don't want to carry around a larger body.

One thing about it is you have to really tinker with it to find optimal settings. There are a host of variables to consider, but the key one is to change the default "bright" is WAY too vivid and creates excessive noise. Use the "natural" setting and it really does take some very nice JPEG images. The RAW are excellent, but it does not do both at the same time. Yes, it is only 6MP....but at least the file sizes are not that large accordingly, and as long as you don't crop too heavily the images do not degrade.

I would say this camera's IQ was better than anything else in its class at the time....esp. for the money back then. $450 dollars with a kit lens was a bargain.....and now you can get a used one for much less. Highly recommend it for a beginner DSLR or as a lightweight and small backup.

Instead of posting photos, I'll provide this link to my online albums.....most of them were taken with this camera: ccd333's photos and albums on webshots

Addendum #1 - This in reference to one of the cons redmutt alluded to.....the 2gb limit for sd card capacity. There was a firmware upgrade to allow the DL to utilize SDHC (as krugwaffle pointed out), and I've been using a 4gb Class 6 in mine for the last few months and it works perfectly. Also, it was one of the first DSLR's to use secure digital......the Canon Rebel used the cumbersome Compact Flash (which were anything but). I remember at the time, Canon users would refer to the Pentax sd card idea as a reason to not take it seriously as a camera (equating it with point and shoots). How things have changed.
Junior Member

Registered: February, 2011
Location: Gilmer,Texas.
Posts: 36
Review Date: March 6, 2011 I can recommend the Pentax *ist DL: Yes | Price: $640.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: A good light weight easy to use camera.
Cons: The 2gb limit on the sd card.

Pros A good light weight easy to use camera.
Cons The 2gb limit on the sd card.
Rating 9
Price (U.S. Dollars) $640
Years Owned I bought mine in Feb.2006,and still use it.

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
A very good value for a camera of it's size. The attached image is one that I took at a play-off game this last football season.

Camera Review
This was the first dslr I bought. I use it for shooting high school football from the sidelines. It is a good camera for any type of photography. I would recommend it to anyone, Iam very pleased with mine.
Forum Member

Registered: January, 2009
Location: Medicine Hat,Alberta
Posts: 68
Review Date: January 26, 2011 I can recommend the Pentax *ist DL: Yes | Price: $590.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: Light,great basic starter camera,uses AA batteries
Cons: Rather out-dated, 6mp,slow AF

Pros Light,great basic starter camera,uses AA batteries
Cons Rather out-dated, 6mp,slow AF
Rating 7
Price (U.S. Dollars) 590.00 (in 2006)
Years Owned 3 years

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
My first DSLR...( replaced my Pz1p`s shutter problem on vacation)...great camera, decent jpegs,good colors,exposures were usually good too. Very user friendly,menu is easy to catch -on to, a bit slow with AF,also a little erratic showing battery strength(will display low reading but if you switched it to OFF then turned ON it would show full charge.!!)

Camera Review
Overall this camera has served me well,shot over 8,000 pics with no serious issues, handed down to my son & it`s still going strong!!
Site Supporter

Registered: December, 2010
Location: Phoenix Arizona
Posts: 696
Review Date: January 26, 2011 I can recommend the Pentax *ist DL: Yes | Price: $599.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Modest size, solid feel
Cons: can;t find any!

Pros Modest size, solid feel
Cons can;t find any!
Rating 9
Price (U.S. Dollars) $599
Years Owned 4 1/2 years

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
Uses AA batteries, small size, good feel.

Camera Review
This was my first DSLR. As soon as a I picked it up in the store, it felt right and I had to have it! It was also my first auto focus and auto everything camera, and it reignited my passion for photography! It provides fantastic images, even without shake reduction. It might be kind of humble next to a K10D or later camera, but it will hold it's own in image quality and a beginner will not be overwhelmed. My wife got my original istDL when I got a K10D, but I had to have another one! I use it as a travel and hiking camera with a Tamron 18-200. It is light and unobtrusive.
Senior Member

Registered: April, 2010
Location: St. Louis
Posts: 136
Review Date: December 3, 2010 I can recommend the Pentax *ist DL: Yes | Price: $350.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Price, ease of use, durable,
Cons: auto focus slow in low light conditions

Pros Price, ease of use, durable,
Cons auto focus slow in low light conditions
Rating 10
Price (U.S. Dollars) $350
Years Owned 5

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
Auto focus, Auto and manual modes, downward compatible lense use. Good battery life with CR3V.

Camera Review
The ist D is a great value and you get a lot of features for the money. It is very durable. I have taken thousands of images and it is still going strong, it was dropped once and suffered no ill affects. AA or CR3v batteries can be used

The ist D is downward compatible with older k-mount lenses.

You can buy more exotic camera's but this has all the basic features you really need. The ist D is to digital what the PentaxSuper Program is to film camera's.

It was a worthy replacement for my Pentax Super Program that I used for many yeas.
New Member

Registered: September, 2010
Location: Palm Bay, Fla-de-do-da
Posts: 1
Review Date: September 11, 2010 I can recommend the Pentax *ist DL: Yes | Price: $50.00 | Rating: 5 

Pros: AA batts, simplicity, Stopped-down/DOF preview function,
Cons: getting old/obsolete, no image stabilization, slow

Pros AA batts, simplicity, Stopped-down/DOF preview function,
Cons getting old/obsolete, no image stabilization, slow
Rating 5
Price (U.S. Dollars) $50
Years Owned about 9 mos.

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
Modern form and function in older design.

Camera Review
I only bought this camera from a guy at work to have something to use as an eyepiece camera for telescope work and to mount my old Pentax film M-style lenses. I must say -- I've grown to like this camera. I like being able to use the AA batteries so I'm not stuck with another proprietary battery form to maintain and I like the amount of use it gets out of every charge. Much better than my Canon S2is digicam. I like the DOF preview/iris stop-down feature, something missing from every other digital camera I've used. As a manual camera user all the way back to the days of the Spotmatic, I really miss the little lever that closes the iris and lets me see the actual depth of field as it will appear in the image. The *ist DL is slow and noisy but it's already got the SD type memory card - with SDHC if you update the firmware, USB access and it will store RAWs. If it's made like any other Pentax I've had, it should last for many more years of service.
Veteran Member

Registered: November, 2008
Location: North Carolina , USA
Posts: 2,270
Review Date: May 7, 2010 I can recommend the Pentax *ist DL: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: N/A 

Pros: wieght/size, simplicity , price
Cons: 8

Cons 6 mpx , tough on batteries
Pros wieght/size, simplicity , price
Rating 8
Price $200.00
Years Owned 1.5

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
I carried and used this camera every day and at it's price didn't feel I had to baby it! Uses AA batteries.

Camera Review
Saw one of these used for $200 with a lens and thought it would make a good "throw in the truck" carry around camera. After a while I got so used to the feel of this camera I preferred it in some ways to my K20D. The down side is it's only 6 megapixels and I do like large prints. I gave this camera to a friend who is still using it today and bought a K200D for my carry camera as a happy compromise.
If you are starting out in digital photography or are looking for a simple , inexpensive camera body as a backup or carry around, I would say this is a great bang for the buck.
Forum Member

Registered: January, 2009
Posts: 69
Review Date: October 26, 2009 I can recommend the Pentax *ist DL: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: N/A 


A great workhorse, bought mine as soon as they became available in Oz. Done SO much work and always reliable. The big negative is the fact that there is no additional battery unit. Carrying a few extra kg of batteries is a real fag, especially when in a theatre venue , shooting a whole show. Apart from that irritation, can't fault it as a great entry level unit.
Works great with all my "legacy" M42 lenses. And just loves those old prime lenses.
New Member

Registered: October, 2009
Location: Santa Clara, CA
Posts: 8
Review Date: October 10, 2009 I can recommend the Pentax *ist DL: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: N/A 


I bought the *istDL in March 2006 as my first digital SLR. As a long-time user of Pentax, I did not consider other brands. I was not disappointed in this Pentax. It's reliable, easy to use, and older lenses are compatible.

I have used the camera at work as a photojournalist. Because there are so few controls and options I had no trouble learning how to use it to its fullest. The most frequent change I made was to the ISO setting for low-light settings.

I added a Sigma external flash and from then on I could shoot in any light and get good pics.

Using the veteran Pentax-M 150mm lens I got great portraits with nice brokeh.

I typically only use RAW for photos taken outside of work. While the camera industry has moved on -- since this now a digital world -- *istDL was a solid entry at the time.
New Member

Registered: February, 2009
Posts: 15
Review Date: May 25, 2009 I can recommend the Pentax *ist DL: Yes | Price: None indicated | Rating: N/A 


I've had mine since the spring of 2006. As many reviews pointed out mine was a bit soft out of the box so I went in and cranked up the sharpness a bit. This is my first AF camera and I would rate the AF as not bad but it could definitely be better.

My first serious shoot was my niece's high school graduation. I shot it from quite a distance with a Tamron 75-300mm. The AF hunted a bit but overall I got some great images with both it and the kit lens. I think the kit lens is quite good. Later on I got an FA 28-90mm and have been disappointed with it. Substantial stopping down is necessary for decent images. I haven't tried it on a film camera.

I have a lot of film lenses but have only used my few "A" series lenses with it. Some day I need to sit down and figure out how to use my M-series primes. I've got some good ones.

I took it to Alaska later in 2006 and I was very pleased with the images I got. My wife had some enlargements made of the best Alaska images and they are excellent until you're about to bump your nose into them.

All in all I'm happy with it.
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