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10-08-2007, 11:23 AM   #1
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New *istD--Pentax noobie thoughts

Hi--thought I'd talk about the old one here--the *istD. My main cameras are Olympus (E-1 and E-330), but the *istD was second on my list when I bought the E-1, and since then I've followed Pentax with interest. I just recently bought a new *istD at a great price, and am having a lot of fun with it. It's a great camera.

However, as with many cameras, there are several design decisions that beg the question "What were they thinking?! So far on the *istD, I've noticed several--the grip looks to be designed around putting the four batteries in a symmetrical square rather than around the human hand, something I see that was changed in the DS where two batteries are angled to create a deeper and narrower grip. The four-way controller is the worst I've ever used (including digicams). The right strap attachment sticks straight out into the side of my finger, when they could have angled it up a little to eliminate this. And the rear dial is recessed a little behind the rear grip, making it harder to spin the dial without thinking. The front dial? Why would you design an On-Off switch that has the same tactile feel as a dial that is a quarter-inch below it? Several times when I have tried to turn the dial I have switched the camera off. This is not endearing. If only they had reversed On-Off, so that when it is "On" the lever is off to the side. And removing the CF card--what a pain! It's a struggle every time for me. What were they thinking?!

Ok, now that that's off my chest, would I buy it again? Absolutely, without question. Yes, it has its quirks. And of course the buffer is slow and the screen is small, but this is to be expected on a four-year-old DSLR. I really do like the camera a lot. It takes great photos, and is small and well made. The viewfinder is wonderful, and hyper-program is great as well. I still have much to learn about the camera. Auto white balance in low light is way off, so I will have to learn to compensate (although I shoot raw so this problem is minimized). I've picked up the two standard kit lenses off ebay (18-55 and 50-200) and bought the FA50mm 1.4 new. Love the 50 so far, and the others are nice too. I wanted to start with some inexpensive lenses to try the system out. I also got the AF 540 flash. Looking for a grip. All in all, a decent, interesting Pentax starter system.

Am I completely switching to Pentax? Not at this point. I love my Olympus gear. The E-330 is unlike any other DSLR so far, and has given me a new perspective for many shots. Very underrated, and a steal right now for $349 new. But I'm really pleased with my Pentax gear so far, and would like to get into the wonderful primes as funds allow. Olympus and Pentax are two great systems that can really compliment each other.

Sorry for the long post--just some thoughts from a Pentax noobie. Every camera/system has its idiosyncrasies and design philosophies, and I am still learning Pentax's. I'm sure most of the issues I've noticed are not issues for long-time Pentax users. Thanks for reading!

Steve

10-08-2007, 12:25 PM   #2
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Everyone seems to complain about the grip - except me - I like. I don't however like the one on the K100D - actually not much I like about the 100D

The strp thingie on the right sucks, keeps the mem card door from openin gproperly.

Welcome to the Forum Sven.

jc
10-08-2007, 01:53 PM   #3
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Welcome Sven-
The *ist d is my first digital slr, so I have nothing to compare it to. I have to admit, though, that besides the fact that the blocks the cf door, I have very little to complain about. I think my brother said it best, that the difference between Pentax and other prosumer dslr's are it's flexibility-no little painted heads or firworks on the dial
I have been happy with the relatively low price of prime lenses (I have spent less than $500 on 2 - 35mm f2 and 50mm f1.4) that compliments the kit and sigma 70-300 I have. I wish, though, that Pentax lenses were more readily available locally.
10-08-2007, 02:01 PM   #4
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I had the *ist DS first, then the K10D, and finally the *ist D. The jump from *ist DS to the K10D was a big one from an added functionality standpoint; however, compared to the *ist D the K10D was more a jump in ergonomics and usability. Virtually all of your (and my) complaints about the *ist D are covered in the K10D. I can fault the K10D for only three things missing from its younger counterparts - erratic metering with old lenses, increased noise at high ISOs, and no TTL flash metering.

IMO the grip is better. The camera is WAY faster at everything. The 4-way is much better (not that hard to do!). The scroll wheels are in (subtly) better places. The ISO is changeable on-the-fly (via the OK button and scroll wheel) as well as being selected in 1/3 stop increments. Exposure compensation can be assigned to one of the wheels. The menus are much more intuitive and useful, also easier to get to.


But in all, they are all good cameras. I have vertical grips for the K10D and *ist D and IMO both are better with them. If you have bigger hands IMO they are a must.

10-09-2007, 09:23 AM   #5
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I bought an *istD new in late '03 and aside from it being too small, was quite happy with it.

I never had any performance complaints until I bought the K10D, and now I think the *istrD is slow. But that is the result of 4 years of development across the entire market, not just pentax.

Having said that, I have kept the *istD and use it interchangably wioth the K10D. The *istD makes a great back up body, has similar controls, and does 2 things the K10D does not do.

First it works with TTL flash, so I can better use flash for my somewhat old and long lenses, and second, it has 3200 ISO, and great noise performance at high ISO. This is important to me as I shoot a lot of stage performances without flash.

It also has more consistent metering for old lenses., although that is simple enough to overcome with the use of the histogram.
10-09-2007, 08:53 PM   #6
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I had an *ist D and then a DS and then a K100D and have used the K10D for quite a number of times before I finally "switched" to the Canon 5D.

In terms of digital image quality, I must say the K100D is the best amongst all Pentax DSLRs, say, accurate/natural colours, good DR, well defined jpegs etc.

The *ist D is weakest for the digital department but it has some better inside qualities, the shutter and mirror action is smoothest amongst and vibration is minimal. The sound (and thus the moving/controlling mechanism) is somekind of MZ-S alike but it is a slower version :-( The traditional TTL auto flash of the *ist D is more accurate than that of the DS too (which tends to overexpose)

The worse mirror action belongs to the DS (it vibrates vigorously and the sound is loud) which I guess Pentax did have sucked too much quality from that part of the design.

If you have the luck, there are very early version of the *ist D which has more rigid construction and had slightly better exposure accuracy. To check, just press the RTF cover from the top and there is no play of any kind at all and the plastic did look blacker. My wild guess is that the very early batch was made in Japan and after that that batch all *ist D are just more filmsy, even for what the paintings looked like.

QuoteOriginally posted by carpents Quote
I had the *ist DS first, then the K10D, and finally the *ist D. The jump from *ist DS to the K10D was a big one from an added functionality standpoint; however, compared to the *ist D the K10D was more a jump in ergonomics and usability. Virtually all of your (and my) complaints about the *ist D are covered in the K10D. I can fault the K10D for only three things missing from its younger counterparts - erratic metering with old lenses, increased noise at high ISOs, and no TTL flash metering.

IMO the grip is better. The camera is WAY faster at everything. The 4-way is much better (not that hard to do!). The scroll wheels are in (subtly) better places. The ISO is changeable on-the-fly (via the OK button and scroll wheel) as well as being selected in 1/3 stop increments. Exposure compensation can be assigned to one of the wheels. The menus are much more intuitive and useful, also easier to get to.


But in all, they are all good cameras. I have vertical grips for the K10D and *ist D and IMO both are better with them. If you have bigger hands IMO they are a must.
10-10-2007, 03:08 AM   #7
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What is RTF - Rich Text File! Sorry guys not very good with abreviations.
10-10-2007, 08:54 AM   #8
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Congratulations on your *Ist D, one of the fascinating cameras in the digital Pentax line-up. It is a typical Pentax, in that it got excellent user feedback, but never really got the market attention that some feel it would deserve. If it would take SD cards like my K10, I would buy it in a heartbeat.
The *Ist D really has most that one would need, and great low light ability with the higher Iso.
You could always later upgrade, when the successor to the K10 comes out; if you want a plus 10 MP body.

BTW, Ive been pretty fascinated by some of the Oly options. Olympus was the one that inspired Pentax to go more compact back in the day. And they seem fairly innovative. And the Zuiko lenses have great reputation from the film days.
Regarding AWB on Pentax, then indoor with low-light, one has to go for the Tungsten preset instead. (Or do manual WB). The limited series lenses are fun too, you could try the 21 or 70.

You mention : I still have much to learn about the camera.
And I would say that the same goes for the K10, and IMO with much good equipment. It takes several months of intense use, to really fully grasp all that the camera is capable of.

This is also why, I primarily go for the reviews of the ones spending hundreds of hours of use, going through the product. Or bringing them on in-field assignments like Michael Reichmann.

10-10-2007, 09:32 PM   #9
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Thanks for the welcome and advice. I'm on the lookout for grip in good shape, and have been interested in the K10D since it came out. I love the weatherproofing on my E-1, and that's really attractive on the K10D (amongst other things). The bigger size fits my hand better, but the compactness of the *istD is nice as well, and one of the things I like about it. I figured for now that the *istD was better for me to jump into Pentax relatively inexpensively with some of the features not available on the other K series. And it sure is nice using a 1.4 lens again!

I do have a question about TTL. I bought the 540 flash, and in the manual it shows a TTL mode, but when I cycle through the modes it only shows P-TTL. It seems to expose fine, but given all the problems people have been having with P-TTL I'd like to know how to set it to TTL since that is one of the advantages of the *istD. I also have an Olympus FL-36 flash which seems to work fine on the Pentax. I normally would have gone for the 360 flash, but no swivel! I couldn't believe it. The 540 looks like a nice flash, although it is positively HUGE on the *istD! I've already modified it by gluing the pin in the up position (Elmer's white), and filling the hole on the *istD with the same glue so I won't have the flash deciding on its own to stay pinned to the camera. Works great, and I like redundancy! The wireless capabilities should be fun too.

Steve
10-11-2007, 04:35 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by JCSullivan Quote
What is RTF - Rich Text File! Sorry guys not very good with abreviations.
RTF = Retractable TTL Flash - A term which was invented by Pentax for their SFX, the world's first SLR with built-in TTL Auto Flash, in 1987.
10-11-2007, 04:42 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by sven Quote
I do have a question about TTL. I bought the 540 flash, and in the manual it shows a TTL mode, but when I cycle through the modes it only shows P-TTL. It seems to expose fine, but given all the problems people have been having with P-TTL I'd like to know how to set it to TTL since that is one of the advantages of the *istD. I also have an Olympus FL-36 flash which seems to work fine on the Pentax. I normally would have gone for the 360 flash, but no swivel! I couldn't believe it. The 540 looks like a nice flash, although it is positively HUGE on the *istD! I've already modified it by gluing the pin in the up position (Elmer's white), and filling the hole on the *istD with the same glue so I won't have the flash deciding on its own to stay pinned to the camera. Works great, and I like redundancy! The wireless capabilities should be fun too.

Steve
When you mount a P-TTL capable TTL flash onto the *ist D, it would choose P-TTL automatically and by no means you change force the camera to use plain old TTL auto flash again. However, there is a way to make the flash, e.g., the 360, to work in auto flash-sensor (non-TTL) mode, that is, to put the camera in M mode and then you can select M or Auto in the flash's control panel.

If you want plain average and predictable results, just use M mode in the body and set Auto in the flash, it will provide quite satisfactory consistent and fairly accurate results.

Still, I found the traditional Pentax TTL flash used with the *ist D do give most accurate results which this combo is the most reliable. With *ist DS, it overexposes sometimes. I used to use my *ist D with my AF240FT to shoot some wedding functions and put the camera in jpeg mode and the results were all quite good (better than and brighter than when the *ist D was used to shoot under daylight - which underexposure would occur).

In contrast, *ist D in P-TTL mode is just a joke for the exposure accuracy and consistency. It sometimes underexposed seriously and sometimes overexposed quite much and burnt all the highlights! :-(
10-11-2007, 06:48 AM   #12
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As an observation on RiceHigh's posting regarding the AF540FGZ and TTL on the *istD,

I have very successfully used the 540 on my *istD with K mount lenses in TTL mode. In fact the flash automatically selects TTL mode with K mount lenses.

I have tried taking a KAF2 lens out of automatic apature mode, but TTL is not available.

Clearly this is a function of the lens mounted on the camera, not only the flash.

Perhaps you could ask pentax for a software change, for flash mode, to allow selection on the camera of M, A, TTL, or P-TTL. Presently other modes are accessible by pressing the red-eye button on the top of the camera, and the change could be either here, or as a new function
10-11-2007, 07:17 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Lowell Goudge Quote
As an observation on RiceHigh's posting regarding the AF540FGZ and TTL on the *istD,

I have very successfully used the 540 on my *istD with K mount lenses in TTL mode. In fact the flash automatically selects TTL mode with K mount lenses.

I have tried taking a KAF2 lens out of automatic apature mode, but TTL is not available.

Clearly this is a function of the lens mounted on the camera, not only the flash.

Perhaps you could ask pentax for a software change, for flash mode, to allow selection on the camera of M, A, TTL, or P-TTL. Presently other modes are accessible by pressing the red-eye button on the top of the camera, and the change could be either here, or as a new function
P-TTL need focusing distance information for the calculation of flash exposure. So, P-TTL is never possible with K and A lenses which lacks this essential info.

However, with F lens or later, Pentax should let the *ist D or DS users to choose which mode they wish to use as the 360 and 540 are actually TTL capable. Anyway, the TTL auto flash for Pentax is already a real past tense.
10-11-2007, 08:09 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by RiceHigh Quote
P-TTL need focusing distance information for the calculation of flash exposure. So, P-TTL is never possible with K and A lenses which lacks this essential info.
I disagree, P-TTL does not need focusing distance. Note that my Tamron Adaptall2, KA mount on the *istD works as KAF and later mounts with the AF540, P-TTL nbut no TTL.
QuoteQuote:
However, with F lens or later, Pentax should let the *ist D or DS users to choose which mode they wish to use as the 360 and 540 are actually TTL capable.
No disagreement on selection option.
10-13-2007, 01:09 PM   #15
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As a final note to P-TTL and TTL function on the *istD, I wrote pentax and asked them if selection between the two flash modes could be offered via either a function menu option, or via the flash mode button on the top of the camera.

The response was that this would be forwarded to the product group, and seemed possible, however there were no known updates for the *istD firmware at this time.
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