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05-23-2009, 09:00 PM   #1
Ole's Avatar

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Pentax *istDS

The pentax *istDS was Pentax' second entry into the DSLR market, and was a less expensive model than the *istD. To reduce cost many of the features are accessible only via the menu system. In this way a number of buttons has been eliminated. In addition to P-TTL flash automation the *istDS also has TTL flash automation which is a big plus for flash photography with older lenses.

Pentax *istDS
Year introduced
KAF2 (without coupling for aperture ring)
Meter range
1 to 21.5 EV
Meter pattern
m (16 segments) c s
ISO range (expanded)
200 - 3200
Expanded dynamic range
Exposure modes
AutoPict, P, Av, Tv, M, B
Exposure modes with M and K lenses are restricted to Av (with aperture always wide open) and M
Program modes
Normal, Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Action, Night-scene Portrait, Flash Off
Scene Modes
Exposure compensation
+/-2 EV
Exposure lock
Shutter speeds (auto)
30s - 1/4000s (stepless)
Shutter speeds (manual)
B, 30s - 1/4000s
Mirror lock-up
Self timer / Interval shooting
Yes / No
Continuous shooting
2.8 fps up to 8 frames
Shake reduction
Auto bracketing
Yes (3 frames)
HDR mode
Multiple exposures
Built-in flash
Yes, GN 15.6 (ISO 200)
TTL flash
P-TTL flash
Sync speed
Flash exposure comp
-2 to 1 EV
Extra external flash functions
Wireless, High-speed, Contrast control
Yes (SAFOX VIII, 11 focus points)
Autofocus sensitivity
-1 to 18 EV
Autofocus with SDM
AF Assist
Front/Back focus corr
Power zoom
Lens correction
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
Video/Movie Mode
Movie mode restrictions
Not applicable
Sound in Movie mode
Not applicable
Camera controls
1 control wheel. Most functions accessed through menus
Custom Functions
6.1 MP CCD
Image size
15.8 x 23.6 mm
Color Depth
3 x 12 bit (RAW)
Dust removal / alert
No / No
Pixel mapping
File format
Memory card type
SD (SDHC with firmware upgrade)
Back LCD
2 in. 210,000 pix
Weather resistant
4 x AA
Battery grip
Size (W x H x D)
125 x 92.5 x 66 mm
505 g
Latest firmware
Version 2.02
TTL flash. The *istD and DS/DS2 are the only Pentax DSLR's with support for TTL flash. TTL flash works where P-TTL doesn't: With M and K lenses, bellows, manual extension tubes.

Attached Images

Last edited by Ole; 02-12-2011 at 01:59 PM.
05-25-2009, 04:53 AM   #2
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review of Pentax *istDS

This is a well-built and well-designed camera that produces fine results. It has the features you need for creative photography, without the bulk and complexity of many more modern cameras. I recommend this digital SLR camera to anyone with need for specialist functionality. Read on for a more in-depth review.

why Pentax
Pentax is a venerable camera manufacturer, dating back to 1919. It's not well known outside of Japan and western Europe, as other makers like Canon and Nikon have come to dominate. But Pentax, as a niche player, has made some interesting products. My decision to buy Pentax came down to features, price, and style.

This camera, like all Pentax DSLR cameras, supports every lens made for the Pentax K mount back to the 1950's. By supporting the millions of existing lenses, the Pentax line of cameras does two things. First, it allows newcomers to DSLR photography to buy into the system with minimal expenditure: the old lenses offer excellent image quality but are quite cheap (many selling for less than $100). Secondly, the use of manual focus lenses is to me quite attractive because it doesn't let finicky electronics get between me and the image I'm trying to create. This is a matter of personal taste, of course, and I should point out that all of the modern lenses offered by Pentax are auto-focus.

At the same time, because Pentax offers far fewer models than its competitors, it is in my opinion a little more selective about what it builds. The result is a small stable of very well-built cameras that are designed around user experience and compact ruggedness. In using cameras from other manufacturers, I have found their weight less well balanced, and the overall build significantly more plasticky and light feeling. There are smaller cameras on the market, but I find that Pentax offers the best combination of build and ergonomics.

in depth
This is a no-frills DSLR that dates back to 2004. It's now seriously outclassed by modern models that have features like:
  • anti-shake
  • weather sealing
  • ISO-priority exposure mode
  • automated dust-removal
  • excellent sensitivity (improved low light capability)
  • much higher sensor resolution
  • faster shutter sync speeds
  • improved auto-focus
  • improved buffer
  • improved rate of shots per second
  • support for large SD cards

That said, for an inexpensive, compact, and relatively light DSLR, the *istDS provides:
  • bright pentaprism viewfinder
  • through-the-lens (TTL) flash capability
  • focus assist points in viewfinder
  • support for third-party focusing screens
  • a dedicated "shoulder" control LCDstandard "SLR" controls: auto-exposure lock, mirror lock-up, bulb mode (and a socket for a remote cable release)
  • solid metal frame (under plastic shell)

These are not features you'll find in every modern entry-level DSLR. Some additional benefits:
  • uses common, long-lasting rechargeable AA batteries
  • compatibility with millions of older K-mount lenses, many of which are quite cheap
  • compatibility with many old manual flashes, allowing for strobe photography (see samples below)
  • small image files at ~10MB or roughly 6MB when converted to DNG format

Since buying mine in 2006, I've used it for both pleasure and professional purposes. All of the photography you see on my business website was done with this simple camera. This review is based on both uses.

Despite its age, I recommend this camera as a practical go-anywhere unit. Its controls are easy to learn, and with a minimal feature set it lets you concentrate on photography in much the same way as an SLR from the film era. I've also found it tough enough to survive the inevitable jolts and bumps that come, and with a design that feels good in the hand it's a camera you'll just want to carry.

Similarly, I find the images I make with this camera quite good. The camera does tend to overexpose ever so slightly, but it's nothing that can't be corrected in software.

I find the auto focus ability of this camera next to useless. While I'm not an auto focus photographer, I caution anyone interested in such features to beware this camera's auto focus unit. It is as bad as to be prone to locking up while you're trying to take a photo.

The use of manual lenses requires a press of a button with your thumb every time you want to take a photo or simply meter the scene. I don't know why Pentax couldn't go 100% of the distance and support these older lenses without that step.

Being several generations out of date, this camera cannot make images that offer the range of tones and contrast that are available with a more modern camera. I get more white skies than I'd like, as a result. I have attempted to fix this with a graded filter, but the camera has serious trouble metering when I use that filter, so I've had to live with the limitation.

strobe photography
Rejoice, Pentax users. These cameras are capable of using just about any old strobe on the market. Unlike Minolta/Sony cameras and others that are susceptible to—potentially fatal—overload when used with old strobes, the *istDS and other Pentax cameras are quite adept.

edit 2010.08: this is a complete rewrite, and is a donation from my website.

Last edited by uccemebug; 08-23-2010 at 07:43 PM. Reason: tweaked the formatting: removed most HTML
07-10-2009, 03:52 PM   #3
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After having the DS for around three years, I would unhesitatingly recommend this camera to anyone. Coupled with the 40mm Ltd, it is still one of the most durable, pocketable DSLRs out there.

Pentaprism viewfinder which will accept third party screens for better manual focus
Easy to see the aperture/numbers in the viewfinder.
TTL flash metering
Great grip that has not been bettered IMO (except maybe by the K7) in the Pentax DSLR world.
Lack of high ISO noise compared with higher res cameras (especially with respect to the K200D)
Ability to use CRV-3 batteries (light, long lasting)
Top panel LCD (I wish they had kept this with the K-m)
Small file sizes
Light weight - It was the lightest in the word at the time and proves that pentaprism cameras can be made in small dimensions.

Small LCD screen compared with modern DLSR's.
Soft JPGs.
No ISO 100 setting.
No Image Stabilisation

Last edited by Clarkey; 07-10-2009 at 04:01 PM.
07-22-2009, 03:18 PM   #4
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Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: UK/Canada/wherever work takes me
Posts: 95
My only DSLR...

...but I love it!

small-until recently (OK I admit I'd kill to own an Olympus EP-1 as well-that has to be the coolest looking "serious hobby" camera since, well, since the pentax M series!). Most friends thought it was a compact.

great viewfinder-not that much worse than my old Super A

I think its got pretty good low light performance-6mp is enough for me most of the time anyway.

Pretty well designed ergonomically-I like the on-off switch and thumbwheel in particular. I don't like the look of what they have done on the KM (but then I've not used it...)

I use rechargeable CV3s which last ages, but like the fact I can stick AAs in it in an emergency (good for travel-everywhere in the world sells AAs).

It is going to be a cult "vintage" digital SLR. Trust me. There will come a time.

hate the grip. You are either a grip lover or hater and I'm a hater. The new Olympus SLRs which have pretty much ditched the grip have me wishing I could stick a limited lens on something like that. But then I've always adored the 70s M and K series (and OM).

loud shutter noise-reminds me of Canon AE-1 program (although that was a lot worse-like a cat being shot at). I enjoy shutter noise but not when it sounds like my DS.

some of the buttons and menus aren't very well thought through-a big dial for picture modes sucks-why not put ISO or white balance or something vaguely useful on there?
ISO and white balance are a bit buried in the menus, but its like second nature now.

obviously technology has moved on a bit-most notably I'd like my DS to have SR (= K100) and decent live view. Now I love the penta-prism but live view with a tilting viewfinder would be great for crowds, macros and tripod use (like a waist level finder!). Although I might be stupid and snap it off. The DS like my Super A get knocked a bit. I start off precious then I go on hikes and balance it on rocks with my new limited lens...

Until now I have felt no urge whatsoever to upgrade my DS. However, now there are two cameras that finally excite me in 2009 (Olympus EP-1 for travel and Pentax K7 for when weight is less of an issue-finally a super specced camera that isn't the size of a huge tank). I can't afford either so I'm sticking with the DS for now. Its still so much fun to carry round and use!

08-20-2009, 11:08 AM   #5
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I got this little wonder a few months ago from a fellow member and have barely touched the K20D since. Mated to my FA28-70 f4, it has followed me just about everywhere. It is right now listed in Marketplace so wanted to throw my impressions here before it leaves my possession.

  • Size (small)
  • Cost (about the same price as a new kit lens)
  • TTL and P-TTL capable
  • Powerful built-in flash
  • AA-capable and excellent battery life
  • Build quality

  • No SR
  • Crop-ability (Not enough pixels to aggressively crop)
  • Not weather/dust resistant

The inexpensive and extremely portable setup allowed me to take probably ten times more photos than I would have otherwise taken using my K20D and as a result, gotten more of my photos into PPG than the K20D.
05-22-2010, 12:44 AM   #6
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Pentax *istDS Camera Review

Pros Great high ISO, small files, easy to use, small and compact, AA batteries
Cons Very slow, almost to the point of irritation sometimes, small LCD to today's standards
Rating 7
Price $200
Years Owned 4 months

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
This was a very good camera for how cheap it was, and one that I didn't have to worry about keeping pretty all of the time. I loved the quality of the photos.

Camera Review
I have owned 2 of these cameras, the first one for only a few weeks, but the second one (courtesy of Damn Brit) over an entire summer in which I went all over California with it and took some of my so far favorite photos that I have ever taken with any camera. The camera is just great if you can deal with how slow it can be sometimes.
09-28-2010, 01:19 AM   #7

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Location: Wangaratta, Victoria
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Posts: 3,506
Pentax *istDS Camera Review

Pros Good allrounder, ergonomics, not too pretentious (not Canikon) unbeatable value
Cons e-dial prone to fail
Rating 8
Price (U.S. Dollars) $850-ish
Years Owned 5

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
Best value on the market when I purchased in 2005. Access to the Pentax stable of lenses, TTL flash, best in lower ISO range, solid in the hand and reasonable weight.

Camera Review
The DS was the first DSLR to break the AU$1000 barrier in Australia; Canikon entry-level and midrange system owners should be ever grateful for the DS release. I had no intention of upgrading from MZ50 to digital until I saw this advertised for AU$999 - many hundreds of dollars lower than I had seen any DSLR advertised.

That said, I love this camera (although the relationship is becoming strained as I see the specs of the K-5). I love the feel in the hands and I love the layout of the controls. I like the TTL flash capability and I like using AA batteries. Cheaper AAs didn't last long but eneloops and Imedions just keep going - I can't tell how many shots, because I always recharge before they even look tired. Certainly hundreds of photos are possible with each charge of quality batteries.

It lacks high ISO performance which is rarely a bother for me and it does hunt for focus on occasions, which may be the lens as much as the camera. The LCD is small by current standards (drool: 3" x 921000pixs) and the e-dial malfunctions and needs a clean every 4000 or so clicks. The e-dial problem is the most frustrating thing as it plays up precisely when I need to adjust Av or Tv. It makes the weather sealing of the later bodies look really attractive, as I assume it is lack of WR that allows the e-dial contacts to get dirty.

The fact that I have had it for 5 years, and still love it, says it all.
10-29-2010, 02:48 PM   #8
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Pentax *istDS Camera Review

Pros Small, well made, TTL(not P-TTL) AA Batteries, pentaprism, top-plate LCD, grip
Cons only 6mp(these days) no ability to have a grip, AA batteries,
Rating 9
Price (U.S. Dollars) $1200
Years Owned 6 years

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
Small, yet very solid DSLR
AA Batteries (a plus and minus)
pocketable (just)
Good IQ up to ISO800

Camera Review
This was my first DSLR, bought in December 2008 for a mighty £800!
It took me in a journey of digital photography when previously I thought it would never catch on, and that film still reigned supreme. How wrong I was!
I have since got a K10D and K20D, but the DS still comes into use from time to time due to its size and conveniance.

6MP is no longer cutting edge, yet you can still get great images at up to A3 size. Also, it is not fast (only 2.7fps) but hey, this is an early DSLR. Use it for street photography and you will be really impressed (even now) with its ability to produce great images.

It is a shame that Pentax have not upgraded this model with a "true" replacement. In otherwords, one that is as small, yet packs a pentaprism, SR, AF indicator, top body LCD etc (the K100D, K-m, K-x and K-r are pentamirrors, and the K-m and K-x don't even have AF indicators.....)

Still a good DSLR to have if you can find one.

11-08-2010, 12:12 AM   #9
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SLRPhotography's Avatar

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Location: Kennewick WA
Posts: 151
Pentax *istDS Camera Review

Pros small size, beautiful color, for the price now days, killer camera
Cons none
Rating 8
Price (U.S. Dollars) $800.00
Years Owned 5

I can recommend this camera: Yes

Value, Features, Performance & Size
Small size, rugged little camera, great starter DSLR

Camera Review
This was my first digital SLR, and what a wonderful little camera it is.

Last edited by SLRPhotography; 11-08-2010 at 09:09 AM.
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