Editor's Choice, April 2008: Pentax K200D

Discussion in 'Digital Camera News' started by David Rasnake, Apr 30, 2008.

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  1. David Rasnake

    David Rasnake News/Review Writer News/Review Writer

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    When I reviewed the Pentax K200D early in the month, I openly admitted that I wasn't completely sold on the idea of shoehorning an advanced camera (the K10D) largely unchanged into a smaller body and selling it as a new idea. The practice of "trickle-down technology" is fairly common in the world of DSLRs, but there are concerns with the route Pentax chose in this case about missing the novice market with too little glitz and glamour on the one side, while simultaneously driving away advanced shooters turned off by the more consumer-focused interface. It's a fine line to walk for sure.

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    Ignoring market positioning for a moment, however, the K200D is a huge leap forward for Pentax's base-level SLR line, putting weather sealing, advanced-amateur build quality, a powerful AF system, and – most importantly – a straightforward, no-nonsense approach to picture taking in a camera priced at the entry level. No, it won't let you use the LCD for composition, and it doesn't offer friendly picture-taking tips for different shooting situations – and as a curmudgeon who'd prefer to set my own shutter speed and aperture and only cares about getting the best possible image, I don't miss either one.

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    Pentax has arguably over-hyped their "differentness" in the DSLR world, but in many ways the K200D lives up to the marketing copy: for those who have a fairly good grasp on conventional photographic controls, the K200D is a pleasantly simple, surprisingly powerful tool. With all that it carries over from the K10D, the K200D is unquestionably a much more impressive step up (in my mind, at least) from the K100D than the K20D is from the K10D. Beautiful color, consistent metering, lots of custom functions, and crisp AF all make the K200D perform like a much more expensive camera than its sub-$800 kit price would suggest.

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    (view large image)

    Speaking of kits, Pentax's second edition of its 18-55mm kit lens is unquestionably in the top tier of entry-level lenses in terms of sharpness and build quality. Summarizing the collective opinion around the office when we first looked at the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 II, my take on the matter from the full review still stands:

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    "The new kit lens, which impressed us with its improved sharpness in our K20D review, remains among the most well-built and optically proficient kit lenses currently on the market in our opinion, and should help Pentax stay competitive with improved kit glass from Canon and Nikon."

    </blockquote>

    To read my full evaluation of the camera's performance, take a look at our K200D review.

    The Pentax's primary limitations are still valid concerns, in my mind: it relies on somewhat arcane AA power, it's tied to Pentax's lens selection, and its continuous shooting speed remains disappointing. Arguably, however, two of these three concerns can be just as easily turned on their heads: while having to invest in separate NiMH rechargeables may not be ideal, the K200D's ability to pick up spare power just about anywhere is pretty nifty. Likewise, while Pentax doesn't have the stellar range of stellar glass afforded by Canon and Nikon, or even the great zooms made by Olympus, some of the company's primes, especially, are simply stunning, and with more flexibility than most makers in using legacy glass, budget options from the K1000 era forward (and even farther back, if you have a screwmount adapter) abound.

    Buffer size and frame-rate limitations remain, but while they make the camera appear hamstrung on paper, whether this is a real concern for most entry-level DSLR shooters is a question worth asking. For family photos, portraiture, or even shooting kids' sporting events, it really isn't in most cases.

    Independent of comparisons to any other camera out there, Pentax has pushed the level of its own entry-tier offerings forward with the K200D. This is a shooter's camera that in spite of (and, in some cases, because of) its somewhat utilitarian approach could be an extremely good fit for a broad range of photographers. And with Pentax debuting recently on walmart.com and promising similar roll-outs to other high-volume retailers in order to compete with the more highly visible brands, the company's making a strong push to get this high-function, high-value DSLR into the hands of more shooters. In short, it looks like things are starting to really come together for Pentax, and in recognition of an entry-level DSLR that should set the smaller maker up to make its biggest impression yet in a market chock full of great DSLRs from the likes of Canon and Nikon, the Pentax K200D earns April's Editor's Choice recognition.

     
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  2. AaronM

    AaronM News/Review Writer News/Review Writer

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    so this reminded me to ask, what advantages does the K200d have over the K10d?
    -a
     
  3. David Rasnake

    David Rasnake News/Review Writer News/Review Writer

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    Off the top of my head: more user-friendly interface with scene modes and such, the K20D's color mode fine-tuning, smaller size/lower weight, AA power (if that's an advantage to you), some say better JPEG processing. The K10D may be a better deal right now, given that they've become exceedingly inexpensive of late, but the K200D has a lower intimidation factor.

    The standard K200D kit is with the II lens as well, which is appreciably sharper at the edges.

    dr
     
  4. usapatriot

    usapatriot Well-Known Member

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    Good choice I must say! :p I've been keepings tabs on images from the K200D on Flickr and they are amazing, much better than Canon Digital Rebel XSi pictures that I have seen yet far.

    I really hope this camera gets noticed a bit more because it really is a good camera for the price.

    I'm thinking of getting the K200D in a couple of months along with the kit lens.

    I plan on getting the following lenses with time.

    1. DA 18-55mm II (Wide-Angle/Normal)
    2. DA 50-200mm or DA 55-300mm (Telephoto)
    3. FA 50mm (Normal)
    4. DA 14mm (Wide-Angle)

    Seems to me that I'm covered with Pentax's lens selection and even more so when they release the new 17-70mm f/4 this summer, which if priced decently, I may get it over the kit lens.
     
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2008
  5. Jerry Jackson

    Jerry Jackson Administrator News/Review Writer

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    As a Pentax shooter myself I'm glad to see the K200D earn an editor's choice award. As far as your lens selections go, they look good, but I'd like to make a few suggestions:

    I'd definitely suggest the 55-300 over the 55-200 because all initial impressions suggest the 55-300 is the sharper of the two lenses at all similar focal lengths.

    Unless you simply must have the FA 50 I'd suggest getting either the DA 40 Limited or waiting for the DA* 55. The DA 40 Limited is sharper, has quick shift manual focus and is less prone to CA/PF. The FA 50 only wins in terms of having a faster wide open aperture (f/1.4 vs f/2.8). If having f/1.4 is that important to you I'd suggest waiting until the DA* 55 arrives because I suspect that lens will be better built (weather sealed) plus it will have quick shift manual focus and probably better sharpness and less CA/PF.

    Likewise, unless you simply must have the DA 14 then I'd suggest waiting for the DA 15mm Limited. The DA 14 is good but isn't as sharp as it could be. There's no guarantee what the performance of the DA 15 Limited will be, but most of the Limited lenses have been absolutely spectacular (as good or better than Canon L glass).
     
  6. usapatriot

    usapatriot Well-Known Member

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    Awesome, thanks for the advice! I will definitely look out for your lens suggestions!
     
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