Sound Advice Column: Pentax K10D Digital SLR Camera a Great Buy


Q: I’m buying a digital SLR camera and you write favorably about Pentax. I’ve seen the K10D, their top model, on sale recently with a $100 rebate. That makes it the same price as the entry-level Canon Digital Rebel XTi and Nikon D40x. Do you think the K10D is a better buy at approximately the same price? Anything else I should consider?

-Stelios Dokianakis, Pittsburgh, PA

A:  I have used Pentax cameras for years and have always been pleased, particularly with the beautiful color rendition they are renowned for. (If you want to see a sample, look at the Paul C. Buff post under “Field Trips” on my website.) Whether the K10D is right for you is best determined by what kind of camera you want and need.  There are three classes of digital SLRs: professional, consumer, and “prosumer.”

Professional models are heavy-duty workhorses with lightning-fast responses and a wide range of settings. This category is completely dominated by Canon and Nikon. Prices start at over $3,000 and go way up from there.

The Canon Digital Rebel XTi, Nikon D40X, and Pentax K100D Super are consumer models. These produce excellent image quality but are not built as sturdily, nor do they focus and shoot as quickly as pro models. They are lighter, and easier to carry around and operate.  These cameras typically run between $500-$800 including a kit lens for general purpose photography,

“Prosumer” models combine characteristics of professional and consumer models. They are sturdy and feel better in the hand than consumer models, operate faster and have more features, but aren’t as rugged and feature-rich as pro models. This category is populated by the Pentax K10D, Canon 40D, and Nikon D300. Prices for a prosumer model typically start at around $1200 and go up to around $2500.

The reason you are seeing the K10D at such an aggressive price is because it has been on the market for 14 months, which in the digital world usually means a replacement is coming soon. I checked and you can indeed get a K10D for about the same price as a Digital Rebel XTi or D40x. The prosumer K10D is from a completely different, better class of camera and the others are not in its league- it’s like getting a Porsche for a Pontiac price. The K10D also has sensor-based image stabilization which works with all Pentax-mount lenses. That alone is enough reason to purchase it, as the Canon and Nikon lack built-in stabilization.  You can also get a battery grip that doubles the amount of shots per charge and to makes it look and handle like a $3500 pro camera.

But with this performance comes some considerations. The K10D is a bit heavier than consumer models (though not by much) and has a wide range of controls, which could confuse a beginner if they don’t read the manual. (It does have a point-and-shoot mode you can use as a default.) Though you can use images straight from the camera, it produces its best results when used in RAW mode, which means you process the images with software after you download them to your computer. This is typical of many higher-end models. If you are ok with these considerations, you will be thrilled with the K10D.

If it sounds like a bit too much camera, check out the Pentax, Nikon, and Canon consumer models, as well as the Olympus E-510. The E-510 has a small, solid-feeling body, a sensor-based image stabilization system and is available with two excellent lenses for $749.

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