Pentax’s Pentax *ist DL is the company’s second entry into the consumer DSLR market. With a 6.1 megapixel APS-format sensor, a maximum ISO of 3200, a 2.5-inch, 210,000 pixel display, RAW file capability, and a street price of about $750 with lens included, it’s very competitive. The camera’s autofocus system may fall short of the competition, and the kit lens is nothing to brag about, but in this price range, it remains a viable option.
The *ist DL is a reasonable entry in the entry level DSLR market. The camera’s most unique features in that market, the 2.5-inch LCD and the ISO 3200 setting, are real strengths. For some shoppers, they should be enough to decide the issue. The *ist DL’s other good qualities – very solid construction, relatively small size and clean design – are not unique in the market, but they are still very attractive.
The *ist DL is notably inferior to other sub-$1000 DSLRs in only two areas: its autofocus mechanism is less advanced than the Nikon and Canon offerings, and its handgrip is less comfortable than others. The autofocus issue is likely to be a substantial one to many users, but some people’s hands will be better suited to the handgrip than mine.
It’s worth noting that sub-$1000 DSLRs are all slow, compared to professional cameras. Users who hope to analyze a golf swing or catch that slide into home plate are going to be disappointed with the *ist DL and its ilk. These cameras are cheaper than the top of the line models for a reason, and most of the corners that manufacturers cut affect speed.
All that said, the *ist DL is a useful tool that could serve as a good first DSLR. Its automatic modes are easy to use, and its manual controls are complete.