The Pentax *istDL follows the recent trend for simplifying an existing digital SLR to meet a lower price point, but fortunately does so without serious compromise – as far as the beginners it’s targeted at will be concerned anyway.
Sure, compared to the earlier *istDS the continuous shooting buffer’s smaller, the AF greatly simplified and the penta-prism swapped for a penta-mirror, but those are essentially the only major differences. Indeed the use of a penta-mirror can even be spun as a plus point, thanks to their lighter weight in addition to lower cost.
Rather than just remove features from the DS though, Pentax has sensibly given the new DL something its predecessor and rivals can only wish for: namely a larger colour screen, packed with detail. 2.5in screens may now be common on many compacts, but they remain a luxury in the budget digital SLR market.
Large screens alone though do not make a great experience. Konica Minolta fitted a 2.5in screen to the 5D, but with only 115,000 pixels it looks coarse in operation. In contrast the screen on the Pentax DL sports 210,000 pixels which allows extra sharp menus and highly detailed images to be displayed.
In use the DL responds quickly and delivers good-looking images straight from the camera. Purists may find the images have a slight over-enhanced feel which can be seen in our Gallery pages, but again the audience the camera’s targeted at will find them satisfyingly punchy. Noise levels were also higher than its rivals at the same sensitivities, but were not problematic on most prints.
The biggest problem facing the *istDL though are the number of very tough rivals costing pretty much the same price on the street. Anyone considering the DL should also be weighing up the superior build and handling of the Nikon D50, the unique built-in Anti-Shake feature of the Konica Minolta 5D, and of course the slightly higher resolution and exemplary image processing of Canon’s EOS-350D / Digital Rebel XT.
It was always going to be tough against this competition, but in its favour the DL has the smallest body and the biggest, most detailed screen, not to mention some handling and features targeted specifically at first-time digital SLR owners. It should certainly be on the shortlist of anyone in the market for a budget digital SLR.
Please visit our Budget DSLR Buyer’s Guide for an update of the best buys around right now.