The Pentax *ist DL is mainly aiming at the beginning photographer. But Pentax doesn't take that as a limitation with limited settings for the photographer. On the contrary, the user of the *istDL obtains more than sufficient possibilities for creative photography and adjusting the camera to his or her own requirements. Of course there is a broad choice of exposure programmes. The picture modes are extremely useful to beginning photographers and the more advanced user will soon step over to the P, Tv, Av or M mode. The M mode offers a little extra. If you choose the manual mode on the AE-L, the shutter speed and aperture will be set as if photographing in the programme mode. Very useful! You can also dedicate a different function to the AE-L through the menu, but I don't see why anyone would want to do that. The menu plays a main role for the settings. There is an awful lot to adjust and if you'd have to do all that through separate buttons, it would be very difficult to find them and rather badly organized.
Pentax *ist DL - Menu
The menu is set up logically, just like the rest of the Pentax *istDL. The menu contains four tabs, one for record settings, one for play mode, one for the set-up and one for personal settings. It's very efficient and logical as to what's to find where. The Pentax *ist DL definitely has one of the better menus of nowadays digital cameras.
Colour rendition - Sharpening, Contrast and Exposure
Image tone gives you the choice between Bright and Natural. Bright delivers an image with rich contrast and brightness with a higher sharpening. My preference is the Natural setting; I prefer to adjust contrast and such through Photoshop. Bright delivers an image that is too artificial for my taste, but then everyone to his taste. Colour saturation, sharpening and contrast can also be adjusted separately. The default values in combination with the Natural image tone deliver the best results. The standard sharpening is just right. More sharpening shows annoying artifacts real fast, they do stand out on the screen. I was photographing in RAW format most of the time, which gets the most from the camera. Apart from the exposure, not many alterations were needed for contrast and sharpening. A very good performance of the Pentax *ist DL.
Pentax *istDL - Light metering
The light metering and auto focus have to be adjusted through the menu. This is not a handy option. Particularly the more advanced photographer likes to play with these options and it will be annoying having to dig into the menu all the time. Two small additional buttons on the camera would have done the trick. The multi-segment metering achieved very good results most of the time, although the camera tends to under exposure a little, but rather that than over-exposure. Besides multi-segment metering the *ist DL also offers center weighted and spot metering. This is a luxurious feature to find on an entry-level digital reflex camera.
Pentax *istDL - Auto focus
Through the menu the auto focus can be set to a broad or narrow area and single or continuous focus. It might have been better to place the latter function next to the lens. On the other hand, you can ask yourself how many of the final users will actually adjust these settings?
*ist DL digital reflex camera - Digital noise reduction
The personal settings enable you to set the Pentax *ist DL completely to your own desires and requirements. I do regret however, that the camera isn't equipped with a programmable button. The personal functions offer the possibility to activate noise reduction. When photographing with slow shutter speeds, the noise will be deleted from the image. It does work, but strangely enough I thought the images without noise reduction looked better. It's also possible that you let the camera adjust the ISO value. This is carried out completely automatically, through Auto ISO but also in a certain area. For instance, only ISO 200-800. You can also set receiving a warning when the ISO rises above ISO 800. Moreover it is very much possible to use the Pentax *ist DL at higher ISO. Only at ISO 1600 noise is visible, but even at ISO 3200 not disturbingly apparent. This is definitely a fantastic performance of the *istDL. The sensor belongs to an older generation and isn't that famous for its low noise. Still Pentax succeeded in getting the noise under control.
Pentax digital reflex - Colour profiles
The images on the Pentax *ist DL can be stored in JPEG as well as in RAW format. Using the RAW format will get the most from the camera. To edit the RAW images, they'll have to be converted to TIFF or JPEG through Pentax software. The software works reasonably, but unfortunately you can't correct every image in a batch separately. Every image in a batch gets the same correction. Converting takes some time too. From RAW to TIFF it took more than two minutes. In addition the colour profile is not included in the conversion. Other than that the program does a good job and offers an abundance of correction possibilities. At JPEG files the profile does get included. Besides sRGB one can also choose for Adobe RGB, the latter one is preferred if you do additional image editing. Pentax is to praise for offering this option on the *ist DL. Considering the JPEG format, it also offers the choice from three modes: good, better, best. Best is almost similar to a RAW file, at Better some artifacts appear at slanting and round shapes. In the lowest quality these artifacts increase quickly. So I'd say; use as little as possible.
White balance - Surrounded light under control
The white balance is important and Pentax proves to be in control again. Only Fluorescent shows some deviation. Therefore the *ist DL offers the options of choosing from three pre-programmed modes. If the deviation is still too visible, a manual metering is also available. In all cases it delivers a better result than the automatic, although the difference was marginal at times. When working in RAW, one will be satisfied with the automatic balance. Unlimited corrections can still be carried out through the converter.