Camera Reviews

Pentax K10D

If the Pentax K10D isn’t a dinosaur among DSLRs yet, it will be soon: it was introduced in 2006. At 10.2 megapixels, its image resolution doesn’t compare to modern cameras, but was good for its day and is plenty even now. It’s a competent performer in all but low light. Critically, you can buy them used for as little as $100. I bought one because it promised to take all of the manual-focus K-mount lenses I already own — and because other owners report that its CCD sensor returns film-like color.

Pentax K10D

The K10D was aimed at the “serious amateur” market, offering features entry-level DSLRs didn’t. It is sealed against dust and weather. It automatically removes dust from the sensor on startup. It also includes a shake reduction system.

Pentax K10D

It offers the usual Program, Aperture Priority, and Shutter Priority modes. It also offers Sensitivity Priority (Sv), where you dial in the ISO and the camera chooses aperture and shutter speed; and Shutter/Aperture Priority (TAv), where you set aperture and shutter speed and the camera chooses the ISO. In these modes you adjust shutter speed with the dial on the camera front below the shutter button, and the aperture with the dial on the camera back below the LCD screen.

Pentax K10D

The K10D uses an 11-point autofocus system, with 9 points clustered around the center of the frame. It offers matrix, center-weighted, and spot metering. A menu setting lets you choose the ISO range the camera will use in auto ISO mode. I set mine to 100-400 ISO, because ISOs higher than that lead to progressively noisier images on the K10D. Its ISO range is 100 to 1600.

By the way, I’ve reviewed a handful of other digital cameras: the Kodak EasyShare Z730 (here), the Kodak EasyShare C613 (here), the Canon PowerShot S80 (here), the Canon PowerShot S95 (here), the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 (here), and the Sony FD Mavica MDC-FD87 (here). Have a look!

I bought the K10D to see how vintage Pentax glass performed against a digital sensor. I started with my 50mm f/2 SMC Pentax-M. Because the K10D’s APS-C sensor is smaller than a frame of 35mm film, a 50mm lens behaves more like an 85mm lens would on 35mm film. I liked doing close work with this lens.

Daisies

I also bought an adapter to let me mount my screw-mount Takumar lenses. It worked, and here’s one photo to prove it. I made this through my 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar lens.

Ford

I mounted my 28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M lens for a trip to Chicago. This lens is a little too wide for me on my 35mm SLRs, but it was just right on the K10D.

Ross Trump Self-Park (with Man)

This photo from the 28/2.8 shows the brilliant color the K10D’s CCD sensor can deliver. It reminds me of shooting on color slide film.

Colorful tables and chairs

Shooting a manual lens on the K10D isn’t as simple as mount and go. You first have to go into the camera’s menus to enable the Using Aperture Ring setting, which lets the camera recognize the aperture you select on the lens. You also need to set the mode dial to M, for manual exposure. And then when you’ve framed and focused a scene, you have to press the green-dot button (next to the shutter button) to stop the lens down and meter.

It works very well. But on my trip to Chicago I soon wished for easier shooting. I started looking for a good autofocus lens for my K10D. I first found a 28-80mm f/3.5-4.7 SMC Pentax-FA lens for cheap.

Country Marathon

The lens was best with distant subjects. It struggled to find focus closer than about five feet. Also, when I shot subjects with a lot of depth in anything other than great light, things up close were out of focus.

Indiana State Road 45

The narrow end of this 28-80mm lens was mighty useful on road trips, however, where I sometimes want to zoom in on something distant. Thanks to the APS-C crop factor, 80mm is like 120mm on 35mm film.

Martinsville

Next I tried a 35mm f/2 SMC PENTAX-FA AL lens, thinking a prime would perform better. This lens cost way more than I’m used to paying for my gear. Unfortunately, with this lens mounted the K10D frequently couldn’t find enough light to fire the shutter, and the autofocus often struggled to guess what I meant the subject to be. Even when it got the subject right, it sure hunted a lot trying to focus on it. When it hit, it hit big, however, as this photo attests. Still, I sold this lens pretty quickly, for what I paid for it.

Jimmy

I feared that I would soon let the K10D find its next owner. Then I read somewhere that the lens that came with the K10D in its kit, the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SMC Pentax-DA AL, worked well with this body and performed beautifully. So I bought one. Verdict: oh heck yeah.

Cary Quad *EXPLORED*

How wonderfully this light, plastic-bodied kit lens performs. It focuses quickly and nearly silently. It’s super sharp. It has a tiny bit of barrel distortion at the wide end and a tiny bit of pincushion distortion at the narrow end, both easily corrected in Photoshop. Except for that slight flaw, this lens makes the K10D almost a pleasure to shoot.

Damion

Since getting the 18-55mm lens I’ve taken the K10D on more road trips. This is a fairly heavy camera — my wife’s Nikon D3100 feels feather light in comparison. By the end of a long day on the road I definitely feel the K10D slung over my shoulder. This is why the K10D is almost a pleasure to shoot.

Eastbound on IL 64

I’m not thrilled with the JPEGs the K10D generates — for a CCD sensor, colors are surprisingly muted. Fortunately, shooting in RAW and applying a couple quick tweaks in Photoshop’s RAW editor makes the colors pop.

Talk

Purple and yellow are, to me, the big tests for color fidelity on a digital sensor. Purples too often come out as blue and yellows too often wash out. The K10D handles both colors very well.

Abandoned bridge on 37/DH

Typical of DSLRs, the K10D’s extra long battery life far outclasses my point-and-shoot Canon S95. For a full-day road trip I must bring my two extra batteries for the S95, while a full charge on the K10D’s battery is more than enough.

The George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge

Because of the K10D’s CCD sensor, you quickly reach the camera’s limits in low light. Better low-light performance was one factor that drove the industry to CMOS sensors. But so far, CMOS sensors can’t deliver the same bold color as CCD sensors.

Sunset off the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge

I don’t often use the K10D to photograph family. My Canon S95 is so much lighter and easier to handle for that kind of work. But whenever I do use the K10D with family, the images I get back richly reward me.

Lain

To see more from this camera, check out my Pentax K10D gallery.

I’ve written mostly about the lenses I’ve tried and the images I’ve gotten. So let me wrap up by offering my take on the K10D under use. Its viewfinder is big and bright for a DSLR — you’ll find bigger and brighter viewfinders on plenty of 35mm SLRs but seldom on other DSLRs. All of the controls are just where you’d expect them to be, the body feels good in the hand, and the grip is perfect. It all adds up to easy, sure handling.

Despite its weight and the low-light limits of its sensor, the Pentax K10D is a winner.

Get more of my photography in your inbox or reader! Click here to subscribe.

Standard

11 thoughts on “Pentax K10D

  1. Andy Umbo says:

    A couple of points here:

    One, 10 megapixels are really plenty, especially if you’re used to shooting 35mm film anyway! I had a pal who bought a Canon 10D at the dawn of time for digital, and used it for an extended trip around central and south America. It was only 6.3 megapixel, and I saw very nice 11X17 blow-ups from that sensor, that looked better than a similar blow-up from 35mm film to that size. In fact, he shot 35mm film as well, and it was the trip that convinced him to just forget about shooting film in the 35mm format. Getting this camera for a hundred bucks is worth it for knocking around!

    Two, ditto for CCD vs. CMOS. I’m one of those professionals that still think that CCD looked better than CMOS in terms of being “film like”. Cell phone shooters have boosted the color saturation so much, that virtually no one under the age of 40 even understands what film looked like, and the subtleties and ‘smoothness’ it had. It’s now a “Velvia” world, and I’ve found I had to boost my own output above what it should be, and what I think is comfortable, just to appeal to younger art directors. When the saturation and contrast sort of become ‘unreal’, then the difference between CCD and CMOS is not that apparent.

    • Yes, it’s true, 10MP is plenty for 95+% of people. I personally have never printed larger than 8×10, nor have most people.

      50 years from now people will look back on now as “that hyper-saturated time” and hyper-saturated images will have that “2010s-2020s look”.

  2. tbm3fan says:

    Like you I use some Canon point and shoot digital cameras. Gave up on their A560 because of their funky battery contact issue. Went to a G9 five years ago and it is great. Picked up a pair of S95s from Goodwill for a ridiculously cheap price. However, when I want an SLR and want to use my Minolta A mount lenses, I go to my 7D. Even today the 7D is not inexpensive like your Pentax.if working well. When under $100, used, may be good for parts, one can’t have confidence in that description nor camera.

    • Yeah the S95 is now in “cheap used camera” territory — it’s a 10 year old model! If you find one that got light use you’re golden.

      My K10D had an unusually small number of shutter actuations when I bought it, which is why I bought that specific one — lots of life in that critical component yet.

  3. Those are nice colours. Even the very colourful subjects don’t make you feel like your eyes are entering another dimension. I wonder if the newer Pentax cameras create similar colours.

  4. Thanks for trying this camera with manual lenses. I was considering one to use with my Takumar lenses, but it sounds like a bit of a bother. Maybe if one shows up super inexpensive…

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.