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 it 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. Also, 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, and automatically removes dust from the sensor on startup. The K10D also includes a shake reduction system.

Pentax K10D

It offers the usual Program, Aperture Priority, and Shutter Priority modes. You also get Sensitivity Priority (Sv) mode, 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.

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Camera Reviews

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55

When someone gives me a camera, I shoot it if I can. Most of the time people give me old film cameras, but once in a great while the gift is digital. When my mom’s neighbor moved away last year he gave her a bunch of stuff, including this Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55. Mom didn’t have any use for it, so she gave it to me.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55

Sony introduced this camera in 2010. It’s a “good features for the money” camera, neither top nor bottom of the line. It features a 1/2.3-inch CCD sensor that delivers 14.1 megapixels. Its 25-150mm (35mm equivalent) f/3.5-5.5 Sony lens starts wide and zooms deep. It saves images as JPEG only (no RAW option), with maximum resolution of 4,320×3,240 pixels. It saves video files as MPEG-4, 1,280×720 at 29.97 frames per second. It offers both optical and digital image stabilization. Its LCD screen is 3 inches diagonal. Its proprietary battery is good for only about 310 photos.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55

The DSC-H55 sold for about $250 when new. At 4.1×2.3×1.1 inches and just 7.1 ounces, it’s very small and light. I slipped it into my back jeans pocket and forgot it was there.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55

This camera offers some modes, including a panorama mode where you pan the camera and it stitches the image together. I didn’t play with any of that stuff so I can’t comment on it.

If compact digital cameras appeal to you, also check out my reviews of the Canon PowerShot S80 (here), the Canon PowerShot S95 (here), and the Kodak EasyShare C613 (here). I’ve also reviewed the Sony FD Mavica MDC-FD87 (here), an early digital camera that stored images on floppy disks! My first digital camera was the Kodak EasyShare Z730 (here).

I took this DSC-H55 out on a couple spring outings. I discovered right away that mine has a common fault: the LCD blanks out sometimes, turning entirely white. Since there’s no optical viewfinder, unless the screen works you can’t frame a shot. I found that pressing the buttons on the camera’s back often brought on this condition, so I used them as little as possible.

I found two ways to temporarily relieve this condition: press into the bottom right corner of the LCD, or repeatedly tap hard on the camera front between the Sony and Cyber-shot logos, until the display resets. Neither solution is great for the camera’s long-term health. But since it makes no sense to pay to repair a 2010 digital camera I did it anyway.

Sunset

Having to keep reactivating the screen was frustrating, but otherwise this camera performed well. Margaret and I made a sunset walk on a trail in a large Indianapolis park near us and the DSC-H55 delivered pleasing photos.

Margaret

Margaret was looking to practice her skill at shooting directly into the setting sun, so I did too. The lens flared, but I find the effect to be pleasing.

Margaret

The camera overexposes light colors that reflect light. I was able to tone it down in Photoshop on my wife’s jacket, above, but not on the frame of the soccer goal below.

Soccer goal

I did only a little low-light work with the DSC-H55, but I found that it tended to flatten colors that my Pentax K10D or my Canon PowerShot S95 would have captured well.

Sunset over the Toyota dealer

On gray days and when the sun is blocked, colors lose their punch in the DSC-H55. This is a sunny-day camera.

Pathside flowers

But in good light, the DSC-H55 returns accurate color. I like that. I haven’t used a ton of digital cameras in my day but among those I’ve tried I find accurate color hard to come by.

Cruze

This flower is a perfect example of the DSC-H55’s color accuracy. It perfectly captured the nuanced orange-purple gradient in this flower’s petals.

Orange flower

I also liked how the DSC-H55 could focus very close without me having to put the camera into macro mode. It’s common for digital cameras to switch to macro automatically now, but it wasn’t in 2010.

Droplets

The DSC-H55’s lens and sensor do a great job of capturing detail. Upper-tier Sony point-and-shoots boast Carl Zeiss lenses; my wife’s Sony RX100 has one and it’s wonderful. But this Sony lens holds its own.

Ash trunk

I am impressed with the camera’s depth of zoom, and its ability to get a sharp, shake-free image when zoomed to the max. I shot this early bird with its worm at maximum zoom from my front porch about 50 feet away.

The bird got the worm

I wished I could click in exact focal lengths as I zoomed, as I can on my Canon PowerShot S95. But I realize that most people use zoom to replace moving closer to the subject. I gave myself over to shooting the camera that way.

Reflecting in the pond

My one serious gripe with this camera is that the LCD reflects badly, washing out the display. In bright light, the LCD showed only my reflection, rendering me unable to compose. This is a dealbreaker.

At the pool

See more from this camera in my Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 gallery.

I’m sorry to say that I’m dropping this camera into the trash. Its white-screen problem made it more frustrating than rewarding to use. Also, its battery is nearing the end of its life as I got maybe 50 shots on a full charge. That one-two punch spells this camera’s doom.

But this is a pleasant little shooter, an easy companion for everyday photography. Except for its overly reflective LCD, it would have been a great choice in its day — capable for a good price.

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