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Pentax *ist D

Discussion in 'Classic Models & Marques' started by PentaxManiac, Feb 5, 2017.

  1. PentaxManiac

    PentaxManiac Well-Known Member

    A little early, too soon perhaps? Can we yet talk about a digital classic model? This one was a milestone as the first Pentax DSLR. At times 2003 seems a generation away too.

    The first Pentax DSLR, and at the time it was intended as one of a pair. At the time the *ist was the entry/intermediate level Pentax film SLR while their flagship was the MZS. There was a pre-production full frame digital version of the MZS which somehow never made it to fruition, leaving Pentax users a thirteen year wait for the K1 (although oddly enough there were medium format digital models). The *ist D went ahead, although it only really resembles its 35mm equivalent in being on the small side.

    I picked one of these up for next to nothing on eBay and took it for a wander round town over the Xmas and new year holiday. As previously mentioned it’s a small DSLR, with 6 megapixels on an APS-C sensor. Unusually for Pentax the images are written to a Compact Flash card rather than SD/SDHC. Also unusual, and the feature I was most curious to try out, is the option to shoot TIFF as well as the usual RAW or JPEG. The rear screen is tiny, as I guess most were in those days, but the menu is easy enough to navigate. In any case, what came as a surprise is how much can be done without digging into the menu: The one dial on the top plate sets not only the mode but also ISO, white balance and the file format. Other nice touches that set it apart from basic budget cameras of the time include a top plate LCD screen and in particular an AF button on the back.

    In use I found the viewfinder big and bright and the autofocus reasonably fast, although I wasn’t able to use my later Pentax lenses with quieter focusing. JPEGs were fine but I really missed the anti-shake of the later models. RAW files, I subsequently discovered, were again similar to those from other Pentax cameras I own. While I was out and about I shot a few TIFFs: it was when I attempted to check these on the rear screen that the *ist D began to show its age. Rather than displaying instantly, the TIFF images were each preceded by something I haven’t seen for a good few years: a spinning egg timer, no less. During the lengthy wait for each shot I found my mind drifting back to other IT bygones I thought I’d left in the 1990s rather than 2003: Windows 3.1, floppy disks, the flashing DOS prompt at the top of the screen, dialling up to the internet. Whatever.

    So a mixed bag of a performance. In truth the *ist D gives me little I can’t get from my K100D Super with its own 6 megapixels, and from which I can save RAW files as TIFFS with considerably less delay. Plus that has anti-shake. For the few quid I paid for it, it was fun to give the *ist D a spin, but since it subsequently developed a serious fault (the 4-way selector on the back is now a 3-way selector) I think its days are numbered and I won’t be looking for another.
    Done_rundleCams likes this.
  2. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    The full frame digital Pentax were working on had the same sensor as the Contax ND - which proved to have serious limitations, particularly at anything other than base ISO. The same was true with other CCD-based full frame DSLRs, such as Kodak's. The camera would have been too expensive and too flawed for Pentax - after all, the ND pretty much killed the Contax brand.

    Rather more baffling to me was the way Pentax introduced multiple variations on the *ist D theme - it was seldom clear what the differences were, nor if any of the previous models were discontinued. Add in the impossibility of pronouncing the camera's name - or if you can, it sounding very silly - and the fact that the camera wasn't in reality very competitive with Canon or Nikon, and you have a real marketing mess - a camera that could really only sell on price.
  3. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    In my view this is not a classic and never will be. Pentax made the highly successful M42 SLR products, the MX and ME Super and have never returned to these heights, they completely floundered in the autofocus film era with some really poor products and have struggled ever since. The current DSLR line may be good but it is not widely stocked and presumably sales are a fraction of those of Canon and Nikon, in this country anyway.
  4. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    My Spotmatic F, K2 DMD, MX, LX and 67 are among my favourite cameras - they were Spot (sorry!) on. Great cameras.
    The early AF cameras were very poor in AF terms, and felt horrible IMHO. Trying to continue with the K mount imposed significant restrictions on AF performance given the technologies available at the time, and in fact that was again a lot of the problem with the prototype full frame digitial - the small mount throat meant major vignetting.
    Done_rundleCams likes this.
  5. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    The reasons that both Canon and Minolta abandoned the FD and MD mounts in favour of wider throated designs, even though Minolta used a screw drive for focusing. Keeping with the existing mounts as did Pentax and Nikon imposed limitations which still apply.
  6. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Absolutely correct, although improved in-lens motors and microlens arrays mean that the issues are less serious than they were.
  7. nimbus

    nimbus Well-Known Member

    Indeed, but a wider mount is a better solution, even though changing to it does annoy/upset/infuriate existing users of a system.
  8. Benchista

    Benchista Which Tyler

    Of course.
  9. Done_rundleCams

    Done_rundleCams AP Forum Ambassador to Canada

    Hi Martin,

    Whilst I never purchased an IST*D, I definitely sold a number of them :) I waited for the IST*D, which I got to use demo model in Oct 2004 for a few
    weeks and then got my IST*Ds in early December 2004 :) I remember posting in AP, about how I went through the Energiser AA Lithiums (that came
    with the camera) within 7-10 days People asked me how I could have gone those batteries so quickly and I told them that I took over 1500 photos
    in that time period :eek: It was a robust little camera and for about the first year and a bit, I just used my (Tamron made) Pentax FA 28-200 lens, until
    once I needed something wider and used the 18-55 for the first time ;) and, led me to purchase the 12-24/4 lens :) and, eventually, the 50-135/2.8 :)

    I moved on to twin K200D's (w/grips) and then to a K-r w/ Tamron 18-250, then a Pentax Q and Q7, and, now, I use my K-50 w/ 50-135/2.8 and a
    Ricoh GR as my wide angle lens :)

    FWIW, I know (and met) a fellow, from DPReview, on a trip to London, who purchased a IST*D kit when it first came out in 2003 and upgraded to, if
    memory serves, to a K-7 and, now, a K-1



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