Also like previous Pentax DSLRs, the K100D uses 4x AA or 2x CRV3 batteries for main power. This has the advantage that these batteries are readily available all over the world, but it does add to the weight of the camera. The number of shots per charge will obviously depend on the type of battery used, but I took several hundred shots with a set of Duracell M3 Ultra batteries and the charge level was still reading half full.
The camera’s overall performance is good, but it’s not going to win any races. The AF system and metering are nice and quick, certainly on a par with any recent competitor. In continuous shooting in JPEG mode it can fire off five frames at 2.5fps, but then slows to about 1.3fps, although it can keep this up until the card is full. In RAW mode it can fire a quick three-shot burst, but then has to pause for about four seconds to empty the memory buffer before the next shot. This is a lot quicker than previous Pentax SLRs could manage, undoubtedly another benefit of the new image processing engine. In low light, popping up the flash enables it to operate as a powerful AF assist lamp with a range of at least 4m.
Of course the big selling point for the K100D is the shake reduction system. It is a new Pentax-developed moving-sensor system of the type pioneered by Konica Minolta and now used in the Sony A100, as well as some new models from Ricoh. Sensitive motion detectors react to any camera shake at low shutter speeds, and tiny high-speed actuators move the CCD automatically to compensate. This makes it possible to take hand-held shots at lower shutter speeds, or using longer lenses, with less chance of blurring due to camera shake.
Sony claims approximately 3.5 stops of extra shooting speed for its system, although most reviewers agree that about 2.5-3 stops is probably more realistic. I’ve tested the Pentax system extensively, and I found its performance was generally about the same as the Sony. It usually allowed shake-free shooting at least two stops below the safe speed, but would sometimes allow a shake-free shot as much as four stops slower, while occasionally shots just one stop slower would show slight motion blurring. The trick is, I think, to take several shots if you’re not sure. The chances are that at least one will be shake free.
It may be the cheapest DSLR on the market, but the Pentax K100D isn’t short of advanced features, performance or image quality, and can comfortably hold its own against the Nikon D40. Build quality, design and handling are all superb, and the Shake Reduction system is as good as any on the market. If you’re looking for a good entry-level DSLR with the option to build up a kit, then look no further.