Other external controls include exposure compensation, AE lock, and an FN button that provides a wide range of secondary functions on the D-pad. Manual or auto focus is selected by a two-position switch on the side of the lens mount. There is no continuous AF option.
Despite its cut-down list of features, it still has some nice touches. The self-timer includes a 2-second option with mirror lock-up for vibration-free shots, and its ISO range of 200-3200 beats both the D50 and 350D. Like the D50 the DL2 uses SD cards for storage, so those memory cards from your compact will work.
The built-in pop-up flash is particularly nice. It has a stated guide number of 15.6, but I found that it was easily capable of lighting up a large room. It also doubles as a long-range AF lamp, firing as a high-frequency strobe so fast that it appears to be continuous illumination.
Shooting performance is a little erratic. In continuous mode the DL2 can shoot five frames in about three seconds, and after that slows to an average of about one frame a second. I say average because it has no sense of rhythm at all, and shoots at apparently random intervals.
However, in single shot mode, focusing and exposure are admirably quick and shutter response is effectively instant, which is what one expects from a digital SLR.
The DL2 uses the same 6MP sensor as the rest of Pentax’s current DSLR range, which is, I think, the same sensor as the Nikon D50. However, Pentax seems to have been able to do more with it than Nikon could. If you refer to my review of the D50 from December last year, you’ll find that it suffered from purple fringes on high-contrast edges and the white balance system tended to put a blue colour cast over everything.
Fortunately the *ist DL2 has none of these problems. In the default vivid mode, images are sharp bright and colourful. Possibly a little too colourful in fact, with reds especially being a bit over-saturated. In natural mode, images have a much more realistic tone, with just a hint of softness that responds very well to a light application of unsharp mask.