In fact, the natural mode JPEG images taken straight out of the camera and slightly sharpened in Photoshop actually had more detail and better contrast than RAW mode images processed using either Photoshop or the supplied RAW conversion utility. Images at 200 and 400 ISO were essentially noise-free, with only a little noise visible at 800 ISO. 1600 ISO was grainy but usable with no colour distortion, although 3200 ISO would be best avoided.
The 18-55mm (28-70mm equiv.) standard zoom lens supplied as part of the kit is very good, especially compared to the sub-standard optics bundled with the Nikon D50. It focuses quickly and accurately, and provides excellent corner-to-corner sharpness and a minimum distortion. It did catch a little lens flare when shooting into the sun, but it is supplied with a lens hood to combat this. Pentax lenses have always enjoyed a very good reputation for outstanding quality with compact size and low weight, and thanks to the K-bayonet lens mount the *ist DL2 is fully compatible with every Pentax lens ever made, including old M42 screw-mount lenses and 645 medium-format lenses via adapters.
The Pentax *ist DL2 is bargain-priced entry-level DSLR that combines the ease of use of a compact with the performance and picture quality of an SLR. It may lack some features, but it has all the important ones and even has one or two surprises. Experienced users may find it restrictive, but it is a perfect camera for the beginner who wants to learn, or for those making the switch from compact to SLR. It also gives you access to a vast range of Pentax lenses and accessories.