Pentax *ist DL2 Digital SLR Review - Pentax *ist DL2 Digital SLR Review

The middle of the back panel is dominated by the big 2.5-inch LCD monitor, which with 210k pixels is significantly sharper than the screens on either the D50 or 350D. Like most SLRs the DL2 doesn’t offer a live preview, but it does provide instant review with full exposure information, exposure histogram and optional clipped highlight indication on playback.

The viewfinder is large and bright, but is a bit lacking in information. Aperture, shutter speed, frames remaining, program mode, and a manual focus warning are all you get. The camera beeps for focus confirmation, but there are no focus points marked on the viewfinder.

The controls and available options are more reminiscent of a high-end compact camera than a professional SLR. The main mode dial has the necessary SLR manual exposure modes, but also has program settings for portrait, landscape, macro, action, night portrait and flash-off modes. As well as these it also has eight scene modes that are lifted whole from an Optio compact, even including the same menu icons. Modes include night scene, surf & snow, text, sunset, kids, pets, candlelight and museum. Bizarrely, the pet mode offers a choice of icons, for a cat or a dog depending on your preference. It makes no difference to the operation of the camera which you choose, only the icon is different.

Other options are more basic. The top slot on the menu is image tone, which has only two settings. Unfortunately, these aren’t labelled on the menu, but page 110 of the manual reveals that they are bright and natural modes. Other choices on the menu include three image sizes (1.5, 4 and 6MP) and four image quality settings including RAW mode. There are also sliders for saturation, sharpness and contrast, although the actual degree of control is limited.

Metering gets the usual three choices – matrix, CW or spot, but focus area has only wo, wide area or centre spot. There is no option for a selectable focus point.

One unusual feature is the aperture preview. Turning the on/off dial clockwise an extra notch activates the preview function. Rather than showing you the result in the viewfinder like most SLRs, the DL2 takes a picture and displays it on the monitor, but doesn’t write it to the memory card. It would be even better if it was possible to zoom this picture to check sharpness more closely.

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