Like Sony does in the A200 and Olympus does in the E420, Pentax includes wireless flash control in the K200D. Nikon reserves that feature for its D80 and pricier models, while Canon forces you to buy its 580EX flash or the dedicated wireless controller if you want wireless flash control. Granted, the Canon system offers a higher level of control than the Sony, Olympus, or Pentax entry-level versions, but it's nice to have some wireless flash functionality at the entry-level. The K200D lets you use the built-in flash to trigger either the AF540FGZ or AF360FGZ flash units. You can't group flashes or set ratios between flashes, but you can control the flash output with the camera's flash-compensation setting, which is conveniently changed in the flash setting part of the Fn menu. Also, you can set the camera to use the built-in flash along with one or multiple wireless flashes, or you can set the built-in flash to just control the wireless flashes and not fire when the picture is taken. In case you're wondering, the wireless flash works with Pentax's P-TTL flash metering.
Performance was pleasing and on par with the competition. It's also very similar to the K100D, though it starts up faster and is significantly faster between flash shots compared with its predecessor. The camera started up and captured its first JPEG in a blazing 0.2 second, though that doesn't include focusing time, since this test uses a prefocused lens. After that, the K200D takes 0.5 second between JPEGs or RAW images with the flash turned off. With the flash turned on, it takes 0.6 second between shots. Shutter lag measured 0.4 second in our high-contrast test and 1.3 seconds in our low contrast test, which mimic bright and dim shooting conditions, respectively. Continuous shooting yielded an average of 3 frames per second, which is slightly over Pentax's stated claim of 2.8fps and slightly more than you'll get from Sony's A200 or Nikon's D60, though shy of the Canon Rebel XSi's 3.4fps.
Images from the K200D are very nice. Colors didn't measure as very accurate in our lab test, but they still look pleasing. This was also the case with Nikon's D60. In both cases, you're not likely to notice unless you're intimately familiar with a certain color, and even then, the result will probably be acceptable. With both, I noticed a difference in the color of a red support beam at the Penn Station A train subway platform, but I see that beam almost every work day and often end up standing next to it for a total of more than an hour a week, since my naturally methodical nature leads me to stand in the same place on the platform most days.
Images are pleasingly sharp and retain a lot of detail even at the camera's highest sensitivity setting of ISO 1,600. I would've liked to see Pentax include ISO 3,200, but most of their competitors don't either and it's nice to be able to shoot at any of the camera's ISO setting and know that you'll get an acceptable print. Even at ISO 1,600 images are pleasingly sharp, and while shadow detail decreases noticeably, it doesn't fall off completely. You'll definitely see image noise at ISO 1,600, but if you're not too picky, you might not notice it at ISO 800, which is impressive for an entry-level SLR.
Pentax's K200D is a very nice entry-level dSLR. Its biggest omission is a live view shooting mode, though I didn't miss that much in my field tests and I think that wireless flash control is more useful. Canon's Rebel XSi has more megapixels than this Pentax, a live view mode, and sharper images when using their respective kit lenses, but it's also significantly more expensive. Also, Pentax's lenses and accessories tend to be less expensive than Canon's. If you're not extremely picky about your images--for example, if you don't think you're going to print your images larger than letter size, the Pentax K200D offers an economical alternative to Canon's entry-level blockbuster Rebel XSi.
(Smaller bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Raw shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim light)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)