Rather than replacing its K200D with an enhanced model at the same price, as most manufacturers tend to do, Pentax chose to replace it with a version that makes some trade-offs, albeit at a lower price. In exchange for a lighter, slightly more compact but less weather-protected body and a less sophisticated AF system, Pentax includes an extra stop of sensitivity, a bundled flash unit, and an updated user interface. The result is an attractively priced entry-level model with mostly class-leading performance but photos that require a little more work than the typical newbie should really have to exert.
The K2000 comes in several different kits. The f3.5-5.6 18-55mm kit lens is one of Pentax's new DA L series budget lenses that, according to the company, uses the same optics as the older models but uses less expensive construction. The most novel kits includes the lens and AF200FG flash; other versions widely available include body only, a typical kit with the 18-55mm lens, and a dual-lens kit with the 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses. The flash is naturally available separately as well. You can also get it in white directly from Pentax.
Though its has a compact, comfortable body that is smaller than all but the Olympus E-450, it's also a bit heavier than its direct competitors. It has a nice, big grip to accommodate four AA-size batteries. Pentax doesn't include a lot of connectors; under a cover on the left side is a proprietary video-out/PC connector and the right has an SD card slot. The camera has a pretty standard layout. The mode dial on top offers the usual handful of scene modes, with another slot that gives you access to more, plus PASM manual and semimanual exposure modes. The K2000 also has Pentax's Sensitivity Priority mode, which allows you to select ISO sensitivity while shutter speed changes and aperture remains fixed; this is especially useful for homing in on appropriate settings for low-light shooting. A button near the mode dial works in conjunction with the back dial (dubbed the "e-dial") for adjusting exposure compensation, or, in Manual mode, toggling the dial function between changing shutter speed and aperture.
The Help button next to it can be set for digital preview (an unsaved snapshot), Custom Image, digital filter, or a file format override. When used for Help, it provides a limited explanation for whatever buttons or menu items you select. On the camera back is the traditional four-way nav plus OK. As frequently found on a point-and-shoot, the buttons double as white balance, drive mode (high- and low-speed continuous, two self timers, and exposure bracketing of three shots in 1/3 or 1/2 stop increments up to 2 EV), ISO sensitivity, and flash. While the K2000 supports wireless flash, the AF-200FG that ships in the bundle doesn't. A relatively tiny AF/AE lock button sits on the back right shoulder of the camera where it's easy to overlook.
While the control panel is easy to use, the menus seem a bit more tedious to plow through than usual. The four basic options--shooting, playback, setup, and custom--expand to about 12 different screens as you cycle through, and the somewhat flat navigation buttons feel as if they require more pressure and concentration to manipulate than normal. The options and structure are pretty typical, however. Interestingly, unlike with most cameras vibrating the sensor to shake off dust at startup is optional and turned off by default. Given that it makes a scary noise that sounds a bit like a horse snorting, perhaps that's not such a bad thing. (For a complete recounting of the camera's features and operation, you can download a PDF of the manual.)
|Key comparative specs||Sony Alpha DSLR-A230||Olympus E-450||Pentax K2000|
|Sensor||10-megapixel CCD||10-megapixel Live MOS||10-megapixel CCD|
|APS-C 23.5mm x 15.7mm||Four Thirds 17.3mm x 13mm||APS-C 23.5mm x 15.7mm|
|Sensitivity range||ISO 100 - ISO 3,200||ISO 100 - ISO 1,600||ISO 100 - ISO 3,200|
Viewfinder (coverage, magnification)
|95 percent||95 percent||96 percent|
|0.83x/0.55x effective||0.92x/0.46x effective||0.85x/0.57x effective|
|LCD||2.7-inch fixed||2.7-inch fixed||2.7-inch fixed|
|Autofocus||9 points||3 points||5 points|
|Body dimensions (WHD, inches)||5.0x3.8x2.7||5.1x3.6x2.1||4.8x3.6x2.7|
|Operating weight||17.7 oz. (estimated)||15.2 oz. (estimated)||20.7 oz.|
|Mfr. Price||$549.99 (with 18-55mm lens)||n/a||$499.95 (with 18-55mm lens)|
|$749.99 (with 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses)||$699.99 (with 14-42mm and 40-150mm lenses)||$599.95 (with 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses)|
The LCD is fine--no better or worse than anyone else's--but the viewfinder is very nice for this class. Though the guidelines don't light up, the viewfinder is relatively big and bright and the focus lock indicator is close to the middle of the bottom LED readout rather than on the edge of your peripheral vision. However, it doesn't display individual focus points or areas because the K2000 limits you to one of two options: wide-area AF or single center point focus.
One of the fastest entry-level dSLRs we've tested, the K2000 can keep up the pace because of a surprisingly zippy autofocus system--despite only having five AF points. It takes a bit longer to power on and shoot than the competition, though it's still only 0.7 second. Focusing and shooting in good light clocks a mere 0.2 second, and in dim light that increases to just 0.5 second. It typically takes 0.5 second for two consecutive shots, though enabling the on-camera flash slows it down to 1.1 seconds, which is on the high side for a dSLR. Its continuous shooting is the only real disappointment; though it can burst for 3.3fps, it can only do so for about five shots before it slows significantly. A longer sustained burst is more like 1.1fps.
Out of the box, I'd have to rate the K2000 photos as mediocre. Pentax uses a default setting of Bright Custom Image for its JPEGs, which boosts the contrast and sharpness and renders some of the worst colors I've seen, plus it exacerbates noise at even medium ISO sensitivities and clips highlight and shadow detail. (Every manufacturer uses some boosted settings to provide more vivid, consumer-friendly photos for its entry-level dSLRs. These go too far.)
However, if you switch to Natural or shoot raw (it supports both Adobe DNG and Pentax PEF), the photos look much better--quite good, for that matter. While you should probably stick with ISO 400 and below for general shooting, I found photos generally usable as high as ISO 1,600, depending upon output size and content. The metering system does a good job, even in challenging high-contrast lighting, and the camera displays a reasonable dynamic range for its class. Though the kit lens can focus pretty closely, which I really like, I couldn't get very sharp images out of the body.
If you're a longtime Pentax shooter with a shelf full of lenses, a cheap K2000 body is a good way to finally move to digital; they should all be compatible, albeit with limitations depending upon the lens. (Check the manual for specifics about compatible functions.) With its aggressive price, as long as you're flexible and intrepid enough to play with the settings before shooting, the Pentax K2000 is a pretty good option.
(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)