izzy bitzy *ist report


Link Posted 15/01/2004 - 00:06
I really bought the new Pentax *ist 35mm SLR as a light-weight, small "MX-spirit" upgrade to my heavy and bulky PZ-1. I also got the light weight Pentax 28-105 f/3.2-4.5 snubby zoom to got with it. At first, I was shocked to find that the aperture ring when off A settings locked the camera and the metering wouldn't work. After a week of calming down, I was able to get use to setting the aperture in aperture priority mode using the dial and manual mode using the dial with the +/- button. I speculate that Pentax will move away to aperture-less FAJ mount. Personally, I've found using MF lenses on my first Pentax AF bodies annoying (particularly the lack of aperture info in the viewfinder with M or A lens when not set at A in my PZ-1); so I've gotten AF lenses for AF bodies since (thanks Pentax for continuing to bring out more). BTW, CF 17 can be set to allow shooting with lens not having the A setting or not set at A. But I found it useless because the metering doesn't work (seems to always shoot with the lens wide open).

Here's a summary of what I like: at last smaller and lighter than my MX!, very quiet and smooth shutter compared to by PZ-1, auto-popped up flash, always get 37 pictures on 36 exposures (I guess 25 on 24 exposures too), bright viewfinder (seems as bright as my PZ-1) but smaller magnification, AF confirmation in the viewfinder picture area.

My family and I spent the holidays at Disney World, Epcot, etc. I braved myself with no backup into leaving my MX at home ! I put 10 rolls through the *ist. The *ist compared to my heavy PZ-1 (together with my new Pentax 28-105 f/3.2-4.5) was so featherweight and felt like I don't have anything on my shoulder and this is after walking all day long!

I like the automatic popped up flash (but got really frustrated when it kept popping up until I learned how to easily turned it off . Another nasty with many Pentax AF bodies. When passing the camera to someone to take a picture of you at night with flash, the camera will select shutter speed to match the lens focal length, i.e. 1/30 for 28mm and 35mm setting. This caused camera shake for the inexperienced person taking the camera. Switching to Tv and setting the shutter speed to 1/125 solves the problem, but result in maximum aperture f/3.2 in the example above . So manual mode was necessary for optimum shutter speed and aperture for night time flash. With my PZ-1, the Hyper mode would quickly takes care of it.

The new 16 segment metering worked well for the most part but still got fooled several times when I didn't use ML to take a substitute reading. But I subjectively feel it apparently worked no better than my 8(?) segment PZ-1. I used the spot metering a few times and the central circle was very nice compared to PZ-1 lack of spot circle. Never use center weighted metering (which is all I use with my MX .

The 11 AF sensors was interesting and focus correctly most of the time, but I got annoyed that it focus wrongly sometime. Fortunately, it was very easy to switch between 11 point and central AF. Being used to my PZ-1, I actually left it set on central AF most of the time afterward.

I got spoiled by the Hyper mode of the PZ-1 which the ZX and the old SF line don't have. However, I learned to use the various picture mode as a "poorman" Hyper mode . Still the Tv and Av mode was convenient but slower than the Hyper mode of the PZ-1. With these two mode and memory lock, I rarely need to go into manual mode (which I did a few times). But still I missed the HyperManual mode of the PZ-1. Oh well... I would also prefer that in manual mode, the +/- button be left handed as I'm using the right thumb to change the shutter speed. Holding on the +/- button in front of the dial with the index finger while turning the dial with the right thumb while serviceable is not my preference .

No info in the viewfinder whether I'm in Tv or Av mode .

While sounding good in the ads that the *ist will automatically pick the "right picture mode", I found in practice it usually picked the smiley face, portrait or landscape mode, macro mode only when I shooting macro, never night time mode or action mode (the latter perhaps because I didn't shoot action).

Here's the thing I really hate. When turning the (picture) mode dial, the metering mode can also get turned from the matrix to center-weighted. So I must remember to check the metering mode switch often! I think the metering mode should be located elsewhere or more firm to turn!

I don't like the quick flashes of the RTF as AF assist beam; it just annoyed people. I missed the PZ-1 red AF assist beam. On the other hand, my PZ-1 gave me red-eye with the RTF a lot . Interestingly, I hardly got any red-eye with the taller RTF of the *ist (not once did I use the red-eye reduction mode).

One more word about the RTF. I was very concerned that exposure compensation doesn't work in any of the picture or programmed mode and of course not in manual mode when using the flash. I took several "bright white bride" wedding test shots on off white background and I could see that the exposure compensation did nothing . But surprisingly, the picture came out ok with fairly white wedding dress rather than the expected gray. Upon closing examination of the mirror box, I see that the OTF TTL flash metering is a lot bigger in the box than my PZ-1, old SF-10 and my old SuperProgram. Traditionally the Pentax bodies with TTL metering works only center weighted. So I wonder if the *ist has built-in exposure compensation when RTF is used? Does anyone know?

The illuminated LCD panel, while serviceable, is a lot dimmer than my PZ-1.

2-sec self timer can only be selected with custom function. On my old PZ-1, I use this mode as a poorman "remote release". Fortunately, the custom function number stays put; so I leave it at CF-12 so it can be easily changed back and forth.

Though it comes with date back built-in, I never cared for one and never used it. I would have prefer something like the MZ-S exposure info imprint on the negative (not the picture area)!

I ordered the Pentax CF-12 case and was dropped shipped by Pentax directly in time for vacation - expensive! It's light gray and feel like suet leather. It's one piece and no longer a two piece like my previous Pentax cases. Normally, I leave the body part of the case screwed on with my PZ-1 and older Pentaxes while shooting to protect the body at least, but with the *ist I used the case only when I put the camera away .

Batteries, oh did it suck batteries. I don't know if it was because I was playing with the camera a lot before the trip, but the CR2 gave up after 6 roll of 36 exposures !

One word about the lens. I used ISO 400 film exclusively for this trip and I was surprised at how many existing light pictures in low light came out fine at 1/15 shutter speed (1/8 sometimes when I can braced myself against the wall), a credit to the light weight of the *ist and the 28-105 lens that helped with holding steady and probably the f/3.2 instead of f/3.5 as well . Years ago, I used to travel with camera bag full of lenses and 2nd body loaded with different film. In the past 10 years, I much prefer to travel light: one body with one or two lenses at most. So the 28-105 simply fits my bill perfectly. (I do have have the Pentax 28-200 but I don't use it often due to its weight, bulk and the nasty zoom creep).

Overall, I'm getting more used to *ist and am liking it a lot more now that I've used it. Besides, its curved body is very good looking . If you're looking for a compact, lightweight Pentax 35mm AF SLR and don't need to use your MF lenses, the *ist might be for you. Could it be that my PZ-1 will go on eBay soon ? Perhaps, the *ist will be my last AF film camera, but never will my MX go onto the auction block !

Ron B[ee]
The Pen(tax) Pal


Link Posted 15/01/2004 - 20:03

More than just a little review- and more informative than many I have seen in the camera mags. Thanks Ron for the most entertaining read - I am almost tempted to try an *ist now (but still too attached to my 'M' series optics and cameras!)

Best wishes


Link Posted 16/01/2004 - 09:23
Can I just double check something in this review?

You said that exposure compensation doesn't work in any of the picture modes, is that right?

If so, I'm going to be very annoyed! The exposure compensation does work in picture mode on my MZ50, so I naturally assumed it would on the *ist. It didn't occur to me to check something like that before buying. I haven't had a chance to play with mine yet, but I will be very disappointed if I can't use exposure compensation in "idiot mode". I do tend to use the picture modes quite a lot, mainly because I've found they work perfectly well, although I do use the priority modes when needs be. If I'm forced to use priority or manual to use exposure compensation, I'm sure it will be good for my photography in the long run, but I'll still be fed up!

Anyone know if this is right?


Link Posted 16/01/2004 - 16:38
Bagpuss wrote:
Can I just double check something in this review?

You said that exposure compensation doesn't work in any of the picture modes, is that right?

Forgive me if my report was not clear. The exposure compensation works in all programmed modes, shutter and aperture priority AE but is not available in manual. The exposure compensation also works when using the RTF flash (not flash compensation mind you) in the above mentioned modes, but is not available in manual mode.

Ron B[ee]


Link Posted 16/01/2004 - 18:17
Just picking up the one point, regarding a replacement for the MX. There are only two modern Pentax bodies that in an operational sense can easily substitute for the MX - the MZ5/MZ5n and the MZ3. These have traditional shutter speed dials and can be used just like an MX if so desired. The *ist is a different design philosophy altogether, especially as it also does away with the traditional aperture ring.

We bought Sue (my wife) an *ist and it's an excellent camera, but also it will guide our decision on whether to invest in the *istD. We are still sitting on the fence with this one, but as the alternative would be one of the Nikon based bodies (D1X, Fuji S2 Pro, Kodak etc) it would need a ridiculous reinvestment in lenses.

We shall see what the PMA show brings!
Best regards, John


Link Posted 19/01/2004 - 10:09
Phew, thanks Ronbee! I misunderstood you.


Link Posted 20/01/2004 - 22:26
Ron, The flesh is weak - I have succumbed to the lure of an *ist, and now eagerly await its arrival. I will post my thought in a week or so.


Link Posted 21/01/2004 - 04:40
Pop up flashes are very limited. When I bought my IST I got the FGZ360 flash unit to go with it. It has a AF spotbeam and works with the ist magnificently. The P-TTL function produces perfect flash exposures with the option of flash exposure compensation +1 stop up to -3 stops. High speed sync for bright daylight portraits at wide apertures saves your background from getting overexposed (this will only work with the ist and MZ-S i believe) Although dont try to freeze motion with this 'High speed sync' cause it doesn't work like that. Only one negative to say is that when set to rear curtain sync the flash still fires a pre flash as per P-TTL mode, now this doesn't interfere with the actual exposure but i suspect will sometimes produce inaccurate exposures as the ist relies on the pre flash information to form the actual exposure. So for such creative desires as freezing motion after a time exposure (light streaks etc) your subject may not have been in the correct position for the pre flash. I put the flash on my MZ-60 which uses normal TTL and this problem does not arise. It would be good if you could switch between TTL and P-TTL for this reason but alas it cannot be done.
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