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Pentax EI-2000 Digital Camera Review

John Riley takes a retrospective look at the 2MP Pentax EI-2000, one of the first Pentax digital cameras released. John provides sample photos along with his verdict. This mini review highlights just how much digital cameras have advanced to where we are today.

Posted: 24/04/2024 - 12:35

Handling and Features
Lens Performance

Pentax EI-2000

It is February 2000 and launched upon a largely film-based photographic world is one of the very first Pentax digital cameras. Developed in conjunction with Hewlett Packard, the Pentax EI-2000 and HP Photosmart C912 both hit the shelves. The digital expertise comes from HP, the camera expertise comes from Pentax, who, as would soon be proved, are learning very quickly.

The strangely but not unattractively sculpted form of the EI-2000 was a bold first step in its day, but looking at it now, let's see how it holds its head up against current expectations or whether it proves to be too old, too slow and too poor in terms of technical quality. Armed with a newly formatted Compact Flash card, with its immense 1GB capacity, let the tale of discovery unfold.

Pentax EI-2000 Handling and Features

The camera is quite large at 143.5mm x 90.5mm x 105.0mm, but well shaped to fit the hands, and it feels good in use. It weighs in at a relatively light 570g, or 630g including battery. It borrows much of the construction style of the Pentax MZ series of AF film cameras and the Pentax stamp is all over it in terms of photographic design. Anyone used to Pentax cameras, or indeed any DSLR or mirrorless design will be able to use the EI-2000. It is very much a photographer's camera.

It is also a strange hybrid, having a real SLR viewfinder that may be small but which is actually pretty impressive. It is small because the format is small, with the 2MP 2/3” CCD measuring just 8.6mm x 6.9mm and offering an image size of 1600 x 1280 pixels. To put this into perpective, most camera clubs run projected image competitions using files of 1600 x 1200 pixels, so in theory even today the camera could deliver images for competition. Whether it does so with enough quality we shall see. The viewfinder may be impressive, but the 2” monitor screen, with its 130,338 pixels, can only be described as dire. It is just good enough to navigate the Digital Operating System that was, at the time, cutting edge.

The on/off slider switch is to the right of the shutter release on the top plate. Just in front of the shutter release is the front control wheel that changes the aperture in Av mode and the shutter speed in Tv mode. There is a top plate screen that shows current settings, a series of buttons for quick access to some shooting parameters and a mode dial far left. There is also a flash up button to bring the pop-up flash into operating position. The four top plate buttons control drive, self timer/remote control, metering pattern and red eye reduction. Two extra buttons just at the back of the top plate control exposure compensation and AE lock. This is all very recognisable Pentax design, and it works.

Far left of the top plate is the mode dial, offering a selection of picture modes plus the usual Av, Tv, P and M.

Pentax EI-2000 - Top View

The back of the camera houses a four way controller and a rotary selector combined in one. Here we choose shooting, playback, data transmission and connection to a PC. The monitor is housed in a rather neat hinged block that swings up. Menus are accessed here and some adjustments such as ISO settings are within these. There are not many menu settings compared to modern cameras, so the layout is not too onerous.

The left side of the camera houses the connections, the right side houses the CF card, Type I or II but not a microdrive. The battery is housed in the baseplate and is a fairly large Li-Ion that may be quite difficult to source. The charger is included with the camera. As an alternative, an AA battery insert is also provided and this takes 4 AA batteries, preferably NiMH.

In use, the limitations are clear from the start, with just 2MP. The ISO range is also very restricted, with the options being between 50 and 400 only, in full stop steps. ISO 400 is very noisy, with the saving grace that the noise is quite crisp. Shutter speeds are 4s – 1/1000s.

Pentax EI-2000 - Rear View

Of course we have to accept that digital cameras have made huge progress to be where we are today. This camera may make us miss a decent monitor, shake reduction, weather sealing, extended ISO performance....just for a start. It may also reveal how shaky we are and how much a tripod is still a vital accessory.

Pentax EI-2000 Lens Performance

The fixed lens is labelled Pentax Zoom Lens, 8.2-25.8mm f/2.5-3.9, a “35mm equivalent” of 34-108mm.

Optical construction is 8 elements in 7 groups, including 1 Aspherical. It is not specified what coatings are used, but whatever they are there is no doubt about their effectiveness.

There are limited apertures available to select. At 8,2mm  we have f/2.5, f/3.9, f/5.5, f/7.8 and f/11. At 25.8mm we have f/3.9, f/6.0, f/8.5, f/11.9 and f/16.9. The performance in terms of sharpness is very even both centre to edge and wide to telephoto. Figures are almost constant around 600-650 LW/PH. The sharpness level can perhaps be best described as fair, but with a bit of sharpening in Photoshop can be acceptable for web and small prints.

CA (Chromatic Aberration) is centrally very well controlled. There is some fringing at wider angles, but nothing too obvious in most images.

Distortion measures -3.52% barrel at 8.2mm and +0.19% at 25.8mm. This is very acceptable.

Bokeh is not really a feature here as the resolution generally is quite low, so the out of focus areas are unremarkable compared to the in focus ones.

The lens is not marked as SMC, but regardless of that the resistance to flare is excellent.

Vignetting is also quite modest, around -1.2 stops all round.

The lens is compact, protuding around 152mm from the camera. There is a standard 49mm filter thread. The only control is the wide zoom ring that takes up almost the entire length. It is a power zoom, effective if a little notchy in operation. This makes it quite difficult to select any particular focal length with any repeatability. We end up shuffling backwards and forwards trying to find the right setting.

The resultant images are reasonable, especially after sharpening, but nowhere near the quality of later compact Pentax cameras, culminating in the superb MX-1. However, the price is nowhere near that either, so the EI-200 remains an interesting camera to experiment with.


Value for Money

The value of the EI-2000 is quite simply whatever the buyer is prepared to pay. The sample reviewed is in mint condition, complete with all the paperwork, box and accessories, starting life with a price tag around £750 when launched. There are plenty of unsold cameras available today with optimistic prices around £90 asked for. Perhaps they will remain available for a long time.

In photographic terms, the value is realistically very low as it is an unlikely camera to put into full time use. As an interesting collectible and indeed an interesting exercise that is something quite different. For this mint example I would be looking at a maximum of £20.

Pentax EI-2000 Verdict

Trying out early cameras is quite a bit of fun, and we are now in a position where there are plenty of early digital cameras out there on offer at very low prices, or maybe even free sometimes. As a working camera, the EI-2000 doesn't make the grade, basically in terms of image quality. In terms of handling it is very good, as we expect any Pentax camera to be, albeit within the limitations of the technology that was available at the time. The AF is fairly quick, the viewfinder excellent, the response time of the electronics very acceptable.

In summary, one to try out, at the right price, for the fun of it, and then one to put back on the shelf as part of a collection, but it remains a very well thought out first foray into digital cameras for Pentax.

Pentax EI-2000 Pros

  • Excellent Pentax ergonomic design
  • Excellent TTL viewfinder
  • Low CA
  • Very resistant to flare
  • Modest vignetting
  • Reasonable distortion levels
  • Fun to experiment with

Pentax EI-2000 Cons

  • Sharpness only fair
  • Noisy images
  • No shake reduction
  • No weather resistance
  • Poor ISO range

Features: 3/5
Handling: 4/5
Performance: 1/5
Value: 2/5
Overall Verdict: 2.5/5

John Riley

My specialised interest in Pentax started from the first moment I looked through the viewfinder of my first Spotmatic, the SP1000. That gorgeous clarity, sharply defined within a pure black frame is my definitive way to view the world and make images. Pentax is a superb example of a range of manufactured tools that is both the path to creativity and also a gem of engineering elegance and excellence in its own right.

Biography Profile John Riley Photography

Pentax EI-2000 Specifications

Manufacturer Pentax
Image Sensor
Pixels 2Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W) 1600
Pixels (H) 1280
Sensor Type CCD
Sensor Size 2/3
Sensor Size (width) 8.6mm
Sensor Size (height) 6.9mm
Aspect Ratio 4:3
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor 2in
Screen resolution 130,338
Touch Screen No
Focusing modes Autofocus
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest 1000sec
Shutter speeds longest 4sec
Exp modes Program
Metering Centre-weighted - Average
Multi Pattern
ISO sensitivity 50 - 400
White balance Auto
Exposure Comp +/-3
Viewfinder Resolution Optical
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting No Data
Movie mode No
Video Resolution
Video FPS No Data
Stereo Sound No
Optical Zoom with Video No
Other Features
Image Stabilisation No
Card Type CF1
File Type JPG
Power Source
Battery Type Li-Ion
Battery Life (CIPA rating) No Data
Box Contents
Box Contents No Data
Weight 630g
Width 143.5mm
Height 90.5mm
Depth 105.5mm

Posted 28/04/2024 - 11:36 Link
Ah but if you had bought it back then you would have been very very proud of it.
My first digital compact a Canon Powershot A20 was an eye opener, it reawakened my love of photography and I am still hooked.

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