Pentax Says That A

digital SLR can never be too light or too simple. The new 'isl OL comes in even lighter aid simpler than the "isl DSr which was already a record-setter in both categories. And at $750 street with an 1 e-55mmf/3.5-5.6 Penta* lens [and $650 body only), the *ist DL comes in extremely light on the wallet. It's expected to cost about $150 less than the *ist DS2 (the new version of the DS. But can a camera aimed unabashedly at the point-and-shooter also cut it as an enthusiast's camera? Let's see.

Something both serious and casual shooters will appreciate is the 2.5-inch backlit LCD monitor, half an inch bigger than that on the *ist DS, and, at 210,000 pixels, relatively high-resolution. It makes the already very readable menus even more legible, and reviewing pictures becomes a real pleasure. The viewfinder uses a lighter, less expensive pentamir-ror instead of the pentaprism of the *ist DS; surprisingly, the view through the DL is brighter, due to an improved focusing screen, and boasts the same high magnification and high accuracy. However, the data readouts below the screen are smaller and dimmer, which will make readings tough for eyeglass-wearers.

Replacing the DS's 11-point autofocus

• Lightweight, with fine handling.

• Pick-up-and-shoot simplicity.

X What's Not

• Many controls buried in menus.

array is a simpler, three-poinl AF system, delineated by a central circle flanked by brackets. You can activate the central AF point only, or all three points for auto selection. While this setup is decidedly point-and-shoot. all three focusing points are cross type sensors [i.e„ sensitive to both horizontal and vertical lines), and we found they snapped onto most detail with authority, And AF speeds were virtually identical to the speedy-focusing DS.

Another minor downgrade: The DL's continuous burst buffer drops to five high-res JPEGs or three RAW files at 2.8 fps, from the eight JPEGs/five RAWs of the DS. But the DL gains a few things as well. You can switch the DL from single-shot to continuous AF in all standard exposure modes; the DS provides continuous AF in only the sports mode. The DL also adds an auto ISO setting, and its digital soft-focus filter can be set to three levels.

Aside from that, the external control layout of the DL is identical to the DS, and the camera has virtually the same feature set. As we noted in our reviews of the DS (March 2005 and April 2005) the menu-based controls may be a boon for the tyro, but the more careful shooter who likes to fiddle with settings will be slowed down menu-surfing for things like meter patterns, AF modes, and flash compensation. Frequently used settings, though-like drive mode, ISO, white balance, and flash-can be accessed quickly via the Fn button, and the DL retains the excellent ergonomics of the DS.

Tested picture quality was, as expected, similar to the DS. We were surprised, though, that the color accuracy of the DL was a hair below that of the DS, and the average resolution was lower by about six percent-surprising, since the DL and the DS use the same CCD imager. Noise is well suppressed, just reaching moderately low at ISO 1600. Overall image quality is

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