As one who shoots handheld almost all the time, I appreciate image stabilization. With some digital SLR brands, stabilization is available only in special stabilized lenses. But it's currently also built into some D-SLR bodies. The lowest-priced of these by far is the new Pentax K100D.
Pentax calls its stabilization feature Shake Reduction, and it works by rapidly oscillating the image sensor vertically and horizontally via magnetic force, in proportion to the amount of camera shake, to keep the image in one spot on the sensor. This offers a major advantage over lens-based systems in that it works with all lenses that can be mounted on the camera. The drawback is that it stabilizes only the recorded image, so you'll still see camera shake in the finder.
1 Effective built-in Shake Reduction works with all lenses
2 Powered by four AA batteries or two CR-V3 lithium cells
3 ISO range of 200-3200
4 Wide range of features
5 Low price
How well does Shake Reduction work? I got some sharp images at shutter speeds as slow as 1/8 to 1/10 sec. with a zoom lens at 180mm—four shutter speeds slower than the handholding rule of thumb calls for. I was impressed—and I do most of my shooting with a pro image-stabilized lens.
Of course, Shake Reduction is just one of many features built into the affordable K100D, priced at $619. A big, 2.5-inch LCD monitor makes it easy to read menus and check images, and there's even a Digital Preview function that lets you examine an image on the LCD monitor before taking it.
For D-SLR newbies, there are picture modes and screen settings that automatically set the camera to shoot common scenes and subjects. For advanced users, there's complete control of everything when you want it and a full range of shooting features.
While the K100D has "only" 6.1 megapixels, image quality is very good, especially at the lower ISO settings. Dynamic range is quite wide, and colors capture well, especially with landscape and animal subjects. Images are stored on SD cards, and a firmware upgrade that arrived as we were testing the camera allows use of new large-capacity SDHC cards.
Contact: Pentax, (800) 877-0155, www.pentaximaging.com.
Specs Of Note
Sensor Size: 6.1 megapixels
AF System: 11-point wide-frame AF
Metering: 16-segment, CW and spot metering
Shutter Speeds: 30 sec. to 1/4000 and Bulb
Flash Sync: Up to 1/180 sec.
Built-In Flash: Yes
Shooting Speed: 2.8 fps
Size: 5.1x3.6x2.8 inches
Weight: 19.8 ounces
List Price: $619