Pentax K200D

The Pentax K200D is no longer in production. It was released in 2008. It did not do well in the market, and Pentax lost a lot of money in that year. Production on the camera ceased sometime in 2009. Although apparently not a commercial success, those who actually bothered to purchase and use the camera came to think very highly of it, and it has just a bit of a cult reputation among Pentaxians. Is this a reputation well deserved? Well, maybe.

The standout feature of the K200D is its weather sealing. Given the fact that the camera sold for entry-level DSLR prices, this is remarkable. Most weather sealed DSLRs cost a great deal more. The camera also feature sensor based shake reduction mechanism, a dust cleaning system, and the ability to use an additional battery grip. When it came out, I saw it as sort of the digital equivalent of the old Pentax K1000, as it had only those features which I felt I absolutely needed, without any extras. But while the K1000 was one of the most successful SLR cameras of all time, the K200D remained unappreciated.

To be sure, the K200D was hardly a perfect or flawless camera. Yes, it was weather-proof and rugged; solid and dependable; but it had rather poor auto-focus, even in comparison with other cameras in its same class; and it did not fare well at high ISO work, which, thanks to the Nikon D3, was becoming fashionable at that time. But what do you expect from a weather-resistant camera in the $600 to $700 dollar range? As a sort of entry-level landscape DSLR, nothing like it has been made by any other manufacturer. It holds pride of place. It’s 10 mpx sensor, at 100 ISO, produced marvelous images, full of depth and color. It was one of the last of the CCD sensors used in APS-C cameras. CMOS sensors have triumphed, not because they are better, but because they support liveview and video. But the best cameras in the world, like the medium format digital camera and the Leica M9, still use CCD sensors.

Now I’m not suggesting that the K200D is a better camera than newer DSLRs using CMOS sensors. I’m simply suggesting that in any sort of photography, such as landscape or flash-assisted macro, which does not depend on high ISO or auto-focus quickness and accuracy, the K200D can hold its own against any APS-C DSLR that you might wish to throw against it. That is to say, the differences in image quality will be too subtle to amount to anything approaching significance. Yes, higher megapixel cameras like the Pentax K-5 and the Nikon D7000 have a slight advantage. But it’s only a slight advantage that can only be noticed, if it can be noticed at all, by doing some intensive pixel-peeping. In short, if you are a landscape photographer on a very limited budget, you won’t find a camera that will give you more bang for the buck than the K200D. Used prices for the K200D tend to hover around the $300 mark. Buy a K200D and a used DA 16-45 lens (~$250), and for the price of a new entry level DSLR you have a landscape kit that can come very close to delivering quality comparable to the best APS-C cameras matched with the best APS-C zooms.