The Lost Lovers – Pentax K10D

Lost Lovers is a series of posts about cameras I have known, loved and lost.

I plan to look back at why I loved them (“Romantic Reverie”) and then why I ultimately sold or donated them (“In The Harsh Light”).

This time around, the Pentax K10D, their flagship DSLR from 2006.

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Pentax K10D (centre) with its ancestor the Spotmatic F, and little sibling the Samsung GX-1S

Romantic Reverie

Aside from a frustrating experience with a Pentax K-x a few years previously, this was my first DSLR, which I bought early 2017.

I came to it after deciding that of all the various lenses and mounts I’d tried with 35mm film, my favourites were M42 lenses, especially Takumars. Adding a Helios 44-2 and Carl Zeiss Flektogon 35/2.4 into the M42 equation meant there was no need for me to ever look at another system again.

After never quite getting the images I wanted with a Sony NEX 3N, and missing the viewfinder and handling of an SLR, I looked at Pentax models, and settled on the K10D.

The K10D was a revelation in many ways.

The handling was near perfect from the outset, and wrapping your fingers around that soft rubber grip was like placing your hands on the curved hip of a beloved partner you’d shared a bed with for decades.

Whilst it was heavy, the weight felt reassuring and made it a very stable camera to use, even in lower light.

The menu system was very logical, the controls all where you’d expect them to be.

A thoroughly excellent camera, even before you add that wonderful 10MP CCD sensor that delivered delicious colours when shooting RAW and simply importing into LightRoom with its auto adjustment.

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I bought and fitted a magnified viewfinder eyepiece and split microprism screen to aid with the manual focusing with old M42 lenses, and it really was a joyful experience for a while, amidst a summer of warm, blossoming colour all around.

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After exploring its siblings I came across the Samsung GX-1S which was a rebranded clone of Pentax’s own *ist DS2, essentially a baby K10D with slightly simplified controls and a “mere” 6MP CCD sensor.

However in practice I struggled to see much (or any!) difference between the photographs made with the smaller Samsung and the K10D.

I liked these two so much I also bought a back up, again the Samsung branded GX10, and again a clone, of the K10D this time.

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In The Harsh Light

So what went wrong?

I can narrow the decline in favour the K10D suffered to three aspects.

First, whilst it handled like a tailor made glove, there was no denying how heavy it was, especially with a vintage chunk of M42 metal attached too.

Even with a 35/2.4 Pentax-DA AF lens which weighed next to nothing, it couldn’t hide the K10D’s heft. Carrying this around for even an hour or two started to become a chore.

Second, although it has as good a viewfinder (VF) as I’ve used or seen in a DSLR, my eyes still tired quickly focusing manual lenses.

I started to gravitate towards cameras with screens again which never tired my eyes.

Third, with manual lenses, the metering was manual. And cumbersome.

Once I got the knack, it was perfectly usable, but the exposures often needed a second or third attempt to get right. Shooting with say -0.3 exposure compensation wide open might be fine, but then a couple of stops down I’d need -1 or -1.3. This varied with different lenses too.

Again it became a bit laborious and meant of course I was spending more time looking through the VF having two or three attempts at each photograph.

So, after I increasingly fell for cameras like the Ricoh GR Digital III and Pentax’s own tiny little Q, both of which delivered near DSLR quality in cameras a third or quarter of the weight and size, the K10D and its GX10 clone gathered dust, then were sold to new owners to appreciate them more.

I have kept the smaller Samsung GX1S, and plan to explore it again at some point. That lovely CCD sensor and the colours it delivers were too good to let go entirely, and I still have a small collection of my very favourite M42 lenses, most recently used on my Lumix GF1.

So that’s the (love) story of the K10D.

You can see other posts in The Lost Lovers series here.

Which cameras have you loved, then lost, then wondered whether you should have kept them after all? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

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6 thoughts on “The Lost Lovers – Pentax K10D”

    1. Not bad? It’s an amazing performer, that wasn’t the issue. I still have the smaller Samsung which I plan to use later in the year and see how I feel about it. With the Plastic Fantastic DA 35/2.4 it’s much lighter and 95% as capable as the K10D…

      I often still think I’d like another K10D, which is one reason I wrote this post, to remind me about the reasons I wasn’t using it.

    1. Ooh I had an X-700. Amazing viewfinder and the Minolta Rokkor lenses are magnificent. But I could never quite bond with it like I have done with some Pentax and Contax SLRs…

  1. I still use the D10D as my workhorse camera. Can’t seem to let go of the CCD sensor, as you have said. Also use the Plastic Fantastic, and, without the drive attached makes it a good street camera. But you’re right, its got some weight and the strap wont stay on your shoulder long. This was my first digital camera, so all the lenses I got are auto. What you said about using manual lenses is interesting and I can understand the frustration.

    I also have the Pentax K-r and the Optio Z10.

    My previous film cameras where Nikon F3HP and FM, with manual lenses. I still have them, but no longer use them. I used them as a photographer for a public figure, so they have some important history.

    I too was thinking about another K10D, but am leaning towards the Pentax K5iis.

    Nice article Dan.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting Frank.

      I kept my Samsung GX-1S, which is a rebranded Pentax *ist DS2 I believe, essentially a baby K10D, with “only” a 6MP sensor, but I can hardly tell the differences between the images from the GX-1S or the K10D.

      It’s much smaller and lighter than the K10D.

      Since I’ve really got into more compact cameras I have barely used the GX-1S though and it was for sale for a while.

      I think if it had a live view screen I might try it more extensively again – ironic as one reason I got the K10D (and then the GX-1S) was to have the viewfinder experience with manual lenses, as with old 35mm film SLRs. But it just feels too awkward now, I’m so used to screens. And my eyes feel the strain after a while with a VF, even a great on like on the K10D/GX-1S (it the same set up).

      A more modern DSLR with live view but not one of the lovely old CCD sensors doesn’t really appeal either at this point.

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