Pentax has added a budget option to its dSLR lineup with the 6-megapixel *ist DL, which will compete against the most affordable models from other manufacturers, including the Canon EOS 350D, the Olympus Evolt E-300, and the Nikon D50. Basically it's the *ist DS with a cheaper viewfinder and a smaller buffer memory, and it should appeal to serious amateur photographers who own Pentax lenses or are looking for a model with an extremely compact design.
The Pentax *ist DL takes a more consumer-friendly approach than the pricier *ist models by offering an automatic ISO mode and sporting a larger 64mm (2.5-inch) LCD. Perhaps more important than the differences between the DL and the step-up DS are the similarities. Aside from the downsides mentioned below, Pentax has left the DS feature set largely intact in the DL. It's also roughly the same size and about 30g lighter, which makes the DL possibly the most portable dSLR on the market.
One of the things we really liked about the Pentax *ist DS was its big, bright viewfinder, which incorporates a real pentaprism instead of the cheaper pentamirrors used by most of the competition. Pentax cut the cost of this camera partly by following the herd and using a pentamirror in the DL, whose viewfinder offers somewhat less magnification than the DS's and doesn't show illuminated focus points. The DL uses 3-point autofocus instead of the DS's 11-point system, and while its continuous-shooting speed is rated the same, the DL can't capture as many shots per burst. The DL also doesn't offer the high flash-sync speeds available on the DS.
The Pentax *ist DL will hit the shops in July 2005 with a Pentax smc P-DA 18mm-to-55mm f/3.5-to-f/5.6 lens, at a price that's competitive with budget dSLRs from other manufacturers. This means the DL should be a clear choice for Pentax lens owners and an option to seriously consider for everyone else.
Additional editing by Nick Hide