Pentax has been onto a winner since starting the Optio S series back in 2003, and with each succeeding model the company has been refining, improving and embellishing, so that you feel you own one of the most stylish and versatile compact digital cameras around.
For a start, the all-silver aluminium casing looks ultra-cool, with the camera logo etched into the front and further embossing on the top. It also feels satisfyingly weighty for a compact (130g with battery and memory card loaded) and the controls are designed to make it as simple as possible for you to point and shoot with the minimum amount of adjustments.
As with all the Optio S cameras, the lens is an SMC Pentax 3x zoom sliding lens that fits snugly into the body and takes seconds to become ready for action. Round the back is a 2.5-inch, 232,000-colour screen, a D-pad style control panel, zoom buttons, separate playback and menu plus a delete button.
Less than £150 is good value for a 10-megapixel camera using a 1/1.8-inch CCD sensor. After you’ve inserted the battery and SD card and set the date, you have a choice of three modes; Auto Picture, Programme and Green. Auto Picture is pretty self-explanatory, as it will automatically choose from four options (Normal, Night, Landscape and Portrait) as you aim at the target.
Programme mode will automatically adjust shutter speed and aperture as you select from one of 11 shooting scenes that include both usual settings like Sport, Landscape and Flower as well as new developments like Natural Skin Tone (which uses soft flash) and Half-length Portrait, for when you just want to shoot from the waist up.
Face-recognition technology has been retained from earlier models and, although there’s no mechanical shake reduction, anti-blurring is achieved by using higher ISO settings via the Digital SR option, which records everything no higher than 5-megapixels (to avoid excessive noise).
Finally, the Green mode is reserved for absolute beginners who don’t want to make any decisions about shooting options: it just sets everything to auto so you can snap away to your heart’s content. Green mode seems to be increasingly popular these days, but when you already have an Auto Picture mode on what is a fairly basic camera, it’s perhaps a little unnecessary here.
Focus time is quick and accuracy is high and the resulting pictures, even in low light conditions, are impressive. In addition there’s 22MB of built-in memory, AVI movies can be recorded at 30fps with mono audio and there are several playback facilities for cropping, resizing, using filters, movie editing and adding voice memos.
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