Wednesday, 12 March, 2008

Pentax Optio S10: 10 MP Camera

Most people, even professional photographers, are in need of a good ultra-compact digital camera. The Pentax Optio S10 is definitely small enough to be considered an ultra-compact - it just happens to be one of the smallest 10 megapixel cameras in the world. So as far as size goes, the Pentax Optio S10 can be considered an ideal pocket camera that is capable of taking very high resolution shots. Keep reading to find out more.

The Optio S10 is part of the popular S-series from Pentax, which has been around since about 2003. This line of cameras has been successful traditionally as ultra-compact cameras with affordable price tags. The S10 is no different, as this camera carries an MSRP of $249, but it can be found online for even less than that.

Pentax has become a leader in digital imaging with their innovative lens design, which has improved over the past 4-5 years. The Pentax Optio S10 is a great example of what a good lens can do for image quality. This camera produces very good quality photos. It is capable of shooting extreme close-ups as well as wide-angled shots. The super multi-coated (SMC) 3x optical zoom Pentax lens is very versatile.

The Pentax Optio S10 is part of a very competitive digital camera market that consists of powerhouse ultra-compacts like the Canon SD1000 and the Sony DSC-T2. The S10 can hold its own against these more popular models in terms of image quality and performance, but it lacks many of the features that these other cameras offer. This isn't to say that the S10 doesn't have any kind of functionality, but you're not going to find Bluetooth, optical image stabilization, touch-screen interface, or other advanced features in the S10. The S10 has just enough features to get by as a quality, budget shooter.

Images of Camera

In the Box

·         Pentax Optio S10 camera

·         USB cable

·         AV cable

·         rechargeable battery pack with charger

·         AC plug cord

·         camera strap

·         software


The Optio S10 features an all aluminum body design that is available in either a silver/gray combination or a blue/silver outfit that is exclusive to Wal-Mart. Overall, the S10 has a "high quality" look to it. It also has just enough weight to feel sturdy and durable. The overall dimensions of the S10 are 2.1 x 3.4 x 0.8 inches, and it weighs a mere 4.6 ounces. Although the S10 is a budget shooter, this camera is anything but "cheap."

The front of the S10 sports the heart and soul of this little guy with an f2.8-5.4 38mm-114mm equivalent 3x optical zoom SMC lens. This lens is really high quality and has a good range. The only major gripe with the lens on the S10 is that it produces a small amount of barrel distortion in images when shooting wide-angled shots. In the S10's defense, this is actually quite common in a camera of this size.

Looking at the back of the camera, the first thing that you notice is the 2.5 inch LCD display with 232,000 pixel resolution. The screen is a pretty good size for being such a small camera. The S10 does not have an optical viewfinder, but it seems that many compact digital cameras are doing away with this feature nowadays.

Alongside the display, you will find the majority of the buttons and controls on the S10. The control configuration is pretty basic. And it's very similar to many other digital cameras, so it should be easy to learn the location and function of the buttons. The buttons on the back of the camera consist of the zoom controls, play button (reviews photos), a menu button, trash (green button), and a 4-way D-pad with center "o.k." button.

The only flaw with the design of the S10 was putting the USB connection inside the battery/SD card compartment. It would have been much more convenient if it were placed somewhere on the exterior of the camera instead of inside it.

One of the most useful dedicated buttons on the S10 is the "green button." When this button is pressed, the S10 will go into fully automatic mode. This mode will automatically adjust white balance, focus, aperture, and other attributes to get the best photo possible. This auto feature works quite well at getting the ideal settings for each individual photo.


DIVx Movie Mode

The Optio S10 is a very capable video recorder that will take either 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 resolution video. The S10 offers three quality settings for both resolution levels. The higher the quality, the more memory you'll need to record the video. The S10 saves video in a compressed DIVx format, which helps keep the file sizes relatively small.

The S10 records video at 30 fps, which is DVD speed. The video feature includes sound, but reviews have shown that the microphone is a little weak at picking up sound. This camera will record video until the memory runs out, so you can get a lot of quality video from this little shooter.

ISO Correction

The S10 is capable of high ISO levels, but for the most part, using the high ISO settings will make the pictures extremely noisy. For people not experienced with ISO levels, Pentax has added the ISO correction feature to help them out. This feature will allow the user to preset the maximum allowable ISO setting (I recommend ISO 400), and then when the camera is put into auto-ISO mode, the camera will not go any higher than the level that you preset. This will ensure that each photo is as sharp as possible.

Shooting Modes

There are a variety of shooting modes available in the Optio S10. First of all, there are 11 scene modes including pet, food, kids, natural skin tone, and others. There is a built-in face recognition mode that will automatically adjust focus and aperture on the subject's face. The S10 can shoot images from within 0.2-0.49 feet with its super macro setting.

Digital Shake Reduction (SR)

Unfortunately, the Pentax S10 does not have an optical image stabilization system as many of its competitors do. The answer to this problem is Pentax's digital SR feature, which works to reduce camera shake and blurring of images. This feature works by basically raising the ISO level, which in turn speeds up the shutter speed. While this feature works all right, it does not replace a good optical stabilization system like the ones in most Canon and Sony cameras.

Performance and Image Quality

For the most part, the performance and image quality of the S10 are its greatest assets. That's a good thing, because those attributes are probably the two most important things to look for when buying a digital camera. Here is what some of the experts had to say about the Pentax Optio S10's performance and image quality.

TrustedReviews really liked the improved performance of the S10 over its predecessors. They say that "the S10's performance is as good as anything in its class." That's saying a lot when you consider the great cameras in this class, including the Canon SD1000, FujiFilm F50fd, and the Sony Cybershot DSC-T2.

They also liked the way that Pentax has improved the AF system in the S10. They said this regarding the AF system in the S10: "I would now rate as one of the best in a compact camera in terms of both focusing speed and accuracy, and in low light ability."

In terms of image quality, they liked the overall picture quality, thanks to the nice SMC Pentax lens. They went on to say that the lens produced "excellent edge-to-edge sharpness and minimal barrel distortion at wide angle." They thought that the S10 produced "consistently good results, especially in low light."

They also pointed out two negative aspects of the S10's image quality, including the relatively weak flash, and the image noise problem with photos taken at ISO levels above 100.

CNet Reviews

CNet pretty much agreed with TrustedReview's comments. They liked the performance of the S10 when compared to the competition. Their test numbers for the S10 were quite good, as the Optio S10 was able to reach shot-to-shot times of 1.3 seconds in good lighting and 2.5 seconds when using the flash. These numbers are quicker than both the Canon SD1000 and the Sony DSC-T2.

They agree that the image quality is also quite good. They said that "Pentax strikes the right balance between noise suppression and sharpness in the S10." The only gripe that they had with the S10's image quality was a "slightly worse-than-usual barrel distortion at its widest end."

Steve's Digicams

Steve's Digicams also agrees that the performance of the S10 is good when compared to the competition. They recorded a shutter lag time of just one-tenth of a second in good lighting. They also were able to get shot-to-shot times of 1.5 seconds, which is very close to CNet's numbers. These tests were conducted while using a 4 GB SDHC card.

They agreed with CNet in regards to a slight barrel distortion at wide angles, but went on to say that this is quite common for a camera in the S10's class. They liked the image quality of the S10 very much and said this about outdoor shots: "the colors were very vivid and had excellent saturation and exposure." They noticed some edge softness in photos when viewed at 100% and also some image noise when going above ISO 200.


Sources: CNet, Steve's Digicams, InventorSpot, TrustedReviews

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