Pentax Optio 30 Review

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Pentax Optio 30

Steve's Conclusion

The new Pentax Optio 30 is an affordable compact camera that combines a 3.2 megapixel imager with a Pentax 3x optical zoom lens. When you first look at this camera, you might think the stylish body is metal, but with a touch or a tap you will find that it's really made from high-impact plastic. Even so it seems to be very well built and should hold up well under normal use. This is a simple to use camera that offers beginners and anyone a wide variety of fully- automatic record modes.

The Optio 30 is basically an automatic camera (meaning it has no shutter speed or aperture priority exposure modes), but it offers a multitude of recording options. You can set the focus area to Spot-AF or Infinity/Landscape AF. It has five white balance options to choose from. There's a full compliment of exposure metering options; matrix, center- weighted averaging and spot. You can create color, B&W or Sepia toned images and have a 3-step control over the sharpness, saturation and contrast.

Press the power button and the camera is ready to take the first shot in about 2 seconds. Shutter lag averaged 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and 6/10 of a second including autofocus. When shooting in normal, single exposure mode, the interval is about four seconds between shots. If you need to grab several shots in sequence, simply change the drive mode to Continuous or Multi Continuous. I was able to capture 9 images in approx. 18 seconds. Because this camera does not have a buffer, it slows the capture rate down when shooting in Continuous mode. The camera captures the image and stores it on the card before taking the next image. Multi Continuous mode captured 4 images in about 2 seconds. These 4 images are combined to make a single 1280x960 image.

I was happy to see the use of standard AA type batteries to power the Optio 30. Many of Pentax's other cameras use a proprietary lithium battery pack. This enables it to offer users a wide variety of power options. You can use alkaline or photo lithium one-use AA's, NiMH rechargeable AA cells, one-use CR-V3 lithium or RCR-V3 rechargeable lithium batteries. The battery life when using high-capacity NiMH cells or a RCR-V3 pack was very good even when using the color LCD all the time and frequently reviewing the pictures and making menu changes.

Overall the image quality in "Superior" mode is excellent. The lens produced sharp images throughout its range and the autofocus system works well in normal lighting conditions. Though it would be greatly enhanced by an addition of a focus assist lamp. I was very pleased with our outdoor test shots. They were sharp, well exposed, and when taking portraits the skin tones were very natural. Indoors the flash does a good job of illuminating small groups and the "Auto" white balance setting does very well. I was impressed with the Macro capabilities of this camera, I was able to focus on a dime (see our Sample Photos page) at about one inch from the lens.

The bottom line - the Optio 30 is a compact, very affordable ($199 at the time of this review) 3.2 megapixel camera that takes great pictures. This camera will make a great choice for anyone who is just getting into digital photography, or someone who wants a simple point-n-shoot camera. With its compact size it can easily fit into almost any size pants pocket or purse.

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