Pentax Optio 430 Review
If you want a small camera with a powerful zoom, they don't come any smaller than the
Pentax Optio 430 (or Optio 330). Roughly the same dimensions as a pack of cigarettes and
built inside of a stainless steel case for durability, the Optio 430 is a high-performance,
4-megapixel digital camera with a quality 3x optical zoom lens. The zoom
lens retracts into the camera body when powered down and is protected by a
builtin lens cap. The Optio 430 makes a great "go anywhere and be ready at a moment's
notice" kind of camera due to its pocketable size and light weight.
Press the power button and the camera is ready to take the first shot in about four seconds, most of that time is required to extend the lens. Shot to shot time in single exposure mode is two seconds or less. If you need to grab several shots in sequence then change into continuous mode and capture 3 frames in about two seconds. It also captures motion video at 320 x 240 resolution at 15fps for up to 30 seconds per clip. Unfortunately there is no audio as the camera lacks a microphone. Images and movies are recorded on standard CompactFlash Type I cards and with those cards now available up to 512MB in capacity, it can store a lot of images.
One of the unique features of the Optio 430 is the Multi-Exposure mode. You can record two or more images which are then electronically merged into one picture. It takes a little practice to get the hang of this recording mode. You need to use images that will compliment each other with light and dark areas as the images are merged using transparency. You select a base image and then this is overlayed on top of the active LCD screen as a semi-transparent image. You dial-in the desired amount of transparency before you take the next shot and then the two images are merged and displayed. At this point you can add more exposures to this new image or move on and create another one from scratch or go back to regular recording mode.
Overall the image quality is very good. The lens produces sharp images and the autofocus is fairly quick in average lighting. There will be times when you'll want to use the Spot-AF as the camera can focus on something behind your subject if it has more contrast. When shooting outdoor scenics you need to switch to center-weighted metering to avoid under-exposured foreground subjects if there's a lot of bright sky in the frame. Image saturation and contrast can be adjusted to suit your taste but it can often be difficult to judge on the small LCD screen, especially when you're out in the bright light.
One of the problems of a small camera is a small battery. Even with very conservative use of the LCD the battery doesn't go all that far, I'd estimate maybe 60 to 70 shots per charge. The more you use the LCD or the flash or the power zoom, the less pictures you'll get. I saw the same power problem with the almost-as-small Kyocera FineCam S3 and its anemic battery. You want to keep an eye on the battery gauge but to do so means that the LCD has to be on so this becomes a regular Catch-22. As with all cameras that use a proprietary battery, be sure to buy a second battery and keep it near and ready. The camera uses a considerable amount of power even with the LCD off and the front of the case where you grip it gets noticeably warm and can even be called "hot" if left on long enough.
Personally I like cameras that are larger and heavier, I'm an old school photographer that was raised on a steady diet of big 35mm and medium format film cameras. These little digicams are handy though because you just can slip them in your pocket or purse and take them along wherever you go. You pay a price for the convenience though, lower battery runtime and less flash range -- It's all about tradeoffs, if you're willing to put up with a few less than perfect things to have a highly portable camera then go for it or else look at a mid-sized camera instead. If you don't need 4-megapixels of resolution but still want a super small camera then check out the 3-megapixel Pentax Optio 330.
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