Pentax Optio 555 Review

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Pentax Optio 555

Steve's Conclusion

The 5-megapixel Optio 555 is the updated replacement for the popular Optio 550. The Optio 555 is the premiere consumer digicam offered in the Pentax line- up. It boasts a 5x optical zoom lens and is housed in a durable aluminum alloy case that fits comfortably in the palm of your hand. Packed with features the beginner will love and the advanced user will appreciate. The automatic and manual exposure modes will make both the beginner and advanced users happy. Creative features like panorama assist, 3-D, digital filtering (color filters) and time-lapse shooting will allow your creative side to show. With its 5x optical zoom lens and all the other features, you'll always want this camera by your side.

The Pentax Optio 555 is an average performer from start-up to the first shot captured at just under 5 seconds. Shot-to-shot time in single exposure mode is about 2 seconds without the flash or about 4 seconds with the flash. In the continuous mode you can capture 5 frames in about 4 seconds. These timings were obtained using a 256 MB SD memory card, with the camera set for an image size of 2592x1944 at best quality with flash and image Preview off, and include viewfinder delay, photographer response time, and image capture - they are numbers you can reproduce in the real world. When pre-focused in single shot or continuous mode, the Optio 555 will allow you to capture action where you can anticipate it occurring, but its less than robust autofocus and shot-to-shot performance may cause you to miss spontaneous events.

The 5x zoom lens covers a very wide range (37.5-187.5mm, 35mm equivalent) which produces sharp and well-saturated images with very little distortion at either end of the range. It operates smoothly through its zoom range, with about 10 steps between wide-angle and telephoto, adequate for composing your shots. There's also a 4X digital zoom but as we have stated over and over, digital zoom is best turned off. Digital zooms simply enlarge the center of the image to fill the entire frame. It may look good on the LCD but it often yields a pixilated and soft image, don't use it, just move closer to your subject. In good to average lighting conditions, the Optio 555 focuses in about 2/10 of a second. In low light conditions you may have some difficulty focusing because the camera lacks an AF-assist lamp. This is a feature that all cameras can benefit from. Digital filtering will give the user color control over the image, by changing the over-all tint. Sharpness, saturation and contrast can be adjusted to achieve that perfect image. The LCD screen may be difficult to read in bright sunlight, so you may want to do the image editing at home.

The aluminum alloy body seems to be quite durable with the exception of the plastic door covers and tripod socket. The controls are well placed and easy to operate with the use of just one hand; from image capture to review. The controls are also well la bled for quick access. The camera is powered by a proprietary lithium-ion battery pack that is charged out of the camera with the supplied AC charger. This battery will last throughout a family's day outing, but be prepared with a spare battery, since you won't be able to purchase one at your local store.

After exploring some of the unique features this camera has to offer I have come to the conclusion that it's a good buy at under $550 dollars (as of Oct. 2003). You could spend a lot of time playing with the panorama assist feature, making 3-D images, using the digital filters or taking time-lapse photos, if you have the time. And with the 5x optical zoom lens the fun could be unlimited. If you need a good, high resolution 5-megapixel camera that's easy to use but still has plenty of features to "grow into" later -- then this may be your camera.

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