Pentax Optio 750z Review
The 750Z is the flagship model in Pentax's line of Optio digicams for 2004. It offers users 7-megapixels of resolution, a high-quality 5x optical zoom lens, and a host of features that appeal to a broad range of users, from beginner to advanced. Beginners will enjoy using the 750Z's Programmed Auto exposure and scene modes, while experienced photographers will appreciate its aperture-priority, shutter-priority and full manual exposure modes.
The 750Z's 5x optical zoom lens covers a 35mm equivalent range of 37.5 - 187.5mm, providing flexibility in composing your shots and adding to the overall fun factor of the camera. It produces sharp results throughout its aperture and zoom ranges with moderate barrel distortion present at its wide angle extreme, and a bit of pincushioning at full telephoto. Chromatic aberration (purple fringing in the high contrast areas) is well controlled, almost absent, throughout the zoom and aperture range. The lens moves smoothly through its zoom range, but not continuously; I measured 11 steps between full wide angle and full telephoto, sufficient for most shot composition needs.
The 750Z's ergonomics were good, with controls being well-placed and functional. The menu system is logically organized, and I liked the ability to customize the 4-way controller functions for quick access to shooting parameters. I enjoyed using the 750Z's viewfinders. The LCD is fully articulating, enabling you to shoot overhead, waist level, or even a self-portrait when it switches to a mirror image. The optical viewfinder is useful when shooting in continuous mode, in near darkness, and when you want to conserve battery power. Although the optical viewfinder shows only about 80% of the frame, the 750Z's 7-megapixel images have plenty of content so cropping will not detract from the quality of printed images.
Shooting performance was good for a camera in this class. From power up to first image captured measured approx. 5 seconds; wake-up from its power-saving sleep mode took only 3 seconds. Shutter lag (the delay from depressing the shutter to actually capturing an image) measured 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and 6/10 of a second including autofocus. The LCD viewfinder delays the live image, adding about 1/10 second to shutter lag when it is used. When shooting in single drive mode, the shot-to-shot delay without flash averaged 2 seconds for a depth of 5 shots; the subsequent image capture rate slowed to 1 every 6 seconds. With flash, shots could be taken at intervals of between 2.5 and 7 seconds, depending on subject distance. The 750Z's continuous mode captured 5 shots at 1 second intervals, extending to 3 second intervals for subsequent shots. Unless review mode is active, the LCD goes blank during the entire image capture sequence, rendering it useless if you are shooting a moving subject. If review mode is on, you'll see a brief display of the last image captured. Fortunately, the 750Z is equipped with an optical viewfinder that you'll prefer to use in continuous shooting mode.
We were pleased with the overall image quality in 7M/Best quality mode. I am sure that some will complain that the open blue sky areas are a little "noisy" but they still produced excellent prints - right up to the biggest 13x19-inch prints that I could make on my Canon i9900. Our outdoor samples were sharp, well-exposed, and colors are nicely saturated. The 750Z's Auto White Balance was effective during our testing, never needing to be overridden with a manual or custom setting. Noise was very low at ISO 80 and 100, detectable at ISO 200, and noticeable at ISO 400. Its 640x480 30fps movie produced excellent results, just make sure you have a large SD card; it consumes about 1 megabyte per second during recording. The 1.8-inch LCD was quite usable outdoors, even in the bright Florida sun; it has an effective anti-glare coating and a brightness adjustment. The LCD's live image sometimes contained glare from very bright subjects, but that disappeared when the shutter was half-depressed to focus.
The 750Z also performed well indoors. The built-in flash has enough power for most interior shooting, but the camera is not equipped with a hot shoe for external flash units. The majority of our flash portraits were well-exposed and skin tones appear very natural; the red eye reduction mode was very effective. The LCD "gains up" or intensifies the live image in conditions of low ambient light, helping you compose your shots in those conditions, but in near darkness, you'll prefer to use the optical viewfinder. The 750Z's AF assist lamp also proved effective in dim lighting. The 750Z has a useful macro mode complemented by its effectiveness at squelching flash power at close range; it would be a good choice for capturing images of small objects for online auction listings.
The 750Z is powered by a proprietary 3.7V 1800mAh D-LI7 lithium-ion battery pack; Pentax states that this pack can power the 750Z for approximately 245 shots. During our testing, which included full-time use of the LCD, the 750Z captured just over 200 images before its battery was spent. I recommend that you purchase a spare and keep it fully charged in the external D-BC7 charger to avoid the inevitable disappointment that a dead battery brings to a family event. The camera comes with a 32-MB SD memory card, enough for perhaps 15 images at the highest quality and resolution settings. I recommend that you purchase a card of at least 512MB capacity; the 750Z's 7-megapixel Best quality images averaged over 3-MB in size.
While beginners will get terrific results using Program and Scene modes, the 750Z will appeal primarily to experienced photographers who can use its advanced features. Among those features are custom White Balance; a choice of wide or spot focus modes; a choice of Multi-segment, center weighted or spot metering; the ability to set exposure and flash exposure compensation; Auto bracketing of exposure, white balance, sharpness, saturation or contrast. There are so many controls that recreating a camera setup for frequently encountered shooting conditions could be a daunting task were it not for the 750Z's User mode, where you can register and later recall 3 sets custom settings.
The 750Z is a good choice for anyone wanting a high resolution point-n-shoot with plenty of features that appeal to everyone from a beginner to expert. It offers a "better than average" 5x zoom range and great image quality. Its 7-megapixel Best quality images have plenty of resolution to create photo-quality 13x19-inch prints, and enough content to produce 8x10's from a heavily cropped image. With a street price of $599 or less, it offers a very good value.
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