Pentax Optio E40 Review
By Movable Type Admin
The Optio E40 is the newest addition to Pentax's Optio line and the first "E" series model we have seen. Bearing most of the
same features as other Optio models, including a 3x optical zoom, several pre-set shooting modes, and the fully automatic "green
mode", it has been upgraded with an 8-megapixel imaging sensor and increased ISO settings. Pentax has listed this camera as an
ultra-compact, however, it shares the same dimensions of the E30 which is listed as a compact camera. I believe that this camera is a
little big to considered an ultra-compact.
Although it is a little bit big to be considered an ultra-compact, this is a very comfortable and well designed compact camera. It is a little thicker on the right side making it very easy to hold and operate with one hand. The shutter release and zoom controls are both very accessible for one handed use. The rest of the camera controls located on the back are also well positioned, which compliments the easy to navigate in-camera menu system. The rest of the back of the camera is taken up by the 2.4" LCD screen. Its reflective surface is prone to fingerprints and can be difficult to see in direct sunlight, however, it does gain up in low light conditions to help frame your photographs.
The shooting performance was average for a camera in this class. It captured its first image after start up in 4.4 seconds. The shutter lag when the camera is pre-focused is approx. 1/10 of a second, and approx. 7/10 of a second when you include the focusing. In normal shooting mode, the shot to shot delay averaged around 2.5 seconds without the flash and 3-4 seconds with the flash (depending on distance and battery power). There are also two continuous shooting modes, the first will capture 3 full sized images in 1.2 seconds. The second will take a series of 16 shots in just 1.8 seconds, however, they are only a resolution of 640x480. These tests where done using A 4GB ATP Pro Max SDHC memory card, 8M*** quality, program mode, flash off, all other default settings unless otherwise noted. All times may vary depending on lighting, camera settings, media, etc.
The E40 features a 3x optical zoom with a 35mm equivalent of 37.5 to 112.5mm. This is great for shooting landscapes, group portraits, and even close-up portraits. It will not however, be able to single out a subject from any great distances. When shooting with the full wide angle, there is some noticeable barrel distortion and noticeable edge softness in all photographs when looking at them at 100%. However, chromatic aberrations were controlled.
When shooting outdoors, the overall image quality was pretty good. The colors are rich, vivid and well saturated. The exposure seemed to be a little too much as some of the white or other light colored areas appear to be blown out a bit. When shooting indoors, the pictures look very nice at the first glance. The flash seems to be more than powerful enough to fill a mid-sized room, and the colors and skin tones look very natural. After looking closer I noticed that the camera raised the ISO more than was necessary for the subject in order to compensate for lighting the background as well. Because of the this, there is noticeable noise in the picture when viewing it at 100%. When manually lowering the ISO, the range of the flash is greatly reduced, but if you can get close enough to your subject (5 to 6 feet), then the quality of the final product will be worth it. The overall noise levels are pretty well controlled when shooting at 200 or below, but become more noticeable as the ISO is increased.
Movie mode allows you to record video at either 640x480 or 320x240 resolutions (30fps or 15fps, with audio). Because sound is recorded, the optical zoom may not be used during recording, however, you can preset the focal length before starting. You can also choose between full color, black&white and sepia colors modes. We were able to capture nice video, with minimal compression artifacts. The only issue I found was the audio portion of the video has a "weird" sound to it. The microphone is very sensitive and will pick up a lot of background noise, so there is no way that you will be able to hear anything that is going on unless they are within a few feet of the camera or extremely loud.
Power comes from two standard AA type batteries. We found battery life was ok, capturing over 70 images, a couple videos and had just enough juice left to complete the timing tests on a single charge from two NiMH 2500mAh batteries. You will definitely need to carry at least one extra set, but I would recommend two extra sets of AA batteries so that you are always prepared. We also recommend that you use NiMH rechargeable batteries as they last longer and will save you money in the long run.
Bottom Line - For an 8-megapixel compact camera, the performance was a little slow and the image quality was average for a camera in this range. The focusing system is very slow, so this is definitely not a camera for any type of photography that involves motion. It could be useful as a backup camera or for someone who has just entered the digital world, since it is extremely easy to use. With a price of under US$150, it offers a Ok value for an entry-level model, however we suggest you take a good look at various other manufactures models in this price range before making your final decision.
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