Optio E50

Optio E50

Pentax Optio E50 Review

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Pentax Optio E50

Steve's Conclusion

The Optio E50 is Pentax's latest entry-level "E" series digicam. The compact camera features a 3x optical zoom, 8-megapixel imaging sensor, Digital Shake Reduction, a 2.4" LCD screen and Face Recognition AF/AE (Auto Focus/Auto Exposure) technology. This option will help you produce sharp, properly exposed photos when shooting family and friends. There are two fully automatic shooting modes, Auto Picture allows you very few camera controls, while the Green mode selects everything for you. The only thing you have to do is point and shoot.

Ergonomics of the E50 are very good. The right side of the camera is slightly fatter than the left giving you a little more to hold on to. This also helps the camera offer a much more comfortable feel in your hands. One handed shooting is also very simple, as it was very easy to frame, zoom and shoot with just my right hand. The menus have been well thought out and are very easy to navigate. The 2.4" LCD screen gains up nicely making it easy to frame your images in low light situations. In direct sunlight it can be a little difficult to see, due to the reflective surface of the LCD.

Performance from the E50 was good for an entry-level camera. It took just 2.7 seconds to capture its first image after being turned on. The shutter delay, the time it takes for the camera to capture the image after you press the shutter release, was just 1/10 of a second when the camera is pre- focused, and just 4/10 of a second when allowing the camera to focus. The shot to shot delay is 1.45 seconds between shots without the flash and 2.1 seconds with the flash. Everything listed above are huge improvements over the performance of the E40. There are also two "burst" or continuous shooting modes. The regular burst mode was able to capture 5 images in 6 seconds, and the 16 burst mode captures 16 images at 640x480 resolution in just 2.1 seconds. All our tests were completed using a Lexar Professional 133x 2GB SD memory card, program mode, ISO auto, flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults unless otherwise noted. All times may vary depending on lighting, camera settings, media, etc.

Outdoor quality from the Pentax E50 is good. The images are well exposed, and the colors are bright and crisp. The 3x optical zoom, with a 35mm equivalent of 37.5-112.5mm, is great for shooting landscapes, group and individual photographs, but it is not enough to get you closer to distant objects. At the wide end of the zoom, you will see a moderate amount of barrel distortion and some vignetting. You will also see some edge softness throughout the zoom range.

The quality of our indoor images was also good. The camera did a good job adjusting the exposure and white balance when you shoot either with or without the flash. In our portrait shot, even though it was outside, the skin tones looked very natural. The camera did an excellent job of adjusting to the face and not the brighter background. I did however, have a little difficulty getting the camera to recognize faces of younger children in both "portrait" and "kids" modes. The built in flash has a range between 10' and 20' depending on the zoom settings (using ISO auto). This seems to be accurate, however the camera will really boost the ISO to accommodate for the distance, making your images grainy, so staying within 10' to 12' would be a good idea.

Video from the E50 is just ok. There is good deal of noise (grain) in the movies and they seem to be a little choppy. The video options are very simple, you only have the ability to change the resolution from 640x480 to 320x240 and the frame rate from 15 to 30 fps.

Power comes from two standard AA type batteries. We found battery life was ok, capturing 65 images, several videos and had more than enough juice left to complete the timing tests on a single charge from two NiMH 2650mAh batteries. You will definitely need to carry at least one extra set with you, 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 - The Pentax Optio E50 is an excellent upgrade of the E40 from a year ago. While these two share very similar specs (same 8-megapixel sensor, image quality and basic features), the performance has been greatly improved upon, making this a camera worth considering if you are looking for an entry-level digicam. With a MSRP of US$150, it offers a great deal, whether being used for a backup, at the office or even a kids first camera.

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