Pentax Optio S4i Review

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Steve's Conclusion

Updated 05/31/2004

We received a second Optio S4i to review and found a major difference in the image quality. You can see by looking at our samples, that the left side of the photos are not soft or out of focus like those taken by the original camera we reviewed. The last three images on the samples page are from the first camera, so you can compare the two. With the image quality problem not being as with the first camera, it should be a good choice for anyone who wants an extremely pocketable, durable, high-resolution digicam. Obviously not all of these cameras are the same, whether its a quality control or manufacturing problem, there was a big difference between the two cameras that we used.

(The following text was based on the original Optio S4i that we reviewed.)

Pentax's new Optio S4i is a full-featured "credit-card size" camera that packs a 4-megapixel imager with a 3x Pentax optical zoom lens in an all-metal body. Its unique size makes it easy to take anywhere. The S4i includes many of the features found on the Optio S4 , but adds new features like a larger 1.8-inch LCD and a charging base unit. It also complies with PictBridge technology, so you can print directly to any PictBridge compatible printer.

The S4i is ready to go in about 2 seconds from pressing the power button. Power up to first image captured measured approx. 3 seconds. Auto focus speed is very good, in normal lighting conditions the shutter lag is about 2/10 of a second. Shutter lag when pre-focused is an impressive and professional class 1/10 second. The Optio S4i's single shot performance will help you capture unposed spontaneous moments and moving subjects. The shot to shot time averaged about 2 seconds between shots. Continuos mode captured the first 2 images in about 1.5 seconds, then the rest of the images were captured 2 seconds apart. This performance was measured using a SanDisk Ultra II 256MB SD memory card with the image size/quality set a 2304x1728/ , and includes viewfinder delay, photographer response time, and image capture.

The 3x zoom lens has a focal length coverage equivalent to 35mm-105mm (in 35mm format) with a 4x digital zoom feature. There is moderate barrel distortion at full wide angle but almost no pincushioning at full telephoto. Although there is no focus-asist lamp, the S4i did focus well in most low- light situations. The lens works smooth and quietly as it quickly extends from or retracts back into its body.

The overall image quality in 2304x1728/ mode was disappointing. Most of our test shots were very soft, a number of them appeared out of focus on the far-left side of the frame. When using the flash (forced On) outdoors it dramatically changes the white balance, skin tones, and color saturation. You can see this by taking a look at our sample photos. On the other hand, the camera does well indoors. The images are properly exposed and the skin tones were very natural. The camera comes with 10MB of internal memory but no SD memory card so you can only store about 3 of the large images before running out of memory. We recommend the purchase of a larger (128MB to 512MB) size SD.

The Optio S4i would not be my first choice for a high-resolution, ultra- compact camera. Hopefully the next version of this camera will solve the image quality problems, or possibly a future firmware upgrade (Not the version 1.01 listed below.) If you must have the smallest digicam available, we recommend looking at Canon or Casio, both of their current offerings in this class are far superior. If you don't mind a slightly larger camera than go with the Optio S40.

Pentax has recently posted a firmware v1.01 upgrade for the Optio S4i, Click here to visit the Pentax USA web site.

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