Pentax Optio Z10 Review
The Z10 is one of the latest additions to Pentax's Optio line for 2007. There is one new feature on this camera that really stands out from the other Optio models. A 7x optical internal folding lens, has replaced the 3x protruding lens, giving this camera a more compact design and much more versatility. This combined with the 8-megapixel imaging sensor, gives you large, detailed photographs. There are several shooting modes available including Program mode, that gives you the most control, several portrait modes for people photos, and "Green Mode" which only allows you to turn off the flash and choose your focusing mode (Auto, Macro, and Pan), making this camera a snap for anyone to use.
This is a very stylish and easy to use ultra-compact camera. It is easy to operate with just one hand or with two both using the "pinch" technique. The sliding lens cover on the front of the camera also serves as the power switch for the camera, which can be a problem if you stick it into a purse or pocket as the cover comes open quite easily. This can cause the battery to wear down quickly. The other controls are very simple, with the shutter release on top and the directional buttons on the back. Also on the back are the play, menu, zoom and delete/green mode buttons on the right side. The rest of the back is taken up by the 2.5" LCD screen, which is viewable from 170 degrees. The screen is shiny which shows fingerprints (as does the rest of the body), and reflects bright light, which can make it slightly difficult to see outdoors. It also gains up in low light conditions to assist you in framing your shots.
Shooting performance was good for a camera in this class. It was able to capture an image in just 2.4 seconds after start-up. When the camera is pre-focused, the shutter lag was just 1/10 of a second after pressing the shutter release. Without the pre-focus it was a little slow focusing at 8/10 of a second. In the normal drive mode, I was able to continuously capture an image in just 1.1 seconds, and every 3.9 seconds when using the flash. There are also two continuous shooting modes, neither that allow use of the flash, but are useful for capturing moving targets. In continuous mode, the camera captured 3 images in 1.7 seconds before the buffer filled, then after a 3 second break, the camera continued to capture images every 2.2 seconds. There is also a high speed shooting mode, which only shoots at 3-megapixels but is able to capture 4 images in just 1 second before the buffer fills. All tests were completed using a Kingston 1GB SD memory card, program mode, flash off, and all other settings on the factory defaults. All times vary depending on lighting, camera settings, media, etc.
We were pleased with the image quality when shooting outdoors with good sunlight. The exposures were well controlled, colors are vivid and well saturated and there is very little noise present at all. There is a little edge softness, and some instances of chromatic aberrations appeared in high contrast areas. At the wide end of the 38mm - 266mm (35mm equivalent), there was some slight barrel distortion. The versatility of this lens allows for easy shooting of landscapes and group portraits, while the telephoto end can single out individuals in a group or bring you much closer to a distant object.
Indoors the quality of the images was not as good as outdoors. When using the "Auto ISO" setting and shooting with the "portrait" or "kids" modes the camera always raised the ISO to 800 even when using the flash from a short distance. You can set the camera to several different "Auto ISO" modes that limits how high the ISO can go, but I left it at the factory default for the sample images. Shooting in "kids" mode, the skin tones seemed to appear lighter than the actual skin tones, and again there was a lot of noise that appears in all dark areas of the photograph. Face detection was also very slow while in this mode, however in portrait mode it finds faces (up to 15) very quickly. The high ISO settings can be attributed the cameras digital image stabilization, which, if you allow it, can raise the ISO as high as 3200. As the ISO goes up, so does the amount of noise in the photo. I would not recommend anything over ISO 400 unless it is absolutely necessary.
Movie mode on the "Z10" provides the user with a few options, but overall it is pretty simple. You have a choice between 640x480 and 320x240, and 3 quality settings for each, allowing for different amounts of recording times. The quality of the video was very good, and the shake reduction worked very well while shooting handheld movies. The auto white balance was one of the best that I have seen on a camera in this class when in video mode. The full 7x optical zoom is available while you are shooting. This feature is able to be turned on or off in video menu.
The battery has also been upgraded. It now features a 3.7 700 mAh battery pack. I was able to capture near 100 pictures, several videos, multiple viewing of movies and pictures, and I was able complete all of the tests before a low battery depleted warning was displayed. While battery life was good, we still recommended that you purchase a second battery pack to keep charged as a backup.
Bottom Line - Taking a big step forward with a 7x optical zoom, the Pentax Optio Z10 adds some much need versatility to the Optio line. Featuring many wonderful features such as face recognition (up to 15 faces), shake reduction, multiple scene modes, and a new feature that allows you to recover deleted files right from the camera itself. This is one of the easiest cameras to use that you will find when in "green mode", but there are also several manual controls in program mode. The quality of the images is good as long as the ISO is kept down. That said, with a price ranging between US$220 - $250, this is a very nice camera with a slew of useful features and versatility that you wont find on too many other cameras in this price range.
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