Pentax Optio 330rs Review

Steve's Digicams

Pentax Optio 330RS

Steve's Conclusion

If you want a small camera, they don't come much smaller than the Pentax Optio 330RS. Roughly the same size as a pack of cigarettes and built into a stainless steel case for durability. Built on the Optio 330, the Optio 330RS is a 2002 update with added features but very similar if not identical specs. It is the little brother to the Pentax Optio 430RS. The 330RS is a very good performer, just not fast, and the images are impressive. It is a 3- megapixel digital camera with a 3x optical zoom lens. The zoom lens retracts fully inside of the camera body when powered down and is protected by a built-in lens cap. The Optio 330RS makes a great 'go anywhere and be ready at a moment's notice' kind of camera due to its pocketable size and light weight.

Press the power button and the camera is ready to take the first shot in about six seconds. Shot to shot time in single exposure mode is over four seconds. If you need to grab several shots in sequence, a well spaced sequence, change into continuous mode and capture three frames in about ten seconds. These slower than average times are without flash and were the same using the internal memory or a 24x 512MB Ridata CF card. If you are looking for one of the faster cameras on the market for sports and action shooting, this would not be my first choice. But, on the other hand, if you are looking for good image quality, ease of use and tons of features - read on.

The time lapse movie mode can shoot a movie clip at several different sequence intervals starting at 7.5 frames per second all the way down to one frame per three seconds. And it also captures full motion video at 320 x 240 resolution at 15fps for up to 30 seconds per clip, there is no audio as the camera lacks a microphone. There is also a 3D print making mode and an included viewer for looking at the two side-by-side images shot at slightly different perspectives to give the 3D effect. But wait, there is more - There is an alarm clock that will display a picture and beep at a specified time and date and remember the mirrors at the county fair - you can drastically s-t-r-e-t-c-h an image horizontally or vertically. Pentax did drop the double exposure mode of the Optio 330. I somehow doubt the general public will find a lot of use for most of these modes but the 'regular' images are what count and they are very good for this type of camera (see theSample Photos page.) Images and movies are recorded on the internal 11MB memory or standard Compact Flash Type I cards and with those now available up to 1 gigabyte in capacity, that's a lot of 2048 x 1536 image storage.

Overall the image quality is very good. The lens produces sharp images and the autofocus is fairly quick in average lighting. The metering system is improved and does a good job in almost all situations. Image saturation and contrast can be adjusted to suit your taste but it can often be difficult to judge on the small LCD screen, especially when you're out in the bright light.

Small cameras also mean small LCD displays, the 330RS has a better than average 1.6 inch color display. The refresh rate when used as a viewfinder is very close to real time, there is no smearing or herky-jerky motion when panning. It is bright and the colors are true but I wouldn't say it's any easier to use in the bright sun than most other LCD displays with a highly reflective covering. The optical viewfinder is the best choice for most picture-taking tasks other than macro. It saves your battery power and allows the camera to be put up to your eye which is the way most of us are used to holding a camera. The optical viewfinder shows about 85% of the captured image but offers no viewfinder information other than sets of wide and center focus marks.

One of the problems of a small camera is an equally small battery. Even with very conservative use of the LCD the battery doesn't go all that far, Pentax claims 250 images with 1/2 using the flash and the LCD on. I'd say in a real world use it was more like 100 frames or about 40 minutes viewing. The more you use the LCD, the flash or the power zoom, the less pictures you'll get. Proprietary batteries in the smaller digicams are all pretty 'wimpy' and I wouldn't think of going on a day trip to an amusement park without an extra battery as no 'off- the- shelf' battery is useable. The 'smaller' digicams that use AA MiMH batteries can't be as small but power isn't such an issue when it is affordable to have 3 or 4 back-up sets for that week long vacation.

I'm pretty much "old school" when it comes to cameras, digital or film, they need to be a certain size and weight to be truly useful. But then, many people leave the camera behind on special days if it is not extremely convenient to carry along. These little cameras are great because you can slip them in your pocket or purse and take them along wherever you go. As I said in the beginning, the images can't be argued with, they are impressive and a photographic quality 8x10 or larger is not an issue for the Optio 330RS. So, if you are looking for an easy 'point- n -shoot' pocketable digicam than this could be for you.

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