Pentax Optio S5i Review

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Steve's Conclusion

Building on the success of Pentax's Optio "S" series, the Optio S5i offers users all of the features found on past models, but adds a 5-megapixel imager, Time-lapse movie mode, and a new Sports scene mode. This is a durable ultra-compact point-n-shoot that's about the size of a credit card, but thicker. It offers beginners and amateurs alike with fully automatic exposure modes, and the ability to manually change settings for ISO, white balance, metering, etc.

Pentax's smc 3x optical zoom lens covers 35mm-105mm (in 35mm format) with a 4x digital zoom feature. Because digital zoom degrades image quality, we recommend not using it, especially when you have 5-megapixels of resolution to work with. We suggest you crop later in a image editor when necessary. This lens showed moderate barrel distortion at full wide angle but almost no pincushioning at full telephoto. Although there is no focus-asist lamp, it did focus well in most low-light situations.

Ergonomics were average. It seems Pentax has not heard our cries about the Power button on past "S" series models. With the camera being so small, I found myself turning it Off when trying to snap a picture. This was very aggravating. Another issue was the left and right "Custom Function" buttons. Though they can be very useful, there needs to be an off setting when you are not planing on using them. I found myself accidently changing exposure compensation countless times. Its 1.8-inch LCD works good outdoors, although because it has a reflective coating there are still angles that reflect the sun and make it difficult to use; this is when you will be glad there is an optical viewfinder. Also the LCD does not "gain up" when shooting in low-ambient lighting.

Shooting performance was robust. Power up to first image captured measured about 1.8 seconds. The all important shutter lag measured less than 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and just 2/10 of a second including autofocus. The shot-to-shot delay averaged about 3.5 seconds without the flash and 4.5 seconds with the flash. The S5i does not offer any continuous or burst drive modes. Its new sports mode will allow you to capture images of slow moving objects by increasing the shutter speed, but I recommend you use its movie mode if ever trying to capture little Timmy going for a touchdown. Our tests were done using a Transcend 60x 512MB SD card, Program AE mode, preview off, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.

We were pleased with the overall image quality in 2560x1920/ mode. The majority of our outdoors samples were sharp, well exposed, and colors are nicely saturated. We also noticed that there was very little noise in high/low contrast areas. Indoors it also performs well. As I mentioned earlier, its autofocus system does well in low-light, even without a AF- assist lamp. Its flash has a range of approx. 11.5 ft (at ISO 200), which will be sufficient for most indoor situations. Though it would benefit from a stronger flash, you would in turn lose a significant amount of battery life. The flash also "throttles down" well when shooting in macro mode.

Power is supplied by its tiny 3.7V 710mAh D-LI8 lithium-ion battery pack. You can charge it in camera when placed in its cradle or by itself. Pentax claims a battery like of approx. 160 shots. We were able to capture most of our samples (about 100 shots) and conclude our other test before the battery was exhausted. As always, we recommend you purchase a second battery pack and keep it charged at all times. Also the camera only comes with 10MB of internal memory and no SD card. You can only store about 3 Large/Fine images before running out of memory. We recommend the purchase of a larger 256MB to 512MB size card.

Bottom line - the Optio S5i is a welcomed addition to the Pentax family. We feel it will make a great choice for anyone who wants an ultra-compact digicam that's durable and takes great pictures. With 5-megapixels, there 's plenty of resolution to make high-quality 8x10-inch or larger prints. And with a street price of around $399.99, it offers a good overall value for a camera in this class.

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