Pentax Optio A30 Review
Pentax's new Optio A30 is the 2007 upgrade of their popular A10,
and now takes the seat as the highest resolution compact model they have to offer as of 4/2007. With high-end features like a 10-megapixel imager, 3x optical zoom lens, digital Shake Reduction technology, large
2.5-inch LCD, Face Recognition AF & AE technology as well as various user friendly exposure modes, this
point-n-shoot model can be used by every member of your household or office. With its Auto and Green modes,
beginners can capture photos without having to deal with complicated settings, and the 10 pre-programmed scene
modes ensure they will capture great photos in a variety of different shooting situations. Pentax didn't
forget about their advanced users either, with plenty of manual control in the form of Program, Shutter Priority
and full Manual exposure modes.
This is definitely an "ultra-compact" camera that's about the size of a deck of playing cards. This will allow you to tuck it away in the smallest of pockets, and the durable metal body ensures it will survive the active users lifestyle. Although very small, it fit quite well in my hands, and the controls are placed just within reach of my fingertips. The Menu system is logically organized, making changing camera settings quick and easy. The large 2.5-inch LCD is the only viewfinder on this model, and is used for image composition, review, and menu navigation. While the LCD did work ok outdoors, a non-reflective coating would be very beneficial; there are many angles which reflected the sun and made it somewhat difficult to see. It also suffers from smudges and fingerprints, so you'll find yourself cleaning it regularly. When shooting in marginal lighting, the display "gains up" well to help brighten your subject, which is very important when trying to frame a subject in these conditions.
Shooting performance has improved significantly over its predecessor. Power up to first image captured measured approx. 2 seconds. Shutter lag when pre-focused was approx. 1/10 of a second, and approx. 5/10 of a second including autofocus time. The shot to shot time in normal, single exposure mode averaged about 1.2 seconds without flash, and approx. 2.2 - 3.5 seconds with flash, depending on subject distance. When shooting in Continuous mode, I was able to capture 4 images in about2.5 seconds. This performance was measured using a Sandisk Extreme III 1GB SD memory card with the image size/quality set a 10M ***, Program mode, flash off and all other settings at default. All times may vary depending on lighting, camera settings, media, etc.
The A30 features a Pentax smc 3x optical zoom lens, which covers a 35mm equivalent focal range of approx. 38 - 114mm. I found the moderate wide angle end has a sufficient field of view for small group portraits and decent landscape shots, while the telephoto end of the zoom is perfect for close-up portraits and macro photography. While it won't bring distance subjects very close, it does however, offer good versatility for shot composition. Overall this lens helped the A30 produce sharp results throughout the zoom range with moderate barrel distortion present at full wide angle, but relatively no pin cushioning at the telephoto end. There was also noticeable amounts of chromatic aberration (also known as purple fringing) around objects with high contrast.
The overall image quality of the A30's 10M *** mode was ok. While it did produce images with good exposure, and color saturation, I noticed some edge softness on the left hand side of several of our samples as well as vignetting (darkening at the corners of the frame.) Image noise is almost nonexistent at ISO 100 and below, becoming more noticeable as you increase the sensitivity. While it is much more noticeable, at ISO 800 and below the images are still usable. However 1600 looks pretty bad, and the 3200 (5MP only) setting when using the Digital SD scene mode is even worse. One feature I did like was the ability to determine what sensitivity settings are used by ISO Auto mode. You can choose 64-100, 64-200, 64-400, 64-800 or 64-1600. I feel using the 64-400 or even 64-800 will give the best results. Since the A30 already features Pentax' shake reduction technology to help reduce the effects of camera shake, I feel you'd be better off Not using the Digital SR mode. Like the A10, the A30 captures nice portraits both indoors and out. Pentax claims the flash has a range of 23 feet at wide angle (ISO Auto.) I found it worked well indoors, producing very nice exposures with natural skin tones, when shooting from about 6 or 7 feet away, using the telephoto end of the zoom range. Our outdoor portraits are also pleasing, with sharp facial features and good exposure, mainly due to its new Face Recognition AF & AE technology.
The A30's movie mode results were not much better than we saw with the A10. You can record MPEG-4 video at either 640x480 or 320x240 resolutions with sound at three different quality levels. When using the 640x480 *** (best) mode, our movie samples were disappointing, showing average compression noise, and overall looked blurry.
Power is supplied by a small 3.7v 710mAh proprietary Lithum-Ion battery pack, which is charged out of camera in the included AC charger. This allows you to charge one pack while using another. Pentax claims you can capture 150 shots on a full charge (based on CIPA standards.) We found battery life was good, capturing about 102samples (both images and short movie clips) as well as concluding several of our other tests on a single charger. As always, we recommend you pick up at least one extra pack and keep it charged and ready at all times.
Bottom line - Pentax has made a great improvement over the A10 from last year. With 10-megapixels, 3x optical zoom, Shake Reduction technology, a durable all-metal body and plenty of exposure modes, the Optio A30 is an appealing "ultra-compact" model.
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