Pentax Optio E60 Review
The Optio E60 is the second "E" series model we've seen from Pentax this year (2008). It offers the same features found on the Optio E50 (reviewed in May) such as a 2.4-inch LCD screen, VGA (640x480) movie mode, 3x optical zoom lens, Digital SR and Face Recognition technologies, built-in flash memory, 3-point AF system, and AA type batteries for power. The main differences between these models is a slightly different body design (looks more like an "M" series camera), greater ISO capabilities (up to ISO 6400 @ 5M), an anti-reflective coating on the LCD and increased resolution at 10.1-megapixels.
The E60 is what I consider an ultra-compact, measuring a scant 3.9 x 2.3 x 0.98 inches and weighing in at under 6 ounces with 2 AA batteries and a memory card installed. Pentax designed this camera well, with the controls laid out comfortably. As mentioned earlier, the E60 resembles a "M" series model (like the Optio M50). However, it's a bit thicker or "fatter". I was very pleased to see that the 2.4-inch LCD has an effective anti-reflective coating, which also seemed to protect the screen from fingerprints and smudges. This display worked great outdoors in bright sunlight, and also gains up well in lower light. When gaining up the display gets a bit grainy, which is typical for a camera in this class. While the LCD does not have as much resolution as other displays (112K compared to the typical 230K pixels), I found it offered a nice clear picture for framing or sharing photos. If you are familiar with Optio models, you'll be right at home with the menu system. It is very intuitive, and Pentax has freshened it up a bit. On the Mode menu, there is now a brief explanation of the selected modes intended use. This adds to the user friendliness of this camera. There are also several pre-programmed exposure modes as well as the fully automatic "Green" mode, which allows beginners to capture great shots without much fuss. For those with a bit more knowledge, Program mode offers access to advanced settings for ISO, Exposure Compensation, Focusing Area, etc.
Shooting performance was good for an entry-level camera. It took just 2.6 seconds to capture its first image after being turned on. The shutter delay, the time it takes for the camera to capture the image after you press the shutter release, was just 1/10 of a second when pre-focused, and between 3-6/10 of a second including autofocus, depending on the amount of focus change required. The shot to shot delay averaged 2.5 seconds between shots without the flash and 2.8 - 3.5 seconds with the flash. There are also two "burst" or continuous shooting modes (Continuous and 16-frame). The regular burst mode was a bit disappointing, capturing images at less than 1fps (6 images in 6.8 seconds). The 16-frame mode captured 16 images at 640x480 resolution in just 2.0 seconds. While this is blazing fast at about 8fps, the smaller resolution can't even create a 4x6-inch print. All our tests were completed using a Lexar Professional 133x 2GB SD memory card, program mode, ISO auto, flash off, preview on and all other settings at the factory defaults unless otherwise noted. All times may vary depending on lighting, camera settings, media, etc.
When using the Optio E60 to capture our usual outdoor samples images, it produced average results. Using the 10M *** image quality setting and Program mode with all factory settings produced sharp images with nice vivid colors. I did notice a bit of edge softness on the left hand side, along with an above average amount of purple fringing (aka Chromatic Aberrations) in areas of extreme contrast. You can see what I mean by taking a look at our canon shot. I noticed these occurrences the most along any leading edge on the canon itself. Noise levels were also a bit higher than I like to see, even at the lowest setting of ISO 100. You can see an example of most of the ISO settings on the samples page. My recommendation is to keep the sensitivity set at ISO 400 or lower if you plan on making prints. If you are using the Auto setting as we did, you shouldn't have any problems with the camera selecting too high of an ISO setting, as long as there is plenty of ambient light. The 3x lens offers a typical zoom range, which will help you frame close up subjects; less zooming with your feet. The lens also displayed a moderate amount of barrel distortion. Overall, the E60 has the ability to capture beautiful outdoor photos, and with 10-megapixels, you'll be able to make some awesome prints up to 13x19-inch or larger; just be sure to keep the ISO settings low.
The Optio E60 did well when shooting close-up "people" photos indoors. Pentax claims a maximum flash range of up to 20 ft. at wide angle or 10 ft. at telephoto (using ISO Auto). This range is slightly inflated, as the only way for a camera of this size to cover a subject up to 20 feet away would be by using an extremely high ISO setting (like 1600, 3200, etc.). Then, noise levels would be much too high, and the resulting images would be pretty much useless. When shooting some portraits indoors, I found the flash did well from about 5 or 6 feet, using the the mid telephoto end of the zoom range. While our portrait examples are sharp and show good flash exposure, I found the E60 does have a lot of problems with Red Eye. I saw occurrences of it in almost all of our "children" photos. Luckily, the E60 has an effective in-camera Red-Eye Compensation or removal option in the playback Edit menu.
Movie mode offers the typical VGA (640x480) or QVGA (320x240) resolutions at either 30 or 15 frame per second (fps). I was disappointed with our movie examples. The exposure system has trouble with bright objects (lights or reflections) both indoors and out. As you can see from two of our movie examples (one indoor and one outdoor), these bright objects or reflections create a purple band that runs vertically across the entire frame. Indoors, the live image also looks very grainy. Outdoors, the microphone was very sensitive, picking up the slightest breeze. There was also a lot of "pixelation", and colors seemed over saturated.
Like past "E" series cameras, the E60 is powered by 2 standard AA batteries. This means you can use "off the shelf" cells, like one-use Alkaline and Lithium batteries, which can be purchased almost anywhere. We Highly recommend use of NiMH cells as they offer much greater battery life, and are reusable. Pentax claims that you can capture up to 250 image using Alkaline batteries (included). We tend not to use these as they just end up in your local landfill. During our tests, I was able to capture about 75 images, including several movie clips, and conclude all of our normal tests, with plenty of power to spare on our Ansmann energy 2850 mAh NiMH cells.
Bottom Line - Pentax has created a decent entry-level, ultra-compact digicam. The inclusion of the 10-megapixel imaging sensor, non-glare LCD, and new body design are welcomed additions over the E50. The Optio E60 was able to produce usable outdoor photos, showed good shooting performance results in single exposure mode, and has loads of useful exposure options for the beginner to novice user. The only annoyances I found were the sluggish "Continuous" shooting mode, higher than normal image noise, and the unpleasant movie mode. With a street price of US$140 or less, we feel the Pentax Option E60 only offers an OK value in the sub US$150 category.
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