Pentax Optio S Review

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Steve's Conclusion

The Pentax OptioS is (as of April 2003) one of the smallest cameras we've reviewed so far. It's packed with features that you wouldn't expect to find in such a small camera like a 3.2-megapixel imager, 3x optical zoom lens, 11MB of built-in memory, 3D Imaging, Panorama Assist and Digital Filtering for color and image effects. Features like World Time (Display time in 62 cities & 28 time zones) and Function Registering (sets functions of 4-way selector) are not seen on many cameras. The small size makes this camera great for "on the go" people who need pictures for business. Realtors and insurance adjusters or anybody that dislikes toting a larger camera around can just stick the OptioS in their pocket and forget about it.

The OptioS takes about four seconds to extend the lens from pushing the power button and then it's ready to capture a picture. And speaking of the power button, it's poorly located (in my opinion) on the top right next to the shutter button. Some users have told me that they have no problem with the power button in this location due to the way it is recessed and "feels" when your finger goes over it. I still think it would be better located on the back of the camera. When the camera is first turned on the color LCD comes on by default as it is the only information display to let you know what the current settings are. You need to press the DISPLAY button and turn off the color LCD or else the battery life will suffer. The OptioS is powered by a proprietary rechargeable lithium battery pack. It takes about one and a half hours for the charger to bring the pack up to full charge. If you like to use a digital camera with the LCD turned on most of the time then you better buy at least one spare battery pack. If the LCD is kept off the battery life should be sufficient for an afternoon in the great outdoors. Another factor in battery life is the number of pictures taken using the flash. As with all cameras that use a proprietary battery, no other type of battery can be used.

The 3x zoom lens has a focal length coverage equivalent to 35mm-105mm in 35mm format) with a 4x digital zoom feature. As usual though, the digital zoom is more marketing hype than useable focal length. Digital zooms simply enlarge the central portion of the image electronically and the resultant images are not as clear and sharp as those created with only the optical zoom. The lens mechanism is quick, smooth and quiet. The autofocus is about average speed wise, in normal lighting conditions the shutter lag is about 1.1 seconds or less. The OptioS does well focusing in fairly low light conditions but it lacks any type of focus assist light.

From this tiny camera comes a large 2048x1536 pixel image the equal of that from any full-sized 3-megapixel digicam. The Best quality JPEG images are well saturated and sharp. The camera comes with 11MB of internal memory but no SD memory card so you can only store about 3 of the large images before running out of memory. The purchase of a 128MB or 256MB size SD card is advisable and the price of these cards have dropped dramatically in recent months. Movie mode really eats up memory fast, only two 30-second clips fit into internal memory. Each 320x240 resolution video clip is about 4.4MB in size. The OptioS features a combination USB 1.1 port for downloading to a computer and a AV port for TV viewing.

If compact is what you want, three megapixel cameras don't come any smaller than the OptioS (as of April 2003.) SD / MMC cards are now readily available up to 256MB and soon in 512MB capacities. The OptioS may be just what you're looking for if you want a camera that can always be with you and ready to capture that special Kodak (sorry) moment. Just remember to factor in the cost of a memory card and a second battery, you'll be purchasing them sooner or later.

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