Pentax Optio S10 Review

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Steve's Conclusion

The latest addition to Pentax's Optio line is the "S10." It includes all the style and features that have made the "S" line so popular. Carrying over from the S7 are the 2.5" inch LCD screen, 3x optical zoom, and 640x480 movie mode. New features for the S10 are a 10-megapixel imaging sensor and an auto ISO mode that allows you to select the range that the camera uses when it auto selects the ISO. The range can be set between 100 and up to 1600. These additions are welcome upgrades to this new model.

This ultra-compact camera is small, light and very easy to operate. It is very comfortable to hold and operate in just one hand or using the pinch technique with both hands. At just 3.4" x 2.1" x 0.8" and weighing just 3.5 ounces, it is one of the smallest 10-megapixel cameras that you will find. The majority of the back of the camera is taken up by the 2.5" LCD screen, leaving just enough room for the zoom, menu, and directional controls. The screen is has a very glossy finish, which does make it a little difficult to see in direct sunlight, but in any other situation it is very easy to use. Even in low light situations, it gains up to make framing your shots easier.

The S10's shooting performance was a big improvement over the S7 from earlier this year. From power up to the first image captured was 2.8 seconds. Like most cameras, the shutter lag when prefocused was less than 1/10 of a second, and between 3 to 8/10 of a second depending on lighting and subject distance when including the pre focus. When shooting in single shot mode, I was able to capture a shot every 1.5 seconds without the flash and every 2.2 to 3.5 with the flash. There is also a continuous shooting mode, which can capture an image every 8/10 of a second at the full 10 megapixel image size. These tests were performed using a 4GB SanDisk Ultra II SDHC memory card with the image size at 10 megapixel, program mode, flash off (unless noted), and all other settings at the factory defaults. All times vary depending on lighting, camera settings, media, etc.

Featuring a 3x optical zoom with a 35mm equivalent range of 38mm - 114mm, the wide angle is more than enough for shooting landscape shots and group portraits. The zoom end is not enough to single out an object from any great distance, but it can help with shot composition and is also very good for taking single portrait shots. There is some barrel distortion at the wide angle, which is common for a camera in this class, and in areas of high contrast there is some slight chromatic aberrations (purple fringing) present when viewed at 100%. This however, is not noticeable in a small printed picture.

Overall the image quality of the 10-megapixel images that were captured by the S10 were very good. On the outdoor shots, the colors were very vivid and had excellent saturation and exposure. The only down side that I saw was that there was some edge softness that is noticeable when viewing the photographs at 100%. The indoor shots were also very pleasing as long as you stay within the range of the flash. When using the flash and any amount of the zoom, 7 feet is about as far away as you will be able to get. However, if you stay in this range, you can expect to capture images with nice color, and in portraits, natural skin tones. When using low ISO settings, there is no noticeable noise within the photographs. Once you reach 200 you will start to see noise, but at this point it is not a problem. The higher you go the more noise will be present. A great feature of this camera is the ability to set the parameters of the Auto ISO settings. You can set the camera so that it will not use an ISO over 400 when the camera is set to ISO Auto. The range is as low as 100 and up to 1600.

Movie mode provides the user with a few options, but overall it is pretty simple. You have a choice between 640x480 and 320x240, and 3 quality settings for each, allowing for different amounts of recording times. The quality of the video was very good, and the steady shot worked very well while shooting handheld movies. The auto white balance was one of the best that I have seen on a camera in this class when in video mode. The microphone leaves a little to be desired as it only picks up sounds that are very close to the camera, so there is not much chance of hearing what you are seeing if you use the zoom at all. All videos are saved as .AVI with a DIVX compression, providing a great looking video with a slightly smaller file size than most .AVI format videos.

The battery has also been upgraded since the S7. It now features a 3.7 1000 mAh battery pack. This allows for more pictures, longer battery life, and a little more power and quicker recharging of the flash. I was able to capture near 100 pictures, several videos, and complete all of the tests without having to recharge the battery. It is still recommended that you purchase a second battery pack to keep charged as a backup.

Bottom Line - As the new leader in the Optio "S" line, the S10 has an upgraded image processor, and a noticeable improvement in performance from previous models. Combined with the continued overall good image quality, makes this a very good choice in the "ultra-compact" market. The only down side is it can be a little slow focusing so it is not recommended for shooting fast moving actions or subjects. All things considered, it offers a very good value with an MSRP of US$250 or less.

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