Pentax Optio S4 Review

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Steve's Conclusion

The Pentax Optio S4 is packed with extraordinary features. The most notable is its "credit-card size"! Other features include: a state-of-the-art 4-megapixel imager, a tiny 3x optical zoom lens, 11MB of built-in memory and many other creative functions that will enhance your images. This camera's unique size makes it easy to take anywhere. In fact you may put it in your pocket and forget it's even there! There are many business applications that this camera could be used for. For example realtors or insurance adjusters will be able to record a picture and then attach a voice memo up to 30 sec. in length to describe the image.

The Optio S4 takes approximately 2.5 sec. to startup from depressing the power button until capturing the first image. Auto focus speed is very good, in normal lighting conditions the shutter lag is about 1/2 second. Shutter lag when pre-focused is an impressive and professional class 1/10 second. The Optio S4's single shot performance will help you capture unposed spontaneous moments and moving subjects. Unfortunately, its shot to shot and continuous shooting mode were not as robust; only 2 rapid fire shots could be taken, the second shot being captured 2.5 seconds after the first, or 1.7 seconds after the first in continuous mode. This performance was measured using a 256MB SD memory card and best quality images of 2304x1728 pixels, and includes viewfinder delay, photographer response time, and image capture.

If you like to use the color LCD for all of your framing and composing then figure on capturing about 60-85 pictures per charge. If the LCD is kept off, the battery life should be sufficient for most family outings. The Optio S4 is powered by a small rechargeable Li-ion battery pack. It takes about one and a half hours to fully charge. We highly recommend that you buy at least one spare battery pack, no other type of battery can be used. Remember when using the flash frequently, your battery power will be exhausted quicker.

The 3x zoom lens has a focal length coverage equivalent to 35mm-105mm (in 35mm format) with a 4x digital zoom feature. There is moderate barrel distortion at full wide angle but almost no pincushioning at full telephoto. Although there is no focus-asist lamp, the S4 did focus well in most low-light situations. The lens works smooth and quietly as it quickly extends from or retracts back into its body.

The image quality from this very small camera will pleasantly surprise most users. Its 4-megapixel imager can be compared to any full-sized 4-megapixel digicams. You will be pleased with the quality of most poster-size prints up to 11 x 17 inches in size. The 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 to 512MB size SD card is advisable.

If a high-resolution ultra-compact with an optical zoom lens is what you've been waiting for, then you may not need to wait any longer. A quality four megapixel camera doesn't come any smaller than the Optio S4 at the time of this review (10/18/03). If for work or play this tiny camera is sure to be a hit and with a street price of under $350. Just remember to factor in the cost of a memory card and a second battery, you'll be purchasing them sooner or later or wish that you had.

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