Pentax Optio S40 Review

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Steve's Conclusion

Another new camera from Pentax this year (2004), the Optio S40 is a compact, stylish, and extremely durable camera that is loaded with features usually found on larger, more expensive digicams. It combines a 4-megapixel imager with a smc (super multi coated) Pentax 3x optical zoom lens. It offers the less-experienced user with a wide variety of fully-automatic recording modes, plus includes a Help function that describes various key functions as well as shooting modes.

The ergonomics of the S40 are great, the buttons are well placed and functional, menu screens are legible and logically organized. The power button issue (seen on all "S" series Optios) has been resolved by placing it in the center of the mode dial. When shooting outdoors the LCD is quite usable, even in direct sunlight. Whether you're shooting in low-ambient light or capturing night scenes, the LCD "gains up" which is very helpful when framing your subject.

The S40 is ready to go in about 2 seconds from pressing the power button. Power up to first image captured measured approx. 4.5 seconds. In normal lighting conditions the shutter lag is about 6/10 of a second. Shutter lag when pre-focused is approx. 2/10 second. The shot to shot time in normal, single exposure mode averaged about 3.5 seconds. When shooting in Continuos mode, I was able to capture 7 images in about 8.5 seconds. This performance was measured using a SanDisk Ultra II 256MB SD memory card with the image size/quality set a 2304x1728/ , and includes viewfinder delay, photographer response time, and image capture. All times may vary depending on lighting, camera settings, media, etc.

The Pentax 3x optical 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 pin cushioning at full telephoto. The S40 focused OK in most average lighting situations but was not very good in low-light, it has no focus-assist lamp. The lens works smooth and quietly as it quickly extends from or retracts back into its body.

The overall image quality in 2304x1728/ mode was below average for a 4-megapixel camera. Many of our sample photos show considerable noise in both high and low contrast areas with a noticeable "softness" to the edges of the images that some would call "blurry" looking. When shooting indoors you will be limited by the minimal flash range of 11.5ft. This is sufficient for portraits or small groups, but lacks the power to illuminate average to large sized rooms. 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. We recommend the purchase of a larger (128MB to 512MB) size SD card.

The Optio S40 is an entry-level camera that provides users with the ease of fully-automatic operation, an extremely durable compact design and one of the first camera help menus I've seen. The 4-megapixel images yield more than enough resolution to create 8x10-inch photo prints but its image quality is not the equal of 4-megapixel cameras in this class from other manufacturers.

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