Pentax Optio S7 Review

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Steve's Conclusion

The Optio S7 is a new addition to Pentax's ever popular Optio "S" line (as of Jan. 2007), and stays true to form in providing a compact and stylish design while still being easy to use. Features such as a large 2.5 inch LCD, 3x optical zoom, 4x digital zoom, and a 640x480 movie mode make this compact camera a great add-on to its predecessors. The S7 improves on the S6 with a higher resolution of 7-megapixels, adds the ability to handle SDHC cards up to 4GB along with SD cards up to 2GB, and adds a blur-reduction exposure mode to aid in low light conditions. It keeps the popular digital Anti-Shake system in Movie-mode, along with 23MB internal memory capacity.

The ergonomics of this "Ultra-Compact" make it easy to access controls with your finger tips, and the onscreen Menu system was simple to navigate and read. Shooting outdoors in bright sunshine can be done with no problems and in low light conditions it brightens or "gains-up" which is a great improvement over the S6. The camera's exposure system was intuitive enough to allow us to shoot subjects in normal indoor lighting.

The S7's shooting performance is a bit below average for cameras in this category. Power up to first image captured measured approx. 3.2 seconds. Shutter lag, when pre-focused was less than 1/10 second, and about 6/10 second including autofocus time. The shot to shot time in normal, single exposure mode averaged about 2.3 seconds without flash, and approx. 3.2 - 4 seconds with flash, depending on subject distance. When shooting in Continuous mode, the S7 captured images at 1.8 second intervals, the number of shots limited only by the amount of remaining memory on the SD card. This performance was measured using a OCZ High-speed 133x 512MB SD memory card with the image size/quality set a 7M , program mode, flash off and all other settings at default. All times vary depending on lighting, camera settings, media, etc.

The S7 comes with a Pentax smc 3x optical zoom lens, which covers a 35mm equivalent focal range of approx. 37.5-112.5mm. I found the 37.5mm wide angle end allows for decent landscape shots as well as interior group portraits. The 112.5mm telephoto zoom will not bring distant objects in to close, but it does offer versatility for shot composition and worked very well for shooting close up individual portraits. There is a small amount of barrel distortion present at full wide angle, but relatively no pin cushioning at the telephoto end. Slight traces of chromatic aberration (purple fringing) around brightly lit subjects was noted when the photo was viewed at 100%.

For a 7-megapixel camera of its size the image quality was impressive. Outdoor samples were relatively sharp, but there was some edge softness visible on several samples (check out the sample of the fire station on our samples page.) Images have good color saturation and exposure seems very accurate. Noise levels were fine at lower ISO settings for a model in this class, but as you increase the ISO value using blur reduction mode the noise becomes very noticeable.

Indoors is where this little camera shines, except when needing the flash. These little cameras have tiny flashes and when using the zoom, you'll be lucky to fully illuminate a subject 6 or 7 feet away. However, I found it did work very well when shooting portraits from about 4 or 5 feet. People shots showed sharp facial features, good flash exposure along with great natural skin tones. Portrait photography is one of the S7's best uses.

Now comes the S7 in Movie mode. The S7 can produce a nice video and its AF system works well while panning with a moving subject. Because of the small size I did have a small amount of trouble following my movie subject in the viewfinder. The movies look solid due to the help of the movie anti-shake system, which keeps the camera steady.

Battery life for the S7 was good, especially when you consider how small its 3.7v 710mAh battery pack is. Pentax claims you can capture approx. 180 images on a single charge. I was able to shoot over 100 photos and run most of our other tests before the battery needed recharging. Lithium-Ion batteries cannot be picked up easily at your local discount store, so be sure to purchase at least one spare pack to have charged and ready at all times.

Bottom line - keeping in line with its Optio S predecessors, the Pentax Optio S7 offers some great features, an easily carried pocket size, an all-metal durable case, all in a 7-megapixel file format. The 23 MB internal memory will only be good for around 10 pictures with the average file size of 2.2MB, so we strongly recommend that you purchase a memory card of at least 256MB. With a street price of US$300 or less (check our buy box below) the S7 gives you a lot of camera for your money.

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