Pentax Optio X Review

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Steve's Conclusion

One of the more "unique" looking cameras that we have seen this year (2004), the Optio X is a stylish and compact point-n-shoot that offers users 5-megapixels of resolution combined with a Pentax smc 3x optical zoom lens. When you compare specifications, it is very similar to the Optio S5i.

The most noticeable feature on this camera is its swiveling body. You can rotate the LCD 270°. We found this to be a handy feature, especially when you are trying to capture a picture in a crowd; simply rotate the LCD and hold it over your head. This 2.0-inch monitor is the only viewfinder and we found it works good outdoors, although because it has a reflective coating there are still some angles that reflect the sun and make it difficult to use; this is when it would be nice to have an optical viewfinder. However, the LCD does "gain up" when shooting in low-ambient lighting, which is a plus. Despite its compact size, it feels good in your hands; once you learn to hold it. You will see when you pick it up that there are indents in the body. These are guides for when you are using the "pinch" technique. Its controls are well placed and easy to use, and the menu system is logically organized. We found its Fn shortcut menu to be very useful when wanting to quickly change settings for flash, drive, and focus modes.

Its Pentax smc 3x optical zoom lens covers 35mm-105mm (in 35mm format) with a 4x digital zoom feature. Because digital zoom degrades image quality, we recommend not using it, especially when you have 5-megapixels of resolution to work with. We suggest you crop later in a image editor when necessary. This lens showed moderate barrel distortion at full wide angle but almost no pincushioning at full telephoto. Although there is no focus-assist lamp, its autofocus system did well in most low-light situations.

The Optio X's shooting performance was average for a camera in this class. Power up to first image captured measured about 3.5 seconds. The all important shutter lag measured less than 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and 5/10 of a second including autofocus. The shot-to-shot delay averaged about 3.6 seconds without the flash and between 4.5 to 5.5 seconds with the flash. The Optio X offers two continuous or burst drive modes. Using its standard mode, I was able to capture 4 frames in about 7.5 seconds. Its Multiple shooting mode takes a series of 4 images in about 1.4 seconds and then creates a single 2048x1536 images. Our tests were done using a SanDisk Ultra II 512MB SD card, Program AE mode, preview off, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.

The overall image quality when using 2560x1920 Best mode was good. Outdoors it captures sharp images that were consistently well exposed. You can also use its Auto Bracketing feature to ensure you get the optimum exposure. The majority of our samples showed very little noise in high/low contrast areas, but there was an average amount of chromatic aberration present around extreme highlights. I was also pleased with our indoor results. Our portraits were sharp, and skin tones look very natural. When I first saw the position of its flash, I expected large amounts of red eye. I have to say its Red Eye Reduction flash mode worked very well. Also when using its Macro focus mode, it controls the flash well to ensure you don't over expose the subject.

Its 320x240 (15fps) Movie mode produced good results. There was an average amount of compression noise, but its autofocus system did great keeping up with fast moving subjects. The only issue we had was the microphone pics up even the slightest breeze. you can see what I mean by checking out the movie on our samples page.

It is powered by relatively small 3.7V 710mAh D-LI8 lithium-ion battery pack. It is charged in-camera when placed in the handy charging base. Pentax claims a battery life of approx. 165 shots. We were able to capture most of our samples (101 shots) and conclude our other test before the battery was exhausted. As always, we recommend you purchase a second battery pack, though changing it is not as fast and easy as most digicams. You have to "twist" the camera in order to expose a small switch, once you press this the front cover slides off and the battery is exposed. Also the camera only comes with 14MB of internal memory and no SD card. You can only store about 4 Large/Fine images before running out of memory. We recommend the purchase of a larger 256MB to 512MB size card.

Bottom line - the Pentax Optio X is a "cool" little camera. It may not be the fastest camera on the market, but its versatile swiveling LCD and good image quality make up for it. With 5-megapixels, there's plenty of resolution to make photo-quality 8x10-inch or larger prints. With a street price of under $400, the Optio X offers a good overall value.

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