- Attractive appearance
- Good ergonomics
- Decent image quality
- Some plastic components
- Overexposure in images
- Backward-facing zoom lever
The Pentax I-10 is a stylish point-and-shoot with average performance. Image quality didn't "wow" us, but it offers a decent value and a lot of style.
Pentax is most well known these days for its excellent digital SLR’s such as the K-7 and K-x, but it also produces the Optio line of compact digital cameras. The Pentax Optio I-10, with 12.1 megapixels of resolution and a Pentax lens with a 35mm equivalent focal length of from 28mm to 140mm (5x optical zoom), was released early in 2010 and is available at a list price of $249.95 (though its “street” price is currently less than $200).
Here is the Optio I-10’s lens at wide angle and at maximum telephoto:
The Optio I-10 is very appealing at first glance because it looks like a toy camera from the 1950’s and a mini-SLR. Several people I showed it to said it was “cute” and I have to agree. While it may look like a small SLR it is truly an ultracompact with dimensions of 4 inches wide, 2.6 inches high and 1.1 inches thick and a weight of only 5.4 oz. including its battery. While the camera does not permit independent control of aperture and shutter speed, it does have numerous options that allow the user a lot of control over the image.
The camera I-10 with a D-LI92 lithium-ion rechargeable battery and charger, an AV cable, a USB cable, a wrist strap, a comprehensive 266 page Operating Manual, a quick start guide and a CD containing Pentax’s MediaImpression 2.0 photo management software.
The camera arrived the afternoon before I left to spend a week visiting relatives in St. Louis and I was excited about all the neat pictures I’d be able to take. It turned out that there was torrential rain every day so my picture-taking opportunities were more limited than I would have liked. But I was able to get a pretty good idea of the abilities of the Optio I-10.
BUILD AND DESIGN
The Optio I-10 comes in two colors – the black model that I reviewed and a very cool white version. While the camera is mostly plastic, it feels weighty and sturdy in the hand. It has metal buttons and controls. Its lens is recessed when not in use and its 2.7-inch LCD does not seem particularly fragile.
While it’s a small camera it is not overly slim and seems as if it will stand up to long term use. Overall, I felt comfortable carrying it around in my pocket without being concerned that I’d break something.
Ergonomics and Controls
I was pleased with many aspects of the Optio I-10’s ergonomics. There is a raised area at the front of the camera that makes it easy to get a good grip with your right hand. The top edge of the camera offers a curved finger support that can be used by your left forefinger while your thumb grips the bottom. The body is textured, which also helps to keep it from slipping. Too many small cameras sacrifice handling for a sleek look and I’m glad the Optio I-10 does not do that.
The front portion of the camera is dominated by its lens. The flash sits on top of the lens, and is well out of the way of blocking fingers. Next to the lens is the focus assist lamp which also doubles as the self-timer lamp. Below that is a remote control receiver – yes, the Optio I-10 is one of the few compact cameras that can be used with a remote control (not included with the camera).
The rear of the camera features a 2.7 inch-LCD with a 16 x 9 aspect ratio. Above the LCD is the speaker. To the right of the LCD are the camera’s controls consisting of a four-way controller with an OK button in the middle. The up portion of the controller is for the self-timer, the down is for setting the mode, the left controls the flash and the right puts the camera in macro mode. The controller is surrounded by four other buttons – one for reviewing photos, a dedicated button for face detection and smile capture, a menu button and a button that combines a delete picture function in review mode with a green button in record mode that enables the user to program any one of 22 camera functions, including a very simple “green” mode.
The controls are logically placed and clearly marked. The top of the camera contains the aforementioned finger support on one side and, on the other, a recessed on/off button and prominent shutter with a large zoom control ring around it. Oddly, the zoom control ring has its lever pointed to the rear of the camera to be operated with one’s thumb, instead of towards the front to be operated by the forefinger, as done in other cameras. This makes it virtually impossible to use the zoom while shooting with the right hand.
On the camera bottom is a plastic tripod socket unconventionally placed on the far side rather than in the center. Towards the middle is a combination AV/USB port and on the other side is a combination battery/memory card compartment with a thin sliding plastic cover that is very unsecurely connected to the body. The camera has 26.7MB of internal memory and uses SD and SDHC memory cards.
Menus and Modes
The Optio I-10’s main menu is activated by pressing the menu button. It also has a shortcut menu brought up by pressing the OK button. The menu options change depending on the mode selected. The menus are clearly and logically laid out, though the letter size is a bit small. Here are the main modes:
- Green Mode: This sets the camera to certain settings and gives the user limited ability to make any changes to those settings. The user has limited control of the smile shutter, face detection, flash, self-timer functions and macro functions. The camera will automatically set the exposure and the focus.
- Intelligent Auto Mode: This permits more control over options plus automatically puts certain scene modes into effect depending on the shooting environment, including landscape, portrait, night scene portrait, night scene, sport, flower and candlelight.
- Program Mode: This allows the user to adjust all of the camera’s settings, other than shutter speed and aperture, or leave them on auto, including the settings accessed in Green Mode and Intelligent Auto Mode. The user-adjustable settings include EV compensation (exposure bias), flash modes, drive modes including continuous shooting and burst mode, dynamic range compensation, sharpness, saturation, contrast, ISO, focus, image stabilization, white balance, half length portrait, surf and snow, digital shake reduction (high ISO), kids, pet, food, fireworks, frame composite, party, natural skin tone, text, blog, digital wide and digital panorama.
- Movie Mode: This gives you the option of high definition video recording at 1280 x 720, or lower resolution video at 640 × 480 and 320 × 240, at either 30 or 15 frames per second. Movies are recorded to an AVI file (Motion JPEG), sound is monaural only, and there is no HDMI connection. Digital shake reduction can be activated during movie mode. Optical zoom is not allowed while shooting movies – only digital zoom. Movie files are limited to 100 minutes.
- Playback Mode: The Optio I-10 has a very extensive playback mode which includes numerous interesting digital filters, including black and white, sepia, toy camera, retro, color, color extract, color enhancer, high contrast, starburst, soft and brightness. Filters are usually part of a camera’s recording mode but they worked well here in playback mode. Here an original photo and three filter effects, toy camera, retro and color extract.
The flash can be set to auto, off, on, auto and redeye (when it flashes twice), on and redeye, and soft. Pentax claims the effective range of the flash is 13 feet at wide angle and 7.9 feet at maximum telephoto. I found this to be more or less accurate.
Although the Optio I-10’s shape seems to suggest at first that a viewfinder is present, it is not, as the raised middle portion contains a flash at the front and a speaker at the rear. While the camera lacks a viewfinder it does have a nice 2.7-inch 16 x 9 TFT color LCD screen with an anti-reflective coating and 230,000 dots of resolution.
The screen’s brightness can be adjusted to three levels. The screen is sharp and clear in most shooting situations but, at is usually the case with LCD screens, it tends to get washed out in bright sunlight.