Pentax Optio RS1500: Performance

June 9, 2011 by Howard Creech Reads (3,901)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 6
    • Features
    • 7
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 7
    • Performance
    • 6
    • Expandability
    • 0
    • Total Score:
    • 5.20
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

The Pentax RS1500 is a competent general purpose point-and-shoot that is capable of producing excellent images. Overall performance was pretty good. Startup time is about 2 seconds and shot-to-shot times measured between 2 and 3 seconds. Using the flash slowed things down marginally.

Shooting Performance
There are two very important criteria when assessing digital camera performance, timing and image quality. The RS1500’s DCR lab measured timings are at the bottom of its class in shutter lag at 0.10 seconds and AF acquisition at 0.56 seconds, but near the middle of its class in continuous (1.4 fps) shooting mode.

Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)

Camera Time (seconds)
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH27 0.01
Sony Cyber-shot WX9 0.01
Canon PowerShot A3300 IS 0.01
Pentax Optio RS1500 0.10

AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)

Camera Time (seconds)
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH27 0.20
Sony Cyber-shot WX9 0.25
Canon PowerShot A3300 IS 0.39
Pentax Optio RS1500 0.56

Continuous Shooting

Camera Frames Framerate*
Sony Cyber-shot WX9 10 9.8 fps
Pentax Optio RS1500 3 1.4 fps
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH27 1.3 fps
Canon PowerShot A3300 IS 0.7 fps

*Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera’s fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). “Frames” notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.

The Pentax Optio RS1500 generates 14 megapixel JPEG digital image files via its 1/2.33-inch interline transfer (with primary color filter) CCD image sensor. The RS1500 utilizes a fairly standard TTL contrast detection auto focus system featuring 3-point AF, Spot AF, Auto tracking AF, Macro AF and Super Macro AF modes. AF is relatively quick and focus is reliably accurate. The RS1500’s built-in flash provides several useful artificial lighting options including: Auto, Flash Off, Flash On, Auto + Redeye reduction, and On + Redeye reduction. Pentax claims the maximum effective range is about 16 feet, which seems a bit optimistic based on my very limited flash use.

Mechanical Image Stabilization (optical IS or Sensor shift IS) has become almost ubiquitous these days, but Pentax eschews standard image stabilization methods in favor of what they call digital blur removal. Digital blur removal is another way of saying electronic Image Stabilization. With electronic IS, the RS1500 utilizes higher sensitivity settings and faster shutter speeds to counter camera shake.

Pentax Optio RS1500

In movie mode, the RS1500 features what Pentax calls Movie SR (Shake Reduction) to automatically compensate for camera shake (by boosting sensitivity and shutter speeds) during video capture. Digital cameras at the $150.00 price point don’t always include mechanical image stabilization systems, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In good lighting the RS1500’s 4x zoom is short enough to preclude much of the camera shake that one would find with a longer zoom.

The RS1500 is powered by a Rechargeable Pentax D-LI108 lithium-ion battery. Pentax claims the RS1500 (with a fully charged battery) is good for about 210 exposures, 260 minutes of video record time, or 70 minutes of audio record time. I do a lot of shoot, review, delete, and re-shoot, so I don’t really keep track of exposures, but I only charged the battery twice while I had the camera – so those numbers seem reasonable.

The battery is charged via a plug-in wall unit (sometimes called a “wall wart” charger) and requires about two hours for a full charge from house current. The RS1500 saves images and video to SD or SDHC memory media, plus 21.6MB of internal memory. The Pentax website doesn’t list SDXC as one of the RS1500’s compatible image storage formats.

Lens Performance
When the RS1500 is powered up, the 4.9mm – 16.9mm/ f3.2-f5.9 (28mm to 110mm equivalent) 4x zoom extends from the camera body automatically, and when the camera is powered down the lens is retracted inside of the camera body and a built in iris-style lens cover closes to protect the front element. Zooming is fairly smooth and lens operation is relatively quiet. The RS1500 needs about two seconds to move the lens from the wide angle end of the zoom range to the telephoto end of the zoom range.

Overall, the RS1500’s zoom is pretty good, though the lens displays some visible corner softness. Barrel distortion (at the wide-angle end of the zoom range) is above average, but Pincushion distortion is essentially invisible at the telephoto end of the zoom.

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