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Pentax Optio E30 Digital Camera Full Review
by Derek Niewahner -  4/30/2007

Talk about getting bang for your buck!  The Pentax Optio E30 retails for under $150, yet offers a whopping 7.1 megapixels resolution in a friendly, easy-to-use package.

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The latest model in Pentax's extensive line of point & shoot digital cameras is the Optio E30.  As with any digital camera, there are pros and cons.  This particular camera is considered "entry level", though it boasts an effective resolution of 7.1 megapixels.  It is simple to use, though it may be a bit too simplistic for more discerning photographers.  Bottom line: the Optio E30 is great for those consumers getting their first digital camera.

Nuts & Bolts

Image Sensor

The E30 offers seven resolution settings, ranging from 7MP to 0.3MP (640x480).  In addition, it also offers 3 quality settings.  A combination of any of these resolution and quality settings will affect memory usage.  Set to its highest settings, the built in memory will only hold about 3 photos.

LCD

The 2.4 inch LCD on the E30 is sufficient in size for proper viewing, but lacks brightness when used outdoors.  This becomes a detriment considering the lack of a traditional viewfinder as a back up.

Zoom

This camera will zoom up to 3X, equivalent to 36mm - 108mm according to Pentax.  If the 3x optical zoom doesn't get you close enough, you can activate the digital zoom, which will add an additional 4x.  Beware, though - this simply expands the image and will cause a decrease in overall quality of your pictures.

Focus Modes and Focus Ranges

Four focus modes are available: auto focus, macro, infinity, and manual focus.  In any mode other than macro, the camera will focus on subjects between 1.64 feet and infinity.  In macro focus mode, you can focus anywhere between 0.49 feet and 1.97 feet.

Flash

You can choose from 5 different flash modes - auto, flash on, flash off, auto + red eye, and on + red eye.  This offers you some flexibility depending on available light on your subject.  The effective distance of the flash ranges from 8.2 feet (in telephoto) to 14.4 feet (in wide angle) using the auto ISO setting.

Memory

The E30 has 11MB of built in memory, but accepts additional memory cards in Secure Digital (SD) format.  The built in memory will provide about 3 photos at the highest resolution/quality setting to about 100 photos at the lowest, or 13 seconds of video.  A convenient feature of the E30 is that it displays on the LCD your remaining capacity on the internal memory or memory card.

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7MP Resolution/Best Quality
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640x480 Resolution/Good (view large image)

Image/Movie File Formats

Photos are stored as JPEG/JPG files, and movies are stored as AVI (motion JPEG) files with monaural audio.

Connectivity

The E30 has a connection port that serves three functions: USB connection to a computer, AV connection to video equipment, and direct connection to a printer.  Included with the camera is a cable that has the camera connection on one end and the USB/Video connection on the other.  In my opinion, having two separate cables is more convenient because you can keep one cable connected to your computer and keep the other with your camera to view pictures on a video monitor or TV.

Power

You'll need two AA batteries to power the E30.  These can be standard alkaline, NiMH rechargeable, or Lithium Ion.

Shooting Modes

Pentax is marketing the E30 as an entry level camera, perhaps for those customers purchasing their first digital camera.  With this in mind, the E30 has a "green mode" - a simplified shooting mode that selects the most common settings for you.  All you have to do is point and shoot.

If you want to get a little more involved, there are several preset shooting modes that you can choose depending on your subject, available lighting, and other conditions.  Hit the "mode" button and a matrix of icons appears on the LCD screen. 

As you get more accustomed to the camera, you may start choosing settings individually, instead of using "green mode" or any of the other preset modes.  For instance, you may want to set the lens to manual focus, and choose a specific ISO setting.

EXPOSURE

White Balance

The E30 will allow either auto or manual white balance selection.  The four available settings are daylight, shade (outdoor), tungsten, & fluorescent (indoor)

Metering

The E30 uses through-the-lens (TTL), multi-segment metering

Sensitivity

In manual mode, the user can select from 80, 160, 320, & 400 ISO settings.  Set to auto, the E30 will select from ISO 80, 160, or 320.

CONTROLS, DESIGN, ENGINEERING, & ERGONOMICS

The physical nature of the Optio E30 is what you probably would expect from an "entry level" point & shoot.  It doesn't quite fall into the "slimline" category of cameras that can comfortably fit into a shirt pocket. 

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The main reason for this is that it requires AA batteries.  With the perpetual trend in consumer electronics toward miniaturization, many camera manufacturers are moving toward rechargeable lithium-ion batteries such as the ones in cellular phones.  This trims down the camera significantly, and cuts down on weight.  Despite the E30's bulge to accommodate AA batteries, it feels sufficiently balanced when shooting.

The batteries and memory card get inserted in the bottom of the camera.  This is also where you'll find the tripod mount and docking connection.

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The LCD monitor and most of the buttons are on the back of the camera.

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The buttons are intuitive in their use and placement on the camera, with one exception: the zoom buttons are on the back as opposed to the top.  The natural way to hold this camera is with both your thumbs under camera and both index fingers on top.  Holding it like this, you have to bring your right thumb up to zoom in or out, and thus jerking the camera out of balance.  I think placing these buttons on top would make it easier to use.

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The top of the camera has just two buttons: the power and shutter buttons.

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The right side of the camera has a loop for attaching the lanyard.

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The left side is where you plug in the cable for video or computer connection and you can also see the speaker ports.

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Included

The E30 comes with lanyard, dock insert, PC/Video connection cable, batteries, Quick Start Guide, operating manual on CD-ROM, & computer software on CD-ROM

Performance

No digital camera will have everything you want.  There is always a tradeoff.  If you want a camera with a 10x zoom lens, it will in general be larger and heavier than a camera with the basic 3x zoom.

With this said, the E30 is a well rounded camera.  It has an out-of-the-box ease of use that more sophisticated cameras perhaps won't.  While at the same time its pictures are sharp and true to color.

My first digital camera eight years ago was easy to use, but its pictures were terrible.  And back then, it cost $400.  The E30 is a great camera for the money.  You can literally put in the batteries, turn it on, and start shooting ... and still get decent photos!

Another desirable characteristic is the user's ability to set some settings manually.  You can choose your own ISO setting as well as focus manually.  These manual settings allow the user to progress from a "newbie" digital camera user to one with a little more discerning eye for his photos.

I found the shutter lag to be pretty average, compared to some other entry level cameras.  This will all depend on if you're using a flash and what kind of memory card you choose.  It will also depend on what resolution you choose - higher resolutions require more data, and therefore, more data to wrote to the memory card.

A negative characteristic of the camera that is simply a symptom of modern trends in camera is the lack of a traditional viewfinder.  Manufacturers are opting for a larger LCD screen and no viewfinder at all.  This can cause a problem while taking outdoor photos, as many LCDs are not very bright.  The LCD on the E30 is about average in this regard.

Additional Sample Images

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pentax optio e30 sample image
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pentax optio e30 sample image
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pentax optio e30 sample image
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pentax optio e30 sample image
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pentax optio e30 sample image
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pentax optio e30 sample image
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pentax optio e30 sample image
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Conclusion

The E30 is a great choice for first time camera buyers, or simply someone wanting an easy to use camera that offers decent quality.  It offers sharp, high resolution photos that are true in color, and is intuitive in its design and operation.  The "green mode" allows users to point and shoot without worry, and yet intermediate users can manually choose some settings.  If you're willing to spend a bit more, you may go with a camera that uses lithium-ion batteries, as the E30 is a bit wide and heavy with its AA batteries.

Pros

Cons