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Pentax Optio Z10 Review
by BarneyBeal -  11/16/2007

The Pentax Optio Z10 is a new entry from Pentax that features a 7x optical zoom in a very slim body (similar to the Casio Exilim EX-V8). It also has an 8 megapixel sensor and a 2.5 inch LCD. There isn't any type of mechanical or optical image stabilization, but it does include Pentax' Digital Shake Reduction technology as well as Face Detection AF and AE.

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Nuts & Bolts

Image Sensor

The Z10 is equipped with a 1/2.5" CCD that captures an effective 8.0 megapixels. The images have a maximum size of 3264x2448 with three quality levels. At full resolution and highest quality you can get about 247 images on a 1 GB memory card.

Viewfinder/LCD

The 2.5" LCD sports a 230K image resolution, which works well with image review but is lighter in image capture making it difficult to capture fast-moving subjects outdoors. This proved particularly taxing trying to get a shot of two dogs playing in the park, using the pet setting (more on that later).

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Lens/Zoom

One of the nice features of the Z10 is the internal zoom. The 7x zoom covers focal lengths of 6.3 to 44.1 mm (equivalent to 38-266mm in the 35 mm format) and remains inside the camera body during the zoom. No lens protrudes from the camera. However, this comes at the sacrifice of ergonomics as the lens covering slides too far to the right leaving less space for the hand and sacrificing some "feel" during use.

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The camera also has a "digital wide" function that allows users to combine two images and create one wider angle equivalent to 28mm in 35mm format.

Focus Modes and Focus Ranges

In normal focus mode, the camera can focus from 1.31 feet to infinity. Macro mode can focus 0.26-1.64 feet.

The Pentax Z10 has 9-point auto focus, spot auto focus and auto tracking auto focus for action photography. It also includes a facial recognition feature (when the picture mode is in Natural Skin Tone, Portrait, or Kid) that adjusts the focus and exposure for up to 15 faces in the frame. Pentax claims a minimum of 0.03 second face recognition time and while it's hard to verify it was certainly fast enough.

The camera also comes with a digital shake reduction feature to prevent blurring of fast-moving subjects or low light images. However, this comes at the expense of quality. To do so it increases the ISO to as high as 3200 and leaves the camera prone to noise.

Flash

Another nice feature of the Pentax Z10 is, similar to the internal zoom lens, it does not have a pop-up flash. The flash sits above the lens but below the top line of the camera and is quite powerful for a camera this size. The built-in flash has auto, on, off and redeye reduction modes. It has an effective range of 17.7 feet at wide angle and 13.1 feet at telephoto with auto ISO.

Memory media

The Z10 accepts SD and SDHC media cards with approximately 52.1MB of internal memory.

Image/Movie File Format(s)

The camera supports JPEG, DCF, DPOF and Print Image Matching III. The movie mode records in AVI. The Pentax Z10 also includes a digital sound recorder which captures audio in the WAV format.

Connectivity

USB 2.0 hi-speed, A/V out DC in; Video out NTSC, PAL.


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Printer interface: PictBridge

Power

The Pentax Optio Z10 is powered with an included rechargeable Li-Ion battery that charges in 90 minutes and, according to the guide, allows it to record approximately 180 pictures (with flash used in 50%) of pictures and 150 minutes of playback time.

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Exposure

The camera boasts a plethora of exposure modes, but for beginners and those not willing to fiddle with their settings before every shot, the auto mode is a compelling feature. It will pick the appropriate mode on its own -- Landscape for landscapes, Surf and Snow for bright backgrounds like beaches or snow covered hills, etc. There is also Program mode, Flower, Portrait, Sport for quick action scenes, High Sensitivity, Kids and Pets, which offers a feature to set the camera according to the color of your pet's coat.

While the exposure was right on, in trying to capture some dogs at play in the park, the low intensity of the LCD while trying to frame the pictures and the shutter lag proved challenging.

The camera also features a digital voice recorder and a decorative framing option, but none of the three frames are particularly attractive. It's a wasted feature.

The movie mode provides 640 x 680 (VGA) resolution movies at 30 frames per second with sound. Unfortunately the camera does not allow you to zoom while recording video.

Metering

The Optio Z10 has multi-segment, center-weighted and spot metering, as well as exposure compensation +/-2 EV in 1/3 EV steps.

White balance

The camera can be set to auto, daylight, shade, tungsten, florescent or manual.

Sensitivity

The ISO range for this camera runs from 64-800 and up to 3200 on Digital Shake Reduction mode and has manual settings for 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 and 3200.

In-Camera Image Adjustment

In-camera image playback is another advantage of this camera. It allows for a slideshow view, resizing of pixels and quality level, cropping, copying and rotation of images. Moving through the menus is quick and the camera processes changes fast enough to get on with picture taking during an event like a birthday party or trip.

A filter option provides some fun features and can adjust images to black and white, sepia or red, green and blue colors. Users can also adjust on camera for softness, a fisheye effect and brightness. Red eye compensation can be done in camera and is effective if a bit slow.

CONTROLS, DESIGN, ENGINEERING, & ERGONOMICS

The Optio Z10 has a slim, lightweight feel and with the flash and zoom lens remaining inside the camera body it retains its feel during use. Covers for the connection ports are plastic and appear somewhat fragile. The camera fits easily into a shirt pocket.

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Included

Included with the camera is the battery, battery charger, wrist strap, USB cable, AV cable, CD-Rom of software and instruction manual.

PERFORMANCE

The images were generally pretty strong with this camera with good color saturation; however some were prone to noise/graininess as it switched to higher ISO settings.

The auto focus performed well with portraits but quick action shooting was difficult and focus was spotty.

The shutter lag was a bit slow as well and, combined with difficulty framing subjects through the viewfinder in bright conditions, it made any action photography a challenge.

Start up time was quick, and the cycle time between shots was average at about 3-5 seconds and the flash recharges in 4-5 seconds.

Sample Images

 

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pentax optio z10 sample image
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pentax optio z10 sample image
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pentax optio z10 sample image
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pentax optio z10 sample image
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Conclusion

The Pentax Optio Z10 provides an intuitive interface with a handful of extra features that should serve beginners well, while offering a few more advanced capabilities like the digital wide feature and effects for them to grow into. The compact size makes it a great travel camera.

However, when the camera gets into more difficult area like fast-action or low-light conditions, it begins to struggle. Also, the lack of any optical or mechanical image stabilization is a serious negative in a camera that has a 7x optical zoom.

It should be perfectly adequate for those looking for an ultra-compact, no-hassle point and shoot with decent image quality.

Pros:

Cons: