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Pentax Optio E40 Review
by  -  11/29/2007

The Pentax Optio E40 is the latest entry-level point and shoot from Pentax. Falling squarely in the sub-$150 price range, the E40 is the cheapest current Pentax Optio camera that you can get. The E40 takes 8.1 megapixel images, has a 3x optical zoom and a 2.4 inch LCD.

pentax optio e40
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NUTS & BOLTS

Sensor

The E40 has a 1/2.5" CCD that captures an effective 8.1 megapixels. Image dimensions at full resolution are 3264x2448 pixels. At "best" quality, you can fit approximately 62 images on a 256MB memory card.

Viewfinder/LCD

The 2.4 inch LCD on the back of the camera is your only method of previewing and reviewing your images - there is no optical viewfinder. While I don't expect a top of the line display in an entry level model, the low resolution (110K pixels) of the screen leaves things pretty grainy. Other than that, the display does a good job. The refresh rate is enough to provide a somewhat smooth viewing experience and the screen gains up and down depending on the ambient lighting. Outdoors in bright sunlight, the screen can get hard to see, but it's no worse than with other cameras in its class.

Lens/Zoom/Focus

The lens is the pretty standard 3x optical zoom which gives you a 35mm equivalent zoom range of 37.5-112.5mm. The maximum aperture at wide angle is f2.8 and at telephoto is f5.2. When the camera is powered off, the lens is flush with the body and protected by a built-in lens cover. When powered on, the lens extends to the ready position.

Pentax provides plenty of focus modes: auto, macro, infinity, pan focus, and manual focus. The E40 is also capable of face detection AF, and this mode is available in auto, program auto, portrait and kids modes. In normal focus mode, you can focus on objects as close as 0.4 meters at wide angle. In macro mode, you can focus on objects between 0.15m and 0.5m at wide angle. Pan focus mode focus on objects between 1.5 meters and infinity, and manual focus gives you the same close point as macro - 0.15 m at wide angle.

Flash

The built-in flash has an effective range of 0.15m to 4.3m at wide angle and auto ISO. At telephoto, this range is between 0.5m and 2.3m. You can choose from several modes: auto, always on (fill), disabled, auto with red-eye, and fill flash with red-eye. A slow synch mode is available when you use the Night preset scene mode.

Memory Media

The E40 accepts SD and SDHC memory cards and has approximately 10MB of internal storage.

Image/Movie File Format(s)

Images are stored as JPEG files only and movies are saved as AVI files.

Connectivity

There is a USB/AV connector on the side of the camera as well as a dock connector on the bottom of the camera.

pentax optio e40
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Power

The camera is powered by 2 AA batteries. Using high-capacity NiMH rechargeable batteries, I experienced good battery life. In the spec sheet for the E40, Pentax says that you can get approximately 240 shots with alkaline batteries. In real life, I would expect just under 200 shots with alkalines and more with high capacity rechargeables. The camera can also handle lithium batteries, if you really want the best battery life possible.

pentax optio e40
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EXPOSURE

Since this is an entry level camera, you get entry level features. So, this camera is an auto-exposure only camera, with a full automatic mode, program auto, and a set of scene modes. Auto does everything for you and limits the number of settings that you can change. If you want just a bit more control, you can use the "P" mode - or program auto. In this mode, you can change things like AF mode, white balance, and exposure compensation. If you'd like to try a different shooting mode, you can choose from the "mode palette". In there, you'll find icons for Auto, P, Night Scene, Movie, Audio Recording, Landscape, Flower, Portrait, Surf & Snow, Sport, Digital SR, Kids, Pet, Digital Panorama, and Frame Composite.

If you want a really easy shooting mode, there is a button on the bottom right of the back of the camera that enables "Green Mode". In this mode, flash options and focus options are simplified. For example, you can either have the flash in auto or off. Also, access to the mode palette and menu system is disabled until you disable Green Mode.

Movie Mode

The movie mode let you capture movies at resolutions of 640x480 and 320x240 at both 30fps and 15fps. Another nice feature with the movie mode is that you can take movies in full color, black & white, and sepia. You can't use optical zoom during movie capture.

Metering

The only metering option with the E40 is a multi-segment metering system, which is perfectly fine for users of this camera. If you need to adjust exposure, the exposure compensation can be adjusted +/- 2 stops in 1/3 stop increments.

White Balance

By default, the camera uses an automatic white balance system. If you notice a color cast to your images, you can try adjusting the white balance. You can choose from daylight, shade, tungsten, and fluorescent. If those don't work, it's also very easy to set a custom white balance by choosing that option from the white balance menu, aiming the camera at a neutral target, and pressing the shutter button.

Sensitivity

With the E40, the sensitivity options are either Auto, or ISO 80, 160, 320, 400, 800 and 1000.

In-Camera Image Adjustment

During image capture, you can take images with a frame (there are a few built-in ones) using the Frame Composite mode. If you're in program auto mode (P), you can adjust sharpness, contrast, and saturation.

During image playback, you can resize, crop and rotate an existing image. You can also apply color filter, adjust brightness, add a frame (make a frame composite), and fix red-eye.

CONTROLS, DESIGN, ENGINEERING, & ERGONOMICS

The camera is a very compact, pretty "vanilla" looking camera. It's definitely small enough for a pocket, but has good ergonomics - with a larger grip area. Construction is mostly plastic, but the battery/media compartment door works well and feels solid enough to last as long as the camera does.

The controls and buttons are pretty straightforward and placement is good. Your finger can readily access the shutter button and you can easily move your thumb from it's resting area on the back to operate the zoom rocker switch. The feel of operating the buttons feels a little "cheap", but not poorly built. They're solid and make solid clicking noises so it's easy to tell when you've pushed them.

pentax optio e40
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pentax optio e40
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pentax optio e40
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Included

Included in the box with the camera, you'll find a USB/AV cable, wrist strap, dock insert, software CD-ROM, and 2 AA alkaline batteries.

PERFORMANCE

The Optio E40 performed pretty much like an affordable, entry level camera. Nothing really impressed me and on the other hand, nothing really annoyed me either. It was pretty intuitive and easy to navigate to all of the settings that I wanted. The "mode" button takes care of any shooting mode that you'd want, and the "menu" button takes care of everything else.

Image quality was pretty average. Color reproduction, overall, was pretty good, as was default exposure. Shots taken outdoors were acceptable, but I noticed a fair amount of chromatic aberration (purple fringing), vignetting, and blurry details. On 4x6 prints, these things aren't that noticeable, but are very noticeable when viewed on a computer monitor. Macro shots were really the only shots that had a good level of detail. Indoor shots were not great. The flash on the E40 is pretty weak, and high levels of noise give pretty grainy shots.

Noise performance was not great. In the flower shot below, taken at the second lowest setting of ISO 160, noise is visible in the shadow areas.

 pentax optio e40 sample image
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ISO 80

ISO 160

 
ISO 320


ISO 400
 
ISO 800
 
ISO 1000

Timing/Shutter Lag

In the timing category, the E40 did a pretty good job. Startup took a few seconds, but shutter lag when taking a shot after a partial press of the shutter was around 0.1 seconds or less. If you do a full press, you need to wait for the camera to autofocus - if focusing happens quickly, shutter lag was as fast as 0.5 seconds. However, in tough focusing conditions (dim light, low contrast subject), focusing can take up to 2 seconds or so, even with the focus assist lamp. Cycle time (time between shots) was good - around 2 seconds with review disabled - as was the flash recharge time, which was around 3-4 seconds.

Sample Images

pentax optio e40 sample image
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 pentax optio e40 sample image
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 pentax optio e40 sample image
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 pentax optio e40 sample image
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 pentax optio e40 sample image
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 pentax optio e40 sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)

Conclusion

The Pentax Optio E40 comes fairly equipped and for a good price. It's simple to shoot - with 8.1 megapixel resolution, a 2.4 inch LCD, and 3x optical zoom. It's powered by AA batteries, which provide good life, and it even has a face detection AF/AE system. And, it's available for under $150. Image quality with the E40 was what you'll find in a lot of cheaper cameras - they do ok with outdoor shots, but not great with indoor shots. Bottom line, however, I think that there are better options out there in this price range, like the Nikon Coolpix L series cameras.

Pros:

Cons: