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Pentax Optio S10 Review
by  -  12/10/2007

The Pentax Optio S10 won't quite fit in an Altoids tin like the original Optio S did, but it's still very compact and stylish. It's a 10 megapixel camera, with a nice 2.5 inch LCD and a 3x optical zoom. It also gets the latest "soft" features, like face detection AF and AE. The S10's feature set is essentially about as advanced as you get with an auto-exposure only digital camera - with plenty of options for metering, focus, white balance, etc. However, you won't find image stabilization. Read on for our full review of the S10.

pentax optio s10
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NUTS & BOLTS

Sensor

The S10 has a 1/1.8" CCD that captures an effective 10 megapixels. Image dimensions at full resolution are 3648x2736 pixels. At "best" quality, you can fit approximately 62 images on a 256MB memory card.

Viewfinder/LCD

The 2.5 inch LCD on the back of the camera is your only method of previewing and reviewing your images - there is no optical viewfinder. The screen has a total of 232K pixels, so there is plenty of resolution. After a few seconds, to save battery power, the refresh rate slows down and the brightness is decreased. However, when you're ready to shoot and press the shutter partway, the screen brightens up and the refresh rate increases to a nice level. Outdoors in bright sunlight, the screen can get hard to see, but it's no worse than with other cameras in its class.

pentax optio s10
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Lens/Zoom/Focus

The lens is the typical 3x optical zoom which gives you a 35mm equivalent zoom range of 38-114mm. The maximum aperture at wide angle is f2.8 and at telephoto is f5.4. 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, super macro, infinity, pan focus, and manual focus. The S10 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 0.35 meters at wide angle. In macro mode, you can focus on objects between 0.12m and 0.4m at wide angle. Super macro mode can focus on objects between 0.06 meters and 0.15 meters. 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.

As far as focus areas, you can use the default 5-point AF, a center point AF mode, and a tracking AF mode that will stay "locked on" to your subject if it moves.

Flash

The built-in flash has an effective range of 0.06m to 7.1m at wide angle and auto ISO. At telephoto, this range is between 0.35m and 3.5m. You can choose from several modes: auto, always on (fill), disabled, auto with red-eye, fill flash with red-eye, and soft flash.

Memory Media

The S10 accepts SD and SDHC memory cards and has approximately 22MB of internal storage.

Image/Movie File Format(s)

Images are stored as JPEG files only and movies are saves as AVI files. Monaural sound clips are stored as WAV files.

Connectivity

You'll find all of the external connections inside the battery compartment. There is a multi-purpose jack for USB connection to your PC and AV output. A DC in connector allows you to connect the optional power adapter.

pentax optio s10
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Power

The camera is powered by a 1000mAh lithium-ion battery pack. The included battery charger can charge the battery in around 115 minutes (battery is removed from the camera during charging). The stated battery life in the manual is approximately 200 shots. During my review, I took about 150 shots and the battery was still in very good conditions.

EXPOSURE

The S10 is an auto-exposure only camera, with a full automatic mode, program auto, and a set of scene modes. Auto does everything for you, limiting 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. You can't use optical zoom during movie capture. Movies can be recorded until the storage space has been used up, but continuously recorded movies are limited to file sizes of 2GB. After you've already captured a movie, you can save a frame as a still image, divide a movie, or extract a clip from the movie.

Metering

The S10 has three metering methods: a multi-segment metering system, center-weighted, and spot metering. 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 S10, the sensitivity options are ISO 64, 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1600. The auto ISO mode has a top limit, so that it only increases the sensitivity up to ISO 800 (if it needs to).

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 Optio S10 is a stylish, very compact camera, with dimensions of 3.4" x 2.1" x 0.8". Like previous S models from Pentax, it's all about being compact. The body is metal with a nicely styled, grooved metal, faceplate. Build quality is very good - it's a solid little camera.

pentax optio s10
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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 its resting area on the back to operate the zoom rocker switch. One downside is that the buttons on the back of the camera are pretty tiny and can be a little tough to operate without hitting other buttons.

pentax optio s10
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pentax optio s10
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Included

Included in the box with the camera, you'll find the battery, battery charger, USB cable, AV cable, wrist strap, software CD-ROM, instruction manual, and quick start guide.

PERFORMANCE

I enjoyed using the Optio S10. It looks good, it operates quickly, and it's pretty easy to use. The "mode" button takes care of any shooting mode that you'd want, and the "menu" button takes care of everything else. The quick cycle times and flash recharge times really help out when you're trying to capture kids.

Image quality was very good. Color reproduction was good, as was default exposure. Details in photos were good, with just a touch of corner softness at the wide angle setting. Macro shots turned out really well, with very nice fine detail. Chromatic aberration was well-controlled and wasn't noticeable in shots until you magnify the image over 100%.


Slight corner softness at wide angle (view medium image) (view large image)


Sharp details to the edge at telephoto (view medium image) (view large image)

Pentax claims a flash range of 7.1 meters (around 23 feet) at wide angle with Auto ISO. In my shots, flash illumination really dropped off around 12 feet or so. Flash shots were typically on par or slightly better than other cameras in the same class.

Noise performance was also pretty much even with the competition. Under ISO 400, results are pretty clean. At ISO 400, noise is visible when viewing on a computer monitor, but would still be acceptable in a standard sized print.


ISO 64

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

Additional Sample Images 

pentax optio s10 sample image
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pentax optio s10 sample image
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 pentax optio s10 sample image
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 pentax optio s10 sample image
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 pentax optio s10 sample image
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 pentax optio s10 sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)

Timing/Shutter Lag

In the timing category, the S10 was excellent. Startup took a few seconds, but shutter lag, when taking a shot after a partial press of the shutter was less than 0.5 seconds. 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 0.2-0.3 seconds. However, in tough focusing conditions (dim light, low contrast target), focusing can take up to 1 second or so, even with the focus assist lamp. Cycle time (time between shots) was good - less than 2 seconds with review disabled - as was the flash recharge time, which was under 3 seconds.

Conclusion

The Pentax Optio S10 is a solid little camera in nice package. It operates quickly and is nice to use, except that the tiny control buttons may not appeal to some. The camera does provide a whopping 10 megapixel resolution and the noise performance is still good, probably thanks to the slightly larger-than-usual 1/1.8-inch sensor. The 2.5 inch LCD has 232K pixels of resolution, giving the view of your shots a nice smooth look. It would have been nice to have image stabilization or a longer zoom, but you'd probably sacrifice the compact size of the camera to do so. Image quality was good, with detailed, contrasty shots and accurate color reproduction.

Pros:

Cons: