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Pentax Optio I-10 Review
by Andy Stanton -  5/17/2010

Pentax is most well known these days for its excellent digital SLR's such as the K-7 and K-x, but it also produces the Optio line of compact digital cameras. The Pentax Optio I-10, with 12.1 megapixels of resolution and a Pentax lens with a 35mm equivalent focal length of from 28mm to 140mm (5x optical zoom), was released early in 2010 and is available at a list price of $249.95 (though its "street" price is currently less than $200).

Pentax Optio I-10


Here is the Optio I-10's lens at wide angle and at maximum telephoto:

Pentax I-10 Test Image
Wide Angle

Pentax I-10 Test Image
Telephoto

The Optio I-10 is very appealing at first glance because it looks like a toy camera from the 1950's and a mini-SLR. Several people I showed it to said it was "cute" and I have to agree. While it may look like a small SLR it is truly an ultracompact with dimensions of 4 inches wide, 2.6 inches high and 1.1 inches thick and a weight of only 5.4 oz. including its battery. While the camera does not permit independent control of aperture and shutter speed, it does have numerous options that allow the user a lot of control over the image.

The camera I-10 with a D-LI92 lithium-ion rechargeable battery and charger, an AV cable, a USB cable, a wrist strap, a comprehensive 266 page Operating Manual, a quick start guide and a CD containing Pentax's MediaImpression 2.0 photo management software.

The camera arrived the afternoon before I left to spend a week visiting relatives in St. Louis and I was excited about all the neat pictures I'd be able to take. It turned out that there was torrential rain every day so my picture-taking opportunities were more limited than I would have liked. But I was able to get a pretty good idea of the abilities of the Optio I-10.


BUILD AND DESIGN
The Optio I-10 comes in two colors - the black model that I reviewed and a very cool white version. While the camera is mostly plastic, it feels weighty and sturdy in the hand. It has metal buttons and controls. Its lens is recessed when not in use and its 2.7-inch LCD does not seem particularly fragile.

Pentax Optio I-10

While it's a small camera it is not overly slim and seems as if it will stand up to long term use. Overall, I felt comfortable carrying it around in my pocket without being concerned that I'd break something.

Ergonomics and Controls
I was pleased with many aspects of the Optio I-10's ergonomics. There is a raised area at the front of the camera that makes it easy to get a good grip with your right hand. The top edge of the camera offers a curved finger support that can be used by your left forefinger while your thumb grips the bottom. The body is textured, which also helps to keep it from slipping. Too many small cameras sacrifice handling for a sleek look and I'm glad the Optio I-10 does not do that.

The front portion of the camera is dominated by its lens. The flash sits on top of the lens, and is well out of the way of blocking fingers. Next to the lens is the focus assist lamp which also doubles as the self-timer lamp. Below that is a remote control receiver - yes, the Optio I-10 is one of the few compact cameras that can be used with a remote control (not included with the camera).

Pentax Optio I-10 Pentax Optio I-10

The rear of the camera features a 2.7 inch-LCD with a 16 x 9 aspect ratio. Above the LCD is the speaker. To the right of the LCD are the camera's controls consisting of a four-way controller with an OK button in the middle. The up portion of the controller is for the self-timer, the down is for setting the mode, the left controls the flash and the right puts the camera in macro mode. The controller is surrounded by four other buttons - one for reviewing photos, a dedicated button for face detection and smile capture, a menu button and a button that combines a delete picture function in review mode with a green button in record mode that enables the user to program any one of 22 camera functions, including a very simple "green" mode.

The controls are logically placed and clearly marked. The top of the camera contains the aforementioned finger support on one side and, on the other, a recessed on/off button and prominent shutter with a large zoom control ring around it. Oddly, the zoom control ring has its lever pointed to the rear of the camera to be operated with one's thumb, instead of towards the front to be operated by the forefinger, as done in other cameras. This makes it virtually impossible to use the zoom while shooting with the right hand.

Pentax Optio I-10 Pentax Optio I-10

On the camera bottom is a plastic tripod socket unconventionally placed on the far side rather than in the center. Towards the middle is a combination AV/USB port and on the other side is a combination battery/memory card compartment with a thin sliding plastic cover that is very unsecurely connected to the body. The camera has 26.7MB of internal memory and uses SD and SDHC memory cards.

Menus and Modes
The Optio I-10's main menu is activated by pressing the menu button. It also has a shortcut menu brought up by pressing the OK button. The menu options change depending on the mode selected. The menus are clearly and logically laid out, though the letter size is a bit small. Here are the main modes:

Pentax I-10 Test Image
Original
Pentax I-10 Test Image
Toy Camera
Pentax I-10 Test Image
Retro
Pentax I-10 Test Image
Color Extract

The flash can be set to auto, off, on, auto and redeye (when it flashes twice), on and redeye, and soft. Pentax claims the effective range of the flash is 13 feet at wide angle and 7.9 feet at maximum telephoto. I found this to be more or less accurate.

Display/Viewfinder
Although the Optio I-10's shape seems to suggest at first that a viewfinder is present, it is not, as the raised middle portion contains a flash at the front and a speaker at the rear. While the camera lacks a viewfinder it does have a nice 2.7-inch 16 x 9 TFT color LCD screen with an anti-reflective coating and 230,000 dots of resolution.

Pentax Optio I-10

The screen's brightness can be adjusted to three levels. The screen is sharp and clear in most shooting situations but, at is usually the case with LCD screens, it tends to get washed out in bright sunlight.

PERFORMANCE
The Optio I-10 is a quick and reliable performer all around. I noticed no significant delays in any aspect of the camera's performance, including on/off, menu access, auto focus acquisition, shot-to-shot time and flash recharge. In addition it was one of the more reliable compact cameras I've used. For example I rarely encountered a situation when the camera was unable to lock focus, better than what I've experienced with most point and shoot cameras.

Shooting Performance
The Optio I-10 makes a good first impression as it only takes about one to two seconds to start up, which is rather speedy for a point and shoot camera. The camera focuses quickly and reliably out of doors. Using Intelligent Auto mode I was able to get a fairly sharp picture of a running squirrel at maximum zoom, a difficult task for any camera.

Pentax I-10 Test Image

When shooting indoors focus speed slows down a bit and the camera occasionally fails to lock focus, but I found this to happen only rarely - less frequently than with many point and shoot cameras I've used. Shot-to-shot times are good, as the camera consistently took only about two to three to seconds between shots both with and without the flash activated.

As shown by the performance tables, shutter lag is not a problem when the camera is pre-focused, but auto focus acquisition is somewhat slower than usual when the camera is not pre-focused. The camera's continuous shooting rate is rather slow, at only 1.1 frames per second for eight frames. However, the Optio I-10 also has a lower-resolution (five megapixel) burst mode that can shoot at a fast 2.5 frames per second for six frames.

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

Camera Time (seconds)
Casio Exilim EX-S7 0.01
Canon PowerShot A3100 IS 0.01
Sony Cyber-shot S2100 0.02
Pentax Optio I-10 0.02

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

Camera Time (seconds)
Casio Exilim EX-S7 0.16
Canon PowerShot A3100 IS 0.41
Pentax Optio I-10 0.63
Sony Cyber-shot S2100 0.68

Continuous Shooting

Camera Frames Framerate*
Pentax Optio I-10 4
1.1 fps
Sony Cyber-shot S2100 1.0 fps
Canon PowerShot A3100 IS 0.9 fps
Casio Exilim EX-S7 0.4 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 Optio I-10's D-LI92 lithium-ion rechargeable battery is rated by Pentax to last for 250 images. I noticed the battery bar starting to decline after about 150 shots, though I did take several videos and flash shots and explored the menus rather extensively. I suspect the battery life figure supplied by Pentax is accurate.

Lens Performance
The Pentax lens produced clear, sharp images in the center of the frame, but the corners were often slightly blurry as shown by the photo below.

Pentax I-10 Test Image

I did not notice any appreciable vignetting. Occasionally, I observed minor chromatic aberration (fringing) in high contrast areas. While there was slight barrel distortion at the extreme wide angle position of the lens, I could find no pin cushion distortion at maximum zoom.

Pentax I-10 Test Image
Wide Angle
Pentax I-10 Test Image
Telephoto

Video Quality
The I-10 produces HD video of good quality with clear, monaural sound. The clip-clopping of the horses' hooves and comments from the riders can easily be heard.

Image Quality
I was pleased with the pictures I took outdoors. Images were sharp and clear. Colors are a bit saturated, but pleasantly so. When taking photos of flowers the bright colors did not overwhelm the details of the flowers.

Pentax I-10 Test Image

Shooting indoors was more of a problem since, as previously mentioned, the Optio I-10 is slower to focus indoors and occasionally fails to lock in. However, indoor colors were accurate and the flash was sufficiently powerful and quick to recharge.

Pentax I-10 Test Image

Shooting in bright sunshine often resulted in overexposure, but that's the case with most point and shoot cameras. The Optio I-10 has dynamic range adjustment settings for light and darkness that is intended to even out the exposure when shooting in high contrast conditions. I found the effect to be minor.

Pentax I-10 Test Image
Dynamic Range adjustment on
Pentax I-10 Test Image
Dynamic Range adjustment off

The camera has white balance settings for auto, daylight, shade, tungsten, fluorescent and manual. I found that auto white balance worked well indoors and out.

Pentax I-10 Test Image
Auto White Balance, 3200k incandescent light

As shown by the images of the still life, the Optio I-10 produces low noise images with good color through 200 ISO. The image gets softer and noisier at 400 and becomes much worse at 800 ISO. When taking pictures with the I-10, it's best to keep the ISO at 400 and below.

Pentax I-10 Test Image
ISO 80
Pentax I-10 Test Image
ISO 80, 100% crop
Pentax I-10 Test Image
ISO 100
Pentax I-10 Test Image
ISO 100, 100% crop
Pentax I-10 Test Image
ISO 200
Pentax I-10 Test Image
ISO 200, 100% crop
Pentax I-10 Test Image
ISO 400
Pentax I-10 Test Image
ISO 400, 100% crop
Pentax I-10 Test Image
ISO 800
Pentax I-10 Test Image
ISO 800, 100% crop
Pentax I-10 Test Image
ISO 1600
Pentax I-10 Test Image
ISO 1600, 100% crop

Additional Sample Images
Pentax Optio I-10 Pentax Optio I-10
Pentax I-10 Test Image Pentax Optio I-10
Pentax Optio I-10 Pentax I-10 Test Image

CONCLUSIONS
The Optio I-10 is a fun camera to use. It's very attractive thanks to its small size and retro appearance. Despite its plastic construction, it is fairly solid. The camera is easy to hold and has a nice, widescreen LCD. There are a few ergonomic quirks, though. I did not care for the plastic, off-center tripod socket and the very fragile battery compartment cover. I would have preferred a zoom control lever that faced forward rather than backward.


However, there is a lot to like about the Optio I-10. The camera is quick and takes good looking photos and HD movies, with accurate white balance. Images are sharp in the center, though not as sharp in the corners of the frame, but there's little chromatic aberration and no vignetting. Like so many other point-and-shoots, it isn't immune to problems with overexposure in bright shooting situations. I really enjoyed playing with the neat filters, and the fact that they were in playback mode rather than recording mode was not a problem.

Overall, while the I-10 is not perfect, it's a good, small, snapshot camera and well worth purchasing, especially if you can pick it up for the street price.

Pros:

Cons: