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The Pentax Optio S1 is a 'cheap and cheerful' compact camera catering to the point and shoot market.
At 14mp, with a 5x optical zoom, 720HD video recording and anti shake the specifications seem like the makings of a decent compact camera. There is also an additional 3.3x digital zoom if you want to use it.
Looks and build:
This is a small camera that will easily sit in the palm of your hand, it's also very lightweight and made of a glossy finish plastic. There is more than one colour choice available: red (nice), black (ok), green (hideous) and chrome effect, which attracts fingerprints like there's no tomorrow, thus looking horrible and scruffy from the first instant you touch it. The plastic does feel cheap and tacky to the touch.
As is standard with most cameras, the majority of buttons are placed on the rear to the right hand side of the screen - these are denoted with their relevant functions, and my only real issue with them is that the central 'ok' button stands proud from the rest and I found I kept accidentally hitting it when I meant to press something else.
Ease of use:
The camera is quite simple to use - as the button functions are all denoted I found it simple to change the settings I wanted to try different effects etc. The set up was logical and easy to do - a simple input of preferred language, date and time. The in camera menu has a fairly dated appearance, although this doesn't effect functionality.
As stated this camera is primarily aimed at the point and shoot market so doesn't come equipped with any manual modes, that said there are 23 built in scene modes including HDR (high dynamic range) and of course the 720HD video recording.
Aside from the cheap feel to the camera, the quality of the results is really where things start to fall apart for Pentax with this offering - to be honest I can't think of many good things to say about it, although I will try... on the upside the flash isn't too garish or over powering. Generally speaking the colours appear to have little resemblance to the reality of the situation - they're garish, sickly and oversaturated. The built in HDR mode gives such shocking photos I almost wanted to recoil in horror (I'm not kidding about how bad they were - I showed one to a number of people and the most common response was 'eugh!')
ISO henceforth referred to as sensitivity in this camera, is adjustable up to 6400 although this does reduce the MP down to 5, in an effort to try and retain some quality. To be fair to Pentax - no one in their right mind would expect clear photos from a compact camera at such a high number, especially not a cheap one. When you reach ISO 3200 this is where the megapixels are first dropped down to 5 and I wouldn't recommend you using the camera at these levels as the results aren't worth bothering with - the photos are incredibly soft with no edge definition and high amounts of 'blue' toned colour noise. If you must push the sensitivity up, I'd recommend no more than 800 for useable snaps with this camera.
Many compact cameras are capable of focusing incredibly close up to subjects (in part due to the small size of the sensor), so in that respect this camera has a somewhat disappointing minimum focusing distance of about 6cm in super macro mode (about 10cm otherwise) - still not bad I suppose, but not as good as the majority available on the market.
The video quality is also only so so and I really would expect better from a varient of HD - I've seen much clearer footage from cameras recording standard definition.
So in the end it all comes down to cost - at the moment you can pick this camera up for around £70 which is certainly the cheaper end of the market. However I don't feel this means I can forgive the camera of all it's flaws - there are better quality camera's available at this price point.
Other things you might wants to know:
- Takes SD/SDHC cards
- About a 3 second delay between pushing the on button and camera being ready to shoot.
- Takes a lithium ion battery suitable for a couple of hundred photos per charge.
I wouldn't recommend this camera to anyone - it is cheap, it looks cheap and the results are cheap. Save your money and buy something better as to be honest I'd be embarrased to show anyone the photos from this - there are phones that take superior photos by quite some way.