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I got my first digital camera about 4 years ago now and managed to break it within the same month! My parents decided I wasnt quite responsible enough to be entrusted with a digital camera on a night out and used to buy me disposable ones instead
until Christmas 2004 when I received a Pentax Optio S30. This was armed with a promise from me to take good care of the camera and resist the urge to swing my bag around my bag, and consequently into a wall, while the camera was in said bag!
The Pentax brand of cameras was created by the Asahi Optical Company of Japan which was formed back in 1919 as a producer of lenses for glasses. The Pentax name and company was created in 1957 and is not limited solely to the camera field but also film equipment, endoscopes and other optical measuring instruments. Since it was formed the company has grown astonishingly to be one of the forefront leaders of photography worldwide. Although the headquarters remains in Japan the brand Pentax is sold in the majority of countries worldwide.
The camera I received went on sale back in the early 21st century and has since been discontinued to be replaced by more modern models although some online stores still stock brand new versions. It is roughly 3.5 inches by 2 inches and just under 1 inch wide and so is fairly compact and fits easily into any bag of mine. The main physical property that distinguishes it from its more modern counterparts is its weight, which is just over 175g. As such it is quite heavy in comparison to my friends more modern digital cameras and can be quite weighty to carry around in a pocket all day. The camera is a deep grey in colour, and appears to be aluminum also. On the front is the actual camera lense and the flash button while on the top is the actual button to take the photo as well as a dial with various options for different effects. The back of the camera features a window in which to view your photos which is roughly 1.5 inches by 1 inch, as well as a smaller window to look through and several different options buttons which shall be discussed below.
In the camera box you not only receive the camera but also a CD-ROM enabling you to load a simple programme onto the computer which allows you to load up your photos and edit them also. Two AA batteries are also provided along with a strap to attach to the side of the camera and lastly a USB cable to be used in conjunction with the CD-ROM. Uploading the photos from the camera is simple, merely attach the USB cable and once youve loaded the CD-ROM the computer tends to detect the camera and provides you with simple instructions as to how to upload your photos. There is also a 130 page manual which is fairly simple to understand and easy to navigate amongst the various sections if a little lengthy.
The camera is operated by a simple on / off button which can be found on the top of the camera. The digital view of the photo shows a blue screen when the camera is switched on and takes approximately 8-10 seconds to actually show the view. A large silver button the top of the camera is all you need to take a regular photo and by holding this down, for approx 6 seconds the flash will go off and the photo will be taken. Your image will then be displayed on the LCD screen for about 10 seconds allowing you to view it it can also be accessed at a later date by choosing the playback button which allows you to view all your stored photos. In addition to viewing the photos on the LCD screen it also displays useful information such as the type of photo mode youre currently in, the battery power (which is shown by a small battery of varying colours), the time and the date.
The camera also has specific options such as zoom in and out which is operated by two single buttons as well as a timer and a flash off option. On the top of the camera is a small dial which when turned will select various different options which include flower, self portrait, surf, snow, sunset, museum, text, food, landscape portrait and marine. These are basically slightly posh names for simple options such as black and white (text), underwater (marine) and bright views (sunset). The menu system which can be accessed using the small memory button allows you to easily set the date and time as well as adjust features such as image quality (a lower quality will increase your storage capacity) and the audio options of the camera.
In excess to taking just simple photos the camera also has a video camera option and a voice recorder so you can add sound clips to your photos and videos. Both features are accessed by the top wheel on the camera and extremely easy to use both are turned on and off by the take photo button which make them easily operational and reachable. Videos can be taken of varying length which basically depends on the size memory card you choose to buy, of course without a memory card you are quite limited to just one small video clip.
The colour quality of the camera is exceptional and the screen boasts a 3.2 megapixals screen to ensure clarity. It has a highly efficient 3x zoom lens with 2 double-sided aspherical lens elements (taken from the Pentax website) and makes use of Pentaxs sliding lens system also. The LCD display screen allows you to immediately see the photo you have taken and also allows you to magnify the image up to 16 times for a close inspection. You also have the option to view up to 9 images at a time on the screen (although they are rather small) for a quick view of all your photos.
On the advantageous sides within an hour of opening the camera box I was fully familiar with the different modes and how to take a photo. In comparison to some of my friends more high tech cameras this one is like a walk in the park and can be made accessible to the most novice camera user. Although there are multiple options when taking a photo they are simple to familiarize yourself with and prove easy to remember in the future.
The buttons are easy to use on the camera and there seems to be the right amount of them also. They are also clearly labeled both in the instructions booklet and also on the camera so you can easily see which button does what. The screen is of a good resolution and produces shots that are clear to preview and photos that are crystal clear to view.
The physical appearance of the camera, although slightly heavy in comparison to more modern versions, is extremely sleek and stylish. I have been complemented on it on more than one occasion and can be seen as quite a gadget even!
The Optio S30 is arguably not the quickest camera to take a photo with; to take just a basic photo without any specific options does take up to a minute. The time taken to actually take the photo using the silver take button is slightly irritating and longer than average cameras very often my friends simple press the button quickly and assume the photo has been taken although this is never the case.
With regard to the storage options of the camera I was also slightly disappointed as the camera does have limited storage. It only actually allows you to store 9 photos or one small video caption and comes with only 11MB of storage. Therefore I found it necessary to buy a memory card for it which can be easily inserted into the side of the camera and added an extra 100 photos to the storage capacity or 5 short video clips.
The last problem Ive found with this camera is that the battery life is not the most withstanding. On a night out I typically take about 20 photos during the course of the night and therefore am constantly switching the camera on and off. One set of batteries usually lasts me two nights out but after that they need replacing, therefore Ive found that rechargeable batteries are a must with this camera.
I personally think that the Optio S30 is an ideal all-round digital camera for anyone who is a bit of a beginner when it comes to digital cameras and wants something simple and versatile yet stylish. Although it is slightly outdated in weight and function to some newer models there is no denying that it is a great starter camera for anyone. It gets 4 out of 5 stars from me, loosing one for the time it takes to take a photo and also battery life.
The camera can be found on Amazon from between £50 and £90 depending if it is new or used and from £30 on Ebay.