Pentax Optio V10
This is the best camera I have ever had a meaningful relationship with!
It's my 4th digital camera in as many years, and I do hope I manage to hang on to it for more than 12 months, as it is fab. I adore it. I want to take it out for a coffee and seduce it. My previous cameras were all Samsungs - no.1 was nicked, no.2 was smashed, no.3 just never worked properly and eventually stopped working altogether just after the guarantee ran out, so for no.4 I decided it was time to broaden my digital camera horizons and try a different brand.
My main criterion for choosing a new camera was first and foremost - price. I was also out to get one with a proper charger as I have found relying on AA batteries to be tedious and Tourette's inducing. I wanted a point and shoot with a few whistles and bells but not so many I would have difficulty turning the thing on, and of course a decent zoom, large screen and a tasteful colour while we're at it. I didn't choose Pentax for any particular reason, but I thought it sounded like a brand that knew about cameras, and I had heard of it, vaguely...
The Optio V10 cost me about £100, which is actually I think round about what I paid for all my previous cameras, but they were inferior technologies. Nice to see cameras getting more affordable anyway. It is a very tasteful grey silver colour and slim enough to look good with a mini skirt on, with a beautifully large 3-inch LCD screen that stays dim until you half press the shutter (my husband took a while to realise this and thought the camera was broken while trying to use it in broad sunlight). There are only a few buttons to get to grips with- 2 on the top and 4 main ones on the back.
I was advised to charge the camera up for 12 hours initially, but I just couldn't wait that long - it was too exciting. So, I used it for about 2 hours and charged it overnight and it doesn't seem to have done it any harm. The battery lasts for a very long time. Don't ask me how long- it's longer than you can time without forgetting that you're doing it. It's days. The charger is very easy to use and is also very light to carry, which is a bonus. It is just so much better than using batteries, I will never ever ever go back to a battery driven camera! They suck!
You can turn on the camera and start playing right away. You need the CD to set up the software on your PC, but if you are a technophobe you can apparently use the USB cable to print directly to your printer. I am a technophile so I use my PC. It is reasonably fast and pain-free to install, and you do get a pretty good photo editing software chucked in. I haven't' really played around with it as Picasa and Photoshop cater to all my photo editing needs. One rather annoying thing is that the photo-editing software now starts up whenever I plug my flash drive in, even if there are no photos on the memory stick. I could probably get it to stop if I put my mind to it, but it is easy to click the X to destroy, so I will continue to be annoyed by it I guess.
Transferring photos over with the software is impressively fast. You can ask it to delete from the camera if you want, and sort into folders, just like every other photo software under the sun. It works well though.
What I really love about this camera is its intuitive focussing. You can set the camera to Auto Picture mode, and point and shoot at anything. But, instead of using an average setting which probably works ok for most pictures but is not quite right for any of them, this clever little chap tries to work out what you're taking a picture of and chooses an appropriate setting for you! The setting it has chosen appears briefly in the top left corner of the screen, which gives you just enough time to notice what it's done before you press the shutter. This works well for some items, like faces and landscapes. There are other settings that don't get picked up too well though, like animals. There is a specific setting for pets, which picks up the colour of your poochie's coat and keeps the focus trained on that colour, so you can take a picture in focus while your poodle is cavorting round your aged auntie's skirt-hem etc, but I find that whenever I point the camera at one of my cats it thinks it is taking a portrait of a person. Not a sin, as I often mistake my cats for people too, but something which perhaps needs pointing out. Auto Picture works brilliantly 99% of the time, but it's good to be able to pick and choose settings too, so that's what we'll do next.
After Auto Picture, we have P. for Program. With program you can adjust all those various bits and bobs that your dad used to mess around with on his old box brownie. Don't ask me what they do. Then we have Night Scene, Movie, Voice Recording, Landscape, Flower, Natural Skin Tone, Surf and Snow, Sport, Digital SR, Kids, Pet, Food and Frame. A lot of these are bog standard on any camera and I won't need to bore you about them, but a few are rather unusual, so I'll bore you with those ones.
So, Flower. Hmm, interestingly, it is good for taking photos of flowers. It makes the colours stand out brightly and gives the flower a soft edge, apparently. I used the flower option on one of my flowers, but I wasn't that impressed. May be you need practice with Flower, to get it right. Food does something similar.
Next up, Surf and Snow. Now this one I like! I did a lot of experimentation while on holiday, taking photos of the sea with and without this mode. The sea definitely looked miles better using this function. Don't ask me how it works exactly, but it's something to do with balancing the colours of the ocean and sky. See the pics at the end for the awesome Adriatic Sea courtesy of the V10.
Other Interesting Features
You can choose to have a stark naked screen while you compose your artwork, or you can have a minimum of information displayed- how many pictures you have left, battery life, mode, date and time, or you can have a whole wealth of info including picture quality, ISO settings and white balance. The white balance is a small graph in the bottom corner of the screen which shows you the balance of light and shade. A well-balanced photo should have the peak of the graph near the middle. Peaks to the left and right show too much white or too much dark, which will affect the overall exposure of the photo. When you have the white balance on, it also shows you within the screen, the exact areas which are being troublesome. If you point the camera at a window on a sunny day, for example, the sky will appear red on your screen. This warns you that, although the sky looks blue to your eyes, if you take the picture the sky will come out white. I like this feature - it explains why I have so many photos from the analogue days with seemingly white skies when I knew the day had been sunny. It's a bit of a faff though, so best left to your artistic moments, rather than trying to capture your kids just as they jump into the pool.
Holiday and Home Time
A bit of a luxury this one, but you can actually program the camera with two time zones - one for home and one for your holidays. Then when you go on holiday, you don't have to re-set the time on your camera, just press the "holidays" button. Actually this is a total waste of time, as it takes just as long to find the menu with the "holiday" setting as it would to just add an hour or two on to the normal time, but I still used it 
3 x Optical Zoom
8 Mega pixels
Carry strap included
Why I want to Marry this Camera
This camera is so easy to use. The large screen not only makes your pictures look lovely, but also helps you navigate the menus. The menus are intuitive, and if you scroll through icons and don't select one, a tool-tip appears on the screen, telling you what that function does. The battery lasts forever. It is light and smart. But, above everything else, it takes amazing photos.