Some say that small is beautiful, others believe that small equates to a lack of features. Pentax though are trying to break this mould with the Pentax Optio S. Not only is it small - it’s the size of a pack of playing cards - but is also packed with plenty of features. Can it be that something so small can pack such a powerful punch? We put the Optio S to the test.
Outside and you would be easily forgiven in thinking that the Optio S had been smuggled out of technology camp from East Germany as the metal housing has a spherical grooving in it and this makes for an interesting touch when you handle it. I say interesting because it’s like something that Q would make for Bond, and the grooves would then allow him to use it as a fingerprint identification system or something. No such luck here, but it does give it something different from all the other cameras in this category.
The front displays a built in flash and 3x optical zoom. The rear offers an optical viewfinder, a large, crisp 1.6” LCD display and plenty of buttons to work your way around the camera. Everything you need is catered for and the menu system is simple and easy to use. You can change from record to playback via a button under the display although the lens has to be out for you to operate the camera. Of course there is bound to be some issue with size and its on the main access button that it rears its ugly head. While people with dainty fingers might not find this problem those of us who have larger hands (most men) will find control sometimes difficult.
Elsewhere on the camera is a DC slot for charging and USB connector that also doubles up as the output for AV if you want to look at your images on the TV. Open the very flimsy battery housing and you reveal a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and SD memory slot.
The camera doesn’t actually come with a removable storage card, but does profess to offer 11Mb of internal memory. While this is enough to get you going it’s annoying that you don't get any removable storage with the came as the internal memory can only store five images at the cameras highest setting and 43 on its lowest. After spending £350 on the camera, the last thing you want to do is spend another £30 on storage so you can actually take some pictures.
Inside and the camera boasts 3.2 mega pixels from a 1/2.5” CCD sensor giving a maximum resolution of 2048 x 1536. The 3x optical zoom combined with a 2x digital zoom offers 35 - 115mm equivalent in a 35mm camera.
As this is primarily a point and shoot camera, Pentax includes a number of pre-programmed settings to make things easier for the end user. There are over seven to chose from and these include the settings for summer, winter, autumn and portrait to name a few. Furthermore the Optio S also has a number of filter options and apart from including the usual black & white and sepia modes you can also shift colour balance to red, green, blue or yellow. This is a nice thought, but why you would actually want this on the camera will be lost on most its users. Estate agents will however find great use in the stretch option and this merely makes the images seem wider than they actually are. That’ll be great for expanding that small box room into the largest room in the house.
Close up detail is achieved via the two macro-modes allowing you to get up to 6cm away from your subject and the camera also offers a manual focus and a number of flash settings.
For a three mega pixel machine, the camera copes very well when it comes to taking pictures. Even at a Moloko gig with no flash the images were remarkably good, a bit a little slow in taking hence the blurring (the lead singer wouldn’t stay still). Daytime settings and again the images are clear if not a little fuzzy around the edges. Definition is lost slightly when it comes to leaves on sky, but this is only a 3 million pixel camera and the images as you would expect reflect that.
Overall this is a great camera to take out and about with and ideal because it will fit into any pocket without you realising that it is even there. Picture quality is what you would expect from a 3 million pixel camera and would be ample if you plan to only print at 6x4. While most 3mega pixel devices suggest you can get it up to A3, we noticed heavy pixilation at this size.
It's half the size of the Ixus 400 and the Olympus Mju, cameras that the Optio S is obviously going up against in the style factor, whilst it pips them mode to the mark on the style front, both are better when it comes to imaging.
The only real downside to this package is that you don't get removable storage in the box. If you can cope with then you have a small gem of a camera that takes decent pictures.