Pentax Optio T10 digital camera

The Optio T10 from Pentax marks the arrival of a third touchscreen digital compact in as many months, the competition shaping up in the form of Sony’s Cyber-shot N1 and Kodak’s EasyShare One. However, it was Toshiba with its 2002 launched and similarly named, 2-megapixel Toshiba PDR T10 that introduced the world to touchscreen controlled cameras.

Nevertheless, all three of the more recent arrivals are a different proposition compared to the older Toshiba and as befits recent Pentax models, the Optio T10 strikes a seemingly perfect balance between stylish design and svelte lines plus that crunchy-crisp 3-inch colour screen; it is the touchscreen that provides the new Optio’s innovation.

The T10 can be controlled from the same screen you use to compose and review your shots, there’s no optical viewfinder. Touching the screen (with your finger or the supplied stylus) activates a series of controls and their respective sub-menus, alternatively you can access further and deeper settings menus directly from one of only two buttons on the back; the other being a playback button.

Whatever route you choose the camera has a host of fun and funky settings including the basic point and shoot mode, landscape and portrait modes, an image customisation setting that allows you to draw onto shot images and you can apply fun frames to an image as well. You can also edit images in camera with host of fun features from basic cropping and image editing (colour and brightness for example) to adding shapes (or stamps) to images and frames.

The fun side of the camera is a real treat and the large screen makes viewing the shots with mates, say, at a party or down the local, really easy in all but very bright sunshine, when it does get hard to see. All that fun stuff is underpinned by serious kit however.

The 37.5-122.5mm, Pentax SMC F/2.7–F/5.2, 3x optical zoom lens features the company’s special lens coatings to reduce flare and ghosting while the five-point AF focusing system and metering work a treat. One problem with the focusing did crop up, even in bright conditions, it seems slow.

I’ve just finished working on a couple of Casio digital compacts and the speed of focusing of those Casio’s made the Pentax seem as if it focused in a vat of treacle. Compounding that problem further was a shutter lag of around half-a-second (without flash), which combined to create a frustrating experience on some fleeting shots that had simply gone by the time the T10 was ready and fired the shutter.

Finally on the gripe-side is the touchscreen ethos itself and no, it is not the finger marks that cover the screen if you don’t use the special stylus, it’s the fact that you need to navigate multiple layers of menus to do any camera tweaking. A good example is, say, switching the focus mode from normal AF to infinity (the landscape icon/setting).

First, you need to touch the screen to activate a sub-menu, then you must select the focus icon and then pick from the five focus modes presented. Three steps that a single button would have accomplished more quickly and with less power drain. You get the idea anyway. A touchscreen is nice but…

Image quality is great but with a touch too much noise within shadow areas appearing after ISO 160 (you also get ISO 80, 320 and 400 settings) for my liking and it seems like a very modest ISO range indeed by today’s standards. Your shots can be saved onto the 12MB of internal storage or on SD/MMC external storage under flap on the camera’s base alongside the lithium-ion battery.

Despite the lag problems – in which the T10 is not alone by any means – and the multiple menus you need to touch through, the majority of users will find the T10 a real cracker to use as they’ll not be tinkering about inside the menus once they’ve got the camera set how they like it. You can save your favourite setting as a custom mode too, which makes it even better in that respect. So, it’s certainly not all bad.

The 19.5mm thin body is graceful and well designed and the dual-tone aluminum it is crafted from looks very trendy indeed. The price is nice too at £299. You pay a little over the odds for the touchscreen fanciness but it’ll be miles cheaper online anyway.

Verdict

Okay, there are a couple of flaws with the T10; the image noise is a bit on the obvious side, the camera is quite slow to use thanks to the many menus and the lag problems. But it’s fun, fun fun. It has more modes and funkily fun kit built-in to make it a real winner with the target market, "snappers", and the must-have-that-gadget brigade. Overall, image quality is superb and so, if you can live with the foibles, the Pentax Optio T10 just might be for you, particularly when you get a look at that crisp, large-size screen in action.