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(Pocket-lint) - Graphics card companies have been doing it for ages. Take a successful top of the range model, pare it down and then sell it as a “lite” version to people who can’t afford your top of the range model and in a nutshell that’s what Pentax has done here. Building on the success and popularity of the S4 (that’s the one that fits inside a pack of cards), Pentax has taken out the rechargeable battery and replaced it with two AA batteries, and made the casing slightly larger. What they’ve kept however is the aluminium casing, the 4 megapixel pixel count and 3x optical zoom.

The result is very assuring. The new S40 is still compact and the brushed aluminium casing gives it a toughness and elegance lacking in plastic models. On the rear the camera sports a 1.6in LCD display, which could have been bigger but perhaps due to the power being offered by two AA batteries probably a good thing.

Elsewhere and the main menu selector is clear placed with plenty of room to manoeuvre with the eight-scene selector jog wheel being placed on the top edge of the camera next to the shutter button a la the S4. The side offers a slot for an additional SD Card and annoyingly Pentax doesn’t include one in the box. Instead Pentax has opted for the internal memory option similar to Kodak models, but rather than pack the camera with a useful 32Mb or perhaps even more, you only get a tiny 11Mb. This isn’t enough for even a 3 megapixel camera let alone a 4 megapixel one and the resulting size means you’ll be lucky to get more than 7 shots worth before you’re crying out for a SD card.

Images taken with the S40 were good, although we did have concerns about the level of noise that was in some of the pictures - especially the darker areas of those pictures Aside from that skin tones and colours are reproduced well and the camera can balance between light sources from varying elements, like candles, sunlight and light bulbs very well.

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Pentax has taken the polished S4 model and manage to offer this “lite” version for newcomers that still offers the goods. Our only main concern is the level of noise we found in some of the pictures, however this aside, this is s a strong model at a strong price.

Writing by Stuart Miles. Originally published on 28 July 2004.