Pentax Optio Z10

An affordable compact camera with 7x optical zoom.

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Pentax Optio Z10
  • Pentax Optio Z10
  • Pentax Optio Z10
  • Pentax Optio Z10

Pros

  • 7x optical zoom, attractive design, impressive array of modes and features, 52MB of onboard memory

Cons

  • No optical image stabiliser, below average image quality and battery life

Bottom Line

The Pentax Optio Z10 is not without flaws, but the 7x optical zoom and impressive feature set help boost its appeal. For the asking price it is a decent little unit.

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The Pentax Optio Z10 is an entry-level 8-megapixel compact camera with a few surprises up its sleeve. Equipped with a 7x optical zoom lens (with equivalent range of 38-266mm), a VGA recording mode (complete with functioning zoom) and 52MB of internal memory, it’s one of the better equipped budget models on the market. Unfortunately, the absence of an optical image stabiliser coupled with sub-par image quality significantly diminishes its appeal. Nonetheless it remains decent enough for the asking price, with an attractive and uncomplicated interface.

Most entry-level compacts have a hard time standing out from the crowd. Despite coming in assorted shapes and colours they’re often quite difficult to tell apart. The Pentax Optio Z10 manages to distinguish itself via an impressively large lens with 7x optical zoom. This is pretty good for a compact camera; often manufacturers settle for a 4 or 5x zoom. Naturally, this larger than usual zoom will allow you to get nice and close to faraway subjects and will also limit the amount of picture cropping you have to do. It’s definitely a great selling point and probably the best thing about the camera.

We were equally enamoured with the design of the Optio Z10. The glossy black-and-silver finish and prominent lens positioning give it a rather expensive appearance, which is never a bad thing. Measuring 94x58x25.5mm and weighing 145g, it’s a fairly lightweight device that will easily fit in your purse or pocket. Handily, the lens does not extend beyond the camera housing even at full zoom; this means the unit always remains the same size, with no unwieldy protruding bits.

We found the user interface to be clean and intuitive, with easy access to frequently used functions. It’s also appealingly attractive, which isn’t something we thought we’d ever say about a camera menu. The scene menus are particularly bright 'n' cheerful, with colourful cartoon icons in place of the usual clinical fare. There’s a dizzying array of modes to choose from, including multiple options for different pets. We can’t imagine anyone requiring three separate cat modes, but they’re there if you need them (no doubt the crazy cat lady from The Simpsons will be most pleased).

Surprisingly, the menu also offers a handful of advanced functions, including the ability to manually adjust contrast, saturation and sharpness. This grants you more freedom and choice than is typically offered by budget cameras, making it a good choice for budding enthusiasts. The zoom-enabled video mode is also a nice touch, rounding out an impressive package.

Unfortunately, our ardour was somewhat dampened when it came to taking photos. Images lacked sharpness, leading to occasional blurriness in fine details. We also noticed a small amount of lens barrel distortion, which is a typical fault of low-end cameras. This can give your panoramic shots an ugly curved effect, though it’s nothing that can’t be fixed with some editing software. Somewhat less fixable is the presence of noise, which became quite noticeable from ISO 100 onwards. This is a fairly poor result for a compact camera — a typical compact camera will remain unaffected by noise up to ISO 200. (Incidentally, the Pentax offers a maximum ISO setting of 3200, though the results are uselessly grainy.) On the plus side, colours remained fairly accurate if a teensy bit under-saturated. Consequently, you may want to fiddle with the camera’s saturation settings to avoid a washed-out look.

The other main issue we have with this camera is the lack of an optical image stabiliser. Pentax offers "Digital Shake Reduction", which simply adjusts the shutter speed. While this does compensate for handshake blur, it comes at the expense of image quality (which wasn’t perfect to begin with). With that being said, the Optio Z10 is still capable of taking some very nice photos; for the asking price, its shortcomings are mostly forgivable.

The Optio Z10 took a little over a second to power up, with a 2.3 second delay between shots. Battery life is rated at approximately 180 pictures on a full charge, which is somewhat below average.

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