Pentax Optio S12

This ultra-compact Pentax camera offers a 12-megapixel sensor and a 6x optical zoom.

Pentax Optio S12
  • Pentax Optio S12
  • Pentax Optio S12
  • Pentax Optio S12
  • Expert Rating

    3.75 / 5


  • 130 grams, relatively crisp and clear photos, good colours


  • Noticeable lens distortion, some fringing in high-contrast areas

Bottom Line

Good picture quality and a very small size make the Optio S12 a great camera for parties, day trips or travelling overseas. It's well-worth considering.

Would you buy this?

It may be a tiny critter, but the Pentax Optio S12 is capable of taking some beautiful pictures when the light is right. It's aimed at people after an ultraportable point-and-shoot camera, and its preset scene modes and effective automatic mode make it a cinch to use.

With a weight of only 130 grams, the S12 won't hinder anyone's mobility; you can easily slip it into your pocket and forget about it. Because of its small size it can be difficult to hold steady while pressing the shutter button but it has shake-reduction technology built in to it. This seemed to do a good job: we were able to capture clear indoor images with shutter speed of 1/25th of a second while holding the camera.

It captures images with a 12-megapixel sensor and a 39-114mm (35mm film equivalent), 6x zoom lens that has a maximum aperture of f/2.8. However, there isn't a manual mode, so the aperture and shutter speed can't be changed on a whim. You can change the ISO speed, focus mode (it even has manual focus), white balance and exposure compensation, so it's not completely out of your control.

Pictures need to be framed through the S12's 2.5in LCD screen, which can be a little difficult to see clearly in the midday sun. The on-screen display can be switched off, but when switched on it can show you the settings that are currently in use, and even show you histogram information as you shoot. There is a set of five control buttons on the back of the camera, as well as zoom and menu buttons. The top has the rectangular shutter button and a button for shifting focus between faces in group shots.

During daylight tests the Optio S12 performed very well and got the exposure right in all of our shots. It also captured accurate images indoors without a flash. The only time it faltered somewhat was when taking shots in afternoon light, where it overcompensated in some shots, making them either too dark or too bright. Overall the images were clear and well-detailed. Colours were accurate and vibrant and there wasn't too much fringing in high-contrast areas. There was some noticeable noise, but it didn't ruin the shots. Some lens distortion was also noticeable on the horizontal plane, especially when taking photos of objects such as tables.

The camera also did a good job at taking super-macro shots. It took crisp macro shots from approximately 8cm away from our subjects and blurred the background nicely while focusing on our subjects. Other focus settings include pan mode and face detection, both of which worked during our tests.

The camera uses SD memory cards and has a rechargeable battery, and it can also capture movies in DivX format. Video isn't crystal clear but it's good enough for shooting your friends while they do goofy things at the pub.

Our overall impression of this camera is that it's definitely worth considering if you want an ultra-compact point-and-shoot. We like they way it captures images, as well as the overall clarity of its pictures. It's also very easy to use.

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