DPInterface Pentax Optio A10 Review
Brad Soo - May 26th, 2006

The Pentax Optio A10 is Pentax's first digital camera to feature Shake Reduction - that is, CCD-based image stabilization. Other than that, the Optio A10 is an ultra-compact 8 megapixel camera with 3x optical zoom and a large 2.5 inch LCD. Well, let's see how it performs now in this review!

Size and Weight

Here are some competing cameras in the A10's class:

(173.3)  90.4 x 56.5 x 26.4 mm (165 g) - Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH
(171.2)  89.0 x 58.5 x 23.7 mm (130 g) - Casio Exilim Z850
(177.2)  92.7 x 56.7 x 27.8 mm (155 g) - Fujifilm FinePix F30
(183.6)  96.0 x 62.0 x 25.6 mm (130 g) - HP Photosmart R927
(189.7)  111.0 x 55.5 x 23.2 mm (160 g) - Kodak EasyShare V610
(184.0)  92.0 x 61.0 x 31.0 mm (170 g) - Nikon Coolpix P3
(175.9)  97.0 x 56.2 x 22.7 mm (145 g) - Olympus Stylus 810
(170.2)  94.0 x 50.8 x 25.4 mm (132 g) - Panasonic Lumix FX01
(166.0)  88.5 x 54.5 x 23.0 mm (125 g) - Pentax Optio A10
(179.6)  94.2 x 60.6 x 24.8 mm (161 g) - Sony Cyber-shot W100

As usual, I've included the "DPI measurement unit" (As opposed to volume) on the left for a more accurate impression of a camera's size.

The Pentax Optio A10 is the smallest and lightest 8 megapixel camera in its class! The lens fully retracts when the camera is off.

Open up the Box

Open up the box and in it you'll find these:

  • Rechargeable D-LI8 lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB and A/V cables
  • CD-ROM
  • User's manual

Storage and Power

The Pentax Optio A10 includes a tiny 24 MB of internal memory. So get yourself at least a 512 MB or 1 GB Secure Digital card. A high-speed card did not appear to increase performance.

240 shots - Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH
440 shots - Casio Exilim Z850
580 shots - Fujifilm FinePix F30
200 shots - HP Photosmart R927
135 shots - Kodak EasyShare V610
200 shots - Nikon Coolpix P3
250 shots - Olympus Stylus 810
320 shots - Panasonic Lumix FX01
150 shots - Pentax Optio A10
360 shots - Sony Cyber-shot W100

The Pentax Optio A10 turns up with below average - in fact, terrible - battery life of 150 shots per charge (CIPA Standard). A lot of other cameras do much better!

 

Extras

The Pentax Optio A10 has only an AC adapter as an accessory.

Camera Tour

The Pentax Optio A10 is available in a white-silver finish though I suspect it would have looked much better in black.

The Pentax Optio A10 has a 38 - 114 mm lens, that's 3x optical zoom. The aperture range is F2.8 - F5.4. Behind this lens is a 1/1.8 inch CCD that will shift to compensate for camera shake - What Pentax calls Shake Reduction.

The flash has a range of 6 cm to 5 m at wide-angle and 35 cm to 2.5 m at telephoto (ISO Auto). To the top right of the A10, there's a microphone and AF-assist beam/self-timer lamp. On the other side, there's a receiver.

The Pentax Optio A10 features a 2.5 inch LCD which has a healthy 232,000 pixels. The big LCD which covers almost the entire back is good indoors but barely visible outdoors. Now this is one case where the camera should've had an optical viewfinder.

There's a zoom controller on the top right followed by an oversized playback button with a status LCD above it. Later on, there's a 5-way controller:

  • Up - Self-timer (Off, 10 seconds, 2 seconds)
  • Down - Mode; Brings up a screen full of modes
  • Left - Flash setting (Auto, off, on, on with red-eye reduction, auto with red-eye reduction, auto backlight compensation)
  • Right - Focus mode (Auto, macro, super-macro, pan focus, landscape, manual focus)
  • OK - Toggle LCD display info

Totally opposite from the playback button, the last 2 buttons are tiny: MENU and the function button or the "green button" as Pentax calls it. That button is customizable for quick access to image stabilization, start movie recording, movie mode or a menu with 4 settings of your choice.

Up here, there's a image stabilization button on the left. On the right, there's a power button and shutter button.

The Optio A10's speaker is on its side while down here, there's a SD/battery slot, tripod mount and port to attach your dock-style battery charger. The tripod placement makes it totally impossible to swap cards or batteries while shooting on a tripod.

Shooting

Image choices on the Pentax Optio A10 include 8 MP, 5 MP, 4 MP, 3 MP, 2 MP, XGA and VGA with 3 quality compression options: Best, Better and Good. There are not many other manual controls on the A10 besides white balance and focus:

  • 5 white balance presets with custom option
  • ISO (50, 100, 200, 400, 800); ISO 800 only available at lower resolutions
  • Focus mode (Auto, macro, super-macro, pan focus, landscape, manual focus)
  • Metering method (Multi, center, spot)
  • Flash intensity (High, normal, low)
  • Contrast, saturation and sharpness

The Pentax Optio A10 can go as close as 12 cm in macro mode and 6 cm in super macro mode which are both not that great.

Recording

The Pentax Optio A10 has a VGA movie mode which records at 30 FPS with sound in MPEG4 DiVX format. That's very space efficient and a 1 GB card will hold about 40 minutes of video but this means Mac users will have trouble playing back video on their computers.

Optical zoom and focus cannot be operated but the image stabilizer can be turned on while filming.

Overall movie quality is good.

Performance

The Pentax Optio A10 extends its lens quickly but start up time was about 2.8 seconds - Very slow! Focusing takes 2 seconds and shot-to-shot speed was a sluggish 1 shot every 3.5 seconds. Flash recharge time using a fully charged battery was more or less 7 seconds. The lens moves from wide-angle to telephoto in 2 seconds.

Unlike most - or all - competition, the A10's nice features come at a cost of slow processing and tiny buffer. Shot-to-shot was slow and continuous shooting is unlimited BUT the rate is 1 shot per 3 seconds or 0.3 FPS - Is that what they call continuous shooting? The camera shuts down in 3 seconds. Overall performance was literally sluggish.

Image Quality

Here's how the A10 does in terms of image quality:


ISO 50 (f5.4, 1/4 sec)


ISO 100 (f5.4, 1/5 sec)


ISO 200 (f5.4, 1/10 sec)


ISO 400 (f5.4, 1/20 sec)

At ISO 50 and ISO 100, photos are very acceptable. Noise doesn't increase much even at ISO 200 and I think you can still get a nice A4 print out of the ISO 400 shot. The Pentax Optio A10 has an ISO 800 mode but is only available in scene modes and is not taken at full resolution.

There's a slight bit of chromatic aberration (color fringing) and barrel distortion. Overall, the Pentax Optio A10 produced satisfactory photos out of the box.

Photo gallery

All the photos and more in the Pentax Optio A10 photo gallery.

Playback

In playback, the Pentax Optio A10 shows you lots of info about your photos - including shutter speed, aperture value and histogram. The A10 can playback stills and movies (With sound) as well as: Protect image, sound memo DPOF marking, slideshow, resize, trim, rotate and edit movies. You can copy files between the internal memory and memory card. You can save a movie frame as a still photo as well. Also, you can also magnify still photos by 8x and take a look around using the 4 arrow buttons.

Now for the fun part of playback - You can activate color filters, brightness adjustment, red-eye removal, special effects and some white balance tweaking.

 

Conclusion

The Pentax Optio A10 is an ultra-compact camera with a high resolution of 8 megapixels, CCD-based image stabilization and a nice movie mode. The A10 also packs a big 2.5 inch LCD though it's not that useful outdoors.

Although the Optio A10 features manual focus and custom white balance, it still lacks any sort of manual exposure control. In addition, ISO is limited to 400 and the macro mode is not that superb. Some other good points of this ultra-compact include a powerful flash, a shortcut button, advanced playback post-processing and good image quality.

The sad things here include terrible battery life, extremely slow continuous shooting and sluggish performance in all aspects of shooting. Even worse, there's no support for Mac computers, a movie mode which is too bare and ISO 800 available at lower resolutions only.

Sadly, I cannot recommend the Pentax Optio A10 because I don't know how many photo opportunities you'll miss with this camera: Sluggish performance plus below average battery life is already a bad combination. If you're looking for an ultra-compact with good battery life, a big LCD, image stabilization and high ISO sensitivity, take a look at the Sony T30 or if you're looking for manual controls, scene modes, fancy movie mode and 8 megapixels, consider the Casio Z850. Ultimately, the Pentax Optio A10 is not a good buy.

What's hot:

  • Ultra-compact camera with 8 megapixels
  • Large high-resolution 2.5 inch LCD, visible in low-light
  • CCD image stabilization
  • Manual focus and custom white balance
  • Powerful flash with good control
  • Unlimited VGA 30 FPS movie mode in MPEG4
  • Shortcut "green" button
  • Fairly advanced playback post-processing
  • Good image quality
  • Acceptable ISO 400 shots

What's not:

  • LCD visibility not good outdoors
  • Terrible battery life
  • No manual exposure (Aperture and shutter speed)
  • Unlimited but very slow continuous shooting
  • 6 cm "super-macro" mode not super
  • ISO 800 only available at 4 MP or lower
  • Sluggish performance in all areas
  • Redeye
  • No movie zoom, focus or exposure control

Recommended Accessories

  • Extra rechargeable D-LI8 lithium-ion battery
  • 512 MB Secure Digital card

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