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Pentax have this to say about the camera:
"Continuing to make digital photography accessible to all, Pentax announces the arrival of two entry-level digital compact cameras, the OptioS45 and the OptioS55. Both feature a large, easy-to-view monitor, making composition simple. Both offer all-round functionality that will appeal to any user, regardless of their experience or budget. The cameras also feature 3x optical zoom and 12 picture modes to ensure all picture environments can be supported."
You can find more information on their website.
The Camera: It's
very compact for a digital camera that takes AA batteries, and made out
of silver aluminium.
Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.
Specifications / Features:
Average box contents, although with the camera's small 11mb of memory, you will need to buy a larger memory card.
Battery usage: Battery life seemed average, and battery life using the provided alkaline batteries was particularly short. You get much better battery life by using high power rechargable batteries.
Menu Options / Modes: The camera mode is selected using the rotating dial.
Photo mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right below:
Screen / LCD display in photo mode: (shown on the left) The screen resolution with 115,000 pixels is quite low for a large 2.5" screen. The screen updates smoothly and the colours appear accurate. There is a live histogram available, the screen is clear and the text and menus are easy to read. Optical Viewfinder: there is no optical viewfinder.
Menu options are: Image size, quality (compression), White balance (includes custom), Focusing area (Multi / Spot), AE Metering, ISO Sensitivity, Movie frame rate, Digital zoom, Instant review, Memory, Sharpness, Saturation, Contrast, Exposure compensation.
Setup menu options: Format, Sound, Date, World Time, Language, Sceen Setting, Brightness level, Video out, USB connection, Auto power off, Fn Setting, Reset.
PICT Scenes: Museum, Text, Food, Landscape Portrait, Flower, Self-portrait, Surf, Snow, Sunset.
Digital Effect Mode: Black and White and Red / Green or Blue, Two in One shot, Panorama assist, Black and White filter, Sepia Filter, Red / Green / Blue filter.
Playback (Review) mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right, below:
Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is quick. The zoom is quick up to 12x. Playback mode displays photo settings, exposure compensation, date and time, as well as a histogram.
Playback menu options: Protect, DPOF, Slideshow, Resize, Image/Sound copy, Digital Filter, Record voice memo, quick zoom, quizk delete.
Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures, and the following number of images will fit on the 11mb memory provided with the camera:
You can fit a very small number of images on the built in memory - a larger memory card is definitely recommended, unless you want to use the lower image sizes / higher compression options in order to fit more pictures in memory. There is a good choice of image sizes, and a good choice regarding image compression.
A larger memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 256mb memory card, and preferably a 512mb memory card, or larger, especially considering the relatively low prices - the larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to go on holiday then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in, as you don't always know when you will next be at a computer. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Pentax Optio S45 / S55:
Find the latest
prices for SD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 128mb: £9.99,
1gb (1000mb): £38.99.
Speed: The camera is quick to switch on, however it takes a couple of seconds before it's ready to take a photo. Low light focusing seems fairly decent (tested with one light source). The screen updates are quick and smooth (in good light). The playback mode is also quick. Playback mode allows you to zoom as close as 12x. The camera shutter response seemed quite quick when pre-focused - and shot to shot time was also noticably quick - although this was made slower by the flash recharging. The flash recharge time seemed about average (not noticably quick, but not noticably slow either).
Ease of use: The camera is very easy to use, although the camera does have a lot of options and features. The controls on the back of the camera are fairly easy to use - the menus are responsive and easy to read. The camera is compact and fits very easily into trouser pockets. The menus are also easy to use, and the options are big enough and easy enough to see clearly. The modes are easy to access, quick and simple - there's a basic mode (with a green smiley face) for simple point and shoot operation, as well as scene modes, and built in help to help beginners.
Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The buttons are fairly easy to use, and they are in a good position. There seems to be the right amount of buttons. The buttons feel okay, the shutter release is quite decent (although I found it easy to accidentally take a photo when I was only trying to focus). The buttons are labelled fairly well. I thought the camera felt quite good ergonomically. There isn't much in the way of a hand grip, however the grip is good considering the small size of the camera. The zoom control seemed decent. The tripod mount position is right at the edge of the camera which could make it difficult to use this camera with a small tripod.
Image Quality: Here are some sample photos/video(s) taken in various settings, such as Inside, Noise, Outside, Zoom, Macro, Movie to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the Sample Photo Galleries!
Inside: The camera has good saturated colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo. It has a decent flash, and copes well with group photos. The camera did a good job at focusing the majority of the time - however it took me a while to get the Heather and Flower photo in sharp focus. Red-eye didn't seem to be huge a problem, although it was noticable in these photos.
Noise: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels, and manual ISO settings (ISO50, 100, 200, 400) - below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops from the image taken at different ISO settings.
Noise levels appear really low at ISO50 / 100. At ISO200 noise becomes more noticable but is still acceptable, at ISO400 and above noise seems high and detail is being lost due to noise reduction. Noise is lower on the S45, and higher on the S55, but not a major problem for either camera.
Outside, the camera had good colour, with good contrast and saturation. There was good detail, although some images were slightly soft. Noise seemed well controlled. I didn't notice jpeg artefacts in the images. Purple fringing is quite noticable, especially in the clock tower photos. The 5 megapixel Pentax Optio S55 had slightly more detail due to the higher megapixel sensor.
Zoom: This camera has a 3x optical zoom lens and a built in 4x digital zoom - in the case of this camera the digital zoom basically takes a smaller area of the photo and enlarges it using software blurring the image so that it is not pixellated. Generally it's best to avoid using digital zoom as it degrades the quality of the image and, often, better results can be obtained by using a photo package such as Adobe Photoshop. I've included examples below to show what the 3x optical zoom and 4x digital zoom is capable of.
Exposure / Metering on the photos of the clock towers seems good, leaving the main subject (the clock tower) correctly exposed.
Lens noise and zoom: The lens is fairly quiet. The lens is quick at going from wide to telephoto - there are about 6 steps between wide and telephoto - this gives you good control on how you frame your subject.
Other Image Quality issues: I did notice purple fringing in some photos, i.e. the clock tower photos. Purple fringing is fairly low, however it would be nice if there was less.
Macro: To use this camera in macro mode, you switch to macro mode - you can use the macro mode at wide angle, all the way to telephoto. The camera also has a super macro mode that sets the lens at a specific zoom position. You can use the flash in macro mode. The camera can be roughly as close as 6cm away from the subject from the front of the lens in super macro mode.
The super macro mode is very good - colour and detail is good, and the camera allows you to get close to the subject. Images did seem a bit soft - and benefitted from sharpening - the S45 struggled to focus sharply on this subject. The custom white balance meant this picture turned out better than the same photo taken with several other cameras that lack custom white balance.
Movie: 320 x 240, 30/15fps - unlimited length videos with sound can be recorded. The movie is recorded as an .AVI file. Unfortunately you can't use the optical zoom whilst recording videos, although you can zoom digitally. The quality of the movie(s) is quite good, colour is good, the camera also does a good job in low-light. The frame rate is good.
Summary: The Pentax
Optio S45 and S55 are both good all round digital cameras - easy to fit
into pockets, full of features to suit all level of photographer. The
cameras take AA batteries, and have a metal body so would make a great
travel camera. The easy to use camera is capable of good results, although
there is some purple fringing and images are slightly soft. The super
macro mode is good. Both cameras are very good value for money at around
£110 for the S45, and £165 for the S55. I would recommend
this camera to someone looking for a versatile, highly pocketable digital
camera. If you were to choose between the two, my preference would be
towards the 4 megapixel Optio S45 which will produce photos capable of
being printed at upto A4 and offers excellent value for money - for slightly
more detail then I'd recommend the Optio S55.
What I like:
What I don't like:
Remember to have a look at the test photos in the new gallery.