Pentax Optio E90 Digital Camera Review

A basic 10 megapixel compact camera with a 3x zoom lens ideally suited to the budget conscious.

12/08/2010 - 14:20

ePHOTOzine verdict and ratings

Pentax Optio E90: Click on the thumbnail for the larger image.
The Pentax Optio E90 is a no frills compact for those on a tight budget. Here Gary Wolstenholme sees if no frills really does mean no good.

Costing a shade under £70, The Optio E90 form Pentax is an affordable 10 megapixel digital camera which sits at the bottom of the Pentax compact camera range. The camera has all the basic features most will need to take decent snapshots including a 3x zoom lens, a 2.7inch LCD screen, Face Detection, Smile Detection and Automatic Scene Detection.

Pentax Optio E90: Features
At the heart of the Optio E90 lies a 10 megapixel CCD sensor, which should provide plenty of resolution for most consumer's printing needs. A 3x zoom lens covering a range equivalent to 32-96mm on a 35mm camera will allow for some flexibility.

Automatic Scene Selection takes care of making sure your pictures come out reasonably well, choosing the appropriate scene program automatically. For example if you point the camera at the front of someone's head, it will automatically switch to the Portrait scene program and enable face detection for you.

Power is provided by two AA size batteries, which can be picked up virtually anywhere, reducing the chances of you being unable to take pictures due to flat batteries. On the negative side Alkaline batteries don't tend to last very long in digital cameras, so it may be worth looking into alternatives. High powered NiMh rechargeable cells will suit those who use the camera often, whereas disposable Lithium batteries may suit those better who only use their camera occasionally. Under no circumstances should you be tempted by the 10 batteries for a pound offer you may see on the market or in pound shops, as these cells may barely power up the camera.

Pentax Optio E90 Key features: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
The 3x zoom lens covers a range equivalent to 32-96mm on a 35mm camera. A 2.7inch LCD screen and controls are on the rear.
The camera is reasonably slim and compact for one powered by AA cells. Power is supplied by AA batteries, which can be obtained virtually anywhere.

On top of this there is a Panorama stitching facility, which will allow you to capture wider views, a basic video recording mode and a useful built-in image recovery feature, to enable you to retrieve images deleted accidentally.

Pentax Optio E90: Handling

A soft, rubberised plastic has been used for the body of the Optio E90. This material feels slightly soft to the touch and provides an excellent grip. This will certainly suit those who may have trouble holding onto things with their hands. As the camera is wider where the batteries go it provides an excellent finger grip also.

Weighing in at 122g without batteries and around 170g with, the Optio E90 is very lightweight and the small dimensions make the camera easily pocketable.

Pentax Optio E90: Performance
On the whole the Optio E90 produced sharp, detailed images with good colour and exposure. The standard automatic mode produces well-balanced exposures with good colour saturation and contrast, sometimes skin tones can look a little dark though. When the Automatic Scene Detection system is used, the camera uses the portrait program for people pictures, which lightens skin tones and reduces colour saturation a little, leading to more flattering results.

Landscapes and scenery also show excellent levels of detail for a compact at this price point. Colours are vibrant and punchy, but occasionally highlights can be blown in bright skies.

Overall I've been very impressed by the quality of images produced by this camera. When the price is taken into consideration, it appears to offer excellent value for money.

Pentax Optio E90 Performance: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Using the standard auto program for people can leave skin tones looking a little dark. The Auto Scene Selection has chosen the portrait mode in this case which has produced a more flattering result.
Exposures are generally well balanced. Plenty of detail is recorded by the Optio E90.

ISO and noise performance
Images taken at settings up to ISO200 show excellent clarity and no significant noise. Up the sensitivity to ISO400 and you will start to see a little softening of the image due to noise reduction, although images at this setting are still quite acceptable.

By ISO800, the Optio E90's noise reduction system is fighting a loosing battle. Levels of noise become much more apparent and the level of detail and colour saturation is greatly reduced due to noise reduction. Images taken at ISO1600 show the effects of noise and the camera's reduction methods even more, although images taken at this setting may be acceptable in small prints and for sharing on the web.

Pentax Optio E90 Outdoor ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.

ISO100 ISO200 ISO400

ISO800 ISO1600  

Pentax Optio E90 Test chart ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
ISO100 ISO200 ISO400
ISO800 ISO1600  

Pentax Optio E90 White Balance
Auto White Balance on the E90 performs reasonably well, leaving a slight colour cast in images taken under incandescent and fluorescent lighting conditions, although the cast isn't overly strong or disturbing. Unfortunately there is no way to override the white balance with a manual preset, as I imagine Pentax thought this is a feature their target market wouldn't necessarily use.

Buffer read/write times
The delay between shots is a little longer than I'd hoped, but is typical for a camera of this price point. On average it took 3.9 seconds before the camera would allow me to take another shot. During playback the camera skips from image to image with very little delay.

Lens performance
Despite the low price, the lens fitted to the Optio E90 is capable of producing detailed images that are sharp from edge to edge. I found very few problems with flare, ghosting or colour fringes, and distortion at the widest angle is only very mild. Overall a suprisingly good performance for a camera at this price point.

Pentax Optio E90 Lens quality: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
The macro setting only allows you to get within 10cm of your subject. Images have plenty of detail and are sharp and contrasty from edge to edge.

Pentax Optio E90: Verdict
For a budget compact, the Optio E90 performs very well indeed. It is capable of taking images with plenty of detail and good colour. It would've been nice if it performed a little better at higher ISO sensitivities, but on the whole when the camera's target market is taken into consideration, the camera performs well enough in this respect.

I found the Optio E90 very easy to use. In fact it's so simple, many won't have to unpack the instructions at all. Overall the camera represents good value for money for its target audience.

Pentax Optio E90: Pros
Simple to use
Good image quality at lower sensitivities
Good value
Easy to hold

Pentax Optio E90: Cons
Image quality at higher sensitivities could be better.


Pentax Optio E90: Specification
Price £70.00
What comes in the box USB cable, 2 AA Alkaline batteries, strap, Arcsoft Media Impression 2.0 for Pentax
Lens Pentax zoom lens 5.7 - 17.1mm f/2.9 (W) - 5.2 (T), equ. to 32-96mm in 35mm format
Resolution 10.1Mp
Sensor size 1/2.3inch
Sensor type CCD
Max. Image size 3648 x 2736
Aspect ratio 4:3
LCD monitor size 2.7inch
Focusing system Contrast Detection
Focusing modes Multi-AF 3-point zone, Spot AF, Auto-tracking AF (anticipating moving subject)
File types JPEG
ISO sensitivity ISO100-1600
Metering system Multi-segment metering
Metering modes Auto Picture, Program, Night Scene, Night Scene Portrait, Half-length Portrait, Movie, Landscape, Flower, Portrait, Surf & Snow, Sport, Digital SR, Kids, Pet, Food, Natural Skin Tone, Candlelight, Digital Panorama, Frame composite, Sunset, Green
White-balance Auto
Exposure compensation +/- 2EV
Shutter speed range 1/2000 to 1/4 sec. 4 sec max. (Night Scene mode)
Anti-shake mode Digital Image Stabilisation via high sensitivities
Movie mode VGA (640x480 pixels) at 30 fps, QVGA (320x240 pixels) at 30 fps
Media type SD, SDHC
Interface USB
Power 2x AA batteries
Size (wxdxl) 60 x 92.5 x 28mm
Weight (with battery) Approx 170g
The Pentax Optio E90 costs £70 and is available from Warehouse Express here:

Pentax Optio E90

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