Pentax Optio H90 Digital Camera Review

An easy to use compact camera with a 5x wide angle zoom lens and 720p high definition video capabilities.

13/08/2010 - 14:20

ePHOTOzine verdict and ratings

Pentax Optio H90: Click on the thumbnail for the larger image.
Gary Wolstenholme takes a look at the Pentax Optio H90. A mid-range digital compact with a 5x wide angle zoom lens and high definition video recording.

The Pentax Optio H90 occupies the middle ground in their line-up of compact digital cameras. It has 5x wdie angle zoom lens, 12.1 megapixel CCD sensor and high definition video recording at 720p all for only £109. All those features for not that much seems like a steal to me, let's see whether it is.

Pentax Optio H90: Features
The Optio H90 has a 12.1 megapixel CCD sensor at its heart, which has an ISO range of 80-6400, which should make the camera great for low light shooting, if it performs well enough. In front of that sensor is a 5x zoom lens with a range equivalent to 28-140mm on a 35mm camera. To me this sounds like a very useful range, with a moderate wide angle for shooting in tight spots and enough telephoto to get you close to not-to-distant action.

A 2.7inch LCD screen fills much of the rear. With a resolution of 230,000 dots, it's not the highest resolution screen I've seen, but the resolution is ample for a clear view of what you're shooting. The screen appears to have a good viewing angle and a decent anti-reflective coating, making it quite easy to see in bright conditions.

The HD video mode allows footage to be taking at 720p resolution at 30fps per second. To me the footage looks crisp and smooth as the high frame rate reduces the chance of jerkiness. Support for Eye-Fi wireless SD cards is also included, so your footage can be send straight to your computer with no cables.

Pentax Optio H90 Key features: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
The 5x zoom lens covers a range equivalent to 28-140mm on a 35mm camera. The 2.7inch LCD screen is bright and has a decent anti-reflective coating.
The Optio H90 is quite slim and the controls are simple. A rechargeable Li-Ion battery supplies power to the Optio H90.

Pentax's Face Detection system has received a facelift and can now detect up to 32 faces in a frame, so unless you're photographing three football teams in the same frame, the Optio H90 should be able to detect all the faces and work out the best focus. The camera can also be set to take a picture when someone turns their face towards the camera, which could either result in some amazing candid moments, or at least some surprised looks.

Pentax Optio H90: Handling
Compact digital cameras have become much of a muchness nowadays, with nearly all of them following the same design traits. Pentax have attempted to make the H90 stand out from the crowd with it's two tone design, which on the review sample is silver and white. Orange and silver and also black and silver combinations are also available.

The body feels reasonably sturdy, yet lightweight. High quality plastics have been used in the construction and the fit and finish is good. The black plastic used on the rear has a soft feel to it, which also provides an excellent grip of the body. I had no qualms about using the camera with one hand at any point.

Controls are laid out in a simple, methodical way, with the most common controls, such as the shutter release and zoom falling under finger and thumb. For a small camera there is plenty of space between the buttons, making it very easy to operate, even with my fat fingers.

Pentax Optio H90: Performance
Generally the Optio H90 produces pleasingly balanced exposures in a wide range of conditions. For a compact at this price point I noticed that it seems to have better than average dynamic range, which means less detail is lost to the highlights and shadows. When it it, there isn't an abrupt change from detail to flat white either, making images look more natural.

Colours are generally reproduced with plenty of saturation, which gives a punchy, vivid look to most images. Care needs to be taken when photographing highly colourful subjects though, as the added saturation can be too much on occasion.

In use I find the Optio H90 is a very responsive camera. It focuses reasonably quickly and the shutter lag once it is focused is barely noticeable. A 1cm macro function is available allowing you to get very close to your subject indeed.

Pentax Optio H90 Performance: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
The face detection works well and skin tones are reproduced accurately. The H90 shows good levels of dynamic range for this price point.
Care needs to be taken when snapping brightly coloured subjects, as they can sometimes turn out over saturated. Plenty of detail is recorded by the 12.1 megapixel CCD sensor.

ISO and noise performance
Images taken up to ISO200 show impressive levels of detail and sharpness. Although there is still no significant noise, Images at ISO400 start to show the tell-tale signs of aggressive noise reduction smoothing detail although images taken at this setting are certainly acceptable. At ISO800 the noise reduction becomes noticeably more severe and the colour saturation is reduced also, although images at this setting will still make good small prints. Images at ISO1600 and above fair no better, with reduced colour saturation and noise destroying nearly all fine detail. However for a camera of this level this performance is fairly typical.

Pentax Optio H90 Outdoor ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
ISO80 ISO100 ISO200 ISO400
ISO800 ISO1600 ISO3200 ISO6400

Pentax Optio H90 Test chart ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
ISO80 ISO100 ISO200 ISO400
ISO800 ISO1600 ISO3200 ISO6400

The H90's auto white balance performs reasonably well under incandescent lighting, leaving only a slight tinge of a colour cast. Unfortunately is fares less well with the warm white fluorescent light in our studio, leaving behind quite a strong magenta cast. Using the appropriate white balance preset yields much more accurate results, as can be seen on the example below of the incandescent prest in incandescent light.

Pentax Optio H90 White-balance test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Auto white-balance in incandescent lighting Incandescent white balance in incandescent lighting

Auto white-balance in fluorescent lighting  

Buffer read/write times
The delay from shot to shot on the Optio H90 is very short indeed. On average I was able to take another shot 1.6 seconds after another using a class 6 card. In playback the camera is very responsive, as there is little noticeable delay while flipping through images.

Lens performance
On the whole, the lens fitted to the H90 performs very well indeed. Images appear sharp from corner to corner and I saw little evidence of flare or colour fringing. A little barrel distortion is noticeable at the wide end of the zoom, but the level isn't overly disturbing.

Pentax Optio H90 Lens quality: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
There is a little barrel distortion at the wide end, but it isn't too disturbing. The 1cm macro mode is excellent for close ups.
No flare is present in this image despite shooting into the light. Plenty of detail is rendered and images appear to be sharp from edge to edge.

Pentax Optio H90: Verdict
I mentioned before that the camera seems very well specified for the price, and it seems it performs up to the job as well. It would've been good to see better performance at higher than ISO800, but for its price point that performance is typical.

This camera is capable of yielding detailed, colour-rich images under the right conditions and seems like very good value at £109.

Pentax Optio H90: Pros
Sharp, clear images at lower ISOs
Wide angle lens
Compact design
Ease of use
Decent auto white balance performance
Good dynamic range for a compact of this level

Pentax Optio H90: Cons
Poor quality above ISO800
A little barrel distortion at the widest angle


Pentax Optio H90: Specification
Price £109.00
What comes in the box AV cable, USB cable, AC cable, Li-ion battery, battery charger, strap and Arcsoft Media Impression software
Lens 5.1 ‐ 25.5mm f/3.5(W) - f/5.9(T), equ. to 28‐140mm in 35mm
Resolution 12.1Mp
Sensor size 1/2.3inch
Sensor type CCD
Max. Image size 4000x3000
Aspect ratio 4:3
LCD monitor size 2.7inch
Focusing system Contrast Detection
Focusing modes 9-point Multi‐AF, Spot AF, Auto‐tracking AF (anticipating moving subject)
File types JPEG
ISO sensitivity ISO80-6400
Metering system Multi-segment metering, Centre-weighted metering, Spot 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, Fireworks, Frame Composite, Party, Natural Skin Tone, Candlelight, Text, Blog, Digital Wide, Digital Panorama, Green
White-balance Auto, Daylight, Shade, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Manual setting
Exposure compensation +/- 2EV
Shutter speed range 1/2000 - 1/4 sec. 4 sec max. (Night Scene mode setting)
Anti-shake mode Pixel Track SR
High sensitivity anti-shake mode (Digital SR)
Movie mode HDTV 720p (1280x720), VGA (640x480), QVGA (320x240)
Media type SD, SDHC, Eye-Fi compatible
Interface USB
Power Rechargeable D‐LI88 Lithium‐ion battery
Size (wxdxl) 56.5 x 94.5 x 24.5mm
Weight (with battery) 131g

The Pentax Optio H90 costs £109 and is available from Warehouse Express here:

Pentax Optio H90

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