Pentax Optio P70 Digital Camera Review

Unlike Matt Grayson, the Pentax Optio P70 is slim, attractive and takes a lithium ion battery.

13/05/2009 - 14:19

Pentax release the Optio P70 with a slim line body and 4x optical zoom and easy to use function for the happy snapper.

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Pentax Optio P70Pentax Optio P70: Specifications
  • Zoom: 4x optical (27.5-110mm)
  • Resolution: 12Mp
  • Sensor size: 1/2.3in
  • Sensor type: CCD
  • Max. image size: 4000x3000
  • File type: JPEG
  • Sensitivity: ISO64-6400
  • Storage: SD, SDHC
  • Focus types: 9-point AF
  • Normal focusing: 40cm-infinity
  • Close focusing: 10cm-50cm
  • Metering types: Multi segment, centre-weighted, spot
  • Exposure compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3 step increments
  • Shutter speed: 4sec-1/1000sec
  • Flash: Built in-wide-0.5-2.1m, 0.2-4.6m
  • Monitor: 2.7in TFT LCD (230,000dots)
  • Interface: USB 2.0
  • Power: Li-Ion
  • Size: 97x54x21.5mm
  • Weight: 110g (excl. battery and card)
£150 will give you a shiny camera with 12Mp, a 4x optical zoom and 2.7in screen. The Fujifilm FinePix Z200fd at £138 offers a lower 10Mp resolution, higher 5x internal optical zoom and 2.7in screen. Alternatively, the Panasonic DMC-FX37 costs slightly more at £169 and gives you 10Mp, a 5x optical zoom and slightly smaller 2.5in LCD screen.

Pentax Optio P70
The 4x optical zoom has a stackable lens system to keep the body slim.
Pentax Optio P70
A minimalist design is good for a point and shoot user.
Pentax Optio P70
Buttons are kept to a minimum and the ever present green button for ultra easy sits at the bottom.
Pentax Optio P70: Features
I've not reviewed a silver camera since February and it seems a little alien now to see them in this colour. That's not to say that the camera is unattractive in silver but after several years in retail and seeing a solid wall of silver cameras, it's refreshing to get a different colour.

Luckily the P70 is available in three other colours and not the usual garish oranges and pinks that try to lure the younger market to their wares. Instead Pentax have opted for more muted Deep Blue, Red and White, showing a degree of maturity in the industry that accelerates them up the list of cool.

The brushed face of the Pentax Optio P70 features the 4x optical zoom lens that seems to have quite a large footprint for a relatively small lens. It can go as wide as 28mm to help with landscapes but that does tend to suffer a little from barrel distortion.

Pentax have kept it simple with the layout and only a shutter release and power button adorn the top although the zoom rocker is wrapped around the shutter. On the back there are only four buttons that join the navigation pad and these give access to the face detection options, playback, main menu and easy mode. Because there's a lack of a command dial, accessing the scene modes is done by pressing down on the navigation pad.

Pentax are proud of Shake Reduction which is their own version of image stabilisation and the P70 claims to have three types. This is true but not all are for just stills as the claim leads you to believe. When you're shooting stills, you can enjoy a Pixel Track SR mode or high Sensitivity SR mode although with this, the resolution drops to 5Mp. The third option is Movie SR mode which can only be used in motion picture mode and is executed by narrowing the field of view. That way the camera has extra space around the area that's being filmed on which it can move into when it compensates for shake.

I like the menu system now as it's see through meaning that the image can still be seen under the text. It's useful for features such as white balance as it means that you can see the cast before making your selection.

There's a particularly useful feature in the playback menu which is a recovery mode for if you accidentally erase your pictures. If that happens, don't take any more pictures, go straight into the playback menu and use the feature to get full recovery.

Pentax Optio P70: Build and handling
Pentax are famous for fitting big lenses into small bodies and they've managed it with the P70 by using the same technology that was pioneered in the Optio S. It works by raising the rear element above the front element as the lens system collapses. Effectively, the elements are stacked on top of each other when the camera isn't in use.

Pentax Optio P70
The battery is Li-Ion and the SDHC card shares the same area.
On the base plate is a plastic tripod bush and flimsy battery door which only clips in instead of having a locking pin. I've also never been a fan of exposed USB ports as they can get filled with dirt way too easily, especially when they're on the bottom of the camera like on the P70.

It's easy enough to use and Vertical Snap mode gives it a similar feel to a mobile phone by flipping all the controls around to a vertical positioning.

One area that I'm really disappointed in is the process where the camera records the information to the card. It takes a ridiculously long time to download the information to the card and I thought this might be due to using a smaller SD card but upgrading to a faster card has the same issue but with maybe a minor amount of time shaved off.

Pentax Optio P70: Performance
At first, the Pentax Optio P70 starts off decidedly average with the shutter lag sitting at around 0.08sec which is standard in the ePHOTOzine digital compact camera tests. On the other hand continuous shooting throws up an interesting result. The first setting for continuous mode manages four images in a ten second burst. That sounds pretty bad and it actually took a shot every two seconds but had to stop after six seconds (the first shot was taken at 00.00sec) to download to the card and wasn't ready until it was outside the ten second time limit.

Pentax Optio P70
Cooler primary colours are boosted while the warmer ones are held back.
I quite like the colours reproduced on the colour test chart image although primary blue looks like it's about to pop it's so saturated. In contrast the warmer tones appear flatter although yellow is trying to peek out.

I also like the richness of the earth brown and forest green tiles and the pastel colours have managed to come through as they can all too often be bleached out. The standard skin tone tile looks a little paler than I'm used to but it's not unpleasant and the mono tones are well balanced.

The paleness of the skin tone shows through on the portrait shot as the skin doesn't have the warm glow that I'd normally expect. Shadows aren't as deep as I normally see either but it wasn't a high contrast day.
Pentax Optio P70
Skin tones are cooler as per the colour test chart results but aren't bad.
Pentax Optio P70
Flash seems to be very local to one area and looks unappealing.
Using flash has given the shot a spotlight effect but it's more "escaped convict" than "no business like showbusiness". It's a shame that it's given this look as it's not too harsh, it's just very localised.

Pentax Optio P70
A good result from the Pentax Optio P70 with decent metering and minimal colour fringing on contrast areas.
It was a bright sunny day at the lock for the landscape test and I think the metering has coped nicely with it. I can see detail in all but the darkest and brightest areas and another thing I am happy with is the lack of colour fringing on the white bars.

Sometimes the bars can let me down and if that's the case i always check the branches that overlap the sky as they show fringing whatever the weather but it's not there either.

There's enough detail in the grass although I feel there's too much noise in the image. This is due to the wrong ISO being selected in landscape mode but the EXIF data hasn't recorded what it actually used.

Penatx Optio P70
Macro simply doesn't get close enough to provide a decent close up.
Macro mode has a close focusing capability of 10cm which is less than most cameras but it's not necessarily about how close it can focus but more about how big the item looks in the screen. However, in the macro shot of the camera, I'd really expect to get closer than I did.

If the camera is too close it simply won't focus which I think could possibly be the most infuriating thing about it. I'd like to at least see a red light saying no focus or something but a distinct lack of action just makes the camera look lazy.

There's a burst mode and this took six images in one and a half seconds which is pretty good. Unfortunately it didn't manage any more than that as the subsequent download time took just over eight seconds and the camera couldn't sort itself out in time.

Pentax Optio P70: Noise test
At the lowest ISO64 setting it all looks quite promising with plenty of detail in the petals and despite a tiny amount of noise in the grey area, it's not something you'd see on an everyday shot.

Unfortunately, optimism turns to pessimism as ISO100 shows little noise reduction being used. Moving through each setting shows the quality slowly start to decay and detail is starting to go from the petals by ISO400.

At ISO3200 the quality is so bad that the resolution has to be lower to 5Mp in an attempt to curb the destruction but it's pretty futile and the end images look bad.
Pentax Optio P70
The ISO64 test.
Pentax Optio P70
The ISO6400 test.
Pentax Optio P70: Verdict
Pentax have managed it again using the stackable lens system to get a larger zoom into a thin body and the Optio P70 is another display of their talent for this kind of thing. However, they need to address more pressing issues such as noise control if they want to really get ahead of the game.

If you want a slim line pocketable point and shoot camera and you'll be using it for landscapes in bright light then give this one some thought.

Pentax Optio P70: Plus points
Slim body
Big zoom for camera
Easy to use

Pentax Optio P70: Minus points
Bad noise at low levels
Barrel distortion at wide angle
Poor macro facility
Slow transfer to memory card





The Pentax Optio P70 costs around £149.99 and is available from Warehouse Express here:

Pentax Optio P70

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