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Pentax Optio RS1000 Compact Camera Review

John Riley takes a look at the customisable Pentax Optio RS1000.

Posted: 16/12/2010 - 14:16

Features
Handling
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Pentax Optio RS1000 front

Pentax are clearly learning how to make photography look fun. Coloured DSLRs such as the K-x and K-r, retro styled compacts such as the I-10 and now some razzmatazz with patterned and even custom front panels for the RS1000. This is the territory of making the camera a fashion accessory and in the case of the RS1000 it could even be changed to suit not only an outfit but even a mood.

But a camera is also a tool and all of this would be for nothing if it were not capable of shooting good images. So let us see how the RS1000 fares when it gets down to the real business of photography.

Pentax Optio RS1000: Features

The RS1000 is a very compact camera, measuring just 92x56x20.5mm and weighing a very modest 130g including battery and SD card. The 1/2.33 inch CCD boasts 14MP and an ISO range of 100-6400.

The SMC Pentax 4.9-19.6mm f3.2-5.9 zoom lens is constructed of 6 elements in 5 groups. Three of the elements are aspherical. It is equivalent to a 35mm lens of 27.5-110mm.

A wide variety of shooting and playback modes are provided, along with face recognition, smile capture, 720p HD movie capability, digital filters and digital Shake Reduction. Some functions are simplified and, for example, only multi-segment metering is available.

The shutter speed range is from 1/2000 sec to ¼ sec, extended to 4 seconds in Night Scene Mode. The built in flash unit can be switched off if required and also has a red-eye reduction mode.

Images are composed and viewed on the 3 inch LCD monitor, which comprises 230,000 dots and is bright enough to be viewed in daylight. There are numerous buttons that avoid the need to constantly dip into the menus, including a green button that can be programmed by the user. The menu system is however quite straightforward and has a reasonably small number of options. This is not an overly complicated camera.

Supplied accessories are camera, strap, software, USB cable, D-LI108 Lithium-ion battery, Battery charger, 3 alternative skins, hex wrench for changing skins, operating manual on CD, Quick Guide booklet and tracing stencil.

This last item enables patterns to be cut so that custom skins can be made to personalise the camera. The front of the camera is clear plastic and the wrench is used to unscrew four corner screws, remove the plastic cover and place whichever skin is required in position. A pack of blank inkjet pieces, pre-cut, is provided to start the user off.

Pentax Optio RS1000: Handling

The camera is small, but the very square profile makes it easy to handle. It feels solid and the controls operate precisely. It is well made and inspires confidence.

The snazzy colour apart, and I selected the tartan skin for my foray into Manchester, the camera is unobtrusive and nobody seemed to pay any attention whatsoever as I made my way through the Christmas Market crowds. I used a full sized tripod for some shots later in the day and the camera sits comfortably and securely on a DSLR sized tripod platform.

The most vulnerable part is probably the set of four screws that retain the skins – there is a high likelihood that one or more could be lost unless the user is very careful. A spare set would be a good idea, but this is not provided.

Ergonomically this is a very nice camera to use. It fits the hands well, works as expected and has no operational glitches. Clearly it is intended to be easy to use and the lively skins suggest holidays, parties and fun. However, there is plenty of scope to do more than that provided that the results live up to the handling.

Pentax Optio RS1000: Performance

Exposure

The system is simplified to the one option of multi-segment metering. This is incredibly accurate and examination of the histograms in Photoshop reveals near-perfect exposures in almost all circumstances. There is no tendency to blown-out highlights, but exposure is full. Against the light shots are handled easily. In the case of very dark or light subjects then some exposure compensation is useful, and in fact this is what I programmed into the green button. This gives immediate access to compensation without going into the camera menus.

The inexperienced user would be able to obtain accurate exposures most of the time, regardless of the lighting. This fits in well with the seeming brief to provide a reliable, easy to use and fun camera.

Focusing

Focusing is never going to be as fast as a DSLR and compact cameras are not really the easiest to use for action photography. There is a lag whilst the system locks on, but compared to other compacts currently available this Pentax is certainly among the faster models.

Once locked, the shutter delay is minimal, but still there and not quite the same feel as a DSLR. Focusing is very accurate though and seems to be very difficult to catch out. All normal subject matter locks on positively. One very nice touch is that close focusing switches automatically into the macro range without having to set the macro option. This means seamless operation when on the borderline between standard focus and macro focus.

ISO and noise performance

14 million pixels is a lot of pixels to pack into such a small sensor, so making speeds up to ISO6400 available seems quite optimistic. In the event, noise is well controlled up to ISO400 and still quite well controlled up to ISO1600. Beyond that detail does severely suffer and the noise levels are high. The saving grace is that the noise is monochromatic and avoids the dreadful spectre of multi-coloured speckles.

This is an excellent performance for such a small camera and I suspect that casual users will never perceive any problem. For the advanced amateur high ISO levels are probably best avoided wherever possible, although, as always, getting a picture that is sharp and noisy is better than no picture or a blurred one.

I am very happy with the RS1000 at up to ISO400 and I would use ISO200 as a standard speed where light allows.

Colour Reproduction

Colour has always been an area where Pentax excel and the RS1000 is no exception. There are no particular weaknesses and whether subtle or bold, colours are reproduced cleanly and accurately. On the camera LCD intense reds seem to lose all detail, but in fact when viewed on the computer the detail is there and the defect is in the ability of the camera LCD to show the colour correctly. Blues are beautiful and it bodes well for the camera's ability to render problem subjects such as bluebells. Unfortunately the time of year is wrong to actually put this to the test. Skin tones are also very nicely rendered both in colour and in terms of smoothness.

White-balance

Tied together with colour reproduction is white balance and the AWB setting of the RS1000 is remarkably good. It seems to have a very wide range that even attempts and somewhat succeeds in tackling incandescent (tungsten) light. This is impressive. Fluorescent light is less well handled, but of course the incomplete spectrum that this type of light generates is not easy to control.

In daylight AWB does a fine job. Changing to Daylight has little effect although I would use this setting to maintain the colour of some scenes such as sunsets. There is no Cloudy setting, but there is a Shade setting for overcast days. The range is rounded off with incandescent , fluorescent and manual settings.

Integral Flash/Flash Modes

The flash unit is quite small, so the provision of red-eye reduction is useful. The normal settings of Auto Flash, Flash Off and Flash On are to be found and within the limited range of the unit exposures are accurate. Using flash in daylight for portraits is a technique which is now within range of everyone. There are no calculations to make, the camera sorts it all out and the effect is very pleasing. Especially in bright sunlight, using fill-in flash will dramatically improve many portraits.

Buffer/Write Times

The camera is ready to use within 1 second of switching on and the buffer is more than adequate to ensure no delays in taking multiple images. Using the High Speed setting around 10 images can be shot before the camera needs 7 seconds or so to catch up and resume shooting. This should be more than enough considering the general applications of compact cameras. The RS1000 is basically fast and responsive.

Battery Life

The D-LI108 Lithium-Ion battery is rated for approximately 210 shots, with 50% flash usage. After a full day's shooting at two locations the battery is still showing full power and I have every expectation that without that flash usage I will comfortably exceed that number of shots.

Lens performance

This is an SMC Pentax 4.9-19.6mm 4x optical zoom lens and that roughly equates to a 27.5-110mm lens on a 35mm camera. This lens is better than the Pentax compact camera lenses that I have recently come across. Although there is still some drop off in sharpness towards the edge of the frame at wider apertures (over which we have no control) it is still very acceptable. The results at longer distances are now much more on a par with the excellent results at close and middle distances.

Where this lens really shines is in the seemingly total banishment of chromatic aberration. There is no sign of colour fringing on against the light shots, which is impressive indeed. Resistance to flare is equally good. Basically it is not a problem.

We find where the compromise lies when we look at distortion. Such a tiny lens, so good in so many ways, has quite a bit of distortion left in. This is what had to give in the design decisions. Barrel distortion at wide angles is very pronounced. This is of course better than pincushion as we are well used to barrelling at wide angles, and almost expect it. Some care will be needed to avoid bent horizons in landscape shots.

By the mid point pincushion distortion has set in and at the telephoto end of the range is again quite obvious.

I can accept the distortion as in other respects the lens is clean, sharp, has good colour transmission and is pretty much free of flare and chromatic aberrations. The range gives a useful wide angle and a modest telephoto, but restricting this has meant that the RS1000 can be very compact and will therefore be carried everywhere.

Pentax Optio RS1000: Verdict

I admit that I like the idea of making photography fun. If the various skins add to that enjoyment and attract people to buy what is basically a very fine little camera, then that has to be a good thing.

None of this would be any good though if the performance was not up to scratch, but the RS1000 actually turns in a very impressive performance. Fun and Quality combined get my vote and this comes Highly Recommended.

Pentax Optio RS1000 Pros

  • Quality of results
  • Fun alternative skins
  • Well made
  • Compact
  • Value for money

Pentax Optio RS1000 Cons

  • Could be too small for some users
  • Wide angle barrel distortion
  • Limited feature set

Features: 3.5/5
Handling: 4.5/5
Performance: 4.5/5
Value: 5/5
Overall Verdict: 4.5/5


Pentax Optio RS1000 Specifications

Manufacturer Pentax
Lens
Max Aperture f/3.5 - f/5.9
35mm equivalent 27.5mm - 110mm
Optical Zoom 4x
Image Sensor
Pixels No Data
Pixels (W) 4288
Pixels (H) 3216
Sensor Type CCD
Sensor Size 1/2.33in
Sensor Size (width) No Data
Sensor Size (height) No Data
Aspect Ratio
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor No Data
Screen resolution No Data
Touch Screen No Data
Focusing
Min Focus No Data
Focusing modes
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest No Data
Shutter speeds longest No Data
Bulb mode No Data
Exp modes
Metering
ISO sensitivity 100 - 6400
White balance
Exposure Comp No Data
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting No Data
Video
Movie mode No Data
Video Resolution
Video FPS No Data
Stereo Sound No Data
Optical Zoom with Video No Data
Other Features
Image Stabilisation No Data
Interface
HDMI No Data
USB No Data
Wi-Fi No Data
Storage
Card Type
File Type
Power Source
Battery Type No Data
Battery Life (CIPA rating) No Data
Box Contents
Box Contents No Data
Dimensions
Weight 130g
Width 92mm
Height 52mm
Depth 20.5mm

Members gallery photos using: PENTAX Optio RS1000

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