Pentax Optio RS1000 review

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

16/12/2010 - 14:16


Pentax Optio RS1000 front
John Riley reviews the Pentax Optio RS1000.

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 Key features: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.

Pentax Optio RS1000 tartan
  Pentax Optio RS1000 back
For the test I selected the tartan skin.   On the rear is a 3in colour LCD monitor.
Pentax Optio RS1000 top   Pentax Optio RS1000 battery compartment
The 4x optical zoom lens does not extend far our of the camera.   The RS100 is powered by a rechargeable Li-ion D-LI108 battery.

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

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 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.

Pentax Optio RS1000 Test chart ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Pentax Optio RS1000 Test chart ISO100
Pentax Optio RS1000 Test chart ISO100 Pentax Optio RS1000 Test chart ISO200 Pentax Optio RS1000 Test chart ISO400 Pentax Optio RS1000 Test chart ISO800
ISO100 ISO200 ISO400 ISO800
Pentax Optio RS1000 Test chart ISO1600 Pentax Optio RS1000 Test chart ISO3200 Pentax Optio RS1000 Test chart ISO6400  
ISO1600 ISO3200 ISO6400  

Pentax Optio RS1000 Outdoor ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Pentax Optio RS1000 Outdoor ISO100
Pentax Optio RS1000 Outdoor ISO100 Pentax Optio RS1000 Outdoor ISO200 Pentax Optio RS1000 Outdoor ISO400 Pentax Optio RS1000 Outdoor ISO800
ISO100 ISO200 ISO400 ISO800
Pentax Optio RS1000 Outdoor ISO1600 Pentax Optio RS1000 Outdoor ISO3200 Pentax Optio RS1000 Outdoor ISO6400  
ISO1600 ISO3200 ISO6400  

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.

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.

Pentax Optio RS1000 White-balance test: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Pentax Optio RS1000 Auto white-balance in incandescent lighting   Pentax Optio RS1000 Incandescent preset in incandescent lighting
Auto white-balance in incandescent lighting.   Incandescent preset in incandescent lighting.
Pentax Optio RS1000 Auto white-balance in fluorescent lighting   Pentax Optio RS1000 Fluorescent preset in fluorescent lighting
Auto white-balance in fluorescent lighting.   Fluorescent preset in fluorescent lighting.

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.

Pentax Optio RS1000 performance: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Pentax Optio RS1000 skin tones   Pentax Optio RS1000 colour awb
Skin tones are smooth and accurate.   AWB gives clean accurate colour in daylight.
Pentax Optio RS1000 bold colours   Pentax Optio RS1000 exposure
  (Above) Exposures are accurate in most situations.

(Left) Detail is well retained in this bold red, but cannot be reproduced by the camera LCD.

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 lens performance: Click on the thumbnails for larger images.
Pentax Optio RS1000 wide angle
  Pentax Optio RS1000 telephoto
Widest angle setting.   Maximum telephoto setting.
Pentax Optio RS1000 detail   Pentax Optio RS1000 No chromatic aberrations
The SMC Pentax lens provides plenty of detail.   No trace of chromatic aberrations.

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
"This camera's impressive and very fun to use."
Pentax Optio RS1000: Pros

Pentax Optio RS1000 Quality of results
Pentax Optio RS1000 Fun alternative skins
Pentax Optio RS1000 Well made
Pentax Optio RS1000 Compact
Pentax Optio RS1000 Value for money

Pentax Optio RS1000: Cons
Pentax Optio RS1000 Could be too small for some users
Pentax Optio RS1000 Wide angle barrel distortion
Pentax Optio RS1000 Limited feature set

FEATURES Pentax Optio RS1000
HANDLING Pentax Optio RS1000
PERFORMANCE Pentax Optio RS1000
VALUE FOR MONEY Pentax Optio RS1000
OVERALL Pentax Optio RS1000

Pentax Optio RS1000: Specification
Price £94.00
What comes in the box USB cable, Li-ion rechargeable battery, battery charger kit, strap, software, set of 3 alternative skins, hex wrench (diameter: 1.6mm), set of 5 pre-cut printable sheets of 10x15 photo paper), tracing stencil
Lens Pentax 4x optical zoom lens 4.9 - 19.6mm, f/3.5 - 5.9 (equ. to 27.5-110mm in 35mm format)
Resolution 14 megapixels
Sensor size 1/2.33in
Sensor type CCD
Max image size 4288 x 3216
Aspect ratio 16:9
Focusing system Contrast detection TTL Autofocus system
Focus modes Multi-AF 3-point zone, Spot AF, Auto-tracking AF (anticipating moving subject)
Focus distance Normal: 0.4m - infinity (whole zoom area)
Macro: 15cm to 50cm (at wide setting), 25cm to 50cm (at medium magnification length)
Super Macro: 8cm to 25cm (at focal length of 5.8mm)
File types JPEG
ISO sensitivity ISO100-6400
Metering modes Multi-segment metering
Exposure compensation +/- 2EV (1/3EV steps)
Shutter speed range 1/2000 to 1/4 sec. 4 sec max. (Night Scene mode)
White-balance Auto, Daylight, Shade, Tungsten light, Fluorescent light, Manual setting
Frames-per-second 7.5
Movie mode HDTV (1280x720) at 30/15 fps
VGA (640x480 pixels) at 30/15 fps
QVGA (320x240 pixels) at 30/15 fps
Image stabilisation Digital Shake Reduction
Monitor 3in (7.62cm diagonal) colour LCD monitor
Media type SD / SDHC
Interface USB 2.0 Hi-Speed, PC/AV output (PAL/NTSC, mono)
Power Rechargeable Li-ion D-LI108 battery
Size 56 x 92 x 20.5mm
Weight 130g

The Pentax Optio RS1000 costs £94.00 and is available from Warehouse Express here:

Pentax Optio RS1000

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