Pentax Optio S1 Digital Compact Camera Review

Daniel Bell takes a look at the Pentax Optio S1 digital compact camera.

26/05/2011 - 14:15


Pentax Optio S1 front lens

Available in chrome (used in our preview here), black and aquamarine green, the Pentax Optio S1 was launched in March 2011 and is currently available for just £99.99. Read on to find out what you get for less than £100.

Pentax Optio S1 front

Pentax Optio S1: Features

The Optio S1 has a 14 megapixel sensor and a 5x optical zoom lens, which is a 35mm equivalent of 28 - 140mm, for shooting landscapes and close-up. To help avoid blurry images, the camera has a Shake Reduction mechanism. Taking people pictures is made easy with Face Detection and Smile Capture modes.

Other shooting modes available are Auto, P mode, Blue Sky, Landscape, Flower, Sunset, Night Scene, Night Scene Portrait, Portrait, Natural Skin Tone, Food, Digital SR, Kids, Pet, Sport, Surf & Snow, Fireworks, Frame Composite, Party, Candlelight, Text, Miniature Filter and HDR.

The Optio S1 can also do some photo editing, such as rotation, red-eye compensation, resize and cropping as well as applying digital filters such as black & white, miniature, HDR, sepia, toy camera, retro, colour, extract colour, colour emphasis, soft and brightness.

The Optio S1 records videos in 16:9, 720p HD format as well as VGA (640x480) and QVGA (320x240) at 30 or 15.

Pentax Optio S1 rear

Key Features

  • 14 megapixel sensor
  • Wide angle 5x optical zoom lens (28-140mm)
  • 2.7in screen
  • Sensor shift SR Shake Reduction system
  • 720p HD Video recording at 30fps
  • 5cm Super Macro mode
  • 3.2fps continuous shooting
  • Face Detection, Smile Detection, and Blink Detection
  • HDR mode for high dynamic range
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card support
  • In camera charging via USB
  • 91mm x 53mm x 20mm

Pentax Optio S1 top

Pentax Optio S1: Handling

Using the camera poses no issues. Even though there are no rubber grips it is easy enough to hold, the buttons are well placed and easy to press. The menus are laid out well and simple to navigate through. The camera is ready to shoot within a couple of seconds and focusing speed is good, as is shot-to-shot speed.

The CIPA rating for the battery is 180 shots and during testing this seems about correct, if you are going out shooting for a whole day, it is worth considering carrying a spare.

Under drive shooting, the camera has a self-timer of 2 or 10 seconds and you can also use a Pentax Remote Control, which can be instant or on a 3 second delay. There is also Continuous and Burst Shooting. Continuous Shooting takes full size images when the shutter is held down and in testing was capable of 0.9fps. Bust Shooting reduces the resolution to 5 megapixels but shoots at 3.3fps.

Pentax Optio S1 battery

Pentax Optio S1: Performance

When shooting wide and with full optical zoom, detail is good throughout the images. Images are well exposed with good colour, although in the below wide-angle example there is some clear purple fringing in the trees. The camera has a minimum focus distance of 5cm so it is difficult to get really close to your subject but when using Super Macro mode, pleasant macro images are produced with plenty of detail.

Pentax Optio S1 wide-angle   Pentax Optio S1 full optical zoom
Wide-angle, ISO64, 1/50, f/10.8, 5mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)   Full optical zoom, 1/250, f/5.7, 25mm (35mm equiv: 140mm)
Pentax Optio S1 digital zoom   Pentax Optio S1 macro
Digital zoom, ISO64, 1/250, f/5.7 25mm (35mm equiv: 140mm)   Super macro, ISO64, 1/125, f/3.9, 5mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)

Although very minimal, there is some noise at ISO64. At ISO100 it doesn't worsen much. Noise is clearly worse at ISO200 and ISO400, but the images taken at these levels are still good. Patches of detail start to get lost at ISO800 and is much worse at ISO1600. Although the noise is very bad at ISO3200 and ISO6400, the images are restricted to 5 megapixels and these ISO levels aren't commonly available on compact cameras at the price of the Optio S1.

Pentax Optio S1 ISO64 Pentax Optio S1 ISO100 Pentax Optio S1 ISO200 Pentax Optio S1 ISO400
ISO64, 1/4, f/5.7, 25mm (35mm equiv: 140mm) ISO100, 1/4, f/5.7, 25mm (35mm equiv: 140mm) ISO200, 1/10, f/5.7, 25mm (35mm equiv: 140mm) ISO400, 1/20, f/5.7, 25mm (35mm equiv: 140mm)
Pentax Optio S1 ISO800 Pentax Optio S1 ISO1600 Pentax Optio S1 ISO3200 Pentax Optio S1 ISO6400
ISO800, 1/40, f/5.7, 25mm (35mm equiv: 140mm) ISO1600, 1/80, f/5.7, 25mm (35mm equiv: 140mm) ISO3200, 1/160, f/5.7, 25mm (35mm equiv: 140mm) ISO6400, 1/320, f/5.7, 25mm (35mm equiv: 140mm)

Using either portrait or natural skin tone modes, the Optio S1 takes a very pleasing portrait with excellent skin tones. Landscape mode also takes good pictures, with a boost given to the blues and greens in the images.

Pentax Optio S1 portrait   Pentax Optio S1 natural skin tone
Portrait, ISO800, 1/80, f/5.3, 17mm (35mm equiv: 93mm)   Natural skin tone, ISO800, 1/80, f/5.3, 17mm (35mm equiv: 93mm)
Pentax Optio S1 landscape   Pentax Optio S1 landscape with building
Landscape, ISO100, 1/50, f/10.8, 5mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)   Landscape with building, ISO64, 1/60, f/10.8, 5mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)

The camera has D-range mode, where you can apply highlight and shadow correction when shooting. It isn't easy to see in the thumbnails below, but when viewing large it is clear there is more detail in the shadows of the trees when switching the D-range setting on.

Pentax Optio S1 D-Range On   Pentax Optio S1 D-range off
D-range on, ISO125, 1/320, f/3.9, 5mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)   D-range off, ISO64, 1/320, f/3.9, 5mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)
Pentax Optio S1 Flower mode with super macro   Pentax Optio S1 text
Flower mode with super macro, ISO100, 1/40, f/3.9, 5mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)   Text, ISO400, 1/15, f/3.9, 5mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)

Auto white-balance generally does a good job, under the incandescent lighting in our studio, the images produced using AWB and the incandescent preset are very similar. Under the fluorescent lights, the AWB setting does the best job, with the fluorescent preset giving a slight orange cast.

Pentax Optio S1 Auto White Balance - Incandescent Lighting   Pentax Optio S1 Preset Incandescent WB - Incandescent Light
Auto White Balance - Incandescent Lighting, ISO100, 1/13, f/4.6, 8mm (35mm equiv: 45mm)   Preset Incandescent WB - Incandescent Light, ISO100, 1/13, f/4.6, 8mm (35mm equiv: 45mm)
Pentax Optio S1 Auto White Balance - Fluorescent Light   Pentax Optio S1 Fluorescent White Balance - Fluorescent Light
Auto White Balance - Fluorescent Light, ISO100, 1/4, f/4.6, 8mm (35mm equiv: 45mm)   Fluorescent White Balance - Fluorescent Light, ISO100, 1/4, f/4.6, 8mm (35mm equiv: 45mm)

Here are examples using some of the scene modes available on the Optio S1. The Frame Composite example is just one of three available.

Pentax Optio S1 miniature   Pentax Optio S1 HDR mode
Miniature, ISO64, 1/250, f/3.9, 5mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)   HDR mode, ISO64, 1/320, f/3.9, 5mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)
Pentax Optio S1 frame composite   Pentax Optio S1 blue sky
Frame composite, ISO64, 1/320, f/3.9, 5mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)   Blue sky, ISO64, 1/320, f/3.9, 5mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)


Digital Filters

The following images are examples of the digital filters that can be applied when editing photos. Some of the filters have varying levels and colour options.

Pentax Optio S1 miniature   Pentax Optio S1 HDR   Pentax Optio S1 Black and White
Miniature   HDR   Black and White
Pentax Optio S1 Sepia   Pentax Optio S1 Toy Camera   Pentax Optio S1 Retro Blue
Sepia   Toy camera   Retro (Blue)
Pentax Optio S1 Retro Brown   Pentax Optio S1 Colour Red   Pentax Optio S1 Extract Colour Green
Retro (Brown)   Colour (Red)   Extract colour (green)
Pentax Optio S1 Colour Emphasis Green   Pentax Optio S1 Soft   Pentax Optio S1 Brightness
Colour emphasis (green)   Soft   Brightness


Video Mode

Below is an example of a video shot at 720p HD. The camera can also shoot VGAs (640x480) and QVGAs (320x240) at 30 or 15fps.

Value For Money

The Pentax Optio S1 is currently available for £99.99. Over the last few months we have looked at a number of cameras of similar performance and price level. Scoring four out of five are the Nikon Coolpix S3100 for £99.99, Nikon Coolpix S2500 for £78.99 and the Canon PowerShot A3200 IS for £104.99. Scoring three and a half are the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS16 for 119.00, Nikon Coolpix L23 for £55.49, Panasonic Lumix DMC-S3 for £98.99, Samsung ST95 for £126.99 and Samsung ST6500 for £147.39.

Pentax Optio S1: Verdict

Priced at £99.99 the Optio S1 enters a very competitive market and performance wise can certainly hold its own. It's not exactly feature packed and one or two of the modes give strange results (HDR), but if you enjoy shooting landscapes and portraits then the camera doesn't disappoint. The addition of Shake Reduction, and a 5x optical zoom lens in an ultra compact body makes it more appealing and the support for infra-red remote control is an unexpected extra.

Pentax Optio S1: Pros

Really small camera and stylish design
Large ISO range
Good portraits
Easy to use
D-Range mode

Pentax Optio S1: Cons

Battery life only rated at 180 shots
Pictures are poor using some of the modes, such as HDR



Pentax Optio S1: Specification

Price £99.99
Optical zoom 5x optical zoom, 5 ‐ 25mm (35mm equiv: 28 - 140mm), f/3.9 - 5.7
Resolution 14 megapixels
Sensor size 1/2.3 inch
Sensor type CCD
Max image size 4288 x 3216
Aspect ratio 4:3
Focus points 9-point Multi‐AF, Spot AF, Auto‐tracking AF (anticipating moving subject)
Focus type TTL Contrast detection Autofocus system
Focus distance 5cm
File types JPEG
ISO sensitivity ISO64 - 6400
Metering types Multi-segment metering, Centre-weighted metering, Spot metering
Exposure compensation +/- 2EV (1/3EV steps)
Shutter speed range 1/6000 - 4sec
Image stabilisation CCD-shift Shake Reduction
Movie mode HDTV 720p (1280x720), VGA (640x480), QVGA (320x240) at 30 or 15fps
Monitor 2.7 inch colour LCD, extra wide angle viewing with AR coating
Media type SD, SDHC, SDXC
Interface USB 2.0 (Hi-Speed), PC / AV terminal (PAL / NTSC)
Power Rechargeable D‐LI78 Lithium‐ion battery (180 shots)
Box Contents AV cable, USB cable, Li-ion battery, power adapter, strap and software
Size 90 x 54 x 20mm
Weight 126g with memory card and battery


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