Pentax Optio Z10 Digital Camera Review

The Pentax Optio Z10 has been designed with no moving external parts. Lethargic Matt Grayson simply decides not to use his.

14/11/2007 - 14:17


A large 8Mp resolution and 7x optical zoom suggests a big camera. However, at less than 10cm wide, the Pentax Optio Z10 is a perfect solution for out and about snapping.

Pentax Optio Z10Pentax Optio Z10 Specification

  • Resolution: 8Mp resolution
  • Lens: 7x Optical zoom
  • Focus: High-speed "Face Recognition AF&AE" function
  • Image stabiliser: Digital Shake Reduction
  • Screen: 2.5in LCD monitor
  • Storage: 52.1Mb internal/SD/SDHC
  • Metering: Multi segment/Centre weighted/Spot
  • Size: 58 x 94 x 25.3mm
  • Transfer: USB 2.0

At around £170, the Pentax Optio Z10 is comparable to the Canon IXUS 75 at £159 with lower 7.1Mp, smaller 3x optical zoom but it has a larger 3in screen and the strong IXUS brand name. Alternatively, the Nikon Coolpix S500 at £169 matching the canon's resolution at 7.1Mp along with the 3x optical zoom but has the fabled Nikon D-Lighting.

Pentax Optio Z10 Modes and features
On the Pentax Optio Z10, a sliding door covers the lens and also acts as the power switch by slipping it over to the opposite side of the camera. The usual Pentax flute will chime and the camera will pop into life. The top of the camera has only one button being the shutter release as the power switch is on the front and the zoom has been placed on the back of the camera as a simple rocker switch to be operated by the thumb.

Pentax Optio Z10 The rest of the back houses the Playback button, a navigation pad for the menu that also doubles up as the Self-timer, Flash access, Macro and Mode button which allows you to choose the preset modes. There are 15 modes to choose from and these are Auto, Program, Night scene, Video, Microphone, Landscape, Flowers, Natural skin, Surf & snow, Sport, Image stabiliser, Kids, Pets, Food and everyone's favourite Frame composite which will allow you to frame your image with a grotesque frame. Some of these modes are a little out of place like the Video, Voice recorder and Image stabiliser. These features are generally seen as separate to the modes and to place them into the same category seems to show a little desperation and less actual modes available. Leaving the green selection box hovering over the mode will bring up an explanation of what that mode will do and leaving it for a minute or so will automatically choose that mode.

One thing I like about the Z10 is that it has a histogram facility which is something not normally seen on a camera like this and also will show red spots in under exposed areas and flash yellow in over exposed areas.

The Main Menu has two tabs, one for Recording options and one for Set-up options. The recording tabPentax Optio Z10 also has three pages to it and allows changes to the Resolution, Image quality, White balance, AF settings, Metering modes, ISO rating, Exposure compensation, Movie menu, Digital wide*, Digital zoom, Instant review, Memory, which is access to another set up area for the card services, Green button toggle for choosing the function of the Green button either for fully auto smiles all round picture taking or access to the Function menu. The final four options are the Sharpness, Saturation, Contrast levels and the Date imprint button.

The second tab is for the main set up screen and allows Formatting the card, access to the Sound menu, Date adjustments, Alarm, World time set, Language, naming Folder, Video output options, changes to the brightness of the screen, Power save options, Auto power off time changes, Guide display and a Reset all button.

What is unusual is the way the Menu is laid out. The Menu seems easy to use as it only has two tabs of options with three pages each, but then looking into the Menu, the options have sub menus to them which just generally confuses. Having four or five tabsPentax Optio Z10 would be better or at least a little more open about the amount of changes that are possible to be made on the camera.

Pentax Optio Z10 Build and handling
The Pentax Optio Z10 has a plastic outer casing, which isn't unduly weak and this casing is bolted onto a partially metal chassis. The lens is where the ghost of Pentax past is remembered as it doesn't move which means less moving parts and is something Pentax are specialists at. The whole 7x optical zoom is crammed into the thin body. I am not unnerved by this, though, as Pentax have been shoving bigger zooms than this into small cameras for years.

The battery door is a small affair which means less leverage to break it, but unfortunately, it is not made very well. The memory card door is situated at the opposite end of the camera and is more sturdy than the battery door. It is spring loaded as is the card which has to be pushed in to eject.

Pentax Optio Z10 Performance
The Pentax Optio Z10 managed a sterling performance of 0.004 seconds in the shutter lag test. The burst mode test produced eight images in ten seconds that were captured in two blocks of four. If the cameras buffer could cope with continuous pictures, the camera would produce approximately 25 images in ten seconds.

The colour testchart boosts blue and other primary colours but doesn't mess with the skin tone which looks good. White has come out really well and the gradation of the tones is really good.

The Macro facility is hardly worth writing about at 8cm closest focusing, but does give a nice result with a balanced exposure.

The portrait shot in natural skin has noticeably paler results than the regular program mode, but camera shake has occurred which is unusual as the camera was on a tripod. Checking the EXIF data shows that the Natural skin mode has a slower shutter speed which suggests that the paler tone may be attained by overexposing slightly.

For such a small camera, the zoom is very good at 7x optical. The subject will be brought close enough for comfortable viewing and this is a great result condsidering everything is internal. The wider field of view is accompanied by a digital wide view and uses panoramic stitching technology. The feature is by no means perfect as the sample image shows a lighter band across the centre of the image where the two pictures have been stitched together.

Our canal test shot shows a decent result with balanced exposure across the image, however closer inspection begins to show the flaws in the image quality. The fringing is not so evident on the building roof, but looking at the white bars that rise from the lock, you can see the fringing as a purple band which is really flaring out.

Pentax Optio Z10
The Primaries are boosted, but the Red hasn't influenced the skin tone.

Pentax optio Z10
The Macro isn't very good at only 8cm, but the image quality is good.

Pentax Optio Z10
The lens is wider than I expected and, annoyingly, I got a car in the shot.
Pentax Optio Z10
The 7x optical zoom is useful for if you forget which gallery you are at.
Pentax Optio Z10
The image looks good, but closer inspection can see the fringing actually flaring out.
Pentax Optio Z10
The digital wide stitches two images, but a distinct line can be seen like a scar.
Pentax Optio Z10
In Natural Skin mode, the camera couldn't cope with the available light despite using a tripod.
Pentax Optio Z10
Program mode gives a distinctly similar result to Natural Skin but with a little more saturation all over.

Pentax Optio Z10 Noise test
Predictably, ISO64 gives a good result with nice detail in the petals and not a hint of noise even in low key areas. This result is shadowed in ISO100 and it isn't until ISO200 that a very minute amount of noise can be detected in the black areas.

ISO400 sees a large jump in picture quality as it starts to degrade due to noise with odd coloured pixels all over and a blue strip of noise has appeared down the edge of the black square.

ISO1600 looks like someone has gone at the picture with a pepper shaker as black flecks start to decay the detail of the petals and purple and green blobs start to appear in the Grey area too. Meanwhile ISO3200 is nearly destroyed with no trace of actual Black in the Black square as noise has taken over it. The petals look more like a sketch and all definite lines have moulded into one.

Pentax Optio Z10 The ISO64 test. Pentax Optio Z10
The ISO100 test.

Pentax OPtio Z10
The ISO200 test.

Pentax Optio Z10
The ISO400 test.

Pentax Optio Z10
The ISO800 test.

Pentax Optio Z10
The ISO1600 test.

Pentax Optio Z10
The ISO3200 test.


Pentax Optio Z10 Verdict
The picture quality is very good apart from the fringing which only happens on extreme contrasting areas. The 7x optical zoom will come in very useful for those hard to reach places.

For the happy snapper that only needs a camera for days or nights out, then the Pentax Optio Z10 is perfectly suited to that task.

Despite the non-descript performance and middle of the road features, I actually like this camera. I think the appearance could be improved with a nicer sliding lens cover and maybe even a different colour, but it's still a nice camera.

Pentax Optio Z10 Plus points
No external moving parts
Large zoom
Good colour reproduction

Pentax Optio Z10 Minus points
Bad fringing when it occurs
Poor Macro facility
Digital wide shows a stitching line





The Pentax Optio Z10 costs around £170 and will be available from the ePHOTOzine shop shortly, so keep checking!

In the meantime, take a look at other Pentax cameras here.

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