Pentax's retro-designed i-10 may look like the Micro SLR cameras of old, but does it continue the heritage in style? The What Digital Camera Pentax Digital i-10 review...
Pentax Optio I-10 review – Features
The Pentax Optio Digital I-10’s appearance may not seem all too foreign to all because it’s based on the company’s old Micro SLR series. The original cameras would take 35mm film but shoot at half the size (fitting in two shots per frame). Sadly the I-10 doesn’t benefit from such an equivalent large digital sensor size, instead opting for a standard smaller-sized 12.1MP CCD compact sensor.
Quirkily designed, the I-10 is an affordable compact with a variety of features under its belt. A 28-140mm (5x optical) lens provides a wide range of potential, from semi-wideangle to short-tele and the CCD-shift Image Stabilisation mechanism ensures images are kept sharp when using lower shutter speeds or in low light.
Although full manual control isn’t available, the Program mode does ensure an ample amount of control – with the ability to adjust ISO, white balance, exposure metering and compensation. Among a variety of scene modes there’s also the ability to shoot 720p HD movie, which for the sub-£150 asking price sees the Optio I-10 relatively well kitted-out.
Pentax Optio Digital I-10 review – Design
The I-10’s body is less rectangular than many current compacts on the market, its a retro-styled shape featuring a raised area above the lens that contains flash unit. It looks great, though the build quality lacks and feels rather light and plasticy.
The rear button layout has a four-way d-pad to the right; a main Menu and Green Button/Delete below this; with Playback and quick-access Face Detection options above. The shutter with a rear-facing zoom thread sits on top of the camera, which can feel slightly odd in use compared to most other compacts with a front-facing zoom thread.
The rear 2.7in screen has issues too: with its 16:9 designation, standard 4:3 still images only use up a smaller area of the screen which makes for small viewing and playback, plus the angle of view is poor too. Video recording in 16:9 obviously makes best use of the screen ratio however.
Interior menus designs are relatively simple, with three pages of Record Mode settings and the same space designated to Settings. This can make menu digging a bit long, yet the Green Button (Function button) can be user-defined for the quick adjustment of ISO, AF-area and so forth.
Performance, Image Quality & Value
Pentax Optio I-10 review – Performance
The I-10’s contrast-detect AF system is relatively nifty for still subjects, though not always ideal for fast-moving subjects depending on the conditions. This isn’t unusual for a budget compact camera however, and when zooming in and out to focus the camera copes rather well. An AF lamp also features to assist with ensuring subjects can be sharply-focused in dim conditions.
Macro and Super Macro focus modes can get reasonably close to subjects, though perhaps not as close-up as would have been liked.
During use there was an occasional ‘Memory Card Error’ sign which, while unlikely to occur in all models (this review sample has obviously done the rounds), did raise questions about the camera’s overall build quality as this isn’t a common or expected issue.
Movie mode is nice to have, though focus is fixed once recording starts. Using zoom during recording is digital only and causes significant deterioration of quality and noticeable image noise.
Pentax I-10 review – Image Quality
Image quality from the i-10 is, in general, a letdown. The ISO 3200-6400 images are so soft and devoid of colour from over-intensive noise reduction that they’re not of much use – especially considering their down-sized 5MP output. At the opposite end of the scale ISO 80-160 and up to ISO 200 is relatively clean, though a regular (yet unobtrusive) grain can be seen throughout the image. Above this sensitivity and the noise reduction sees images exponentially softened, with notable softness and JPEG artifacts apparent from ISO 400. By the point of ISO 1600 there’s no subtlety of colour and everything appears significantly ‘muddied’, so the i-10’s not a great one for low-light photography.
Pentax I-10 review – Value
The Pentax Digital I-10 has a strong features list and, for a shade under £150, it doesn’t seem poorly priced at first glance. However, with models such as Panasonic’s FS25, Samsung’s WB500 or Sony’s Cyber-shot W270 all available for less money and providing better image quality and often a stronger and more versatile array of features, the Optio I-10 has stiff competition to face up against.
The Pentax Optio I-10 looks great from the outside as its retro design looks fresh and new, different in a class where most competitors’ compacts all appear the same. However, the overall experience is let down by the final image quality which, above ISO 200, suffers from excess noise reduction that significantly softens images and ‘mutes’ colours.
Performance is quite reasonable, albeit basic, and it’s only really when considering some other similarly-priced models on the market that the I-10 feels a little outshone.
HD movie mode is good to have, though it’s not peppered with control detail, but the rear screen is optimised for its 16:9 display – though not the priority for still images which are displayed in a small portion of the screen.
Overall the I-10 is a fashionable looker – particularly in the white finish – that falls short of the mark based on the images it produces.