Test review of the Pentax Optio P70 digital camera - ultra-slim and pocket-friendly
The Optio P70 is the first in what may be a new series of Pentax ultra-compacts. Priced at around £170 it is in the middle of the price range for this type of more advanced compact.
The P70 has an above-average specification, with a 12.0-megapixel sensor, a 4x wide-angle zoom lens and a nice high-res 2.7in LCD monitor all housed in a sturdy all-metal body. It is available in red, blue or silver colour shown here.
Previous Pentax compacts have usually been quite square and box-like, but the P70 has rounded ends and is extremely slim, measuring just 21.5mm at its thickest point, so it slips easily into any shirt pocket. The controls are relatively large and sensibly arranged, but unfortunately the shape does make it quite difficult to grip the camera securely, especially if your hands are a bit slippery.
The P70 is primarily a point-and-shoot snapshot camera, but it does have one or two interesting features. The zoom range is unusual, extending from 27.5mm to 110mm, a good spread for typical snapshot photography. The lens is also quite fast, with a maximum aperture of f/2.6 at wide angle, and a decent speed even further up the zoom range.
The P70 has a video mode capable of 1280 x 720 pixels, but it can only manage 15 frames per second at this resolution. It can shoot at 30fps at 640 x 480 pixels, with mono audio, but in neither setting can the optical zoom be used.
Another advanced feature is the face detection system, which is certainly better than average. It can recognise faces even in quite low light, or when the face isn’t pointing straight at the camera. It’s not 100% reliable, but then such systems seldom are.
One interesting feature is the enticingly named Pixel Track SR, which is a digital image stabilisation system that attempts to correct blur caused by camera shake at slow shutter speeds. It is quite effective, adding about two stops of extra low-speed stability, but it does dramatically increase the shot-to-shot time, which isn’t massively quick to start with.
The camera’s performance is good in parts. It starts up in approximately 2.25, and takes nearly 3.0 seconds to shut down again, which is rather slow by recent standards. Shot-to-shot time at the highest quality setting under ideal circumstances is approximately 4.5 seconds, which is very slow, but if the Pixel Track SR feature is active it can take much longer, up to 12 seconds.
This camera desperately needs a faster processor. Despite this slow performance the autofocus system is very good, focusing quickly and accurately even in low light, although without an AF assist lamp there is a limit to how far it can go.
Image quality is safely above average for its class. The lens performs well, with minimal distortion or chromatic aberration, good edge-to-edge sharpness and plenty of fine detail. As usual there’s no decisive advantage over a 10MP camera, and dynamic range is distinctly limited, but at least image noise is well handled. It produces good results at up to 800 ISO, and even 1600 ISO produces printable results.
The P70 has some good points; it looks great, has good build quality, is easy to use, and the zoom range is ideal for snapshots. Overall image quality is also good, but the slow performance is a serious handicap.