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Pentax Optio Z10 Gordon Laing, January 2008

Pentax Optio Z10 design and controls

The Pentax Z10 is a relatively small compact which employs a sliding cover and a non-extending zoom lens. We’ve pictured it below on the left alongside two other compacts with non-extending lens barrels: in the middle the Olympus Stylus 790 SW and on the right the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70.

from left: Pentax Z10, Olympus 790 SW and Sony T70


You’ll notice straightaway that the other two cameras pictured here house their lenses in a top corner, whereas the Z10’s is more central – this certainly reduces the possibility of your right fingers getting in the way of the lens with two-handed operation, although you should still be careful.

Pentax Optio Z10 - top controls

Measuring 94x58x25mm at its thickest point, it may not be as svelte as, say, the Sony Cyber-shot T70, but the Z10 sports a much more powerful lens – 7x to the 3x of the other cameras pictured here. And impressively, the zoom itself operates entirely within the constraints of the camera, so there’s never a barrel that you have to wait to extend or retract.

Pentax Optio Z10 - rear controls

The front surface is dominated by the horizontally sliding cover which is used both as a lens protector and an on / off switch. Again it’s relatively chunky compared to the Sony, but still has a satisfyingly tactile motion and snap. With the cover slid to the left to power-up the camera, a small silver ridge to the side of the Pentax logo acts as a rest for your middle finger. Your thumb then rests on seven raised dots on the rear and the combination offers a reasonably confident grip with one hand.

The top surface is bereft of anything other than the loudspeaker grill and rectangular shutter release button, with the rest of the controls concentrated to the right of the screen on the back. There you’ll find a zoom rocker, playback button, the usual four-way direction buttons (also controlling the self-timer, macro, flash and exposure mode) with an OK confirmation in the middle and finally a Menu button alongside one simply coloured green.

This green button can be configured to either put the camera into its simplest ‘green’ mode, or act as a function button which in turn presents quick access to four different controls – by default these consist of exposure compensation, resolution, compression and white balance, although you can also customise each to offer quick access to other options including sensitivity, sharpness, saturation and contrast.

Pentax Optio Z10 - function screen Pentax Optio Z10 - green options

Pressing the downward button, labelled Mode allows you to choose between the 15 exposure modes on offer, presented as three rows of five colourful icons; if you pause over any, a brief explanation is offered. The Z10 has access to shutter speeds between 1/1440 and four seconds and two aperture settings at each focal length, and will show you on-screen what it’s using, but sadly there’s no manual control over either.

Pentax Optio Z10 - program mode Pentax Optio Z10 - program explain

Alongside fully Automatic, Program, Movie and voice recording modes, you’ll find 11 scene presets. Some presets offer additional options, for example Portrait has a Natural Skin Tone option, although you get the feeling that others are there just for the sake of it – take the Z10’s Pet mode which lets you choose different fur colours and even between dogs and cats, although the manual readily admits the latter won’t actually affect the final picture.

Pentax Optio Z10 -  Pet mode Pentax Optio Z10 - Pet options

One of the scene presets is the Z10’s Digital SR mode, which stands for Shake Reduction. Sadly in the absence of optical or sensor-shift stabilisation, this simply increases the sensitivity to achieve quicker shutter speeds at the cost of image quality – you can see what happens to the quality at higher sensitivities in our Z10 Noise Results page.

Pentax Optio Z10 Screen and menus

Pentax Optio Z10 - rec menu 1

Pressing the Menu button in record mode fires up the available options – if you’re in Program mode, you’ll find three pages dedicated to recording options, and three to the camera’s settings.

Pentax Optio Z10 - rear

In the former you can adjust the quality, white balance, metering and AF modes, sensitivity, adjust the sharpness, saturation and contrast, along with configuring the green button and setting the time stamp (which is available at full resolution). Under settings you’ll find entries for the time, sound, screen brightness and power saving options.

Pentax Optio Z10 - main screen Pentax Optio Z10 - live histogram

The Optio Z10 is equipped with a 2.5in screen with 230k pixels, and like most compacts these days, there’s no optical viewfinder. The display appears bright and detailed in normal use, although we’d suggest adjusting the power saving period to prevent the screen from dimming down too quickly after letting go of any controls.

Pentax Optio Z10 - play histogram Pentax Optio Z10 - thumbnails

Pressing the OK button cycles through the display options which include a live histogram, and flashing colours to reveal areas which are too bright or dark to be recorded properly; sadly there’s no three-by-three grid though.

In playback, the OK button can be used to cycle between a clean image, one with date information and a third with exposure details and a histogram. Zooming-out shows nine thumbnails then a calendar view.

Pentax Optio Z10 Battery and connectivity

The Pentax Optio Z10 is powered by a small 700mAh D-LI72 Lithium Ion battery pack and supplied with a mains recharger; Pentax estimates 180 shots on a full charge. Unlike many compacts these days, the battery and memory card compartments on the Z10 are separate. Both are accessed from below the camera, but on opposite sides; the memory card format is SD and the Z10 is also compatible with SDHC models.

On the right side of the camera are two small flaps: behind the one at the top is a combined USB and TV output and behind the one at the bottom is a DC input.

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