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Pentax Optio Z10 Gordon Laing, January 2008

 

Pentax Optio Z10 verdict

The Pentax Optio Z10’s lens is the strongest aspect of this camera. Where most compacts stop at 3x or 4x, the Z10 keeps zooming to 7x, allowing you to get much closer to distant subjects. With an equivalent of 38mm when zoomed-out, it might not exactly get that wide, but zooming-into an equivalent of 266mm gives you great flexibility.

   











Better still, the lens zooms entirely within the body, so there’s no barrel extension. Unusually for most compacts, the Z10 also allows you to optically zoom the lens while filming a video, and impressively you won’t hear it moving either on most footage. Then there’s some nice features missing from many compacts such as the ability to adjust the sharpness, contrast and saturation, and a generous 52MB of internal memory.

So far so good, but there’s some key features missing from the Z10, most notably any kind of optical or sensor-shift stabilisation. The Z10 instead offers Digital Shake Reduction which simply increases the sensitivity to achieve faster shutter speeds, which of course comes at the cost of quality. This may be just about acceptable on a budget 3x compact, but for one with a 7x zoom it’s pretty unforgivable and makes the extra reach of the lens less useful.

The overall image quality was average, but the resolving power below par in our studio tests, coming in much lower than typical 8 Megapixel models.

Smaller downsides, but still worth mentioning, include the lack of a handy three by three grid for alignment, relatively coarse zoom steps, and a digital wide mode which attempts to make up for the lack of an optical wide angle by stitching two shots together, but then only offering the result in 5 Megapixel resolution. And further reinforcing today’s pointless scene presets is a pet mode which lets you choose between cats and dogs despite the manual admitting they’ll produce the same result.

Compacts with big zooms are however thin on the ground, but there’s one rival which offers more than the Z10 in almost every respect, so before wrapping-up, here’s how it compares.


Compared to Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3

 
 

Panasonic’s Lumix TZ3 is a rare beast, which like the Z10 offers a longer than average zoom in a compact pocketable form factor. Unlike the 7x 38-266mm range of the Z10 though, the TZ3 has a longer 10x range which starts at a much wider equivalent of 28mm and ends slightly longer at 280mm. Crucially, the TZ3 also sports optical image stabilisation to counteract camera shake without compromising sensitivity.

This is enough to sell the TZ3 alone, but it also boasts a bigger 3in screen, widescreen movie recording and an arguably better user interface. It is without a doubt a far superior camera even at its slightly higher price, and anyone in the market for a compact with a big zoom should definitely take a close look. A successor is anticipated in early 2008, but the TZ3 remains one of the best compacts we’ve tested. See our Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ3 review for more details.

Pentax Optio Z10 final verdict

Viewed in isolation, the Z10 is a fair compact with a bigger than average zoom, and a non-extending lens which unusually can be used while filming a video. But the lack of optical or sensor-shift stabilisation is pretty unforgivable in this day and age – especially for a 7x zoom model – and the fact you can get so much more from the competition at little extra cost makes it ultimately hard to recommend.

Keep an eye on prices though – if the gap between the Z10 and models like the Panasonic TZ3 widens, then it’s certainly worth a look, but when they’re this close, you’d be advised to check out the competition instead.


Good points
7x optical zoom gives relatively long reach.
Lens doesn't extend from body.
Lens can zoom while filming video.
Sharpness, contrast and saturation controls.

Bad points
No optical or sensor-shift stabilisation.
Poor results in our resolution test.
No true wide angle or alignment grid.
More compelling rivals.


Scores
(relative to 2007 high-zoom compacts)
 

Build quality:
Image quality:
Handling:
Specification:
Value:

Overall:

17 / 20
12 / 20
12 / 20
11 / 20
14 / 20

66%


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