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Pentax Optio A40 - Pentax Optio A40

By Cliff Smith



Our Score:


If cameras were sold on looks alone, the A40 would certainly be worth the money. Pentax pretty much invented the ultra-compact digital camera, and over the years it has refined its design down to a fine art. The A40 has a robust all-metal body finished in either matt black or silver, with chrome trim and controls. The design incorporates a small textured thumb grip on the back, and the small raised flash detail on the front also provides some grip, so despite its exceptionally compact dimensions the camera feels solid and secure to hold. It measures just 57 x 89 x 23.5mm and weighs only 150g including battery, and its smooth-cornered shape slips easily into a shirt pocket.

The control layout is basically identical to the Optio A30 and several previous Pentax ultra-compacts. The power button and shutter release are on the top panel, while on the back are the D-pad, playback and menu buttons, the zoom control and the Green Button, the instant easy-mode control found on all of the Optio range. The zoom control is a relatively chunky rocker switch positioned under the right thumb, but it is stiff enough that it isn't easy to operate it accidentally. It's not the most sensitive control in the world though, and the zoom is stepped with seven positions from wide to telephoto, so precise framing is going to mean some moving backwards and forwards.

In common with most high-spec compacts the A40 offers some manual exposure control, in the form of shutter priority or full manual modes. The only available aperture settings in manual exposure mode are minimum and maximum (f/8.0-f/15.4), although shutter speeds from four seconds to 1/2000th of a second are available in 1/3EV increments, so there is some room for creativity. The menu does also offer some degree of picture control, with adjustable contrast, saturation and sharpness, but there is no control over noise reduction. It does offer some other creative features though, including multiple exposures on the same frame, and a wide range of scene modes.

The Dynamic Range Adjustment feature is similar in function to Sony's DRO system. It proportionally increases the sensor gain in darker areas and reduces in in highlights, reducing the occurrence of black featureless shadows and burned-out highlights in high contrast shots. It has four settings; off, weak, strong and automatic. I found that it didn't do much about the highlights, but was able to pull out about a stop and a half of extra shadow detail without significantly increasing image noise, which should go some way towards alleviating the inherent dynamic range limitations of the 12MP 1/1.8-inch sensor.

Pentax's moving-sensor image stabilisation system is well-proven, and I found I was able to take sharp hand-held shots at full zoom at 1/25th of a second, a gain of about two and a half stops. This is approximately the same performance and Panasonic, Canon and Sony's optical image stabilisation systems.

Bill D

December 18, 2008, 2:58 pm

Having previously owned an Optio digital camera and been very pleased with the performance I bought the Optio A40 last year. Within a few days (I had used the camera only once) the screen display was broken (I hadn't dropped it, banged it, just had the camera in a bag in its case). After a bit of a battle Pentax repaired the screen at no cost. But the screen has just gone again. I have researched this issue and it seems that this is a particular vulnerability for these cameras.


December 23, 2008, 8:11 pm

I shot professionally for a number of years and have been searching for compact digital camera I can take on vacations. Like most professional photographers, I like having control of the image every once and a while and that is what is missing from most compact cameras; they were mostly point and shoot. For me the Pentax Optio A40 is just what I was looking for. I first tested for the A40 was a back-lighted subject and was impressed with its ability to adjust based on where I put the point of focus. Having the ability to have manual control over f-stop and shutter speed in a compact camera for less than $200.00 is great. So far I am impressed. A great buy

Pat F

June 14, 2009, 4:37 pm

After a bit of researching on the net, I bought a Pentax OptioA40 on 10.03.2009. I used it twice. The second time I was using it, I was wandering around a public garden taking photographs..one minute the camera was ok...the next..the sreen display looked like something had burned out in the centre of it...I returned it to the store who sent it off to Pentax...I have just been informed today that it would cost me £92 to have it repaired and a further £6.90 to have it returned to me!!...They've told me its 'impact damage'..which I totally dispute!...I asked how the camera can be in perfect condition on the outside whilst sustaining an impact severe enough to break the innner display and was told these cameras are very delicate....RUBBISH!!!..I owned a digital camera for 7 years...not I may say a Pentax...without any problems...Bill D..you are right..these cameras obviously have a fault and they are trying to 'shaft' the customer when they go wrong...I intend to have mine independently examined and until I get some satisfaction..I intend to post about my experience with Pentax on every site relating to them that I can find!!!


August 19, 2009, 1:14 am

Goodness, I found this page while searching to find an exact replacement for my Optio A40 in advance of claiming through my house insurance for accidental damage!

I bought mine in Comet on 01.04.2009 at £99.99 They state 12 months manufacturer's guarantee and I did not take out an extended warranty as these often equate to the cost of a replacement anyway!

It has worked well and I have taken some 600+ pics and done a fair amount of editing with them in the short 4 months since I bought it. It's been snapping away beautifully at the top of the snow covered Cairngorms and then around sunny Kent within weeks and here, there and everywhere in between. I hardly left home without it!

However, I was carrying mine around inside a camera pouch secured to my belt some 2 weeks ago and when I took it out to take a pic, the screen had gone!

I concidered this a great little camera that I had just got to replace, but having read the above posts it seems not to be the case.

Looks like I'll be heading in to Comet in the morning.

I shall update soon.

Pat F, looks like you bought yours just weeks before me, any news on your independant examination?

Catherine Bradshaw

August 25, 2009, 2:16 pm

I bought a Pentax Optio A40 from Comet on the 28/12/08 at a discounted price of £89.99. I was extremely pleased with my 'bargain' purchase and had been very happy with it up until last week.

Again, like the stories above, one day the camera was fine, the next day the screen had gone! It had not been bashed, dropped or exposed to water or extreme temperatures. The top screen is perfectly in-tact, yet there is a 'crack' line in the top right hand corner underneath the top screen that appears to have colour seeping out of it (the rest of the screen is white).

Like Danni above, I took it back to Comet as it was still under guarantee! After being passed around three customer assistants (there's a contradiction in terms!!) I got told that the damage must have been caused by impact, and that the guarantee did not cover this.

I have since been in contact with Pentax, who told me that they would take a look, but if it needed a new screen, it would cost £92 plus £6 to return it to me. (I now realize how they make up their profit losses!)

But I'd like to thank the people above who took the time to tell of their experiences, as now I definitely feel that the damage to my camera was not my fault, but what seems to be a pretty common complaint of this camera.

Subsequently, I am going to print off their stories and send them with my camera back to Pentax to hopefully strengthen my case. (I may even pay a visit to Comet and inform them that it is possible for the screen to be damaged without any impact! - Mind you, they might just say that we ALL must have dropped/bashed them without realizing!)

Andrew Smith 1

August 26, 2009, 3:41 am

I had exactly the same experience as the above - ie one day the camera was fine - the next the screen had gone - except it has happened to me twice. I had bought the camera from Jacobs on-line, who said Pentax insisted it must have been compresssion or impact damage. I paid up to have it repaired. Working fine - and I was especially careful with it. I took some pictures one evening, left it on my desk - and the next morning the screen was gone again. This time I wrote to the Jacobs Chief Executive, only to get the same old story. I now have a quote frm Jacobs who say the "The Pentax technicians have formulated an estimate for repair of your camera"..."£138", which not only makes Comet's £98 above look value, but is about the price you can now buy the A40 for for new. You would have thought a specialist retailer like Jacobs with a reputation to sustain might have pointed that out. I'm going to write to their Chief Executive again, armed with the above stories. There is clearly a bad flaw with this camera, which is a shame because its concept and performance when working were excellent.

Andrew Smith 1

November 8, 2009, 11:53 pm

Full marks to Jacobs, who after some correspondence got onto Pentax who repaired the camera without further charge. So I'm now using it again - still a great camera, pity about the malfunction.


April 22, 2010, 7:59 pm

I bought mine optio A40 in 2008 for £260 from hardware store.

Price was high because I'm from Croatia and all prices on electronics are high.

It was my first camera, and I was very happy with it's abilities. I took something like 1500 pictures, when suddenly it's LCD gone wrong. I always wore it in my pocket. Once I was walking I found great scene - I took camera from pocket, turn it on without watching it and try to focus on scene - but what the hell - I noticed little crack in right down corner of screen.

I was shocked and very sad and took it to repair service. I tried to explain them that it crashed by itself with no reason, and screen was broken from inside. Repair guy lied that he is assured that I could drop my camera from 32 ft (10 meters) hight and it shouldn't be broken. What a liar. It took them ONE MONTH to repair my camera so I missed my holidays pictures. I paid £60 and was happy again with it until one month later same thing happen. I was carrying it in bag on some T-shirts on a trip, took it out and yes, of course, LCD gone bad for no reason. I don't have to mention how furious and raging I was, missing my pictures from trip. So again I took it to repair service, trying to explain what happened with no results, waited one month for repair and paid £60 more.

But, dear readers, the best part comes now :) - I paid and while I was going home, I tried to set up camera settings - to find that camera green button is MISSING! Then I was totally crazy. I swore all the way back pentax, my camera and incapable service-man. I asked a girl in repair office if she could find anything unusual with my camera. She was so stupid that I had to explain her that they have lost my camera button. What idiots. She even try to convince me that I lost my button - 20 minutes after guarantee repair! OMG. After I told them that I'll complain, repair guy came out and said not to worry - He'll repair it in 10 minutes. I sat in office, waiting 30 minutes. Finally guy came out with big smile - "You see" - he said - "now everything is OK!" First look on cam said to me that NOTHING WAS OK! I found out that green button was half smaller than it should be leaving nice hole for dust. They tried to convince me again that it is "ORIGINAL optio A40" button and that they actually know their work. I smiled and ordered office girl to type in google keywords "optio a40". Of course, they realized that it is "a little different". They apologized, but couldn't find my original button. So, I waited one day more and finally received cam from repair. Just few months after LCD gone bad again. I put cam away and forget it for year and half. Then I found on ebay LCD for £12. I just repaired cam without any repair-service following some instructions on youtube while writing this post. It's working like a pro at the moment, but for how long? Maybe Pentax knows. One thing I'm sure - never will I buy pentax cam again.

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