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I have to wonder if the Pentax Optio A40 is jinxed. It was originally supposed to be launched in November 2007, but a fire at the factory making the batteries delayed the launch by five months. The A40 is now available in Europe, but its launch has been overshadowed by even worse news. There is an ugly rumour circulating that Pentax is soon to phase out production of its Optio range of digital compact cameras. Since Pentax is due to merge with optics manufacturer Hoya this month, and co-develops its digital SLRs with Samsung, the end of the Optio range could mean the end of Pentax as an independent camera manufacturer. We've had no official response from Pentax Europe yet, but they haven't denied it so far. There's also no word on how this will affect other areas of Pentax's business, such as binoculars, CCTV systems, surveying equipment and surgical endoscopes, but the illustrious 90-year history of one of Japan's major camera brands could soon be coming to an end.

This is a great shame, because the Optio A40 deserves a much happier fate than to be the Optio range's swan-song, although at least it would end on a high note. The A40 is a high quality 12-megapixel ultra-compact camera with an f/2.8-5.4, 3x zoom lens equivalent to 38-114mm. Features include a 2.5-inch 230k wide view monitor, face detection, moving-sensor image stabilisation and the new Dynamic Range Adjustment function, which reduces burnt out highlights and murky shadows. It succeeds the excellent Optio A30, and shares a number of features including the lens, monitor, autofocus system and metering system, although the A40 does have a new body.

Currently priced at around £190, the Optio A40 is not a cheap camera even when compared to other 12-megapixel compacts. The Fuji F50fd is currently selling for around £143, both the Panasonic FX100 and the Sony W200 are about £165, the Casio EX-Z1200 is just under £170, and even the Nikon S700 is available for under £180. The price of the A40 will undoubtedly come down over the next couple of months as more stock becomes available, but right now it's a very expensive camera.

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