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It’s hard to avoid comparisons between the E30 and the Nikon L6 that I reviewed a few weeks ago. That camera was smaller, lighter, better looking, had double the battery duration and had many more features for about the same price. It may have only been 6 megapixels, but it was a much better camera. There was a time a few years ago when Pentax was the undisputed king of ultra-compact cameras, but I have to say that these days most of the Optio range is lagging a long way behind the competition and is overdue for a major shake-up. About the only recent camera I can think of that the E30 beats is the dismal Fuji A700, and that’s not saying a lot.
The E30’s one saving grace is its picture quality, but even that has its limits. The lens performs well, providing good corner-to-corner sharpness with minimal distortion, and colour rendition and exposure are very good. Dynamic range is fairly limited, but then it frequently is with cameras in this class. As long as you manually set the camera to 80 ISO and only ever use it at this setting then noise control is also very good, but as soon as the ISO gets even as high as 160 there are image noise problems, which by the camera’s maximum setting of only 400 ISO are so bad the pictures are unusable. All in all a rather disappointing camera from one of the big name brands.
The Pentax Optio E30 has little to recommend it besides its price. Build quality and handling are of an acceptable standard, but performance and features do not match up to similarly priced models from other brands. Optical quality is good, but let down by limited dynamic range and poor noise control at all but the lowest sensitivity.