Back in April I reviewed the then-new Pentax Optio E30 a couple of weeks after reviewing a fairly similar budget compact from Nikon, the Coolpix L10. This week I'm taking a look at the new Pentax Optio E40, just a week after I reviewed the Nikon Coolpix L11. It's interesting to see just how similar the two cameras are, although perhaps not too surprising, since they are both entry-level point-and-shoot compact cameras running on two AA batteries.
There are very few 8-megapixel cameras available for under £100. The E40's only competitors are the Fujifilm FinePix A820 and the Samsung S85, both of which are currently selling for around £99. Since the Optio E40 is currently available for around £90 it undercuts even these two bargain-basement models. Of course £90 doesn't buy you a whole lot of camera, but despite that the E40 is surprisingly well specified. It has an 8.1-megapixel sensor, 3x optical zoom lens and a 2.4-inch monitor, as well as face detection AF and 30fps VGA video mode.
While the Optio E40 is clearly a development from the E30, it is not simply a case of a new sensor in an old camera. It has a completely new body, and more importantly a new lens as well, which might go some way to improving on the E30's rather disappointing image quality. It's still a 3x zoom lens, but the zoom range is now equivalent to 37.5-112.5mm, rather than the 36-108mm range of the earlier model. It is also slightly slower, with a maximum aperture of f/3.8-5.6 instead of f/2.7-4.8. While both of these factors would seem to be a step backwards, it's the overall optical quality that's important. We'll come back to that later.