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As you might expect from its low price, the M30 has a distinctly limited range of features. It only has automatic exposure, and a fairly small list of program scene modes which covers only the bare essentials of portrait, landscape, sports, night scene, flowers, surf & snow, kids, pets, food, and of course that old Pentax favourite, the risible “Frame Composite” mode, which puts cheesy borders around your pictures. It also has a mode optimistically called “Digital SR”, or shake reduction. This simply increases the ISO setting to around 1000 to increase shutter speed, reducing the effects of camera shake and movement blur at the cost of increased image noise.
There are one or two additional features though, including optional manual focus and adjustable contrast, sharpness and saturation. There are a few more features available in playback mode, particularly another Pentax favourite, digital colour filters, including colour exclusion filters that will reduce a picture to monochrome with the exception of a single colour, sometimes referred to as the “Schindler’s List” effect.
Overall performance has previously been something of a bugbear for some Pentax compacts, but the M30 shows significant improvements in this direction. It starts up in a little over two and a half seconds, which is about average for a camera in this class but a lot quicker than some previous Optio models. Shut down time is a bit quicker at just under two seconds.
In continuous shooting mode performance is rather more encouraging. It can shoot at a rate of one frame every 0.7 seconds for the first ten frames, but then slows to about one frame a second, which it can maintain until the card is full. The movie mode is also up to scratch, shooting at 640 x 480 resolution and 30fps.
The AF system is very good in normal light, finding focus in well under a second at average ranges in daylight, but once light levels drop the focusing time gets a lot slower. In average indoor lighting it takes around two seconds to focus, and in pub/club lighting it often won’t focus at all since it has no AF assist lamp, although the default focus setting is usually adequate for group photos. The flash is good though, with a quick recharge time, excellent frame coverage and a big 5.5m range at standard ISO settings. Flash metering is good, and it doesn’t over-expose at close range.