Although it has recently astonished the world by announcing an impressive-looking 24x zoom bridge camera (which I hope to review very soon), Pentax is best known for its excellent digital SLRs and of course for its extensive and long-running series of ultra-compacts, the Optio range. The last one I looked at was the budget-priced 10MP, 5x zoom Optio M60 in December last year, but the digital camera market never rests, so today I'm taking a look at Pentax's latest, the 12MP, 4x zoom Optio P70.
Currently priced at around £179 the P70 is one of Pentax's more expensive models. It's not quite into the £200-plus territory of luxury cameras, but it's certainly no budget model either. Most of the other manufacturers have 12-megapixel models in their line-ups, so the P70 has a fair bit of competition. Its rivals include the Nikon S710 (£205), the new Canon IXUS 110 IS (£349), the forthcoming Panasonic FX40 (price varies, but around £280 on pre-order), the Samsung L310W (£130) and the Sony Cyber-shot W220 (£175).
The design of the P70's body departs radically from the rather box-like shape of most previous Pentax compacts, instead sporting a smooth round-ended shape and ultra-slim profile designed to slip unobtrusively into any pocket. The case is all aluminium, finished in an attractive anodised texture, and is available in red, blue or the silver colour shown here. It's a very small and lightweight camera, weighing 125g fully loaded and measuring 97 x 54 x 21.5mm including the lens, although the main part of the body is just 18mm thick.
The overall build quality is very good, and despite its small size it feels sturdy and well made. The controls are well laid out, the buttons are relatively large and clearly labelled, and the large 2.7-inch 230k monitor screen is bright, clear and has a good anti-glare coating. It is also slightly recessed, so it doesn't pick up too many scratches in everyday use. The only downside to the overall design is that the shape is rather hard to grip securely. There isn't enough room on the back for your thumb, and the curved shape does become very slippery if your hands are a bit sweaty.