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Pentax Optio P70 - Pentax Optio P70

The P70 has some interesting features. The most obvious is the 4x zoom lens, which has a wide-angle end equivalent to 27.5mm, a good choice for landscape snapshots, but it does mean that the telephoto end only stretches as far as 110mm, which isn't much more than an average 3x zoom. It is quite a fast lens though, with a maximum aperture at wide-angle of f/2.6, and even mid-way through the zoom range it is still f/3.5, which is faster than some rivals. Despite this the lens folds flush with the body, helping to give the P70 its slim profile.

The hot new feature that everyone seems to want this year is HD video recording, and the P70 is capable of shooting video at 1280 x 720 resolution, but only at a rather slow and jerky 15 frames per second. For smoother 30fps video it is limited to VGA resolution (640 x 480), with mono audio. The zoom lens cannot be used while filming, but it does have digital image stabilisation.

It also has digital image stabilisation in still mode, with a feature on the menu called Pixel Track SR. This is just a new name for an old technology, which reduces blurring caused by camera shake by attempting to do electronically what a sensor-shift image stabilisation system does mechanically. It's reasonably successful, producing about two stops' worth of extra low-speed stability. However it does have a downside; the image has to be digitally processed after shooting, which can take several seconds, an annoying delay if you're shooting fast-moving action.

Other advanced features include a fast face detection system with a smile shutter function. The face detection is actually pretty good, recognising faces even in quite low light and when turned slightly away from the camera. However it also likes to recognise faces where there aren't any. On my lens distortion test shot it confidently informed me that the wall had blinked when the shot was taken. I know walls have ears, but I didn't know they had eyes as well.

One unusual feature of the P70 is an option to use the centre button of the D-pad as a secondary shutter button for portrait-format shots, mimicking the way that some mobile phone cameras operate. I used this to take some shots of a concert, and it did prove useful when holding the camera above the heads of the crowd, although I can't think of many other situations where it would be an advantage.

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