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A couple of weeks ago I nearly froze my toes off testing the waterproof Pentax Optio WPi, so this week I thought I’d have an easier time with its non-amphibious sibling the Optio S6. Unfortunately our wonderful British weather had other ideas. This time I froze the rest of my body, and wished that I was as waterproof as the WPi. Anyone who tells you we’re having a mild dry winter is lying through their teeth. It’s cold and wet out there, and has been all week.
Over the past three years, the six consecutive models that have comprised Pentax’s Optio S range of tiny sub-compact digital cameras haven’t really changed much. From the original 3.0MP Optio S launched in January 2003, to the S5z launched in May last year, the only real changes have been the ever-increasing size of both the CCD and the LCD monitor. The range of features on offer, the menu, power, exposure and autofocus systems, the 3x zoom Sliding Lens System optics and even the size and shape of the case have all remained virtually unchanged from one camera to the next, with only slight tweaks here and there. A camera design that was ahead of its time three years ago was beginning to look dated, and its performance was starting to lag behind the competition. It was clearly time for a change.
This change has appeared in the form of the Optio S6, the latest in the series. Competitively priced at £229.99 on the high street or as low as £189.99 online, at first glance it looks very much like all the other cameras in the S series. It is extremely compact, with the same well made all-metal body and flush fitting lens. It even has the same concentric circle texture on the front panel. However, although the S6 looks quite similar to its immediate predecessor the S5z, it is a very different camera both inside and out. It still has a 3x optical zoom lens that folds into itself leaving a camera just 19mm thick, but this isn’t the same lens as on previous models. It is a new design which is smaller, lighter and extends much more quickly at power on. Previous Optio S models have been getting a bit slow on the start-up, but thanks to the new lens design and an improved power system, the S6 now takes just 2.5sec to power up. There are a few faster cameras around, but this is better than most.