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The second button up selects between the Macro mode, Landscape and manual focus modes, while above this is the flash setting button. At the top of this button tree is the Play button, which toggles between record and playback mode. To the right of the Play button is the zoom control – I have to say that I prefer the zoom ring surrounding the shutter release that Canon uses.
The layout of all the buttons and controls is thoughtfully arranged so that your thumb has plenty of space to rest, without any fear of inadvertent button pressing.
Resolution wise the Optio SV will shoot images from 640 x 480 all the way through to its maximum setting of 2,560 x 1,920. You can also choose three different quality settings – the higher the setting, the less compression is applied to the JPEG, and the better the image looks. Unfortunately there’s no RAW or uncompressed TIFF option, so you’re always going to be subjecting your images to a certain degree of compression – that said, I don’t really expect compact digital cameras like the Optio SV to offer a RAW output.
Personally I would leave the Optio SV set to the highest resolution with the highest quality. Considering that a 512MB SD card can be picked up for under £30 these days, I see little point in compromising on the quality of your images. Talking of memory, you get a single 32MB SD card in the box, which is a little meagre, but par for the course with digital cameras. It’s always best to factor in the cost of a nice big memory card when you’re buying any digital camera.
If you want to use the Optio SV as a “point and shoot” camera, you can set it to the Program (P) mode – the camera will then automatically set the shutter speed and aperture settings for you. But if you want to have more control over your images, you can choose the Manual (M) setting. There’s a surprising amount of manual adjustments on the Optio SV, with both shutter priority and aperture priority on offer. Unfortunately the longest shutter speed is only four seconds – this will serve you well enough in most cases, but if you’re keen on night time shots that require long exposures, it might be a problem.
The lack of a long exposure setting seems even more strange when you consider that the Optio SV sports a live histogram – so Pentax is definitely expecting users to take time and manually adjust the camera for the best possible images. You can set exposure compensation between -2 and +2 in 1/3 EV steps, which, coupled with the live histogram should make it easy to compose the perfect image.
Pentax has also included a useful User setting as well – here you can configure the Optio SV to your own particular preference and save those settings for future use. There are also presets like Night Mode and Landscape modes on offer, in case you don’t want to manually configure the camera.
Like most digital cameras these days, the Optio SV can shoot video as well as still images. Thankfully, Pentax hasn’t put a limit on the length of video that can be shot, so you can just keep filming until your memory card fills up. The video is shot at a resolution of 320 x 240 at 30 frames per second. The quality is pretty good for what is, essentially a still camera.
Another regular Pentax feature is the ability to use the camera as a Dictaphone. Switch the rotating dial to the mic picture and you can record sound to the Optio SV – again, you can keep recording until the space on your memory card runs out.