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Power comes from a 3.7V 710mAh Lithium-Ion battery and Pentax reckons that it’s good for around 100 shots. I’d say that Pentax is being very conservative with that figure - I used the Optio SV for the whole week when I was covering the Consumer Electronics Show last month, and I definitely took more than 100 pictures on a single charge.
There’s a docking cradle charger in the box, so you can just put the camera in its place and it will charge the battery inside it. There’s also a space on the docking cradle to charge a second battery which is handy. It would have been nice if there was a power supply that could connect directly to the camera as well, saving you the hassle of carrying the docking cradle with you when you go on holiday. That said, the everyday convenience of the cradle outweighs the inconvenience of carrying it when you’re travelling.
You can connect the Optio SV to your PC via its USB 2.0 interface and Pentax has supplied a mini-USB to USB cable in the box to facilitate this. There’s also a mini-USB to AV cable in case you want to play your videos back on your TV directly from the camera. Finally, there’s a figure-of-eight power cable in the box to plug into the charger.
So, what’s the image quality like? Well I’ve been using this camera for a few weeks now and I’ve been very happy with the images that it’s produced. I tended to leave the ISO set to 50 for the most part, although the Optio SV does also offer ratings of 100, 200 and 400. Keeping the ISO setting at 50 dramatically reduces the CCD noise, but things get tricky in low light, or if you’re trying to catch fast moving subjects. Bumping the ISO up to 100 still produces good results, but ISO 200 and 400 definitely result in image degradation due to CCD noise.
Once more comparing the Optio SV to the Digital Ixus 500, the colour accuracy is equally impressive, but the detail resolution doesn’t appear to be quite as fine. This could be a by product of the zoom lens – it couldn’t have been easy squeezing such a long zoom into the chassis of the Optio SV and the result may be a slight compromise in the optics. That said, the detail resolution is still good for a compact digital camera like this, and most users in the target sector will be far more grateful for the long zoom.
Size wise, the Optio SV is on a par with the Ixus 500 at 91.5 x 56 x 28mm compared to 87 x 57 x 27.8mm. When it comes to weight though, the Pentax has the edge at 165g compared to 185g for the Ixus.
If there's one aspect of the Optio SV that I did find disappointing, it's the tripod mount. Even though Pentax has constructed the whole camera body from aluminium, for some strange reason the camera mount is plastic. This means that you're going to have to be very careful when securing it to a tripod, or you could strip the threads.
There’s a lot to like about the Optio SV, but one of its best features is that it’s very affordable – with a street price of only £263 the Optio SV represents amazing value considering the feature set. Even though the Digital Ixus 500 can now be had for around £240, the Optio SV has enough extra features to more than warrant the modest extra cost.
Pentax has created an excellent camera in the form of the Optio SV and although it’s not completely perfect, it’s pretty close. The maximum four second shutter priority could be better and the detail resolution isn’t quite on a par with the Ixus 500, but the long zoom, live histogram and excellent user interface make the Optio SV a winner.