When the vast majority of compact digital cameras have 3x optical zoom lenses, a camera that offers a larger 5x zoom range, while still remaining small enough to slip into a jacket pocket, is going to have a distinct advantage. The Optio SVi is the latest addition to Pentax’s already extensive range of 5 megapixel compact cameras, and offers just such a bonus. Priced at an extremely competitive £195, it is positioned toward the upper end of the compact snapshot market, and does offer some very useful creative features for the more experienced photographer.
Like the rest of the Optio range, the SVi is an attractively styled and exceptionally well made camera. It has a strong stainless steel case, the front panel of which is textured with a fine pattern of concentric circles, making it very easy to grip. The SVi, although very compact compared to most other manufacturer’s cameras, is somewhat larger than some of Pentax’s other models, primarily to accommodate its larger lens. As a result there is more room on the body to space out the controls and still leave somewhere to put your thumb.
There are a couple of problems with the control layout though, particularly the menu and function buttons which are mounted flush with the bottom corners of the plastic surround of the monitor screen. These look all nice and stylish but they are fiddly to operate, especially when the camera is mounted on a tripod. Fortunately the buttons do have a nice solid ‘click’ when pressed, so at least you know when you’ve pressed them.
Main mode selection is via a knurled wheel on the back panel above the monitor screen. Available modes are program auto, manual exposure, night shooting, picture mode (scene programs), movie mode, sound recording and a user-defined setting.
A 1.8in LCD monitor is quite small by recent standards, but with 115,000 pixels it is very sharp, and is bright enough to work well in direct sunlight. It also leaves room for a decent optical viewfinder, which seems to be a rare luxury these days.