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Since it introduced the Optio 330 in 2001, the first camera in the Optio seies, Pentax's compact camera output has been restricted almost exclusively to 3x zoom models, with the range extending to over forty different models over the last six years. It has flirted occasionally with 5x zoom models, but the last of those was the Optio SVi launched over two years ago. Bearing this in mind, the announcement last month of the new Optio Z10 came as something of a surprise, because it is equipped with an all-new non-protruding 7x zoom lens, as well as an 8.0-megapixel sensor and 2.5-in 230k wide-view monitor. I've got one of the first production samples, so hopefully this should be the first full review in the UK.
The first impression of the new camera is certainly favourable. Like most of Pentax's compacts it has an all-metal aluminium body, and is available in black or the silver version I have here. The overall design bears a superficial resemblance to the Casio EX-V7, with a sliding lens cover that doubles as the on/off switch. As with the Casio, the 7x zoom lens is mounted sideways inside the camera, looking out via a prism. This means that it doesn't protrude from the front, while allowing the camera to have a relatively slim profile. It measures 94 x 58 x 25.5mm, which while not the slimmest camera in the world is still comfortably into ultra-compact territory and definitely pocketable. It weighs 145g including the battery and memory card, which is pretty light even by ultra-compact camera standards.
As usual with Pentax cameras, the build quality of the body is very good and the design is simple and straightforward. With the lens cover open the camera is easy to grip, with plenty of room on the back for your thumb. I will admit that I've never been a fan of sliding-cover cameras for several reasons. The covers can come open in your pocket, draining the battery and leaving the lens exposed, and the sliding electrical contacts can be vulnerable to dirt and wear, which can lead to long-term unreliability. The lens cover on the Z10 is fairly typical of the breed; it is spring-loaded so it stays shut, but at the same time slides open quite easily. It is made of metal and is reasonably strong, but when open it does feel a bit loose and I wouldn't want to vouch for its durability.
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