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The only other controls are a switch to select between record or playback, a menu button and a small joystick for menu navigation. The joystick has secondary functions including exposure compensation, flash mode, focus mode and AF lock, although these are not labelled on the camera. This is one camera where it really pays to read the manual.
The menu system controls everything else, and that includes most of the usual options. Choices are sensibly laid out and divided between basic, advanced and setup menus, and include scene modes for sports, portraits, landscapes, night scenes, fireworks and lamplight. There are a few digital effects filters for monochrome, sepia and ‘cosmetic’ mode for enhanced skin tones. Advanced features include spot or five-point focusing, spot or matrix metering, ISO setting and white balance. It also includes image stabilization, a very useful feature for a small, light camera with a big zoom lens.
The image stabilisation system is purely electronic, the type of system commonly used in video cameras. In operation it cuts off a margin around the edges of the frame, sacrificing it to keep the centre portion of the frame steady. When the IS system is active, a border appears on the monitor screen to indicate the edges of the recorded image.
In terms of overall performance, the C6 has its good points and its bad points. From a cold start it powers up in about four seconds, which is a bit slow, however it will most usually be in standby mode with the screen closed. It wakes from this state in about three seconds, which is a bit more bearable.
Focusing is about average for a compact zoom camera, taking just under a second to lock on in good light. However low light performance is a bit disappointing. The C6 has no AF illuminator, and had difficulty locking on where other cameras had no problems at all.
Battery duration appears to be above average, especially considering that the C6 is powered by a small 3.7V 720mAh lithium-ion battery, which appears to be the same as the one found in most of the Pentax Optio range. I charged it up last week, and have used the camera quite a bit since then, but it’s still reading as full. As for memory usage, a 1GB SD card provides enough room for 508 images at maximum quality, or over 41 minutes of SHQ video.
The main weak point here is the flash, which is hopelessly under-powered. It has a stated maximum range of only 1.2m, which is the weakest I’ve ever seen. It’s so woefully inadequate it’s barely worth even switching it on.