The past couple of years have seen the increasing popularity of long-zoom compact cameras, or “travel cameras” as they are often known. Typically these have a lens with at least 10x zoom, usually with a wide-angle of 28mm or wider, but in a body not much bigger than a pocket ultra-compact. Most are premium models loaded with extra features such as manual exposure controls, full HD video with stereo sound, built-in GPS tracking, stored travel guides and more, and as a result they are usually very expensive. The benchmark model for this type of camera, the Panasonic TZ10, costs around £240, while its Canon rival the PowerShot SX210 IS is currently selling for around £210.
Pentax has seen a handy gap in the market here, and has launched the Optio RZ10, a cut-priced compact that has a long-zoom wide-angle lens and HD video recording, but does without the extraneous bells and whistles, and as a result costs only around £130. As well as a 10x zoom f/3.2 – f/5.9 lens, equivalent to 28-280mm, the RZ10 is equipped with a 14-megapixel 1/2.33-inch CCD sensor, a 6.86cm (2.7in) 230k LCD monitor, 720p HD video recording and sensor-shift image stabilisation, really a pretty impressive inventory for the price.
Apart from the lacklustre and unsuccessful Optio Z10 launched three years ago, the RZ10 is Pentax's first attempt at a modern long-zoom compact, and it has taken a slightly different approach to most of its market rivals. The camera is available in a range of bright colours as well as black or white, and its design has a slightly toy-like quality that is rather appealing. Upon handling however it turns out to be a solidly made little camera, very easy to use with surprisingly good handling and decent performance.