The RZ10 starts up with what can only be described as enthusiasm. It springs to life and can take a picture in a little over two seconds, which is fairly impressive by compact camera standards. In single-shot mode it has a shot-to-shot time of approximately 2.3 seconds, which is also faster than average, especially for a low-cost compact. In standard continuous shooting mode it can maintain just over one frame a second, and it also has three high-speed burst modes which can shoot up to 40 frames, but at 5MP resolution.
The RZ10 could be even faster if only it had a slightly quicker autofocus system. It's not slow enough to be annoying, but there is a bit of a lag, especially in low light. However while it may focus slowly in low light it does focus, despite having no AF assist lamp. It had no trouble focusing in a dimly-lit nightclub bar. The flash is very good, with a maximum range of over five metres and a recycle time of approximately five seconds.
The RZ10 is powered by a higher capacity battery than most recent Pentax compacts, with a rating of 925mAh. This is good for at least 260 shots or 300 minutes of playback, performance which is about average for the class.
This point in the review is where I normally discuss image quality, and it's here that some recent Pentax compacts have come unstuck. Not so the RZ10 however. It produces sharp, well-detailed images with good exposure and colour, the shadow and highlight correction modes give it reasonable dynamic range for a small-sensor 14MP compact, and the lens produces good edge-to-edge sharpness with minimal distortion or chromatic aberration. Images are a little over-sharpened and are very heavily compressed, but the overall result is quite acceptable.
The only tiny fly in the otherwise smooth and revitalising ointment is image noise, the bane of many small-sensor compacts. There is some noise visible in darker areas even at the minimum 80 ISO setting, although it doesn't really become a problem until 400 ISO when detail really starts to fade. Not surprisingly the 3200 and 6400 ISO settings, available at 5MP resolution, are of very poor quality. Nonetheless, considering its versatility, usability, handling, build quality and performance, and above all its price, a bit of high-ISO noise is just about forgiveable.
The Pentax Optio RZ10 is a surprisingly good little camera. Although it looks like a toy and is priced to match, it offers superior build quality, good performance and excellent handling, with more features than you'd expect for the money. Image quality is generally good as long as you stay away from the higher ISO settings. All in all, outstanding value for money.