The H90’s overall performance is very good for what is after all a budget camera. It starts up and is ready to take a picture in under three seconds, and shuts down again in under two. In single-shot mode the shot-to-shot time is approximately 3.2 seconds, which is a little bit on the slow side but is at least consistent. In continuous shooting mode it can take a burst of four shots in just under four seconds, but then has to pause for breath as it empties the image buffer. There is also a high-speed continuous mode which can shoot six shots at 2fps, but only at 5MP resolution.
The autofocus system is also nice and quick, and works reasonably well in low light, although unfortunately the H90 has no AF assist lamp, so it doesn’t work as well in very low light, obviously limiting the camera’s usefulness in many social situations. As I mentioned earlier, the tracking AF isn’t particularly effective, but the face detection system is very good, even detecting faces in partial profile.
Unfortunately the H90’s one big weakness is image quality, which is puzzling since several other reviews I’ve read have rated it highly in this area. It suffers from the same problems as the I-10, with very poor fine detail, mainly as a result of the overall softness of the lens. Wide angle barrel distortion is corrected digitally and there is little sign of chromatic aberration, but this does leave the corners of the frame looking quite blurry. Dynamic range is very poor, even with the limited help that the D-Range option provides, and colour rendition is weak in standard settings but garish and over-saturated in the Flowers mode.
Noise control seems to be slightly better at lower ISO settings than the I-10, but the noise reduction kicks into overdrive at 400 ISO, greatly reducing the level of detail. 800 and 1600 ISO are progressively worse. As usual the 3200 and 6400 ISO settings, which are restricted to 5MP, produce awful results.
The Pentax Optio H90 is a well made and attractively designed camera at a very affordable price. It is easy to use and light enough for a shirt pocket, with good performance and a useful zoom range. However its lack of an AF assist lamp and poor overall image quality are disappointing.
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