The P70’s overall performance is variable. It starts up in approximately two and a quarter seconds, and takes nearly three seconds to shut down again, which is a little on the slow side but not dramatically so. In single-shot mode at the highest quality setting the shot-to-shot time is approximately 4.5 seconds, which is rather slow, but if the Pixel Track SR feature is used the processing time can slow this down even more, to approximately 12 seconds, which is slow enough to be a real problem. The Pixel Tracking SR is a useful feature, but it really needs to be running on a much faster processor.
In continuous shooting mode it’s not much better. In standard continuous is averages approximately 3.5 seconds per shot, but the rate is not consistent, sometimes speeding up or slowing down. There is a faster HS continuous mode that shoots at approximately 2.5 frames a second, but this is limited to five megapixels and six shots.
Annoyingly the autofocus system is very good, focusing quickly and accurately in most lighting conditions, even in quite dim light. The P70 has no AF assist light, so it can’t focus in total darkness, but it coped well with pub and club lighting.
Image quality too is well above average. The lens is good, producing almost no barrel distortion (although this may be due to internal image processing; it’s hard to tell) decent corner sharpness and minimal chromatic aberration. The level of fine detail is about average for a high-resolution compact, in other words it’s no better or worse than the 10MP Optio M60. Dynamic range however is quite limited, as it usually is with 12MP sensors. High contrast shots had burned-out highlights and almost no shadow detail.
Image noise was visible on all shots, even at the lowest ISO setting, but the noise reduction does a good job. It seems to be tuned to produce its best results at around 400 ISO, but it turns in useable images with good detail at up to 800 ISO, and even 1600 ISO isn’t a total loss. 3200 and 6400 ISO are available at 5MP resolution, but the results are very poor.
The Pentax P70 is a camera with both good and bad points. It looks great, is well made and is extremely easy to use. It has a useful zoom range, the monitor is nice and it has some useful advanced features including an effective digital SR system. Image quality is good under most circumstances, low-light performance is also above average, and it is certainly good value for money. However it is let down by very slow performance, especially when using the digital SR feature.