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Pentax Optio RZ10 Review

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £130.00

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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.

Although the design looks like it belongs in an Early Learning centre it’s actually cleverer than it first appears. The basic shape of the RZ10 is a no-nonsense flat-sided box with heavily rounded corners, a motif of concentric circles and a two-colour palette. It has a simple resin-coated handgrip on the right hand end, although a closer look will reveal that the top-right end of the body flares up slightly, just enough to provide a bit of extra grip, while the layout of the rear controls leaves plenty of room on the back for your thumb.


The build quality is up to Pentax’s usual high standard, and although the RZ10 has a plastic body it feels robust and well made. The battery hatch is very flimsy and the tripod bush is soft plastic, but other than that the quality is excellent, with tight panel joins and no embarrassing creaks. The controls are clearly labelled, solidly mounted and well spaced out, so even spade-handed clods like me will have no problem operating them.


The monitor screen could be a little better. It is well recessed to keep it out of harm’s way, it has a good fast refresh rate and it is bright enough to use in daylight, with a good anti-glare coating to reduce reflections However the viewing angle is good in every direction except downwards, a problems if you want to hold the camera above your head to shoot over a crowd.


The RZ10 manages without some of the more exotic features of other cameras in its class, but it has all the basics plus a few extras. Shooting modes include Full Auto, program auto and a range of useful scene modes. The control interface is simple but effective, with a three-page main menu, as well as Pentax’s programmable Green Button. In its default setting the green button activates an easy-to-use Auto mode with scene recognition, face detection and other automated features, however more sophisticated users can re-purpose the green button to provide fast access to up to four camera parameters, such as ISO setting, white balance, focus area, exposure compensation and more.


Other menu options include adjustable sharpness, saturation and contrast, selectable highlight and shadow correction and blink detection. The face detection option has its own dedicated button, and includes smile capture. There are further options in playback mode, including cropping, resizing, a wide range of digital filter effects and of course Pentax’s woderful Frame Composite mode, which can add one of a wide and varied selection of super happy fun-time graphical frames to your picture, should you so desire.


The video recording mode gets the job done, but it’s fairly unspectacular by recent standards. It records in 1280 x 720 pixel resolution at 30fps with mono sound, but the optical zoom cannot be used while recording.

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.


”’Verdict”’

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.

”Over the next few pages we show a range of test shots. On this page the full size image at the minimum and maximum ISO settings have been reduced to let you see the full image, and a series of full resolution crops have taken from original images at a range of ISO settings to show the overall image quality. These pictures were taken indoors using shaded natural light. ”


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This is the full frame at minimum ISO.


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Even at 80 ISO there is some mottling in the darker green areas.


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Much the same result at 100 ISO.


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At 200 ISO noise is beginning to creep into the lighter areas.


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Noise has reduced fine detail at 400 ISO.


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At 800 ISO the picture quality is really suffering, with big blotches and little fine detail.


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Almost all fine detail has been obsucred at 1600 ISO.


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3200 ISO is available at 5MP resolution.


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So is 6400 ISO, but the quality is terrible.


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This is the full frame at 6400 ISO.


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”A range of general test shots are shown over the next two pages. In some cases, the full size image has been reduced for bandwidth purposes, and a crop taken from the original full resolution image has been placed below it to show the overall image quality. Some other pictures may be clicked to view the original full-size image. ”


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Here’s the usual detail test shot of the West Window of Exeter Cathedral, for you to compare with other cameras. See below for a full res crop, or click to see the whole picture. File size 2.18MB.


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The lens captures plenty of sharp fine detail, but heavy compression and processing reduce overall quality.


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The lens produces some barrel distortion, but it is digitally corrected.


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Centre sharpness is very good, although the signs of over-sharpening are visible.


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Corner sharpness is very good, with minimal chromatic aberration.


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”Here are some general test shots to help evaluate the camera’s overall image quality, including dynamic range, colour rendition and the zoom range of the lens. Some pictures may be clicked to download the full size original image.”


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The wide angle end is equivalent to 28mm.


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The telephoto end is equivalent to 280mm.


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Trusted Score


Score in detail

  • Value 10
  • Image Quality 8
  • Build Quality 8

Features

Camera type Digital SLR
Megapixels (Megapixel) 14 Megapixel
Optical Zoom (Times) 10x
Image Sensor 1/2.33-inch CCD
Optical focal length 5.0-50mm in 35mm terms
Shutter speed 4-1/2000 secs
Auto focus 9-point TTL contrast detection AF, face detection
Manual focus Yes
Max output resolution 4288x3216
Other resolutions 10MP (4224x2376), 7MP (3072x2304), 2MP (16:9) (1920X1080), 640 (640X480)
Focus range Wide/Tele: 40cm - infinity, Macro: 8cm
Exposure control Program, Auto Pict, 17 scene modes
Exposure metering Multi, Spot, Centre-weighted
Exposure compensation 1/3 EV steps, +/- 2EV
Image Stabilisation N/A
ISO settings Auto, 80-1600, 3200-6400 at 5MP
LCD Monitor 2.7-inch TFT LCD, 230k dots
Viewfinder N/A
Flash range Wide: approx 0.2-5.3m (ISO Auto) Tele: approx 0.9-2.8m (ISO Auto)
Flash modes Auto Flash/Flash OFF/Flash ON/Red-eye Reduction
White balance modes Auto, daylight, shade, tungsten, fluorescent, manual setting
Drive modes Single, continuous, HS continuous
Image formats JPEG, EXIF 2.2
Picture adjustments Sharpness, saturation, contrast
Video (max res/format) 1280x720 at 30fps
Movie length Card capacity
Self timer 10/2 secs
Memory card slot SD/SDHC
Supplied memory 83.7MB internal
Batteries supplied Li-on rechargeable 925mAh
Charger supplied Yes
A/V output PAL/NTSC
Charging/Computer Connection USB 2.0/AV
Manual Basic printed guide, full manual on CD

Physical Specifications

Dimensions Width (Millimeter) 97mm
Depth (Millimeter) 61mm
Weight (body only) (Kilogram) 157g (178g including batteries and card)kg

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