Performance used to be a major issue with many of the Optio compacts, but this is an area where Pentax has made a lot of progress, and the S10’s performance is as good as anything in its class. It starts up in just under two and a half seconds, which is about average for a compact, but it is in shot-to-shot times that the biggest improvement is seen. In single-shot mode the S10 can manage to shoot every 2.2 seconds, and in continuous mode it shoots at a consistent 0.8 seconds per frame, which is quicker than many of its competitors. A lot of this improvement in performance is due to the vastly improved AF system, which I would now rate as one of the best in a compact camera in terms of both focusing speed and accuracy, and in low light ability. The S10 has an AF assist lamp and can focus in pitch dark at a range of several metres, but even beyond this its low-light focusing is exceptionally good.
Fortunately the improvement in performance has been accompanied by an increase in overall picture quality, thanks in no small part to the excellent lens. Pentax has always enjoyed a good reputation for the quality of its optics, and the SMC (Super Multi Coated) Pentax label is usually a guarantee of superior performance. This is certainly the case here, with the S10’s lens producing excellent edge-to-edge sharpness and minimal barrel distortion at wide angle, both things that have been an issue on some versions of the Sliding Lens system. The 10-megapixel 1/1.8-inch sensor has already proven its quality in the Optio A30 and here it does so again, although as is usually the case with high-resolution compact sensors, there are major problems with image noise at all ISO settings above 100, and the limited dynamic range tends to mean that highlights are often burned out in order to preserve shadow detail. Other than this though the S10 provided consistently good results, especially in low light. About the only major weak point was the built-in flash, which is somewhat under powered and tends to be noticeably brighter towards the centre of the frame.
The latest in a successful series of ultra-compact cameras, the Pentax Optio S10 combines excellent build quality, simplicity of design and good all-round performance with a user-friendly ease of use. It compares well with other quality compacts from rival manufacturers, and its very good low-light performance makes it especially useful for social snapshot photography. If you’re looking for a camera to record the office Christmas party it should definitely be on your shortlist.
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