Another of the T20’s problems that has been addressed is that of battery life. The aging 710mAh Li-ion battery of the T20 has been replaced with a more modern-looking 740mAh battery, not a massive improvement perhaps, but the camera’s electronics also appear to be more efficient, resulting in a claimed capacity of approximately 200 shots on a full charge. From the results I observed, this appears to be an accurate claim.
The T20 also had a major problem with performance, and unfortunately this has not been fully rectified. The T30 starts up in a rather slow 3.5 seconds, probably because it has to initialise the touch screen, although it shuts down more quickly. In single-shot mode, shot-to-shot time is around 3 seconds, which is about the average for a camera in this class. In continuous shooting mode it speeds up somewhat, shooting at a sustained average of about 1.7 seconds per shot, although the initial burst of five frames is quicker, at about one frame a second. The AF system is one area where Pentax has made significant improvements lately, and the T30 is noticeably faster than the T20 in this respect. Low light focusing is still slow, but it will eventually focus even in complete darkness thanks to an AF assist lamp, although this only has a range of a couple of metres at best. Flash range is an excellent six metres at wide angle or three metres at telephoto, with very good frame coverage.
Picture quality also seems to be significantly improved over the rather disappointing performance of the T20, although it is still not entirely problem-free. The T30 has a maximum ISO setting of 3200, and produces good results at settings up to 400 ISO, and printable results as high as 1600, which is a pretty creditable performance by any standard. Overall picture quality is about average for this class of camera, with the lens producing good detail and contrast with relatively little wide-angle barrel distortion, although it did produce the opposite pincushion distortion at the telephoto end. Exposure and colour balance were accurate despite the atrocious weather in which I was taking my test shots. In less monsoon-like conditions the results would undoubtedly have been much better.
The Pentax Optio T30 is a significant improvement on the innovative but flawed T20. The touch-screen technology provides a real advantage in speed of operation and is very easy to use, with some fun features in image playback. Performance is a bit on the slow side, but design and build quality are excellent. Picture quality is about average for the class, but high-ISO results are surprisingly good.