The control layout is very similar to most of Pentax’s other compact cameras, with just the multi-function D-pad and three other buttons, including the usual green button, which puts the camera instantly into a fully-automatic “idiot mode”, useful as a panic button for inexperienced users. The zoom control is a simple rocker switch, and is at least quite large and easy to use, but the zoom action s stepped with 16 increments between wide and telephoto, and the control is not terribly sensitive, which makes accurate framing a bit of a pain. Most of the basic shooting functions are found on the D-pad, including a two-speed self timer, high-speed and normal continuous mode, multiple focus modes including manual focus, infinity, macro and pan-focus, and of course the usual selection of flash modes. The bottom button of the D-pad opens up the Mode menu, with fifteen programs for things like landscapes, flowers, natural skin tone, surf and snow, kids, pets, food and of course the risible frame composite mode.
There is also the Digital SR mode. SR stands for shake reduction, but in fact this is a bit of a misnomer, since the Z10 has no image stabilisation of any kind. Instead, the SR mode simply activates auto-ISO mode, with a maximum sensitivity of ISO 3200 and all the image quality problems that entails. It does have a shake reduction mode in playback, which processes images to further reduce the effects of camera shake, but the results were not terribly impressive. I have to say that a 7x-zoom camera with no active image stabilisation is at a bit of a disadvantage in today’s market. Other compact cameras such as the aforementioned 7x zoom Casio EX-V7 (£140), the 10x zoom Panasonic TZ2 (£175) and the 7.1x, 28-200mm Ricoh Caplio R6 (£160) all have mechanical image stabilisation, but the Optio Z10 does not, despite its launch price of £170. Even if it is heavily discounted by online retailers right away, it is going to have a hard time competing with other more sophisticated cameras, such as the Panasonic TZ3, Casio EX-V8 and Ricoh R7.
The Z10 does have some useful features however, including adjustable sharpness, contrast and saturation, three metering modes and two AF modes. There is some fun stuff available in playback mode too, including red-eye reduction and digital filter effects. The built in flash is pretty decent too, with a wide-angle range of 5.4 metres and excellent frame coverage. The video mode is also competent, with 640 x 480 resolution and 30 frames per second and mono audio, although unlike some other recent long-zoom cameras the zoom lens cannot be used while filming.
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