Overall performance is adequate, but not exactly spectacular. The camera starts up quickly enough in a little over two seconds, and in single shot mode it can take a shot every three seconds, which is about average for a camera of this type. There are two continuous shooting modes, a standard mode in which the camera averages about a shot every two seconds, and a faster burst mode in which is shoots four shots in just under two seconds, but only in 3MP mode. Pentax has been using the same 740mAh battery in most of its compacts for years, but the Z10 is powered by a new battery which looks very different. It has only 700mAh capacity, which causes me some concern regarding battery life. The stated maximum is only 210 shots on a full charge, and I found that the battery indicator was down to two bars after just 60 shots.
Of course the crucial factor for any camera, especially one with a radical new lens, is image quality, and here the verdict is, I’m afraid, not good. The lens lacks sharpness and fine detail, as well as producing significan distortion at wide angle, and the tiny 1/2.5-in sensor lacks dynamic range and colour depth. As well as this there are severe image noise problems at all ISO settings from 100 upwards. The Z10 has a maximum ISO setting of 3200 but I have no idea why, since images at this setting are so noisy as to be utterly useless. There are some good points however; while the focusing is a little slow it is at least reliable, and exposure and colour reproduction are excellent. In good light and low ISO settings the Z10 is capable of turning in some very good photos.
The Pentax Optio Z10 is a bit of a departure for a company that has specialised in 3x zoom compacts for several years. Build quality and design are good, and general performance is adequate, but image quality issues and the lack of any image stabilisation limit its usefulness, and it looks rather weak compared to several competing models.
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