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November 05, 2006

The 1.3 Megapixel Solution

It seems that every Smartphone and Pocket PC comes bundled with a camera these days. I soon learned that the 1.3 megapixel excuse for a camera is practically useless and little better than a child’s toy. I have, however, discovered a solution to this issue. The solution is simple: purchase a real camera. I found the new Pentax Optio A10 to be the perfect remedy for the pathetic cell phone excuse for photography.

The Optio A10 is an 8.0 megapixel delight that snuggles in your hand and nestles comfortably in your pocket weighing only five ounces with the battery and SD storage card. It features an auto 3X zooms lens for great close-up shots and shake reduction to cure the blurries and sharpen images. The shake reduction technology uses not one, but two gyro sensors to compensate for camera movement. It also offers auto flash and red reduction.
I certainly would have looked at anyone askance a few years ago if he told me that such a small camera would also be capable of recording video with sound. The A10 uses the DivX encoder device to capture 640 x 480, 30 fps video that you can use with DVD and other portable players.

Recharge the removable Lithium-ion battery inside the camera or separately in the cradle that comes with the camera.

The 2.5-inch LCD monitor is a big improvement over my previous Optio S4i screen. While the backlight is adjustable, it unfortunately turns into a black mirror in bright sunlight. Unlike the S4i, there is no viewfinder so that you have to guess at what you are framing and crop it later.

On the top of the camera, from left to right, is the auto shake reduction button, the power on/off button, and the shutter button. To the right of the screen, on the back, from top to bottom, we find a zoom rocker switch, a view/capture toggle button, a circular control panel, a menu button, and a delete button. The circular controls include an OK action button in the center surrounded by a flash control button, an auto timer button, a mode button, and a distance/focus button. The focus button allows you to select auto focus, macro, super-macro, infinity, and manual focus.

The Mode button offers an array of choices including Auto Picture, Program, Night Scene, Movie Mode, Voice Recording, Landscape, Flower, Portrait, Candlelight, Surf & Snow, Sport, Pet, Text, Food, and a frame composer.

In the record mode, the Menu button allows you to set the pixel level, quality level, White Balance, AF Setting, AE Metering, Sensitivity, EV Compensation, Move, Shake Reduction, Digital Zoom, Instant Review time, Memory, Green button (delete) function, Sharpness adjustment, Saturation, and Contrast.

In the Set-up mode, the Menu button give you access to setting format, sound, date, world time, language, USB connection, video out, brightness level, power saving, quick zoom, quick delete, auto power off, guide display, and reset.

On the right side of the camera body is a lanyard attachment and covered charger and USB ports.

On the bottom, we find cradle charging contact points, a tripod attachment, and the battery/SD card cover.

Here are the manufacturer’s specifications:

Effective Pixels:
10.0 megapixels

Image Capture Device:
Type - 1/1.8 inch interline transfer CCD with a primary color filter; Total Pixels - 10.37 megapixels; Color Depth - 12 bit x 3 colors; Recorded Pixels - Still: 10M (3648x2736 pixels), 7M (3072x2304 pixels), 5M (2592x1944 pixels), 3M (2048x1536 pixels), 2M (1600x1200 pixels), 0.7M (1024x768 pixels), 0.3M (640x480 pixels); During Blur reduction mode, the recorded size is fixed to 5M (2592x1944); During Frame composition mode, the recoded size is fixed to 3M (2048x1536); Movie - 640x480 pixels, 320x240 pixels

Focus System:
Type - TTL contrast detection autofocus system; Autofocus - 5 point AF, Spot AF, Tracking AF, Infinity Landscape, Pan Focus; Focusing Range - Auto Focus: Normal - 1.15 ft (0.35m) to Infinity; Macro - 4.7 inches (0.12 m) to 1.64 ft (0.4m); Super Macro - 2.36 inches (0.06m) to 5.91 inches (0.15m); Manual Focus: 4.7 inches (0.12m) to Infinity at 6.2mm

Type – smc PENTAX power zoom; Focal Length – 7.9mm – 23.7mm; 35mm Equivalent – 37.5mm -112.5mm; Aperture Range - F2.8 – F5.4; Construction - 7 elements in 5 groups (2 dual-sided aspherical elements, 1 single-sided aspherical element); Optical Zoom - 3X; Digital Zoom - 4X Combined - 12X

Exposure Control:
Light Metering Method - TTL metering with choice of: Multi-segment, Center-weighted & Spot meter; Exposure mode - Picture, Program, Shutter-priority, Manual, *Face priority AE is auto selected at the Portrait and Kids mode; Sensitivity - Auto, or User select ISO 64, 100, 200, 400, 800; Standard Output Sensitivity; During Blur reduction mode, Sensitivity is compliant to Standard Output Sensitivity 1600; Exposure Control Method - Program AE Exposure Modes - Auto Picture (Normal, Night Scene, Landscape, Portait), Program, Night scene, Movie, Voice record, Landscape, Flower, Portrait, Kids, Blur reduction, Surf & Snow, Candle Light, Text, Food, Sport, Frame composition, Pet, Shutter-priority, Manual; Exposure Compensation - +/-2 EV (1/3 steps); Shutter - Type: Programmed AE electronic lens shutter with CCD electronic shutter; Shutter Speed: Approx. 1/2000 - 4 seconds; White Balance - White Balance Control: TTL Auto, Manual; Available Settings - Auto, Daylight, Shade, Tungsten Light, Fluorescent Light, Manual; Flash - Operation Modes: Auto, Flash-off, Flash-on, Auto + Red-eye reduction, Flash-on + Red-eye reduction, Auto backlight compensation; Effective Range: Approx. 0.20 ft - 23 ft (0.06m – 7.1m) (Standard Output Sensitivity Auto), Approx. 1.15 ft – 11 ft (0.35m – 3.5m) (Standard Output Sensitivity Auto)

Shooting Specifications:
Image Stabilization - Still Capture; (CCD Shift) Blur Reduction; Movie Capture; Electronic Anti-shake Digital Filter - Black & White, Sepia, 8 Color, Black & White + Red, Black & White + Green, Black & White+Blue, Soft, Illustration, Special Effect, Slim, Brightness; Drive Modes - Single-shot, Continuous (Standard & High-speed), Remote control (0 sec, 3 sec), Self-timer (2 sec, 10 sec); Movie Mode - Shooting Time: From approx. 1 sec. to memory card capacity

Modes - dd/mm/yy, mm/dd/yy, yy/mm/dd World Time - Display of the time in 71 cities (28 time zones)

Image Storage:
Storage Media - Approx. 24MB built-in memory, SD memory card removable; File Formats - Still: JPEG (Exif 2.2), DCF (Design rule for Camera File system), DPOF (Digital Print Order Format), PRINT Image Matching III; Movie: AVI (MPEG-4 DivX®) approx. 30fps with sound and anti-shake; Sound: WAV (PCM format), Monaural, Recordable time depends on the remaining capacity of the memory card; Quality Levels - Best, Better, Good

Optical Viewfinder - None; LCD Monitor – 2.5 inch, TFT color LCD- with Histogram Display; LCD Coverage – Approx. 100%; LCD Resolution - Approx. 232,000 pixels

Playback Specifications:
Playback Modes File - Single, Index- Nine image; Magnification - 8X; Mode Pallet - Slide show, Resize, Image Trimming (crop), Rotate, Color Filters, Digital Filters, Brightness Filter, Movie Edit, Red Eye Correction, Voice Memo, Protect, DPOF, Startup Screen, Frame Composition; Movie Edit – Save a s still image, Divide, Extract; Erase and Image Protect Modes - Single, All

One image printing, All image printing, DPOF auto print with Paper size, Paper type, Print quality and Border status selection

English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Swedish, Dutch, Portuguese, Thai

Type - AV output terminal, USB terminal, DC input terminal; Video Output - Compatible with NTSC and PAL formats (monaural sound)

Power Supply:
Rechargeable Lithium-ion D-LI8 battery (allows approximately 150 shots*); AC adaptor kit (optional) * According to CIPA testing (with LCD monitor on and flash used for 50% of the shots)

Physical Specifications:
Operating Temperatures - 32 degrees to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees to 40 degrees Celsius); Camera Casing - Aluminum alloy; Dimensions (W x H x D) - 3.5 x 2.1 x 0.9 inches (88.5 x 54.5 x 23mm); Weight – 4.4 oz. (125g) without battery and SD memory card, 5.1 oz. (145g) loaded and ready

Computer System Requirements:
USB Driver installment is required for Windows 98/98 SE, Mac OS 9.2 Mac Requirements - OS: Mac OS 9.2 or later, Standard equipped USB port; PC Requirements - OS: Windows 98,98 SE, 2000, Me, XP Home edition / Professional, Standard equipped USB port

In the box, you also get the Lite version of ACDSee, which is an excellent photo organizing and editing tool optimized for the A10.


This camera is simple to use yet powerful with a plethora of settings to satisfy those who wish to go beyond the PhD (push here dummy) stage of photography and do some postgraduate work. I found the quality of my pictures has improved almost as if my magic with this camera.

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the fact that it uses a standard SD card instead of one of those oddball other cards that are difficult to find and don’t fit into anything else. Actually, I probably would not buy a camera that had a non-standard storage card. I like it when I can use the same card in my camera, phone, PDA, MP3 player, and Tablet PC. I use one of the combination SD/USB cards so that I can plug the card into any computer’s USB port to view my pictures.

I do have some wishes for future editions of this camera. While Pentax has enlarged the screen significantly over previous models, it could still be larger. Also, the screen needs to be improved so that images may be viewed in bright sunlight. This is the most serious problem with this otherwise terrific camera.

My only other complaint is that my Optio S4i would fit comfortably in an Altoids can and the A10 will not. The Altoids can feature had a lot of WOW factor to it, and I miss that.

Seriously, though, the Optio A10 is a marvelous piece of work with a rich set of features that allow you to take superb quality photographs. I consider this camera to be an excellent value for less than $300 and I am pleased to recommend the Pentax Optio A10 to anyone interested in a lot of photo power in an extremely small package at an affordable price.

Posted by tim at November 5, 2006 12:25 AM


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