The Pentax EI-100 is a low priced 1.31 megapixel basic point & shoot camera. It's very simple in design and offers a limited array of features that are typical of a sub 200 digital camera, but these are enough for you to enter into the world of digital photography, without having to spend a fortune.
The main camera features are listed below:
Because the E-100 doesn't have as many features as some other compacts it's quite easy to use, after a quick glance over the few pages of the manual you can go and take pictures with confidence. As is the trend with almost all cameras now, you select from the camera's various modes using a dial. These modes are:
- 1.31 megapixel CCD
- Digital zoom 2x
- 5.5mm lens (equivalent to 42mm in 35mm format)
- Self-timer delays the shutter release by 10 seconds for group shots
- The EI-100 assists in low-light shooting conditions with a built-in flash that offers automatic discharge, flash-on, and flash-off modes. A red-eye reduction mode is also provided with a single pre-emission discharge
- 1.8-inch LCD monitor allows you to quickly review your pictures
- Simple controls provide quick playback of stored images.
- A 4X digital zoom can also be applied on playback
- 8Mb of memory capable of storing up to 17 images at the highest quality resolution
- Compatible with USB and CompactFlash
- Function to transfer images from the internal memory to a CompactFlash card
- The EI-100s five white balance modes (Auto, Daylight, Shade, Tungsten Light and Fluorescent Light) provide accurate colour rendition
- Battery Type 4x AA
- Exposure Compensation
- Maximum Aperture f/2.8
- Video Out PAL
- Dimensions (WxHxD) 105 x 67 x 48mm
- Weight 190g without batteries
Capture mode - Allows you to set LCD brightness, white balance, review mode, EV compensation and digital zoom, and, of course, take pictures.
Play mode - In this mode you can review the captured images on the LCD monitor or on a TV. In the play mode menu you can select LCD brightness, slide show or copy to CompactFlash card.
Setup mode - Allows you to customise your preferences. In the menu you can set the date/time, language, sound, format the card and select the video mode.
Delete mode - This is for deleting photos you have taken, but are not happy with. There are two options in the delete menu, delete current and delete all.
PC Mode - Is for sending the pictures on the cameras internal memory or CompactFlash card to the PC, via the USB cable provided.
The LCD screen on the top of the camera allows you to see what flash mode is selected and what quality setting is being used. It's nice that Pentax have included this small screen rather than relying on the main large colour LCD screen which would use up batteries quickly.
Also on top of the camera is a button for the menu, a power button, the shutter release, a flash mode button, and a quality setting button, all laid out plainly and very easy to use.
On the back of the camera is the optical viewfinder and large colour LCD display. The viewfinder is very basic, but the LCD display is quite detailed, and updates very quickly, useful if you are shooting fast moving subjects. The main drawback of the LCD display is that it is very hard to see in bright sunlight, unlike some of the more sophisticated coated displays on more expensive cameras. There's a button to change between the LCD and the viewfinder, useful for saving battery power, and a button to operate the 2x digital zoom. The up and down arrows are used for navigating the menus on the camera.
The 4 AA batteries go at the bottom of the camera along with the optional memory card. Battery life seems quite good, I used NiMh rechargeables and the supplied alkaline batteries. The alkaline batteries lasted several days with minimal use of the LCD display and flash. We'd always recommend buying some rechargeables if you intend to use a digital camera like this a lot. A plastic tripod mount sits between the memory and battery slots.
The camera's lens is unprotected from scratches and dust, as no lens cap is provided. It would be sensible therefore to buy a carrying case to help protect the lens. It's a fixed focus model with a switch to changing the focusing settings from standard, which allows you to focus from 60cm to infinity for normal and long distance shots, or macro for subjects between 30cm and 60cm.
The flash in the top right of the camera has settings for reducing red-eye, an auto mode and on/off. Pentax say the effective flash range is 40cm to 2m.
Because the CCD of this camera is only 1.31 megapixels you can't print images very large without seeing degrades quality. However for use on a monitor, sending pictures in emails and having an online gallery the quality isn't be such an issue. Care must still be taken to manually correct exposure compensation on some shots, as the camera can not always be relied upon. White balance was set correctly in the majority of pictures taken, but didn't perform so well indoors.
|On the right-hand side of the camera are three plugs behind a rubber cover. One is for the provided usb cable, a video-out plug (no cable provided), and a power input plug (DC 6V, no cable or adaptor supplied).
There are two different resolutions available, 1280x960 and 640x480, combined with three different quality levels for each resolution. At the top resolution and quality level you can fit around 17 pictures on the internal memory, at the lowest quality settings this number changes to 138. If you intend to use this camera a lot it would be worth buying another CompactFlash card, as the smaller capacity cards are now relatively inexpensive.
The lens is very basic which is a major factor in the camera's average performance, you may also become frustrated by the lack of optical zoom, as digital zoom is never an ideal substitute, and particularly so on a camera with a low resolution. Also because the camera uses autofocus, and no control over aperture or shutter speeds are provided; the creative options are severely limited.
This shot is a good example of the lack of detail present when an image is enlarged and one of the main reasons why it's worth buying a more expensive model with a larger resolution CCD if image quality is your most important need. The full picture is fine and would suit being used on a web site, but the magnified section shows what you may get if printing out on anything larger than 4x6in paper . It also highlights that there's lots of noise in the sky. Colours are lacking, but the exposure has been measured well and there is a lot of well captured detail in the picture.
|Again the camera has managed to set the exposure levels well, though on a previous shot of the same scene it was underexposed. Colours in this shot were captured accurately, and despite me being blown around like a washing line in a hurricane the shot has still come out quite sharp.
|Sitting only a few feet away when taking this picture I did not expect the flash to have such a unflattering effect on the model's skin! Subsequent shots from a further distance were more life like. The specifications state that this subject is well within the range of flash so it's either the camera's exposure system being fooled or the flash is too harsh at such distance.
Overall for a low priced 200 point & shoot digital camera, with a basic fixed lens the E-100 performance is average. Some users will be glad there aren't many features to chose from, as it simplifies the process of taking pictures, but Pentax have made sure that more important settings, often not seen on budget cameras, like exposure compensation, and white balance have been included.
The camera does feel cheap, due mainly to the plastic body and lack of lens cover, yet is quite tough with no obvious creaking of plastic. Many people looking for a basic introduction to digital photography at a low cost could find just what they want in this camera. Personally I would prefer to spend the money on a high quality 35mm compact and use a scanner to digitise the results or save for a higher specification digital camera.