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Holidays are stressful enough without having to worry about metering, ISO and shutter speeds. Many manufacturers have released a compact that will do everything except chew your food for you and for £119, Pentax will cross your palm with the Optio E30 with a super easy mode and 7Mp to ensure the pictures taken are crisp and clear. But the camera can't be good at that price can it?
- Sensor: CCD - 7.38 Mp
- Image Size: 3072 x 2304 pixels
- Lens: 36-108mm f/2.7-f/4.8 (3x zoom)
- Focus: TTL Auto/Manual - 15cm Macro
- Exposure: Program AE, 14 Modes
- Metering : Multi-segment
- Monitor: 2.4in. Color TFT LCD
- Movie Mode: Yes
- Storage: 11Mb Built-in, SD / SDHC
- Batteries: 2x AA
- AC Adaptor: Optional
- Video Output: Yes
- Size/Weight: 94x61x35mm - 137g
- Transfer: USB 2.0
The E30 is aimed at the budget consumer that wants point and shoot simplicity in a name that they can trust enough to make their life easy. The main obstacle for this kind of person is that everyone has a camera to compare. The Canon Powershot A550 at £119 offers 7Mp and a 4x optical zoom, the Nikon Coolpix L11 also at £119 giving 6Mp and a 3x optical zoom, the Olympus FE-230 at £129 with 7Mp and 3x optical zoom or the Sony Cybershot S650 at £99 with 7Mp and 3x optical zoom. The list goes on and creates a minefield of choice. Good job I'm here, isn't it.
Pentax Optio E30 Modes and features
The E30 is laid out like most other compacts at this price range with the power button and shutter release placed on top of the camera. Pentax have placed the shutter release slightly further forward than normal on the slope of the grip and the button is slightly larger than normal. On the back, a rocker button is used as the zoom with the playback button is situated inbetween the zoom and the menu pad. The menu arrows also double up, as usual, for flash modes, macro, self timer and the mode button. Mode gives the option of setting the preset modes built in to the camera. These are Program, Night, Video, Voice, Frame composite which puts a horrible frame around the picture, Landscape, Macro, Portrait, Beach/snow, Sports, Pets, Fireworks, Sunset, Food and Self portrait. Interestingly, Pentax have placed the modes in no particular order. If they did, it means they consider Voice over mode to be more frequently used than Portrait.
The menu button allows alterations to the Resolution, Quality, White balance, Focusing area, ISO rating, Exposure compensation, Video mode, Digital zoom and Review time which is the time it allows you to look at your picture after taking it. There is also a memory button in which different options can be built in to the memory of the camera for when it is next switched on. Alterations can also be made to the Sharpness, Saturation and Contrast in the menu. Pentax have installed the Green mode onto the E30 which is the green button at the bottom left of the camera. This button locks everything, just allowing Picture taking, Zooming and Playback.
The camera comes with 11Mb of built-in memory that will give roughly five pictures at highest resolution, which is a running theme through manufacturers at the moment as internal memory has not risen in line with resolution.
Pentax Optio E30 Build and handling
The main body of the camera is plastic, but there are some elements of metal running through it which makes the camera tougher and a little weightier. Start up time is a couple of seconds which is great for those candid shots and the screen is bright but does suffer from a little motion blur. The zoom is smooth, but the digital zoom is jerky and the optical and digital zoom are a constant. By holding down the zoom button, the camera will go straight into the digital zoom whereas most other manufacturers have to release the zoom button to activate the digital zoom which is better because of the loss of quality.
The card and batteries are in the same compartment. Pentax have made the E30 AA battery compatible so if you are out and about, batteries are more readily available, but they run down quicker.
Pentax Optio E30 Flash options
It's nice to see a company that don't mess around with names and this is another step towards Pentax making the E30 as easy to use as possible. The flash options available are Auto, Auto with Red-eye reduction, Flash off, Flash on, Flash on with red-eye. These are the actual names of the flash functions. None of this Suppressed flash or Forced flash, just nice and simple.
Flash range is approx. 0.5m - 4.4m at wide angle and approx. 0.6m -2.5m zoomed out which is a moderate performance.
Pentax Optio E30 Performance
This is a budget camera, so don't expect miracles. The burst test output five images in the 10 second burst with downloading taking longer. The camera managed three images before having to download and then managed to squeeze two more in.
Autofocus is slow and in the macro mode I tried to shoot a bee taking pollen from a flower, but by the time the camera had focused the bee had moved on. They're not as vain as people say they are. The macro is also not very close at 15cm.
The landscape images came out bursting with colour with good tones in the sky. The camera doesn't have a very wide lens, but will be sufficient for most situations.
The portrait mode worked as expected by warming up the skin tones by adding red to the image. Placing the green mode portrait shot side by side made it look like it had a green cast due to the lack of red. The green mode also tried to focus on my ear.
Pentax Optio E30 Noise test
The ISO ratings raise in unusual steps starting at ISO80 which gives good definition and deep colour on the petals, then steps upto ISO160 which has no noticeable noise, but the petals have got lighter. ISO320 has noise appearing on the grey and the petals are lighter still and ISO400 has visible noise and mid orange coloured petals.
Interestingly, the shots above were shot on Program mode which is Auto with options in the menu. Granted, it was a bright day and the sun had his hat on, but the Auto ISO mode set the ISO to 80, which is the finest option, meaning that when you're on your holidays, you will get the best possible images the camera can take.
The difference between ISO320 and ISO400 is minimal and it is strange that Pentax would give the camera these unusual ISO settings. The usual ISO100 and ISO200 settings are missing and if they were present, a definite difference between ISO200 and ISO400 would be seen.
Pentax Optio E30 Verdict
Let's face it, if you're going on holiday and need a cheap camera to take with you, you don't want to delve into the menus and start changing things, then this is a suitable compact to fulfil your needs. The camera does have options for over-riding functions if you desire. Otherwise, go for green and enjoy pressing about three buttons.
Pentax Optio E30 Plus points
Easy mode for the technophobe
Cheap as chips
Pentax Optio E30 Minus points
Unusual ISO ratings
Tacky frame composites
The Pentx Optio E30 costs about £119 and is available from the ePHOTOzine shop here.