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Pentax Optio RS1500 Digital Compact Camera Review

Daniel Bell reviews the Pentax Optio RS1500, a compact digital camera which comes with changeable skins.

|  Pentax Optio RS1500 in Compact Cameras
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Pentax Optio RS1500 front lens

Pentax launched the Optio RS1500, the follow up to the RS1000, into its Chameleon camera range in March 2011. The unique feature of the RS1500 is the ability to change the cameras skin to match your mood or outfit. The camera comes with a range of skins, but there are also some blank ones with which you can design your own. Available in the silver and black, the RS1500 is available for £70.

Pentax Optio RS1500 front

Pentax Optio RS1500: Features

The RS1500 is a customisable camera, it comes with ten skins as well as five blank precut paper foils which can be personalised by uploading your design to the Pentax website. The lens ring is available in two colours - black and orange. On the rear of the camera is a 3 inch LCD monitor.

Images are taken using the 14 megapixel sensor and 4x optical zoom lens with a 35mm equivalent of 27.5 - 110mm. To make picture taking easy the camera has Auto Picture mode, which selects the shooting mode and camera settings. To make more creative pictures the RS1500 has nine digital filters, including: B&W, Sepia, Toy camera, Retro, Colour, Soft, Starburst, Fish-eye, Brightness.

The RS1500 also has Face Detection which automatically detects up to 10 faces to keep them focused sharply and correctly exposed. There is also Smile Capture mode which releases the shutter when the camera detects your subject smiling.

Other features include Digital Blur Removal, Burst Shooting at a speed of 16 images in two seconds (fixed at 640 x 480 pixels), Auto-tracking Autofocus, Digital Panorama mode, Green mode and Frame Composite function.

The RS1500 shoots HD videos at 720p with Shake Reduction to minimise camera shake during recording.

Pentax Optio RS1500 top

Key Features:

  • Customisable skins
  • 14 megapixel sensor
  • 3 inch LCD monitor
  • 4x optical zoom lens (35mm equiv: 27.5 - 110mm)
  • Auto mode
  • 720p HD movie recording with shake reduction
  • Automatic face detection
  • Smile Capture
  • Digital filters
  • Digital Blur Removal
  • Burst Shooting
  • Auto-tracking Auto Focus
  • Digital Panorama Mode
  • Green mode
  • Frame Composite
Pentax Optio RS1500 rear

Pentax Optio RS1500: Handling

The RS1500 is very rectangular and without any of the skins, it is very plain. Gripping the camera is easy, for your left hand, your thumb sits where the tripod socket is, and your index finger has a small indent on the top of the camera for it to rest in. To change the skin you have to prise off the lens ring, which can be fiddly to reattach. It would be nice if this screwed in and out instead. Once the lens ring is off, the plastic covers comes off easily and you can put in your desired skin. If the camera was to be given to a small child, the skins may not last too long as they aren't made from a particularly durable material.

Creating your own skins is done on the Pentax website. It's easy to do, there are a range of background colours to use, and you can also add your own images, text and drawings to create your perfect design.

Pentax Optio RS1500 Personalised Skin 1   Pentax Optio RS1500 Personalised Skin 2

The buttons are well spaced and easy to press, with a dedicated one to switch between Face Detection and Smile Capture, as well as a green button, which can be designated to change a setting of your choice from Movie, EV compensation, sensitivity and recorded pixels. The screen is clear with good colours and didn't prove an issue to view in bright conditions.

The camera's battery has a CIPA rating of 210 shots. Although this figure is fairly low, during testing there was no reason to believe it couldn't achieve this number of shots. After switching on the camera it is ready to snap away after a couple of seconds and focus speed is good for a camera in this price range. There are three methods for continuous shooting. For full size images, the camera can shoot at around 0.6fps. Switch to burst shooting and 16-frame shooting and you get a smaller images at 3fps and 7.5fps respectively.

Pentax Optio RS1500 battery

Pentax Optio RS1500: Performance

The RS1500 produces images which are well exposed with good colour reproduction. Detail in the images is good, it's better in the centre of the images than the edges, and also there isn't much detail in the shadows. When you view the wide-angle image below at full size there is clearly some purple fringing in the trees. Macro images are also good, but with a minimim focus distance of 8cm it is hard to get really close to your subject.

Pentax Optio RS1500 wide-angle   Pentax Optio RS1500 full optical zoom
Wide-angle, ISO100, 1/1000, f/3.2, 4.9mm (35mm equiv: 27.5mm)   Full 4x optical zoom, ISO100, 1/400, f/5.9, 19.6mm (35mm equiv: 110mm)
Pentax Optio RS1500 digital zoom   Pentax Optio RS1500 macro
Digital zoom, ISO100, 1/500, f/5.9, 19.6mm (35mm equiv: 110mm)   Macro, ISO100, 1/320, f/3.5, 6mm (35mm equiv: 32mm)

Even at ISO100 there is some noise in the images which gets worse at ISO200. Noise is again worse at ISO400 but it is ISO800 where image quality starts to suffer. At this ISO speed there are some random marks on the images. Moving on to ISO1600, detail and sharpness is becoming quite poor. Noise has taken a firm grip at ISO3200 and ISO6400, but the image size is limited.

Pentax Optio RS1500 ISO100 Pentax Optio RS1500 ISO200 Pentax Optio RS1500 ISO400 Pentax Optio RS1500 ISO800
ISO100, 1/8, f/5.4, 16mm (35mm equiv: 92mm) ISO200, 1/15, f/5.4, 16mm (35mm equiv: 92mm) ISO400, 1/30, f/5.4, 16mm (35mm equiv: 92mm) ISO800, 1/30, f/5.4, 16mm (35mm equiv: 92mm)
Pentax Optio RS1500 ISO1600 Pentax Optio RS1500 ISO3200 Pentax Optio RS1500 ISO6400  
ISO1600, 1/125, f/5.4, 16mm (35mm equiv: 92mm) ISO3200, 1/250, f/5.4, 16mm (35mm equiv: 92mm) ISO6400, 1/500, f/5.4, 16mm (35mm equiv: 92mm)  

If you enjoy shooting portraits, the Optio RS1500 has the ability to fix red-eye in your images using red-eye compensation, which can be done via image editing, available when viewing your photos.

Pentax Optio RS1500 portrait   Pentax Optio RS1500 portrait with red-eye fix
Portrait, ISO159, 1/100, f/5.4, 16mm (35mm equiv: 92mm)   Portrait with red-eye fix, ISO159, 1/100, f/5.4, 16mm (35mm equiv: 92mm)

Below are images taken using some of the scene modes available.

Pentax Optio RS1500 landscape   Pentax Optio RS1500 landscape with building
Landscape, ISO100, f/3.2, 1/1000, 4.9mm (35mm equiv: 27.5mm)   Landscape with building, ISO100, f/3.2, 1/1000, 4.9mm (35mm equiv: 27.5mm)
Pentax Optio RS1500 sport   Pentax Optio RS1500 text
Sport, ISO100, f/3.2, 1/640, 4.9mm (35mm equiv: 27.5mm)   Text, ISO302, f/3.5, 1/25, 6mm (35mm equiv: 32mm)

When testing the camera's white-balance performance in our studio, there is very little difference, whether using auto white-balance or the incandescent and fluorescent presets under the respective lighting setups.

Pentax Optio RS1500 Auto White Balance - Incandescent Lighting   Pentax Optio RS1500 Preset Incandescent WB - Incandescent Light
Auto White Balance - Incandescent Lighting, ISO100, 1/13, f/4.3, 8mm (35mm equiv: 45mm)   Preset Incandescent WB - Incandescent Light, ISO100, 1/13, f/4.3, 8mm (35mm equiv: 45mm)
Pentax Optio RS1500 Auto White Balance - Fluorescent Light   Pentax Optio RS1500 Fluorescent White Balance - Fluorescent Light
Auto White Balance - Fluorescent Light, ISO100, 1/4, f/4.3, 8mm (35mm equiv: 45mm)   Fluorescent White Balance - Fluorescent Light, ISO100, 1/13, f/4.3, 8mm (35mm equiv: 45mm)

The camera has a range of digital filters which can be applied when editing your photos in camera. Examples using each are shown below.

Pentax Optio RS1500 toy camera Pentax Optio RS1500 soft Pentax Optio RS1500 sepia
Toy camera, ISO100, 1/13, f/4.3, 8mm (35mm equiv: 45mm) Soft, ISO100, 1/13, f/4.3, 8mm (35mm equiv: 45mm) Sepia, ISO100, 1/13, f/4.3, 8mm (35mm equiv: 45mm)
Pentax Optio RS1500 retro 1 Pentax Optio RS1500 retro 2 Pentax Optio RS1500 fish-eye
Retro 1, ISO100, 1/13, f/4.3, 8mm (35mm equiv: 45mm) Retro 2, ISO100, 1/13, f/4.3, 8mm (35mm equiv: 45mm) Fish-eye, ISO100, 1/13, f/4.3, 8mm (35mm equiv: 45mm)
Pentax Optio RS1500 brightness Pentax Optio RS1500 colour Pentax Optio RS1500 black and white
Brightness, ISO100, 1/13, f/4.3, 8mm (35mm equiv: 45mm) Colour, ISO100, 1/13, f/4.3, 8mm (35mm equiv: 45mm) Black and white, ISO100, 1/13, f/4.3, 8mm (35mm equiv: 45mm)

Video Mode

The RS1500 shoots videos at 720p HD and allows the use of both optical zoom and digital zoom, taking it to 26.8x zoom. The camera can also shoot VGA (640x480) and QVGA (320x240) quality videos.

Value For Money

The Pentax Optio RS1500 is available for £69.99. With a similar set of features there are plenty of other cameras to consider, including: Fujifilm FinePix AV200 at £58.99, Sony Cybershot W530 at £109.00, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FS16 at £119.00, Fujifilm FinePix JV200 at £74.99 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-S3 £98.99. After a recent drop in price, the Nikon Coolpix S3100, with a 5x optical zoom lens, is now available for £64.99.

Pentax Optio RS1500: Verdict

Apart from having customisable and changeable skins, the RS1500 doesn't boast many features and is quite a plain looking camera without a skin. The image quality is fantastic for a camera which can be purchased for less than £70, although images are quite noisy throughout the ISO range. The camera will certainly make an ideal gift for a child who is interested in taking their first steps into photography.

Pentax Optio RS1500: Pros

Value for money
Good colour reproduction
Changeable skins are unique

Pentax Optio RS1500: Cons

Noise performance is poor
Skins could easily be damaged


Pentax Optio RS1500: Specification

Price £70.00
Optical zoom 4x optical zoom, 4.9 - 19.6mm (35mm equiv: 27.5 - 110mm), f/3.2 - 5.9
Resolution 14 megapixel
Sensor size 1/2.33 inch
Sensor type CCD
Max image size 4288 x 3216
Aspect ratio 4:3
Focusing system Contrast detection TTL Autofocus system<
Focus points Multi-AF 3-point zone, Spot AF, Auto-tracking AF (anticipating moving subject)
Infinity-landscape, Pan focus
Focus distance 8cm
File types JPEG
ISO sensitivity ISO100 - 6400
Metering system Multi-segment metering
Exposure compensation +/- 2EV (1/3EV steps)
Shutter speed range 1/2000 - 4 seconds
Image stabilisation CCD-shift Shake Reduction
Movie mode HDTV (1280x720), 30/15 fps
VGA (640x480) 30/15 fps
QVGA (320x240), 30/15 fps
Monitor 3 inch colour LCD monitor, 230,000 dots
Media type SD, SDHC
Interface USB 2.0 Hi-Speed, PC/AV output
Power Rechargeable Li-ion D-LI108 battery
Box Contents Leather or neoprene cases, leather strap, AC adapter kit
Size 56mm x 92mm 22.5mm
Weight 127g loaded and ready
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