The Pentax Optio RZ18 was announced in September 2011 and is available in a range of three colours including classic black, pearl white and metallic orange, available for £169.00.
Pentax Optio RZ18 Front
Pentax Optio RZ18 Features
The outstanding feature on the RZ18 is the 18x optical zoom lens, a 35mm equivalent of 25 - 450mm, packed into a compact body making it an ideal choice for travel photography. It has a 16 megapixel sensor and is armed with dual shake reduction (CCD-shift-type and Pixel Track SR) to help take blur free photographs. With a minimum focus distance of 4cm the camera can get right up and take some close-up pictures.
The RZ18 has Auto Picture mode which automatically selects the correct settings for the detected scene making it easy for the novice photographer to take good pictures easily. The Digital Wide Function stitches two pictures together to create a wider image. Other features include Digital Panorama, Face Detection AF & AE function, Small Face filter, Smile Capture, Blink Detection and Pet Mode.
The RZ18 shoots videos at 720p HD with Movie SR (Shake Reduction) mode to help take shake free videos. The camera can also record VGA and QVGA quality videos. Unfortunately the camera doesn't utilise the optical zoom lens during recording.
Pentax Optio RZ18 Top
18x optical zoom lens (35mm equiv: 25-450mm)
16 megapixel sensor sensor
3 inch LCD screen with 460,000 dots
Sensor-shift Shake Reduction
Pixel Track SR
720p HD video
Face Detection AF
Wireless remote-control shooting with an optional Pentax remote controller
Burst shooting of up to 40 images, at a maximum speed of 9 images per second
Digital filters, including Miniature and Toy Camera
Three image sizes (4:3, 16:9 and 1:1)
Pentax Optio RZ18 Screen
Pentax Optio RZ18 Handling
Despite its 18x optical zoom, the RZ18 is small enough to carry around in your pocket. It has a rectangular design with grips on both the front and the rear of your camera for your right hand. The buttons are typical for a digital compact, with the addition of one which allows you to toggle between Smile Capture and Face Detection.
The menus are clear, well laid out and easy to use. If you struggle to see the small text you can increase the size of it to make it easier to read. On the rear of the camera is a 3 inch LCD screen with 460,000 dots and although it is grainy, it is clear to view in most lighting conditions.
The battery has a CIPA rating of 240 shots and the camera is ready to take photos within 2 to 3 seconds of switching on. Focus speed is good, although a bit slower when using the lens at its longest length. In continuous shooting mode the camera shot full 16 megapixel images at 0.6fps, with Burst Shooting taking 5 megapixel images with three different options: L managing 2.3fps, M 6.7fps and H 9.1fps.
Pentax Optio RZ18 Battery
Pentax Optio RZ18 Performance
The RZ18 produces images with pleasing colour reproductions and good detail, without too much blurring in the corners. The lens has a minimum focus distance of 4cm which allows the camera to take a detailed macro image.
Pentax Optio RZ18 Lens test images
Noise at ISO 80 and ISO 100 is minimal with only a small amount appearing at ISO 200. Noise starts to kick in at ISO 400 with a slight loss of sharpness appearing as a result. Noise becomes very prominent at ISO 800 and at ISO 1600 it's even worse. As you'd expect noise is really bad at ISO 3200 and ISO 6400 but the image size is limited to 5 megapixels.
Pentax Optio RZ18 ISO test images
Below are example images taken using some of the scene modes available. There are occasions when the camera struggles to get the exposure correct, with under exposure fairly common, such as in the picture of the cupcake. Outside, the camera is capable of some fantastic looking landscape scenes. D-lighting has two options, highlight and shadow correction, where you can select one or both settings. Pet mode has been used to capture the picture of the dog.
Pentax Optio RZ18 Scene modes
Under the incandescent lighting in our studio the AWB preset produces an image with an orange cast, with the incandescent preset producing the better image. AWB does really well under our fluorescent lights, with an orange cast present when using the fluorescent preset.
Pentax Optio RZ18 White-balance test images
The RZ18 can apply a range of filters to photos during playback rather than when shooting. Many of them have varying options as to how much effect is applied to maximise the creative opportunities.
Pentax Optio RZ18 Digital filters
The following video has been shot a 720p HD. Videos can also be shot in VGA and QVGA, but unfortunately the camera doesn't allow the use of optical zoom during recording.
The competition for mid-zoom cameras is hotting up, with most of the major manufacturers offering their own version. For its price, the RZ18 packs a versatile zoom lens and produces decent pictures. Video quality is good but there is no optical zoom available during video recording. The major problem is noise levels at ISO 800 upwards.
Pentax Optio RZ18 Pros
Good video quality
Pentax Optio RZ18 Cons
No optical zoom when shooting videos
Noise significant at ISO 800 upwards