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Pentax Optio RZ18 Digital Camera Review

The Pentax Optio RZ18 has a massive 18x optical zoom and is put the test by Daniel Bell.

| Pentax Optio RZ18 in Compact Cameras

Pentax Optio RZ18 Digital Camera Review: Pentax Optio RZ18 Lens Extended
Pentax Optio RZ18 Lens Extended

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 Digital Camera Review: Pentax Optio RZ18 Front
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 Digital Camera Review: Pentax Optio RZ18 Top
Pentax Optio RZ18 Top

Key Features

  • 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
  • Pet mode
  • 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)
  • D-Range setting
Pentax Optio RZ18 Digital Camera Review: Pentax Optio RZ18 Screen
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 Digital Camera Review: Pentax Optio RZ18 Battery
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

Video Mode

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.

Value For Money

The Pentax Optio RZ18 is available for £169.00. Other cameras with an 18x optical zoom lens are the Fujifilm FinePix S2950 (14 megapixels, £119.00), Olympus SZ-10 (14 megapixels, £148.00), Samsung WB700 (14.2 megapixels, £148.00) and Nikon Coolpix S9100 (12.1 megapixels, £194.00). Other cameras with not as optical zoom but still worth considering are the Fujifilm FinePix F600 EXR (15x optical zoom, 16 megapixels, £229.00), Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 (16x optical zoom, 14.1 megapixels, £234.95) and if you having a very large budget, the Leica V-Lux 30 (16x optical zoom, 14.1 megapixels, £549.00).

Pentax Optio RZ18 Verdict

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

Keenly priced
Good video quality

Pentax Optio RZ18 Cons

No optical zoom when shooting videos
Noise significant at ISO 800 upwards


Pentax Optio RZ18 Specifications

Max Aperturef/3.5 - f/5.9
35mm equivalent25mm - 450mm
Optical Zoom18x
Image Sensor
Pixels16.1Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4608
Pixels (H)3456
Sensor TypeCCD
Sensor Size1/2.33 inch
Sensor Size (width)6.08mm
Sensor Size (height)4.56mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 4:3
  • 16:9
  • 1:1
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution460,000 dots
Touch ScreenNo
Min Focus4cm
Focusing modes
    Exposure Control
    Shutter speeds shortest1/2000sec
    Shutter speeds longest4sec
    Bulb modeNo
    Exp modes
    • Program
    • Scene modes
    • A
    • Centre-weighted - Average
    • Multi Pattern
    • Spot
    ISO sensitivity80 - 6400
    White balance
    • Auto
    • Manual
    • Outdoors/Daylight
    • Incandescent
    • Fluorescent
    • Shade
    Exposure Comp+/-2
    Shooting Options
    Continuous shooting9fps
    Movie modeYes
    Video Resolution
    • 1280x720 HD 720p
    • 640x480 VGA
    • 320x240 QVGA
    Video FPS30, 15
    Stereo SoundNo
    Optical Zoom with VideoNo
    Other Features
    Image StabilisationYes
    Card Type
    • SD
    • SDHC
    • SDXC
    File Type
    • JPG
    Power Source
    Battery TypeRechargeable Li-Ion battery D-LI92
    Battery Life (CIPA rating)240shots
    Box Contents
    Box ContentsUSB Cable I-USB7, AV Cable I-AVC7, Li-Ion Battery D-LI92, Battery Charger Kit K-BC92, Strap O-ST104, Software CD-ROM S-SW121

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    Photographs taken using the Pentax Optio RZ18

    Rainbow over waterfall

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