Available in chrome (used in our preview here), black and aquamarine green, the Pentax Optio S1 was launched in March 2011 and is currently available for just £99.99. Read on to find out what you get for less than £100.
Pentax Optio S1: Features
The Optio S1 has a 14 megapixel sensor and a 5x optical zoom lens, which is a 35mm equivalent of 28 - 140mm, for shooting landscapes and close-up. To help avoid blurry images, the camera has a Shake Reduction mechanism. Taking people pictures is made easy with Face Detection and Smile Capture modes.
Other shooting modes available are Auto, P mode, Blue Sky, Landscape, Flower, Sunset, Night Scene, Night Scene Portrait, Portrait, Natural Skin Tone, Food, Digital SR, Kids, Pet, Sport, Surf & Snow, Fireworks, Frame Composite, Party, Candlelight, Text, Miniature Filter and HDR.
The Optio S1 can also do some photo editing, such as rotation, red-eye compensation, resize and cropping as well as applying digital filters such as black & white, miniature, HDR, sepia, toy camera, retro, colour, extract colour, colour emphasis, soft and brightness.
The Optio S1 records videos in 16:9, 720p HD format as well as VGA (640x480) and QVGA (320x240) at 30 or 15.
14 megapixel sensor
Wide angle 5x optical zoom lens (28-140mm)
Sensor shift SR Shake Reduction system
720p HD Video recording at 30fps
5cm Super Macro mode
3.2fps continuous shooting
Face Detection, Smile Detection, and Blink Detection
HDR mode for high dynamic range
SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card support
In camera charging via USB
91mm x 53mm x 20mm
Pentax Optio S1: Handling
Using the camera poses no issues. Even though there are no rubber grips it is easy enough to hold, the buttons are well placed and easy to press. The menus are laid out well and simple to navigate through. The camera is ready to shoot within a couple of seconds and focusing speed is good, as is shot-to-shot speed.
The CIPA rating for the battery is 180 shots and during testing this seems about correct, if you are going out shooting for a whole day, it is worth considering carrying a spare.
Under drive shooting, the camera has a self-timer of 2 or 10 seconds and you can also use a Pentax Remote Control, which can be instant or on a 3 second delay. There is also Continuous and Burst Shooting. Continuous Shooting takes full size images when the shutter is held down and in testing was capable of 0.9fps. Bust Shooting reduces the resolution to 5 megapixels but shoots at 3.3fps.
Pentax Optio S1: Performance
When shooting wide and with full optical zoom, detail is good throughout the images. Images are well exposed with good colour, although in the below wide-angle example there is some clear purple fringing in the trees. The camera has a minimum focus distance of 5cm so it is difficult to get really close to your subject but when using Super Macro mode, pleasant macro images are produced with plenty of detail.
Full optical zoom, 1/250, f/5.7, 25mm (35mm equiv: 140mm)
Digital zoom, ISO64, 1/250, f/5.7 25mm (35mm equiv: 140mm)
Super macro, ISO64, 1/125, f/3.9, 5mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)
Although very minimal, there is some noise at ISO64. At ISO100 it doesn't worsen much. Noise is clearly worse at ISO200 and ISO400, but the images taken at these levels are still good. Patches of detail start to get lost at ISO800 and is much worse at ISO1600. Although the noise is very bad at ISO3200 and ISO6400, the images are restricted to 5 megapixels and these ISO levels aren't commonly available on compact cameras at the price of the Optio S1.
ISO64, 1/4, f/5.7, 25mm (35mm equiv: 140mm)
ISO100, 1/4, f/5.7, 25mm (35mm equiv: 140mm)
ISO200, 1/10, f/5.7, 25mm (35mm equiv: 140mm)
ISO400, 1/20, f/5.7, 25mm (35mm equiv: 140mm)
ISO800, 1/40, f/5.7, 25mm (35mm equiv: 140mm)
ISO1600, 1/80, f/5.7, 25mm (35mm equiv: 140mm)
ISO3200, 1/160, f/5.7, 25mm (35mm equiv: 140mm)
ISO6400, 1/320, f/5.7, 25mm (35mm equiv: 140mm)
Using either portrait or natural skin tone modes, the Optio S1 takes a very pleasing portrait with excellent skin tones. Landscape mode also takes good pictures, with a boost given to the blues and greens in the images.
Landscape with building, ISO64, 1/60, f/10.8, 5mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)
The camera has D-range mode, where you can apply highlight and shadow correction when shooting. It isn't easy to see in the thumbnails below, but when viewing large it is clear there is more detail in the shadows of the trees when switching the D-range setting on.
D-range on, ISO125, 1/320, f/3.9, 5mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)
Flower mode with super macro, ISO100, 1/40, f/3.9, 5mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)
Text, ISO400, 1/15, f/3.9, 5mm (35mm equiv: 28mm)
Auto white-balance generally does a good job, under the incandescent lighting in our studio, the images produced using AWB and the incandescent preset are very similar. Under the fluorescent lights, the AWB setting does the best job, with the fluorescent preset giving a slight orange cast.
Auto White Balance - Incandescent Lighting, ISO100, 1/13, f/4.6, 8mm (35mm equiv: 45mm)
Priced at £99.99 the Optio S1 enters a very competitive market and performance wise can certainly hold its own. It's not exactly feature packed and one or two of the modes give strange results (HDR), but if you enjoy shooting landscapes and portraits then the camera doesn't disappoint. The addition of Shake Reduction, and a 5x optical zoom lens in an ultra compact body makes it more appealing and the support for infra-red remote control is an unexpected extra.
Pentax Optio S1: Pros
Really small camera and stylish design
Large ISO range
Easy to use
Pentax Optio S1: Cons
Battery life only rated at 180 shots
Pictures are poor using some of the modes, such as HDR