Even though the Pentax Optio S4 is small enough to fit into an Altoids© mint can, Pentax certainly did not skimp on its features. It boasts 2 types of focusing (spot and 7-point), 6 modes of focusing (auto, macro, super-macro, landscape, manual, focusing area), ability to exposure compensate, has 3 forms of metering (spot, center-weighted, multi-segmented), able to white balance in auto, preset and manual modes, takes normal movies with audio as well as fast-forward movies up to 1 minute and holds a generous 11MB worth of built-in memory! Looks like one could capture quite a bit of photos even without extra media. Additionally, it has an abundance of digital colour filters (yellow, green, blue, purple, pink, red, sepia, black and white), a Slim filter to slim or make objects look broader, ability to take panoramic shots and 3D images, a world time function with alarm, ability to trim and resize photos on the camera, has adjustable color saturation and image contrast levels and more.
We found the camera easy to hold single handedly, and managed to reach most of the buttons with our thumb during its recording or playback operation. It zooms amazingly close (down to a cross screen length of 0.8-0.9cm) to our test objects during the (super) macro test; putting other digital cameras, which claim mere close-up shots as macro shots, to shame. The Pentax Optio S4 also has a commendable flash reach and battery life for an ultra-compact.
However, it would have been ideal if Pentax had spent more time improving on their image quality rather than offering the plethora of features to achieve results where some can be accomplished through any photo editing software. For one, there is an unusual amount of grain in the photos taken at ISO 100 and ISO 200, in both night and day shots, and there is that suspicious looking red tinge in its night shots. In day shots, there is a slight cool (blue) cast in the photos while with indoor flash shots, colors tended more to the warm side.
That said, we give the Pentax Optio S4 a thumbs up for the flexibility it provides with all its features. Beginners might be blown away by all these special functions and may be able to accept the image quality the camera offers. But advance beginners and beyond should not be sidetracked by these features and keep in mind the fundamental purpose of having a camera, which is to take good photos (though the definition of ‘good’ is debatable from photographer to photographer). The Pentax sells for S$888* but can be found in local stores in the low S$700* price region. All things considered, it was a promising camera but because of its slightly less than desirable photo quality, we gave the Pentax Optio S4 a 3.5 out of 5 stars rating.
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