The Optio P70 isn't short on the point-and-shoot features we've come to expect. You get your Smile Capture, your Blink Detection, and some manner of shake reduction (in this case, it's the company's new Pixel Track SR shake reduction explained in the next paragraph). There's also face detection, and while that's not new, the P70 is capable of hunting down up to 32 faces in as little as 0.03 second. (Sadly, I could not get a group larger than five people during testing as I was not invited to any weddings, parties, or proms. However, it is very fast to detect faces as well as face-shaped objects.) Also, if you've never been good about switching to an appropriate scene mode, the P70 will pick out one of eight automatically.
Like the less expensive Optio E70, the P70 has no optical stabilization, but instead features Pentax's Pixel Track SR for helping minimize the effects of motion blur. Turn it on and it will track motion blur at the pixel level, determining in real time the amount of blur. Once you've taken a shot, it filters the effect motion has on each pixel to sharpen them and remove blur (all of this takes a few seconds after the photo is captured). In my tests it worked better than the traditional method of electronic stabilization of boosting ISO and shutter speed, as Pixel Track doesn't introduce more noise. However, in some of my shots it sacrificed sharpness in order to remove a slight blur. So it's not perfect, but it would be worth turning on if camera shake is unavoidable.
What really brings down the overall rating of the P70 is its slow performance. It starts up moderately fast at 2.5 seconds. However, shutter lag is at the high-end of what we consider acceptable for point-and-shoot cameras: 0.5 second in bright conditions and 1 second in dim. After the shutter's released it takes an average of 3.9 seconds till it's ready for another shot. That's long enough for the flash to recharge when you're using it, so at least that doesn't add to the time. Of course, turning on the Pixel Track SR adds several seconds on top of these times. The P70 has a high-speed continuous mode that drops the resolution to 5 megapixels. Its full-resolution continuous mode is capable of 0.9 frames per second.
Photo quality is good for an ultracompact camera, but low-light shooters will likely be disappointed. The camera offers ISO sensitivity settings from 100 to 6,400; however, ISO 3,200 and 6,400 are fixed at a 5-megapixel resolution. The P70 is best at or below ISO 200 and that best is actually quite good, too. It's not great with extreme highlights and lowlights, but the P70 produces photos with bright and natural colors, good detail, and that are relatively sharp, despite the early onset of noise. Photos taken at ISO 400 would still be suitable for smaller prints and certainly for online use, but the noise reduction starts making subjects look painterly and edges get fuzzy. Detail and sharpness are poor at ISO 800--like most all cameras in the P70's class--and we don't suggest using higher settings.
Pentax gave the P70 the ability to capture video at up to an HD resolution of 720p, but only at 15 frames per second. So while the quality of the video is nice for an ultracompact camera, it's not exactly smooth looking. You're better off keeping it in 640x480 at 30fps, especially if the movie is destined for online sharing. Also, the 4x optical zoom doesn't work in Movie mode.
If there's a follow-up model to the P70 (and I hope there is), it's going to need better processing speed. The design is excellent, the features very good, and the photos are perfectly suitable for who I see as the target user: someone wanting better photos than they can get from their cell phone without sacrificing the portability and convenience. It just needs to be faster.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Find out more about how we test digital cameras.