Pentax Optio M30 review: Pentax Optio M30

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3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good On-screen histogram; svelte metal frame.

The Bad Struggles in low light; noisy pictures at higher ISOs.

The Bottom Line The Pentax Optio M30 is a slinky camera at a correspondingly slim price. Picture quality is passable, but low light conditions cause noisy photos. The interface is friendly, and extra features like an on-screen histogram make this an interesting camera for bigger kids as well as little 'uns

6.5 Overall

The Pentax Optio M30 is a 7.1-megapixel budget compact camera with a sylph-like profile. The user interface is straightforward and cheerful, with smiley emoticon-style labels for the menu options and different sounds available when buttons are pressed.

Like most compacts these days, it includes a 3x zoom and 64mm (2.5 inch) screen, but it also packs some unexpected features.

Design
The Optio M30 is incredibly pocket-friendly, measuring a slim-and-slender 18mm deep and weighing 135g. The camera is slightly flared at one end and curves at the other, giving a grippable bell-like shape. The aluminium body is solid, although the battery cover feels a tad flimsy when open. Shiny accents look good although watch out for fingerprints. The USB port is uncovered, which will always have the potential for fluff, dust and foreign matter to penetrate the camera.

On the back, a raised group of dots provides grip for the thumb. The buttons are chunky and clearly marked, but look and feel a touch cheap on the otherwise stylish silver body.

Features
With its cute cartoony menu icons, the M30 is aimed at younger photographers. The usual suspects are rounded up in the mode menu -- sport, portrait, landscape and so on -- as well as gimmicky modes for snapping pets and food. The gimmicks continue with novelty frames -- they're tacky but at least provide space for you to add better ones, should you be inclined.

Cheerful cartoon menu icons are one of the child-friendly features of the Pentax M30

Top of the tacky list -- or brilliant, depending on your age and general disposition -- is the option to change the sound made when buttons are pressed. One option is the sound of a cat meowing. Fortunately there is a volume button and the option to turn all sounds off.

Playback mode boasts a number of nifty editing options, allowing you to rotate and crop your pictures, fix red eye and even strip out particular colours for that Sin City look.

The M30 also makes some more advanced features accessible with a single push of the OK button. This brings up a brightness histogram and activates the 'bright and dark portions' feature. This feature colours in red areas of the image that are blown out, or yellow for areas that are too dark.

It's commendable that these features are so simple to access and not buried in the menus. Combined with a clear beginner's guide to image resolution and file sizes in the manual, these features make the M30 experience more interactive and educational than the standard point-and-shoot compact.

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