The 14-megapixel Pentax Optio RZ10 is part of an ever-less-exclusive club of compact cameras with long zoom ranges -- 10x in this case. Available for around £160, has it got what it takes to compete with the (14x), (12x) and (15x), to name but three competitors?
We had the all-black version of the RZ10 in for review. Its matte exterior looks rather serious and utilitarian, but you can also get the camera in white, purple, green and orange versions. The handgrip and back plate have a soft and tactile thin rubber coating. This is a pleasing touch.
The camera's design packs a few minor surprises. The chunky lens surround feels like it should be detachable, allowing the attachment of supplementary screw-on filters, but it isn't. The mono speaker mounted above the lens is located where a microphone might be found on other cameras -- the RZ10's mic is instead tucked unobtrusively to the top right of the lens. Also, the power switch has a red dot on it that makes it resemble a one-touch video-record button. The RZ10 doesn't have one of those buttons at all, though.
Caught by the buzz
The RZ10 responds almost instantly to a press of its power button. It takes about a second for the lens to extend to its maximum wide-angle setting and for the 2.7-inch, 230,000-pixel LCD to burst into life with an audio flourish. There's no optical viewfinder. Flick the lever encircling the large shutter-release button and the RZ10's zoom lens powers through its broad 28-280mm equivalent range in 2 to 3 seconds, which is also swift. There's an accompanying buzz, but it's fairly quiet.
Given the quiet buzz, it's a shame that the optical zoom is disabled when recording 720p high-definition video, and doubly so given the lens' extensive reach. A digital alternative (up to 6.7x) can be used instead in video mode, but it only serves to deteriorate the image. Output to TV or PC is via a combined AV out and USB port. There's no HDMI connection for hooking the camera up directly to a high-definition TV.
Video and stills are saved to SD, SDHC orcards, or a weedy 87MB of internal memory. It takes just over a second to save a photo. The memory-card slot sits in a cavity together with the battery, which will last for a fairly average 260 pictures or so.
You may want to make use of the tripod connection, given the likelihood of camera shake when holding the RZ10 at full zoom, although built-in sensor-shift shake reduction helps minimise this to a certain extent. For boosting low-light performance, the camera's light-sensitivity range stretches through a respectably broad ISO 80 to ISO 6,400.
The camera also proves versatile in its ability to shoot up to 9.1 frames per second, for an impressive total of up to 40 shots in burst mode. You'll have to accept a resolution drop to 5 megapixels, however, and the relevant drive mode is mysteriously hidden away within the self-timer options on the rear control panel.