Pentax very quietly announced two new cameras late yesterday. The first, an 8MP model called the Optio Z10, marks new territory for Pentax with a sliding lens cover that moves sideways and, like the sliding covers on Sony cameras, turns the camera on and off. Sony often gets credit for the sliding lens cover design in digital cameras, but many compact film cameras incorporated sliding lens covers years before Sony started using them in its digital cameras.
While those film cameras often had mechanical issues due to their extending zoom lenses, this Pentax has an internally zooming refraction lens. The Z10's 7X optical, 38-266mm-equivalent f/3.5-5.4 zoom lens should provide plenty of reach, especially for such a compact camera, for capturing far-away subjects. The Z10 also sports a 2.5-inch, 230,000-pixel LCD screen, sensitivity of up to ISO 3,200, a Digital Wide function that can convert two images into an approximate equivalent of a 28mm wide-angle shot, and Pentax's Face Recognition system, which can detect up to 15 faces and uses them to set autofocus and exposure. On the video front, the Z10 can record AVI Motion JPEG clips at up to 640x480 pixels and 30fps. You won't find optical or mechanical image stabilization, but Pentax's Digital Shake Reduction system tries to compensate for hand shake by boosting sensitivity, and in turn shutter speeds, to combat blur in your photos. You will, however, find an attractive price of about $250 for the Optio Z10 when it hits stores in September.
The second new Pentax is the Optio S10, which will be sold exclusively at Wal-Mart in the U.S. The 10MP S10 includes the Digital Shake Reduction and Face Recognition systems mentioned above, as well as a 3X optical, 38-114mm-equivalent f/2.8-5.4 zoom lens, a 2.5-inch, 232,000-pixel LCD, as well as the Auto Picture mode, which analyzes a scene and then chooses the appropriate scene mode for your shot. The S10 joins the ranks of Pentax compacts that can record 640x480-pixel, 30fps video clips in the DivX MPEG-4 format, which is compatible with a large number of DVD players--making it easy to burn video clips to disc and play them on a TV (but it isn't compatible with the Mac OS). Like the Z10, the S10 will cost about $250 when it hits Wal-Mart shelves in September.