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Cameras

Pentax Optio M30: Snap your snacks, kids

The Pentax Optio M30 is a slender 7-megapixel compact that's simple enough for a tiny child, but also sports a histogram and other features to teach big kids how to take better pictures

The Optio M30 is a slim and slinky 18mm-deep compact camera, packing 7.1 megapixels, a 3x optical zoom and a 64mm (2.5-inch) LCD screen. It's very easy to use and there are even some higher-end features tacked on, all at a very respectable price indeed.

With a solid metal body and cute manga-style menu icons, the M30 is one for the kids. Hassle-free point-and-shoot is enabled with a dedicated 'green mode' button. The usual suspects are rounded up in the mode menu -- sport, portrait, landscape and so on -- as well as modes for snapping pets and, bizarrely, food (which ups the saturation to make your Alphabetti Spaghetti look even more appetising).

Commendably, the M30 also makes some more advanced features accessible to the little 'uns. The display contrasts the smiley menu emoticons with some higher-end gubbins, such as a brightness histogram and a 'bright and dark portions' feature. This cleverly colours in areas of the image that are blown out or too dark, so you can recompose your shot or tinker with your settings. The manual even includes a great beginner's guide to image resolution and file sizes. Face recognition is also included, while low-light sensitivity goes up to a very respectable ISO 3,200.

Unfortunately, night mode and shake reduction both employ the automatic fast shutter/high ISO combination, while the manual innocently recommends using a tripod for night shots. Not very child-friendly.

At around £100, the M30 is cheap enough and simple enough to be 'My First Camera' for the ankle-biters who want to take pictures of their pets -- and their breakfasts. Meanwhile, the histogram and other features could teach kids of all ages how to take better pictures. -Rich Trenholm