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Pentax Optio P70 review: Pentax Optio P70

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MSRP: $359.99

The Good Great-looking design; easy operation; fun features.

The Bad Photo quality dips above ISO 200; slow performance.

The Bottom Line Pentax nailed the design and features for the oh-so-small Optio P70, but there's room for improvement with its performance and photo quality above ISO 200.

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6.8 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 5
  • Image quality 6

Those looking to step up from taking photos with their cell phone or other mobile device will want to consider the Pentax Optio P70. Fronted by a 27.5mm-equivalent wide-angle lens with a 4x zoom, the 12-megapixel ultracompact camera is point-and-shoot simple with all the automatic comforts we expect as well as some extras found above its price point. It looks great, too, and is thin and light enough that you may forget it's in your pocket. Yep, the P70 has a lot to offer for such a small camera--just not speedy performance.

Key specs Pentax Optio P70
Price (MSRP) $199.95
Dimensions 3.8 inches wide by 2.1 inches high by 0.8 inch deep
Weight (with battery and media) 4.5 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 12 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD
LCD size, resolution 2.7-inch LCD, 230K dots
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 4x, f2.6-5.8, 27.5-110mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/Motion JPEG
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,000x3,000 pixels (4:3)/ 1,280x720 at 15fps (16:9)
Image stabilization type Electronic
Battery type, rated life Lithium ion rechargeable, 200 shots

Much like the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T77, the P70 is a sliver of a camera, roughly the size of a closed flip phone. The aluminum body is attractive, if a little bit slippery, and available in three colors: silver, white, and red. The biggest gripe with the design is there's no dedicated area for your thumb. There is some room to the right of the Face Detection activation and Playback buttons but, because of the rounded edge to the body, you won't get a firm grip for one-handed shooting. Aside from this detail, the P70 is an exemplary ultracompact design. And Pentax even managed to get a wide-angle lens with a 4x zoom in the petite body, too.

The biggest problem with the P70's design is there's no specific place for your thumb.

For the generation of snapshot photographers who've adjusted to shooting photos with their cell phones, Pentax added a Vertical Snap mode. Hold down the OK button while the camera's off and when the camera eventually turns on, the OK becomes a shutter release, and the directional pad controls the zoom and exposure compensation. The only other control you get is the ability to turn the flash on and off. (Basically, it's the P70's auto-everything Green mode.) It's a fun add-in, but holding the camera like that can be a little tricky, particularly if you need to use the flash.

General shooting options Pentax Optio P70
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600
White balance Auto, Daylight, Shade, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Manual
Recording modes Auto Picture, Program, Digital SR, Scene (20 options), Movie, Green, Vertical Snap
Focus Autofocus, Macro, Pan Focus, Infinity, Manual
Metering Multisegment, Center-weighted, Spot
Color effects B&W, Sepia, Red, Pink, Purple, Blue, Green, Yellow, Soft, Color extraction (red, green, blue), Brightness (effects available in editing only)
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) Unlimited continuous

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.

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