Pentax Optio RS1500 review: Pentax Optio RS1500

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The Good Very good value for money; decent picture quality for the price; easy to use; large LCD screen; 720p video capture.

The Bad Flimsy build quality; no HDMI socket; USB port is unprotected; plenty of picture noise.

The Bottom Line The Pentax Optio RS1500's design won't be to everyone's tastes, and the swappable skins are a gimmick, but it's fundamentally a very respectable budget camera. Its only real weakness is its poor build quality.

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7.5 Overall

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If you're the sort of person who gets bored looking at the same camera day in and day out, then Pentax may have come up with the answer. You can change the Optio RS1500's appearance at will and, at around £80, you won't be charged the earth for the privilege. But is the RS1500 a one-trick wonder or is there more substance lurking behind its swappable 'skins'?

DC Comics skins

We'll admit to initially being sceptical about the RS1500's unique selling point. The idea is that you can customise the camera, also known as 'the Chameleon', by shoving a patterned piece of paper under the clear, Plexiglas-style fascia.

You can produce your own skins on Pentax's website, although five pre-prepared designs come with the standard model. There's also a slightly more expensive superheroes pack that comes with a bunch of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern skins, indicating that the RS1500 isn't aimed at grown-ups. It's a kids' camera.

Pentax Optio RS1500 test shot 1
The RS1500 can deliver sharp, bright and colourful images, although high levels of picture noise are evident, even in ideal shooting conditions (click image to enlarge).

The RS1500 is certainly attractively priced for a first 'proper' camera and it's not one of those 480x640-pixel toys, either. The RS1500 has a 14-megapixel sensor, a 4x optical zoom, 720p video-recording capability, and comparatively advanced automatic features, such as face detection and automatic tracking.

Build quality

The RS1500's build quality isn't its best point. The camera is unpleasantly boxy and plasticky, and just doesn't feel terribly sturdy. We're unsure how durable the device would be in the hands of younger users. A particular point of concern is the door to the battery and SD card compartment on the underside of the unit. The door on our review unit was already loose, and kept coming open when we used the camera.

Pentax Optio RS1500 Superman skin
Everything looks better with Superman on it.

Another negative point is the fact that the RS1500 only has a single external connection -- a joint USB/AV port. This is left exposed with no rubber flap to protect it from the elements. HDMI connectivity is missing altogether, which means there's no easy way to watch your movie clips on a TV

Shooting modes

Several shooting modes are available, including 'night scene', 'portrait' and 'sport', as well as some less obvious offerings, such as a mode designed specifically for capturing text documents. The 'auto picture' mode is the default point-and-shoot setting, designed for hassle-free photography.


In general, the RS1500 is very easy to use. Its buttons are well laid out, and the list-based menus and icon-based mode selector are both very logical to navigate.

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