Pentax Optio S50 review: Pentax Optio S50

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MSRP: $299.95

The Good Compact design; pleasing image quality; affordable.

The Bad Poor shooting performance; weak indoor flash.

The Bottom Line This little Pentax is a bit slow, but it takes nice pictures.

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6.2 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 6
  • Performance 6
  • Image quality 7

Pentax Optio S50

Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.

Yet another entry into the increasingly crowded field of 5-megapixel snapshot cameras, the Pentax Optio S50 boasts more features than such form-over-function offerings as the Canon SD20 but lags slightly behind Pentax's own S5i for versatility. Overall, the Optio S50 is a decent entry-level digital camera whose affordable price and strong image quality fail to offset some serious performance issues.

Though less sleek and a bit heftier than its stylish sibling, the S5i, the S50 still fits easily in a pocket and weighs little enough--6.6 ounces with battery and media--not to tire your hands during a shoot. Sturdily constructed, the S50's silver brushed-metal body has every button within easy reach, whether you have tiny hands or enormous mitts. The problem lies in labeling. If you don't spend some serious time with the S50's user manual, some of its unique pictograph labels won't make any sense; for example, Pentax represents the automatic setting as a bright-green smiley face on the mode dial. In another case, it took a few furious minutes to figure out that enabling color filters in digital-effects mode requires pressing the unlabeled down button on the camera's four-way selector.

The S50's par-for-the-course 1.8-inch LCD screen doesn't distinguish the camera but performs serviceably in daylight. You'll find yourself using the LCD to compose your shots far more often than with the camera's woefully inadequate optical viewfinder, which shows, at best, 70 percent of the image captured by the CCD. If you like your camera batteries rechargeable, you'll have to buy them yourself; the S50 ships with AA alkaline cells, though it takes a disposable lithium CR-V3 as well. This will save on charging time but can get expensive; luckily, the S50 boasts better than average battery life, and we were able to cram in 760 shots with our standard 1,850mAh rechargeable nickel-metal-hydride cells, half of them with flash, before the battery died.