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Pentax Optio A30: Dark horse compact

The 10-megapixel Pentax Optio A30 may not look like anything to write home about. But a wealth of manual controls and features make it more than meets the eye

It's a sneaky one, the Pentax Optio A30. It sidled into Crave Towers with a 3x zoom, 64mm (2.5-inch) LCD screen, and an innocent expression. It's matte black with a cutely curved silver trim, it's light, and it just looks like a friendly, average little compact camera.

Don't let it fool you. Sure, it packs a 10-megapixel resolution, which is up towards the high end of the compact market. But it looks so innocent, so non-threatening. Well, look a little closer.

The first sign that something's up is that the telescoping 3x optical zoom lens folds down flush with the body, rather than jutting out to engorge the profile of the camera. A little thing maybe, but we're just getting started. Look above the lens and you'll notice a focus-assist lamp, useful for focusing in the dark.

Delve deeper, and under the bonnet there's sensor-shifting image stabilisation. This pleases us Cravers beyond words. There's an ISO-boosting shake-reduction button on the top, which is not so great, but it least it's only a preview, so you can choose to turn it off if the results are too hideous. You'll also spot a sizeable 1/1.8-inch CCD sensor, slightly bigger than the typical 1/2.5-inch in many other compacts. Face recognition is in there too.

On the back there's the green mode button found on other Pentax models such as the M30 and E30, which takes all the decision making out of the clammy hands of point-and-shootards (and yes, it meeows). But customise the button as a hotkey to control another feature and delve into the wealth, the veritable plethora of manual shooting options. Manually control focus, ISO, white balance, exposure, shutter speed, aperture and metering, and even focus manually.

And all of this in a package measuring just 58mm across, 90mm up and down and 24mm deep. Well, you know what they say: it's always the quiet ones that surprise you. -Rich Trenholm