The Pentax Optio E60 is the cheap camera you always carry; you know, the type that's slowly being replaced by the camera in your cell phone. It has few features above and beyond the basics, making it good for beginners as well as those who just want to take a picture to remember a moment. It doesn't encourage experimentation or offer many settings to twiddle with, and if you're expecting excellent photo quality or lightning speed for its sub-$140 price, you're bound to be disappointed.
Measuring 3.9 inches wide by 2.3 inches high by 1 inch deep, the black-and-silver polycarbonate body of the E60 has dimensions just small enough to be considered an ultracompact, and is one of the smaller cameras to support AA batteries. With two batteries and an SD card, the camera weighs slightly more than 6 ounces. Up front is a 3x f2.9-5.2 32-96mm-equivalent lens, which is reasonably wide for a budget compact.
The E60's design strength lies in its simplicity, though some may see this as just a lack of features. On top is a power button and shutter release with the rest of the controls (zoom rocker included) on the back. If you really don't like small or cramped buttons, you'll probably love the E60. Buttons for menu navigation, flash, capture mode, drive mode, focus, playback, and even activating face detection are big and spaciously laid out, reducing the chances of accidental presses. Of course, the use of a relatively small 2.4-inch LCD--its resolution is comparatively low, too, at 112,000 pixels--makes this possible.
Not surprisingly, there isn't a lot of shooting flexibility with the E60. The Mode button opens up a menu of 17 shooting modes, including Pentax's auto-scene-selection option called Auto Picture, which determines the best shooting mode for your subject; it selects from Standard, Landscape, Portrait, Night Scene Portrait, Night Scene, Sport, and Flower. The results are reliable, so those that like to leave it in auto should be happy with the results. There's also a Program mode which lets you pick focus area and ISO sensitivity, and adjust exposure compensation, and Pentax's anti-Program setting, Green mode, which takes away all control.
The camera performs reasonably well, especially given its low price. Powering on to first shot takes 1.9 seconds on average and typically takes the same amount of time from shot to shot. Flash adds a second to that. Shutter lag is on point for its class at 0.5 second in bright conditions and 1 second in dim light. Burst mode offers a below average continuous shooting speed of 0.8 frames per second. There is a faster 16-shot burst, but it's at a reduced 640x480-pixel resolution.
Photo quality is pretty good for a camera in the E60's class. It renders vibrant, accurate color under both indoor and outdoor lighting, and photos are relatively sharp; Pentax errs on the side of a more natural look rather than oversharpening like many manufacturers. There is no white balance control at all, so it's a good thing the E60's auto white balance is fairly consistent in natural light. Shooting in incandescent light, however, results in the overly yellow scenes typical of auto white balance. Subjects occasionally underexpose, while background highlights blow out slightly. The lens also displays some barrel distortion, particularly on the left side, which results in purple fringing.