Pentax Optio SV review

£176
Price when reviewed

We’ve come to expect feature-packed Pentax cameras, and the Optio SV is no exception. It has a 5-megapixel CCD for 2,560 x 1,920 images and a 5x optical zoom, which fits into a body just 28mm deep.

Pentax Optio SV review

There’s all the manual control you could want, with aperture and shutter priority, as well as full manual control. You can manually set white balance, adjust flash power and a live histogram assists with exposures. Pentax also provides panorama assist, time-lapse shooting and even time-lapse movies.

The list continues with contrast, saturation and sharpness controls. The handy auto-bracketing mode supports all three plus exposure and white balance, allowing the camera to shoot several frames at varying settings while you hold the shutter button down. In fact, the only items missing are a focus-assist lamp and an orientation sensor.

A nice touch is that you can choose which settings are retained after power-off, so you don’t have to remember to change, say, the resolution and compression settings from their defaults every time. An extra mode dial provides quicker access to common functions, including movies and a user mode. Also, you can choose simplified menus to make the camera easier to operate.

It’s a shame that Pentax could only stretch to a 1.8in LCD, but it has a respectable resolution and refresh rate. The SV has no internal memory; instead, a 32MB SD card is supplied. The battery charger allows in- or out-of-camera charging; the battery didn’t last as long as in the Olympus or Sony, but still kept going for more than 100 shots.

Unfortunately for Pentax, we weren’t too enamoured with the SV’s image quality. It proved an average performer indoors, with unexceptional sharpness, white balance and noise. Flash coverage was fine, though. Outdoors, the Optio fared better for landscapes, thanks to decent colour balance and exposure, but focus was a touch soft overall and we noticed the edges of shots becoming slightly blurred. The portrait shot left skin tones looking too pale, while the door turned into a plum red, compared to others.

Movie quality was decent, despite the low 320 x 240 resolution, but this isn’t a great camera for macro shots: the SV captured a 56 x 42mm area, blurred the corners and introduced barrel distortion. Purple fringing throughout our tests was minimal, thankfully.

So in terms of basic image quality, the Pentax doesn’t match the best here. However, its vast range of controls and 5x optical zoom mean that it shouldn’t be ignored.

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