Pentax Optio A30 review
The Optio A30 is one of the most compact 10-megapixel cameras we’ve seen, and one of the cheapest. It’s a tempting combination, and since this camera’s widely available on the continent you can find it even more cheaply if you’re willing to shop in the online grey market.
In our image tests, however, the A30 didn’t quite measure up to its more expensive rivals. Its photos looked crisp and detailed in Photoshop’s “Fit on screen” option, but we didn’t have to zoom in far to spot grainy noise and JPEG artefacts, even though the file size on disk was no smaller than other 10-megapixel cameras’ files. These flaws were very conspicuous in our night shots, but even our outdoor scene, in broad daylight, wasn’t immune. Such small imperfections won’t be noticeable if you print 6 x 4in photos or publish them to the web. Be warned, however, that the A30 only has a 3x optical zoom, so you could find yourself wanting to crop and enlarge images, and then the noise may become an issue.
A bigger problem was excessive contrast: in our outdoor and macro shots, bright areas were almost dazzling, while darker details were lost in the shadows. Midtones showed better differentiation, but were undersaturated. The net effect was that, next to the images produced by other cameras this month, the Optio A30’s images managed to look both starker and more drab at the same time. The manual contrast control didn’t help: it has only three settings, and picking “low” resulted in an unacceptably grey image.
We were also surprised by the low quality of the A30’s video clips. Pentax proudly advertises its use of the DivX codec for movie recording, and this may be a very space-efficient approach, but even on maximum quality the video image was characterised by smearing and colour interference.
It’s a shame the A30 couldn’t impress us more with its images, as it would otherwise be a great-value package. Its compact dimensions, clear screen and ease of use (thanks to straightforward controls and Pentax’s fully automatic “green mode”) would make it ideal as an everyday snapshot camera. Meanwhile, its high-resolution CCD and advanced features such as shutter priority offer the potential to get more creative should you want to. Ultimately, however, if you’re in the market for a high-end digital compact it’s worth paying more for something that produces cleaner, more balanced images.