Review: Pentax Optio A20

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The Propaganda

It might only be October but to most tech companies think that means it is basically Xmas already – because the festive season is such an important time of year for sales, most manufacturers have already prepared their line-up with something attention grabbing. In digital photography, that means it’s 10 megapixel time (!) because a lot of people still equate photo quality with the number of megapixels.

It was actually Casio who laid stake to the ‘first 10 megapixel camera in the UK’ claim with it’s Exilim Z1000, but Pentax has been hot on its heels with its own 10 megapixel ambassador, the Optio A20. The camera also boasts smaller dimensions and weight than many of Pentax’s previous offerings and it has a few convenient extra features such as face tracking AF and anti-shake.

The Good

There was always the risk with the Optio A20 that Pentax might have focussed entirely on the 10 megapixel aspect alone and shirked on some of the other features, knowing full well it could still make a fairly respectable number of sales from that one impressive spec alone. But I’m happy to say that isn’t the case at all.

Instead, some degree of effort has been put into tweaking the camera’s usability and menu navigation design to strike a good balance between offering a wide range of modes and settings to the more tech savvy user, and making it usable for those who neither know nor care what difference things ISO sensitivity, white balance, etc actually make to the end result.

Alongside the usual variety of scene modes (15 in total) and other more complicated adjustable settings, you have the novice-friendly ‘Green Mode’ that automates everything down to a very basic point-and-shoot mode, which is going to be very handy if you don’t understand anything about the minutiae of proper photography.

The Bad

There’s nothing specifically bad to say about the camera – it has a respectable battery life, a pretty good start up time (clocked in at less than five seconds) and a decent range of post image processing tools. It also has a large enough LCD screen (but which could be brighter), it commits pics to memory surprisingly quickly given their size and at all but the highest sensitivity levels, photos are reasonably free of digital noise.

But that’s also part of the problem – there’s nothing to really get excited about. Early in the year we saw the first digital cameras offering wireless and Bluetooth functionality, even some with dual lenses. However, the Optio A20 hasn’t really tried to push the boat out in terms of innovation. The only real surprise in store is that it is a bit smaller than I expected.

Geek Sheet

Dimensions and weight: 54.5 x 88.5 x 23mm, 145g

Image Size: up to 10 megapixels (3648 x 2736 pixels)

Zoom: 3x optical, 4x digital

Focal Length: smc PENTAX power zoom 7.9mm-23.7mm

AF: 5-point multi AF / Spot AF / Tracking AF switchable

Screen: 2.5 inch, TFT color, Low-Reflective type LCD

Overview

In terms of picture quality, there’s little to distinguish the camera from other 10 megapixel competitors so the only thing that should really affect a buying decision is the usability factor. On this count, it comes out pretty well too. Price-wise it doesn’t do too badly either; it currently costs around £200, which happily makes it cheaper than Casio’s obvious rival. However, anyone looking for more of a gadget would probably do better to ignore the 10 megapixel tag and look for something with a little extra innovation.

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