Pentax Optio RS1000 Review
The Pentax Optio RS1000 is a well-specified entry-level compact camera with a clever twist - its front panel can be personalised with your own photographs or illustrations, potentially making every RS1000 unique. There is also a RS1000 website where you can can choose, download and print ready-made templates. In addition, the Pentax RS1000 has 14 megapixels, 4x zoom lens, a 3 inch LCD screen, Auto Picture Mode, 720p video, Auto-tracking AF mode and a range of nine digital filters. Available in a black or white base colour, the Pentax Optio RS1000 is available for £119.99 / $149.95.
Ease of Use
Nowadays, more than ever it seems, the humble digital snapshot needs a special gimmick in order not to drown amidst a sea of otherwise nigh identically specified rivals, whether that gimmick be a touch screen, flip out USB arm, or something else.
In the case of the boxy 14 megapixel Optio RS1000 from Pentax, the 'something else' comes in its ability to download (from pentax.co.uk) and custom make printed 'skins' for its faceplate. These are slipped under the transparent cover provided, which is already screwed onto its front as you lift the camera from its box. A pack of pre-cut glossy photo paper came included with our review sample, allowing us to print our own favourite shots and use them to personalise the front. For those who can be bothered it's another way to make the user/manufacturer experience more interactive.
Even without such art and craft accoutrements, the camera in its minimalist 'naked' state still looks pretty neat. An underlying design of concentric circles spreading out from the lens itself - more noticeable on the black liveried version than the white alternative we were subsequently sent - at least hints that some effort has been made, whilst the Perspex-like cover has a mirrored effect when viewed at certain angles.
This initial favourable impression continues when we examine the build quality, which feels solid and not at all plastic-y. A good sign, especially when you consider the RS1000 has a street/online price around the £100 mark, based on its manufacturer's £120 recommendation. This suggests possible gifting potential - for teens and twentysomethings perhaps, who may conceivably want to change their camera's appearance as often as their protest placards.
With a width and height barely larger than a credit card this Pentax will unsurprisingly will fit unobtrusively into any pocket or bag, and weighs just 130g with battery and optional SD card loaded into the compartment at its base. Incidentally, here we find one of the weak points, in that after a couple of weeks of using the camera the door protecting said compartment was refusing to shut properly.
Of a more immediate practical concern is the fact that there's no grip of any shape or description provided on the RS1000, and our fingers did tend to slide around on the Optio's transparent cover. There's no rest for the thumb at the back either; it instead falls upon a rather stiff lever for operating its retractable 4x optical zoom lens which boasts a modest yet usefully wide angle focal range equivalent to 27.5-110mm in 35mm terms. The possibility for camera shake seems inevitable - the one concession Pentax seems to have made being a rounded indentation at the left hand edge of the top plate, into which the forefinger of your left hand slips comfortably if you attempt to steady the camera in both hands.
There is also a row of three tiny raised nodules at the back to attempt to prevent the thumb from slipping onto the 3-inch, 230k dot resolution LCD screen, used for both composition and review in the absence of any optical viewfinder. Despite the standard resolution it's impressively clear, though visibility does suffer under sunlight. Curiously, when shooting a close subject at maximum wide angle our review sample's rear LCD displayed a quite pronounced fish eye effect - but when downloaded this hadn't translated to the images themselves. Though that was welcome, it's also slightly worrying when what you see isn't exactly what you get.
Controls are reasonably idiot proof, up to a point. While the red dot button on its top plate misleads with impressions of it perhaps being a dedicated video record button - it's actually the on/off button - video does feature here and impressively at a high resolution 1280x720 pixels, with a choice of transitional rates of either 15fps or 30fps.
While that sounds good on paper, the built-in microphone (at the side, presumably so it's not muffled by the accessory faceplate) picks up wind noise when shooting outdoors. Also rather frustrating is the fact that the optical zoom is disabled when shooting clips. Nudge the zoom lever when recording video and the camera makes a couple of unattractively lurching digital crops instead, so it's best to leave this facility alone entirely if aiming for the smoothest results.
In fact, this appears to be a general rule of thumb when operating the RS1000. Stick to the basics of pointing and shooting and you'll achieve the best results. Try and push the envelope and you'll regret it. Indeed its limitations prompted us to spend longer than usual on framing and composition to achieve an end result worth keeping - which you can be the judge of by examining our sample images posted. Its intuitiveness and approachability also means that the Pentax is the kind of camera that anyone, from the kids to grandma, should be able to pick up and starting shooting with straightaway.
From the front then the RS1000 presents its best 'fascia'. It looks sleek and cool, lozenge shaped window for the flash sitting next to a small porthole for the AF assist/self timer lamp. Though it inevitably dominates the faceplate in its dormant state, the lens r looks rather short and stubby when the camera is activated, perhaps betraying its 'value' price point.
With a press of the top mounted power button the RS1000 shimmies into life in just over a second, lens extending to maximum wideangle setting and the rear LCD screen bursting into life with a sprightly audio flourish that sounds like a chirruping bird.
Shooting modes aren't given their own button or dial on the RS1000. Instead they're to be found at six o'clock on a familiar four-way command pad on the backplate.
Press this and a two-tiered toolbar of cartoonish icons - much resembling a collection of scene modes - appears across two successive screens. Included here are the default of Auto Picture mode, alongside program mode and video shooting mode. Whilst those are the basics, we also get 19 further options, including pre-optimised settings for the regulars of portraits and landscapes, as well as photographs of children, pets and night scenes. There's even an auto tracking AF mode to maintain focus on moving subjects, and, should you be happy to witness a resolution drop to a lowly 640x480 pixels, a burst shooting mode selectable when in alternative Program mode allowing up to 16 images to be captured over a period of just two seconds. When shooting natural landscapes we particularly enjoyed the results achievable when selecting 'blue sky mode' from among the same shooting settings, which added an extra punch of colour.
Select one of the above options, press the shutter release button, set into a globule-like template next to the power button, and there's the briefest of pauses while the Pentax determines focus and exposure, AF point highlighted in green with a further 'chirrup' of affirmation that the user is now free to proceed and fire the camera's shutter. Do so and a full resolution JPEG is committed to memory in around two seconds, screen briefly blanking out and then freezing to display the captured image whilst it is undertaking the process; again not a bad timing given this class of camera.
Most of the RS1000's controls are to be found at the rear, ranged to the right of the backplate LCD. Beneath the rocker switch for adjusting the zoom are featured dedicated playback and face detection mode buttons, and underneath this again we get that four-way control pad with central 'OK' button for effecting function changes. Ranged around this are four settings for adjusting the self timer, switching to macro/close up focus, activating (or disabling) the built-in flash, and the shooting mode option which we've just dealt with.
When in playback mode a subsequent press of the 'mode' option and a toolbar appears across the screen. It's here we find a slideshow option and several ways of making rudimentary image edits, such as cropping, rotating and resizing pictures. There are also a handful of funky digital effects, including a wacky small face filter for those with porky chops, blemish-smoothing 'natural skin tone' option, plus the ability to turn a pre-captured colour picture to black and white, sepia, or add cutesy hearts or star filters to a shot.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
It was when attempting to do the latter that we experienced the first problem over a two-week test period with the RS1000. Trying to apply a digital filter to a pre-captured image and save a new file alongside the old, the camera froze up whilst it was attempting to do so. We tried the old failsafe of removing and re-inserting the battery to find that, whilst the camera was otherwise working normally, the LCD screen and resulting images had turned a lurid Wizard of Oz shade of green. Clearly something had gone horribly wrong in RS1000 world. A quick diagnosis from Pentax confirmed the blue colour channel had 'dropped out' leaving just the red and green working, possibly due to an internal short circuit - not something we'd previously come across in a decade of camera reviews. A second review sample was dutifully dispatched, we tried the same filter application again, and are happy to report the above issue seems like an unfortunate one-off.
The last buttons on the Pentax Optio's back plate are a self-explanatory menu button and an adjacent one for switching to Pentax's 'green' [read 'easy') mode, the latter doubling up as a delete button if in playback mode. A press of the 'green' button and the screen display icons automatically enlarge for improved legibility, whilst a subsequent press of the menu button reveals that all the shooting options that could otherwise have a bearing on image quality have been stripped away. All you can do here is point and shoot - so the setting is perfect for when you're handing the camera to someone else and don't want them inadvertently changing anything. That said, the choice of formatting the card, and therefore wiping all those precious photos, is still perhaps unwisely provided within the set up options.
One flank of the camera meanwhile features nothing but a built-in mono microphone, and at the other side, we find an unprotected joint AV/USB output port along with a lug for attaching a wrist strap.
At the base of the camera, protected by a sliding catch, is a compartment housing both the camera's rechargeable lithium ion battery and a vacant slot for the optional SD/SDHC card. The catch feels slightly flimsy in its plastic-ness and we can see this weakening over time. Again we have to bear in mind this camera's £100 price point however, which forgives a little corner cutting here and there. That extends to the slightly disappointing battery life which is limited to 200 shots, making this more a camera for a quick weekend break than a week's holiday, unless also packing the mains plug charger.
So while there is both good and bad about the RS1000's handling and performance - for our money, fortunately, more weighted toward the former than latter - how do the images it delivers measure up? Normally we can't expect greatness at this price point, so does the Optio confirm or confound our expectations? Read on to find out…
All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 14 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 2.5Mb.
The RS1000 inevitably works best as a general-purpose rather than subject specific snapper. That said, with its lens starting at a wider-than-most 27.7mm equivalent in 35mm terms, the camera proved to be an able tool for shooting landscapes where the RS100's warm colour tones were to the benefit of greens in the foreground and blues in the background. Fortunately then with plenty of available daylight JPEGs straight from the camera revealed themselves as well exposed in being able to retain both shadow and highlight detail within the same frame, well saturated, and moreover crisper in terms of focus than expected given the bargain bucket price tag.
As we mentioned in the main body of the review, though getting up close to a subject at maximum wideangle setting does introduce a fisheye effect, at least on the camera's screen, this is much more subtle when the images are downloaded and examined - as shown by our brick wall samples - so the screen itself can be misleading at times.
It's worth noting that if opting to shoot above ISO 1600 (the camera offers up to ISO 6400), resolution automatically drops to five megapixels to limit the gritty appearance of image noise/grain. Even so, noise becomes progressively more pronounced from ISO 800 inclusive and upwards, which is pretty much expected of a £100 camera.
So in summation, a slightly better image performance than we expected for the price, which is the kind of result we're always looking for.
There are 7 ISO settings available on the Pentax Optio RS1000. The resolution is automatically reduced to 5 megapixels for ISO 3200 and 6400. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.
ISO 100 (100% Crop)
ISO 200 (100% Crop)
ISO 400 (100% Crop)
ISO 800 (100% Crop)
ISO 1600 (100% Crop)
ISO 3200 (100% Crop)
ISO 6400 (100% Crop)
Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are just a little soft at the default sharpening setting. You can change the in-camera sharpening level if you don't like the default look.
Original (100% Crop)
Sharpened (100% Crop)
The Pentax Optio RS1000 handled chromatic aberrations very well during the review, with just a little purple fringing present around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations, as shown in the example below.
Example 1 (100% Crop)
The Pentax Optio RS1000 has a Super Macro mode that allows you to focus on a subject that is 8cms away from the camera. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.
The flash settings on the Pentax Optio RS1000 are Flash-on, Flash-off, Red-eye reduction, and Soft Flash. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.
Flash Off - Wide Angle (27.mm)
Flash On - Wide Angle (27.5mm)
Flash Off - Telephoto (110mm)
Flash On - Telephoto (110mm)
And here are some portrait shots. Neither the Flash On or the Red-eye-Reduction settings caused any red-eye.
|Flash On (100% Crop)|
Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)
The Pentax Optio RS1000's maximum shutter speed is 4 seconds in the Night Scene mode, which is not very good news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 0.6 second at ISO 800.
Night (100% Crop)
This is a selection of sample images from the Pentax Optio RS1000 camera, which were all taken using the 14 megapixel JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.
Sample Movie & Video
This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1280x720 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 35 second movie is 111Mb in size.
Front of the Camera
Rear of the Camera
Rear of the Camera / Turned On
Top of the Camera
Bottom of the Camera
|Side of the Camera|
|Side of the Camera|
|Memory Card Slot|
If you're looking for an inexpensive yet stylish pocket camera for occasional snapping at parties and when out and about without your more 'professional' camera, then the Pentax Optio RS1000 steps forward as a capable and affordable option. If you want to do anything other than take snaps however, you'll be frustrated.
While for a £120 price tag we weren't surprised that the Pentax Optio RS1000's performance lacked finesse on occasion and the feature set is fairly basic, given that the JPEGs straight out of the camera are actually fairly decent in terms of colour, exposure and sharpness, shortfalls in handling like the inability to optically zoom when shooting video can to a large extent be forgiven. And at least the essentials are here, in terms of the camera providing a high-ish resolution, HD video, large LCD and optical zoom that takes better snaps than expected given not just its pocket size but also its pocket money outlay. So we'd go as far as suggesting that for a £100 street/online price you can't go far wrong with this Pentax.
If you've £50 more to spend then Nikon's equally well constructed CoolPix S5100 is another sensible snapshot contender with slightly more sophistication. However taken as a standalone point and shoot camera the Pentax Optio RS1000 does all that it set out to do, and does it well. This makes it, for us, and glitches with our test sample aside, Pentax's best low budget snapper since the Optio i-10.
|Ratings (out of 5)|
|Value for money||5|
Reviews of the Pentax Optio RS1000 from around the web.
The RS1000 is an extremely basic ultra-compact with a 14-megapixel 1/2.33-inch CCD sensor, a 4x zoom lens equivalent to 27.5-110mm, and a 7.62cm (3.0in) 230k resolution LCD monitor. It has a very plain rectangular plastic body, available in black or white, and extremely simple controls. It is quite similar in size, shape and features to another recent Pentax compact, the Optio H90, launched earlier this year. Like the H90 it is aimed squarely at the budget end of the market, and is currently selling for less than £100.
Read the full review »
|Camera Type||Digital zoom compact camera|
|Effective Pixels||14 megapixels|
|Still||14M (4288x3216), 10M (16:9) (4224x2376), 7M (3072x2304), 2M (16:9) (1920x1080), 640 (640x480 pixels)?|
|Movie||HDTV (1280x720), 30/15 fps
VGA (640x480) 30/15 fps
QVGA (320x240), 30/15 fps
|Colour Depth||12 bits x 3 colours|
Auto or Fixed (100-6400 ISO)
|Focal Length||PENTAX zoom lens 4.9 - 19.6mm f/3.5 (W) - 5.9 (T), equ. to 27.5-110mm in 35mm format|
|Digital Zoom||Digital zoom: approx. 6.7x|
|Construction||6 elements in 5 groups (3 aspherical elements)|
|Type||Contrast detection TTL Autofocus system|
|Functions||Multi-AF 3-point zone, Spot AF, Auto-tracking AF (anticipating moving subject)|
|Focus Range (automatic)||Normal: 0.4m - infinity (whole zoom area)
Macro: 15cm to 50cm (at wide setting), 25cm to 50cm (at medium magnification length)
Super Macro: 8cm to 25cm (at focal length of 5.8mm)
|Type||3'' (7.62cm diagonal) colour LCD monitor|
|Playback||Slideshow, Image Rotation, Small Face filter, Natural Skin Tone, Digital Filter, Frame composite, Movie Edit, Red-Eye compensation, Resize, Cropping, Protect, Image copy, DPOF, Start-up image, Face close-up playback?|
|Type||Electronic shutter with automatic exposure program controlled|
|Speed||1/2000 to 1/4 sec. 4 sec max. (Night Scene mode)|
|Exposure Modes||Auto Picture, Program, Natural Skin Tone, Night Scene Portrait, Night Scene, Movie, Landscape,Blue Sky, Sunset, Flower, Sport, Digital SR, Kids,Pet, Portrait, Food, Candlelight, Surf & Snow, Half-length portrait, Frame composite, Text, Digital Panorama, Green|
|Compensation||+/- 2EV (1/3EV steps)|
|Type||Automatic activation in low lighting conditions|
|Modes||Flash-on, flash-off and soft flash modes. "Red-eye" reduction function|
|Effective Range||Wide: approx. 0.15 - 4.8m (ISO Auto)
Tele: approx: 0.4m - 2.6m (ISO Auto)
Self timer (2 or 10 sec)
Burst Shooting (3.2 fps for up to 10 frames)
Multi-Burst (takes 16 VGA-size pictures at approx. 7.5 fps and creates a contact sheet)
|Face Recognition||Available functions: Face recognition, Smile capture|
|White Balance||Auto, Daylight, Shade, Tungsten light, Fluorescent light, Manual setting|
|Digital Filter||B&W, Sepia, Toy camera, Retro, Colour, Soft, Starburst, Fish-eye, Brightness|
|Recording||HDTV (1280x720) at 30/15 fps
VGA (640x480 pixels) at 30/15 fps
QVGA (320x240 pixels) at 30/15 fps
|Editing||Video Editing available|
|External||SD and SDHC memory cards|
|File Format||JPEG (Exif 2.3), DCF 2.0, DPOF, PRINT Image Matching III
AVI (Motion JPEG)
|Features||World time (75 cities, 28 time zones)
Digital Shake Reduction
Noise reduction when shutter speed is slower than 1/4 sec
DRE available: shadow adjustment
|Language||English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Japanese, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Turkish, Greek, Russian, Thai, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese|
|Interface||USB 2.0 Hi-Speed, PC/AV output (PAL/NTSC, mono)|
|Source||Rechargeable Li-ion D-LI108 battery? ? ? ?|
|Performance||Approx. 210* shots and 260** min. in playback mode with Li-ion rechargeable battery.
*Recording capacity shows approximate number of shots recorded during CIPA-compliant testing. Actual performance may vary depending on operating conditions.
**According to the result of PENTAX in-house testing?.
|Weight||113 g unloaded, 130 g loaded and ready?|
|PC||Windows XP SP2, VistaTM and 7|
|Mac||Mac OS X 10.3.9 or above|
|Included Software||Arcsoft Media Impression 2.0 for PENTAX|
|Kit Content||USB cable, Li-ion rechargeable battery, battery charger kit, strap, software, set of 3 alternative skins, hex wrench (diameter: 1.6mm), set of 5 pre-cut printable sheets of 10x15 photo paper), tracing stencil|