Pentax Optio RS1500 Review

August 1, 2011 | Matt Grayson | Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


If you're constantly being told that you need to grow up or you need to stop being immature then you need to take a look at the Pentax Optio RS1500. Sure, it has a sensible 14 megapixel sensor, 4x optical zoom starting from 27.5mm and a 3 inch monitor. But look at the front covers. You can change them. And with the Super Heroes pack, you can have Batman on the front of your camera. It's like being a kid again, except you're not. We already have a reputation for ripping open our shirts so this review will provide the perfect excuse. Available in a silver or white base colour, the Pentax Optio RS1500 is available for £89.99 / $119.95.

Ease of Use

Without the advance knowledge that the Pentax Optio RS1500 has removable front covers, it looks pretty bland. The white front sports the range name "Optio" branded into it and is covered by a clear plastic sheet. A plastic ring surrounds the SMC Pentax lens which starts at a nice wide-angle 27.5mm and zooms out to a respectable 110mm. Then we find out that the plastic ring can be pulled off and the plastic sheet removed. Inside the box is a plastic resealable bag with rectangular pieces of paper in it that have a circle and oval cut out for the lens and flash. These pieces of paper are templates that have unique designs on that can be slid underneath the clear plastic to give the front of the camera some colour and jazz.

There are two kits available. The first is the standard Pentax RS1500 kit that has 10 "skins" with designs such as carbon fibre and an old camera. The second one is the DC Comics collector pack that has an additional 7 skins featuring cartoon super hero favourites such as Batman, Superman, The Green Lantern, The Joker, Wonder Woman, Catwoman and Flash. This is great for all you big kids out there that grew up with these comics. Even if, like us, you weren't a big comic reader, the characters are so well known that they will easily bring a smile to anyone's face that sees the camera as you use it.

Pentax Optio RS1500 Pentax Optio RS1500
Front Rear

To use a skin, simply tuck it under the black plastic edge on the right, place the clear plastic cover over it and attach the bendy plastic ring to the lens bezel. That's one issue that is evident straight away: the Pentax Optio RS1500 is made solely of plastic which will affect how robust the camera is. In fact, it's pretty weird to see an all plastic camera these days, so it could be possible that Pentax designed it this way on purpose to fit the retro feel that the skins will give.

On the top of the RS1500, there's a small power button indicated by a red dot in it's centre and the shutter release button sitting next to it. While they are in close proximity to one another as we used the camera, we never had a problem with accidentally turning it off. A small, round indentation at the left of the top plate is used as a grip for the index finger. Moving onto the back, the 3 inch screen takes over most of the area. A small zoom rocking button is in the top left corner which operates the zoom at a reasonable rate. While the zoom may not be the fastest we've seen, the start up time is admirable at just under a second and we managed to get the camera switched on and taking a picture in just over 2 seconds.

Pentax Optio RS1500 Pentax Optio RS1500
Front Replaceable Skin

There are two menu options on the RS1500 which is typical of Pentax digital compact cameras. The mode button on the white navigational pad accesses the mode that you want to put the camera in, be it: program, auto, scene modes such as landscape, sports or fireworks among others and video. Simply press the mode button, highlight the mode you want to try by using the white navigational pad and press the OK button. The main menu has its own dedicated button and the menu uses the Pentax design that all their compacts use. The menu is split into two sections for shooting options and set-up. The recording menu allows you to change resolution, white balance, focusing, exposure compensation and ISO as well as less used features such as shadow correction and digital blur removal which are found on the second page.

As with all Pentax digital cameras, the Optio RS1500 has a green button. It's found in the bottom right corner on the back of the camera and is the fail-safe button for the technophobe. Pressing that button takes the camera into an uber auto mode that doesn't allow any changes to the camera in the recording menu at all. It does still give access to the set up menu which allows you to change the date & time, change world time, rename folders, format the card as well as other core operation functions of the camera. It also gives ultra big text and only the most basic of information. The great news for the more advanced user is that in the main menu, you can change what the green button does for you. It can be designated as a direct access for ISO, video , exposure compensation or resolution if you don't need the green mode.

Given the massive amount of plastic that's gone into the build of the RS1500, we weren't expecting to see a metal tripod bush and we were correct. One area that we're surprised about and a little dismayed is the battery door. It's very flimsy, very bendy and has a tendency to come open while shooting. Under the door is the rechargeable lithium ion battery and SD memory card slot. The camera takes both SD and SDHC cards and it's unusual to see that it doesn't take the new SDXC card type.

Pentax Optio RS1500 Pentax Optio RS1500
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

Going into the playback menu, the RS1500 has a good amount of things you can do. There are 14 options in the editing menu which is accessed by pressing down on the navigational pad. It's possible to create a slide-show, rotate the picture, add digital effects, crop the picture, edit video, protect the picture and a handy option for copying pictures on the built-in memory to an SD card.

Aside from the skins in the box, there's also five blank templates for your own creations which can be arranged and printed via A Green Lantern soft pouch and 4Gb memory card are also found in the super hero kit but they weren't in the box that we received in the office. There's the usual paraphernalia found in camera boxes along with a quick start guide so big it could be a full size manual. The reason for the size of it is because of the sheer amount of languages it's been printed in. The full manual is available on a CD enclosed and another CD has MediaImpression 3.0 for Windows and 2.1 for Mac users.

What the Pentax Optio RS1500 lacks in build quality and overall styling it makes up for in fun thanks to the skins that basically hide the lack lustre design. We're unsure about the amount of plastic that the camera is made up of. We don't think it will last very long in the real world but at less than £100 to replace it, does it really matter? The Pentax Optio RS1500 is fast when it's focusing and especially when it's being switched on. In fact, the slowest part of the camera is the focusing and even that's not too bad. Areas we're unimpressed with include the battery door because it's so flimsy and kept popping open on us. We also found that we had trouble with the plastic ring on the front of the camera. We only managed to fix it flush to the body once. The rest of the time, parts of it were sticking up.

Image Quality

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.

Let's put this in context right away that the Pentax Optio RS1500 is priced at under £100 and generally the lower the quality of the camera, the lower the quality of the pictures. But at low ISO, the RS1500 doesn't push out bad results. In fact apart from a bit too much sharpening from the processor, the pictures are good. We did detect a bit of noise at ISO 100 which isn't good news at all but it's only in really dark areas. The Pentax seems to work well up to ISO 400 where the picture quality will start to visibly degrade.

Colours are recorded realistically on the Pentax Optio RS1500 and it's a shame that when using a high ISO that the noise discolours the images so much. At low ISO, primary colours are bright and saturated while more forest colours such as dark greens and browns are rich. The camera is sympathetic enough to more subtle hues and can also realistically record more difficult colours such as purple.


If it wasn't for the small amount of noise in the darker areas of photographs at low ISO settings, the RS1500 pictures are pretty good. Edge definition is sharp and there's loads of detail in finer areas. It seems that the RS1500 has an unusual noise reduction facility because we found that in our tests, coloured noise we saw in the ISO 100 pictures has disappeared in ISO 200 pictures. There's more salt & pepper noise in the black parts of a picture giving smooth textures a mottled effect but as the tones get lighter, the image quality improves.

The image quality only really visibly degrades at ISO 800 and boy does it ever. Shadows and dark colours have a purple cast over them as the noise to signal ratio gets closer and the processor boosts both. Edge definition is still clear but showing signs of failing and as the settings increase the problem exacerbates. In a bid for damage control, the camera drops the resolution of the picture to 5 megapixels at ISO 3200 and picture quality does get slightly better but at the final ISO 6400 setting, quality is really bad.

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)



The sharpness of the pictures from the Pentax Optio RS1500 is good enough for general viewing but we did find that adding some standard sharpening in an editing suite such as Adobe Photoshop CS4 helped.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations

We found only rare cases of chromatic aberration in the pictures we took with the RS1500. A lot of cases we found we suspected of being lens flare more than chroma but at the times we did find it, the camera handled it well.

Example 1 (100% Crop)


At this point, we normally cover how awesome the macro is and how – when a camera has super macro – it gets even better. Well, the Pentax Optio RS1500 gives a comparably deflating performance. The normal macro system has a close focus of around 15cm which is less than decent. Super macro sounds like the RS1500 will pull its shirt open and spin around in a phone box to provide much closer focusing. Some cameras provide point blank range or thereabouts but the RS1500 has a rather tepid 8cm.

However, the quality of the pictures in macro is good, the pictures are sharp and clear and although the lens loses definition towards the edges of the frame, it's not too bad and compares favourably with other cameras in this price range.


100% Crop


The Pentax Optio RS1500's built in flash does add a degree of vignetting to pictures at wide angle although this is only minor. The vignetting remains through to full telephoto although it's not as discernible. We couldn't find traces of red-eye with or without the red-eye reduction on the camera. It's enabled in the flash functions opened by pressing the left side of the navigational pad. Continuing to press this button scrolls through the options and there are four in total. It's also possible to force the flash on, force it off and set it to auto.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (

Flash On - Wide Angle (27.5mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (110mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (110mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. Neither the Flash On or the Red-eye-Reduction settings caused any red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

Red-eye Reduction

Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)


The Pentax Optio RS1500 has a dedicated night shot mode and using this, the camera selects a high ISO which is unfortunate because in our test even though it was only dusk, the camera still chose ISO 800. It would be nice to have a night shot with tripod setting to use a low ISO but you won't find it on the RS1500.


Night (100% Crop)

Shadow Correction

The Pentax Optio RS1500's shadow correction feature attempts to preserve more detail in both the shadow and highlight areas of an image.



Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Pentax Optio RS1500 camera, which were all taken using the 14 megapixel Fine 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 21 second movie is 69.7Mb in size.

Product Images

Pentax Optio RS1500

Front of the Camera

Pentax Optio RS1500

Isometric View

Pentax Optio RS1500

Isometric View

Pentax Optio RS1500

Rear of the Camera

Pentax Optio RS1500

Rear of the Camera / Drive Mode

Pentax Optio RS1500

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Pentax Optio RS1500

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

Pentax Optio RS1500

Rear of the Camera / Shooting Modes


Pentax Optio RS1500

Rear of the Camera / Settings Menu

Pentax Optio RS1500
Rear of the Camera / Record Mode Menu
Pentax Optio RS1500
Top of the Camera
Pentax Optio RS1500
Side of the Camera
Pentax Optio RS1500
Side of the Camera
Pentax Optio RS1500
Front of the Camera
Pentax Optio RS1500
Skin Range
Pentax Optio RS1500
Memory Card Slot
Pentax Optio RS1500
Battery Compartment


Kids of the 80's and comic fans will love the super hero collector's pack available with the Pentax Optio RS1500. It makes the camera a lot more fun to use and the interchangeability of the skins give it an interesting slant that can be a focal point for times out with friends. Like a mood ring, the RS1500 can reflect your personality of that day although we feel that it would be nice if the skins were made out of better material such as card or thin plastic. Paper will tear far too easily – especially if any kids get hold of them. Obviously the custom templates need to be paper so they can be printed on unless they made the template available to fit a CD print tray.

Build quality of the Pentax Optio RS1500 is low with a lot of plastic all over but we need to take into account the price point of the camera. The screen is also low quality, we took some good shots that we thought were bad when seen on the screen but showing them on the computer, they appear a lot better. Dynamic range isn't too hot but switching the shadow correction on in the main menu will sort that.

The Pentax Optio RS1500's sensor captures colours well and if it wasn't for the digital noise issue, the pictures would be great. As it happens, excellent pictures viewed at a normal distance look a lot worse viewed close up. Saying that the type of user for this camera is unlikely to blow the pictures up to anything beyond 5x7 when printing with the exception of the occasional enlargement for families or friends. With that in mind, it's actually OK, but why are Pentax risking customers not enlarging prints? It will boil down to cost: an inferior sensor will keep the production costs down meaning the RS1500 can be offered for less than £100.

If you're a newcomer to photography, you like quirky retro products or simply want to stand out then the Pentax Optio RS1500 digital compact camera will certainly fit into your lifestyle.

3.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 3.5
Features 4
Ease-of-use 3.5
Image quality 3
Value for money 4

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Pentax Optio RS1500 from around the web. »

Not without problems, but serviceable photo and video quality, fun designs and a low price add up to an attractive deal.
Read the full review » »

The Pentax Optio RS1500 is a budget camera with some impressive specs, such as a 14MP sensor. The main draw will be the interchangeable front covers, enabling the user to add some creative flair to the aesthetics of the compact.
Read the full review » »

Pentax has released the second generation of their customizable RS-series of fashion savvy digicams, with the Optio RS1500. This model replaces the RS1000 from last year, carrying over several of the same key features. Pentax has incorporated an easier, and quicker way to change the "Skin" of the front of the camera, along with the addition of colored lens bezels that can be swapped in place of the standard black one.
Read the full review » »

Pentax launched the Optio RS1500, the follow up to the RS1000, into its Chameleon camera range in March 2011. The unique feature of the RS1500 is the ability to change the cameras skin to match your mood or outfit. The camera comes with a range of skins, but there are also some blank ones with which you can design your own. Available in the silver and black, the RS1500 is available for £70.
Read the full review »


Camera Type Digital zoom compact camera
Type CCD
Size 1/2.33''
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
Sensitivity Auto or Fixed (100-6400 ISO)?
Shake Reduction CCD-shift Shake Reduction
Focal Length PENTAX zoom lens 4.9 - 19.6mm f/3.2 (W) - 5.9 (T), equ. to 27.5-110mm in 35mm format
Digital Zoom Optical zoom: 4x
Digital zoom: approx. 6.7x
Intelligent zoom: Approx. 5.6x at 7M, approx. 26.8x at 640 (including optical zoom).
Construction 6 elements in 5 groups (3 aspherical elements)
Focusing System
Type Contrast detection TTL Autofocus system
Functions Multi-AF 3-point zone, Spot AF, Auto-tracking AF (anticipating moving subject)
Infinity-landscape, Pan focus
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)
AF assist AF assist lamp at front
Type 3'' (7.62cm diagonal) colour LCD monitor
Resolution 230.000 dots
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 system
Metering Multi-segment metering
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 Built-in flash: Integrated auto flash control
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)
Exposure Parameters
Modes One shot
Self timer (2 or 10 sec)
Continuous shooting
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 Face recognition (detects up to 10 faces)
Smile capture (smile detection and auto-picture)
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 Digital shake reduction - stabilized video
Duration: Depends on memory card capacity
HDTV (1280x720) at 30/15 fps
VGA (640x480 pixels) at 30/15 fps
QVGA (320x240 pixels) at 30/15 fps
Editing Video Editing available
Digital Filter B&W, Sepia, Toy camera, Retro, Colour, Soft, Starburst, Fish-eye, Brightness
Options Slideshow, Histogram, Calendar, Resize, Cropping, Image rotation, Original frame, Frame composite, Red-eye compensation, Subscreen input, Voice recording, Protect, DPOF, Image recovery, Selection as Start image, Date printing, Pet recognition, Face close up playback
Internal 21.6MB
External SD and SDHC memory cards
File Format JPEG (Exif 2.3), DCF 2.0, DPOF, PRINT Image Matching III
AVI (Motion JPEG)
Special Features
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?.
Height 56mm
Width 92mm
Depth 22.5mm
Weight 110 g unloaded, 127 g loaded and ready?
PC Windows XP SP3, VistaTM and 7
Mac Mac OS X 10.3.9 or above
Included Software PC: Arcsoft Media Impression 3.0 for PENTAX
Mac: Arcsoft Media Impression 2.1 for PENTAX
Kit Content USB cable, Li-ion rechargeable battery, battery charger kit, strap, software, set of 10 pre-printed skins, set of 5 pre-cut printable sheets of 10x15 photo paper, set of 2 interchangeable lens rings
Optional Leather or neoprene cases, leather strap, AC adapter kit

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