Pentax Optio RZ18 Review

December 12, 2011 | Mark Goldstein | Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


The Pentax Optio RZ18 is a new travel-zoom compact digital camera sporting a wide-angle 18x zoom lens. Offering a versatile focal range of 25-450mm, the Pentax RZ18 also features a 16 megapixel sensor, Dual Shake Reduction system, high-resolution 3 inch LCD screen, 720p HD movie recording, range of digital filters, dynamic range setting and an Auto Picture Mode. Available in three different colours - black, white and orange - the Pentax Optio RZ18 officially retails for £199.99 / $299.95.

Ease of Use

At first glance you'd be mistaken for thinking that the Pentax RZ18 is just another run-of-the-mill compact camera with a standard lens, but further investigation reveals that, as the name suggests, it actually has an 18x zoom with an incredibly versatile focal range of 25-450mm. This makes it well suited to everything from wide-angle landscapes to sports and even nature photography.

Even when set to 450mm, the lens doesn't extend too far from the front of the RZ18, looking to all intents and purposes like a "normal" camera. And despite the big zoom, it still just about fits in the palm of your hand and therefore inside a coat or even trouser pocket at a push, pretty amazing given that lens. At less than 200g it's also pretty light too, although this does come at the expense of a cheap-feeling body that actually sounds hollow when you tap the camera. We were less impressed with the handgrip, though, which just consists of slightly indented panels at the front and rear that are finished off with a slightly textured material, in practice doing little to aid your hold on the camera.

The lens isn't particularly fast at either the wide-angle setting with a maximum aperture of f/3.5, or the telephoto setting with a maximum aperture of f/5.9, but the CCD-shift shake reduction system provides compensation equivalent to 2.5 steps and helps to ensure that the majority of photos taken in good light are sharp. Plus there's a Dual option which boosts sensitivity up to an equivalent of ISO 6400, while the trade off is that resolution drops to five megapixels. Otherwise the ISO range extends from 80 to 6400, the resolution drop occurring automatically above ISO 1600. There's a small lozenge-shaped flash rather inconveniently located just about the hand-grip at the front-left of the RZ18, being obscuredby your right forefinger more often than not. There's also an activity LED, and to the right is the built-in microphone.

Also included are HD movies, albeit only at 1280x720 pixels and more dispappointingly without the use of the 18x zoom, along with stills recording to regular-issue SD/SDHC/SDXC card and wireless capable Eye-Fi cards. The camera's intelligent/smart auto-style 'Auto Picture' technology is the default shooting mode setting. It sizes up potential subjects and automatically selects the most pertinent settings to deliver the (theoretically) best results. As such we found it did so reliably.

The shooting mode options are presented as unthreatening cartoon-ish icons on screen. These are intuitively tabbed through with a thumb press of the four-way control pad on the backplate, selections instigated with a press of the centrally located 'OK' button. Smile Capture and Face Detection (instantly recognising up to 32 faces in the frame) have their own joint access button on the camera back - denoted by a can't-miss-it smiley face icon.

Pentax Optio RZ18 Pentax Optio RZ18
Front Rear

A press of the on/off button on the camera's top plate powers up the RZ18 speedily in just over a second. The rear screen briefly displays the Pentax logo before revealing the scene itself, while the lens extends from storage flush to the body to its wide angle setting ready for the first shot.

The RZ18's top plate also houses the large and obvious shutter release button with just the right amount of 'give' to enable the user to accurately determine the halfway point for lining up a shot. This control is surrounded by a chunky lever for operating the zoom, the lip of which points forwards so that it falls neatly under the forefinger. Completing the top of the RZ18 is the start-shaped speaker which is positioned over to the left when viewed from the rear.

The zoom takes about three seconds to cover the entirety of its 25-450mm equivalent range, and if used in playback mode doubles up as means of enlarging images to check detail or, if the lever is nudged in the opposite (wide) direction, displaying shots as a collection of thumbnails. Take a shot at maximum JPEG resolution and the writing time to the memory card is around two seconds, with the message "Data Being Recorded" annoyingly shown if you attempt to take another shot or use the menu system. The RZ18 has a headline-grabbing Burst Shooting mode of up to 40 images at a maximum speed of 9 images per second, but sadly this reduces the resolution to 5 megapixels.

In the absence of a viewfinder, all shot composition and review is obviously done via the RZ18's 3-inch 4:3 ratio LCD which has a good resolution of 460,000 dots. Overlaid icons reveal the selected shooting mode, a battery life indicator, flash mode, number of shots remaining, time and date, and if the user already has face detection/smile shutter modes selected, that option as well.

By changing the resolution/quality settings via the two-folder menu screen, there is the alternative option to shoot in 16:9 ratio or 1:1 ratio. As this is in effect a cropped image, the resolution drops from the full 16 megapixels to 12 megapixels. If you really want to squeeze as much as possible on the available memory, there's also a further 4:3 option at 7 megapixels and a 16:9 option at 2 megapixels.

Pentax Optio RZ18 Pentax Optio RZ18
Side Front

To the right of the screen at the camera's rear is a control pad with central 'OK' button for effecting changes, top and tailed by two pairs of buttons. The top two are a dedicated playback button, and to its right the aforementioned Face/Smile Detection control to manually activate the function when shooting portraits.

Beneath this pairing is the main control pad, with designated functions accessible at each edge. At 12 o'clock we find the self-timer/drive mode control, to the right, at three o'clock, the macro/close up control (also where you'll find a manual focus option with adjustable slider from 0.8 metres to infinity), and at the bottom, at six o'clock, a 'mode' button in the absence of a possible alternative shooting dial/wheel control for the same. Press this and the user has access to 24 scene/shooting modes, with the option of the slightly more expansive Program as an alternative to Auto Picture.

This is also where the user selects video mode in the absence of a dedicated record button for the movies feature. The other options selectable here include the usual run of pre-optimised settings for photographing night scenes, landscapes, pets and people as well as the Digital Wide - stitching together two images shot in the portrait format to provide one slightly wider 21mm equivalent landscape image than the lens itself will allow - plus a Digital Panorama mode.

The final control on the pad - at nine o'clock - is for adjustment of the built-in flash. The user selectable options here include auto flash, flash off, forced flash, auto flash with red eye reduction, forced flash with red eye reduction and soft flash modes.

Keeping things simple still, below this pad the final two buttons on the backplate - and the RZ18 itself - are menu and green mode/delete button. A press of the former in either image capture or playback modes brings up four Record folders. If in Auto Picture mode some settings (governing the likes of white balance, metering and exposure compensation) are automatically deselected, so switch to Program instead to access the full gamut. It's here that one can adjust movie resolution and quality levels - as well as that of stills - plus access a D-Range setting so the camera automatically corrects for shadows, for highlights - or for both. This isn't an automatic default feature; it has to be selected by the user.

Pentax Optio RZ18 Pentax Optio RZ18
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

In 'menu' mode, by tabbing to the right of the record folders there's access to three further Setting folders. This is where you'll find the normal date and time settings plus a slider for adjusting the brightness of the LCD. More unusually, this is where a pixel mapping function is also to be found hiding, as a means of correcting defective pixels if there any.

A press of the 'green' or easy mode button to the right of menu and the info display is immediately writ large for the myopic. Try pressing the menu button in this mode and all you'll have access to will be set up options rather than anything that could directly influence image capture. So the recording folders disappear entirely - meaning operation is point and shoot in its purest sense. In playback mode, as we've noted, this same button doubles up as a very useful delete key.

If the Pentax RZ18 truly is missing something it's that there's no HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) output at one flank for hooking the camera up directly to a flat panel TV - all there is, is a lug for attaching a wrist strap and a merely standard AV/USB out port, but then this is hardly a deal breaker. And you do also get compatibility with Eye-Fi cards should you want to transfer images wirelessly of course.

The camera bottom features a poorly located screw thread for attaching a tripod, and the shared rechargeable lithium ion battery and card compartment for optional media. Media cards are easily inserted and removed and battery life is good for 240 pictures from a full charge. That's par for the course for the camera's class, though not exactly exceptional.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 16 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 2.5Mb.

The Pentax Optio RZ18 produces images of above average quality. It recorded noise-free images at ISO 80-100, but there's already some noise and slight colour desaturation at the relatively slow speed of ISO 200. ISO 400 and 800 show progressively more obvious noise and loss of colour, and the fastest full resolution setting of ISO 1600 is virtually unusable.

The Pentax Optio RZ18 handled chromatic aberrations well, with limited purple fringing effects appearing only in high contrast situations. The built-in flash worked well indoors, with no red-eye and good overall exposure, although there's noticeable vignetting at 25mm. The night photograph was only adequate, with the maximum shutter speed of 4 seconds not really long enough for most after-dark shots. The Dynamic Range setting didn't have too much effect compared to a standard image.

Anti-shake works very well when hand-holding the camera in low-light conditions or when using the telephoto end of the zoom range. Macro performance is good, allowing you to focus as close as 4cm away from the subject. The images were a little soft straight out of the Pentax Optio RZ18 at the default sharpening setting and ideally require some further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, or you can change the in-camera setting.


There are 8 ISO settings available on the Pentax Optio RZ18. 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 80 (100% Crop)

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)

Focal Range

The Pentax Optio RZ18's 18x zoom lens offers a very versatile focal range, as illustrated by these examples:




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)


Chromatic Aberrations

The Pentax Optio RZ18 handled chromatic aberrations well during the review, with some purple fringing present around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations, as shown in the examples below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)

Example 2 (100% Crop)


The Pentax Optio RZ18 has a good Super Macro mode that allows you to focus on a subject that is 4cms 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.


100% Crop


The flash settings on the Pentax Optio RZ18 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 (25mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (25mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (450mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (450mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. Both the Flash On or the Red-eye-Reduction settings caused a tiny amount of red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

Red-eye Reduction

Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)


The Pentax Optio RZ18'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 2 seconds at ISO 800.


Night (100% Crop)

Shake Reduction

The Pentax Optio RZ18 has an CCD-based shake reduction mechanism, which allows you to take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds than other digital cameras. To test this, I took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the same settings. The first shot was taken with anti shake turned off, the second with it turned on. Here are some 100% crops of the images to show the results.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length shake reduction Off (100% Crop) shake reduction On (100% Crop)
1/5th sec / 25mm
1/4th sec / 450mm

Dynamic Range

The Dynamic Range setting corrects for either highlights, shadows or both, expanding the detail in the image. The effect of turning both on is quite subtle, though, as shown in this example.



Digital Panorama

The Digital Panorama scene mode create a single panoramic picture by automtically stitching together either two or three images. Unfortunately it doesn't stitch the edges together very seamlessly.


Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Pentax Optio RZ18 camera, which were all taken using the 16 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 19 second movie is 60.1Mb in size.

Product Images

Pentax Optio RZ18

Front of the Camera

Pentax Optio RZ18

Front of the Camera / Lens Extended

Pentax Optio RZ18

Isometric View

Pentax Optio RZ18

Isometric View

Pentax Optio RZ18

Rear of the Camera

Pentax Optio RZ18

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Pentax Optio RZ18

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

Pentax Optio RZ18

Rear of the Camera / Mode Menu


Pentax Optio RZ18

Rear of the Camera / Main Menu

Pentax Optio RZ18
Top of the Camera
Pentax Optio RZ18
Bottom of the Camera
Pentax Optio RZ18
Side of the Camera
Pentax Optio RZ18
Side of the Camera
Pentax Optio RZ18
Front of the Camera
Pentax Optio RZ18
Front of the Camera
Pentax Optio RZ18
Memory Card Slot
Pentax Optio RZ18
Battery Compartment


The Pentax Optio RZ18 is an appealing travel-zoom camera with a truly versatile 18x zoom lens, but it's unfortunately let down by average image quality, no-frills build quality and slow processing times.

The RZ18 takes a similar approach to previous Pentax compacts that we've reviewed, being an inexpensive point and shoot camera that won't turn heads either with its looks or specification, but which is crucially a cheaper alternative to more full-featured and better-looking rivals. As a pocket camera with a long zoom, lots of megapixels, a big screen and acceptable stills and movies, the RZ18 certainly fits the bill.

More demanding users will want to look elsewhere, though, as the Pentax RZ18 suffers under closer scrutiny. Still image quality is something of a let-down, particularly when shooting in anything less than perfect lighting conditions. The relatively slow ISO speed of 200 suffers from visible noise, smearing of fine detail and loss of colour saturation, with all three problems getting progressively worse as you work your way up the range to the true top speed of ISO 1600. Video isn't much better, limited to 720p with big file sizes and rather inexplicably no use of the optical zoom, which is after all the main reason for buying this camera.

Which leaves cost as the Pentax Optio RZ18's main saving grace. A full retail price of £199.99 / $299.95 is good value for such a compact camera with such a long lens, but sadly the above caveats mean that we can't recommend it more highly.

3.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 3.5
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 3
Value for money 4.5

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Pentax Optio RZ18 from around the web. »

Ignore the low-tech case, the clicky buttons and the slightly grainy back screen and focus instead on the great results you can get from this mid-priced superzoom. The Pentax Optio RZ18 really is much better than its build quality suggests, and keenly priced too.
Read the full review » »

The Pentax Optio RZ18 was announced in September 2011 and is available in a range of three colours including classic black, pearl white and metallic orange, available for £169.00.
Read the full review »


Camera Type Digital zoom compact camera
Type CCD
Size 1/2.33’’ CCD
Total Pixels approx. 16.56 megapixels
Still 16M (4608x3456), 12M [1:1] (3456x3456), 12M [16:9] (4608x2592), 7M (3072x2304), 2M [16:9] (1920x1080), 640 (640x480)
Movie Resolution: Compatibility AVI (Motion JPEG), with HD: 1280(1280 x 720), 640(640 x 480) 320(?320 x 240): approx. 30/15 ips.
Sensitivity Auto ISO, manual (80 ? 6400 ISO)
Shake Reduction CCD-shift Shake Reduction
Focal Length Focal Lenth: 4.5-81mm, equ. to 25-450mm in 35mm 
Digital Zoom
  • Optical Zoom:18 X
  • Digital Zoom: Approx. 7.2 X
  • Smart Zoom Approx. 27x en 7M, approx. 130X à 640 (with zoom optical)
Construction 12 elements in 11 groups (4 asphérical elements )
Focusing System
Type TTL autofocus with contrast détention
Functions Multi?AF 9 spots zones , AF Spot, mouvment detection.
Focus Range (automatic) Focusing Options:
Manual Focusing, infinite landscape, hyper focal

0,4 m ? infinite (in wide?angle),
0,13 m ? infinite (in tele)

0,1 m ? 0,5 m (in wide?angle),

Super Macro:
0,04 m ? 0,3 m (in wide-angle).

Type 3’’ LCD Colour screen, TFT, approx.460K points

Program controlled electronical shutter

Speed 1/2000  - 1/4 sec.  4 sec at most. (Night Scene mode setting)
Exposure system

TTL Metering: Matrix Metering choice, centre weighted or spot

Exposure Modes Auto Picture, Program, Portrait, Night Scene Portrait, Night Scene, Movie, Landscape, Blue Sky, Sunset, Flower, Sport, Pet, Digital SR, Natural Skin Tone, Kids, Fireworks, Frame composite, Party, Food, Candlelight, Text, Surf & Snow, Digital Wide, Digital Panorama, Green ?
Compensation +/-2EV (1/3 EV steps)

Integrated flash control in serie.

Automatic shutter release in low light conditions.

Modes Flash-on and Flash-off modes
"Red-eye" reduction function
Effective Range

Flash range

Wide: approx. 0.2 ? 4.3m (ISO Auto)
Tele: approx. 1.3 ? 2.6m (ISO Auto)

Exposure Parameters
Modes Mode: Standard, self timer,burst shooting, high speed burst (L,M,H****), Remote control

DRE: "Dynamic Range Enlargement", shades compensation: high lights 
Face Recognition

Face recognition AF&AE is available for all modes up to 32 faces, Smile Capture, Blink Detection, animal recognition

White Balance Auto, Daylight, Shade, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Manual setting
Recording Sound : WAV (PCM), mono
Movie “Shake reduction” ? stabilized video
Duration : Depends on memory card capacity
Editing Record as pictures, spilt movies.
Digital Filter B&W, Sepia, Toy camera, Retro, Colours, Extract colour, Colour Emphasis, High Contrast, Soft, Starburst, Brightness?
Options Slideshow, Image Rotation, Small Face filter, Digital Filter, Frame composite, Movie Edit, Red-Eye compensation, Resize, Cropping, Image / Sound copy, Voice memo, Protect, DPOF, Face close-up playback, Startup image
Internal Approx. 96MB
External Compatible with SD, SDHC, SDHC
Special Features

Text size: Standard, large

World clock: Date and hour print


English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Japanese, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Turkish, Greek, Russian, Thai, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese

Format Format d’image:
JPEG (Exif 2.3), DCF 2.0, DPOF,
PRINT Image Matching III

Format de vidéo:
AVI (Motion JPEG)

Format Audio:
WAV (PCM), mono
Interface USB2.0 (Hi-Speed), PC/AV terminal (NTSC/PAL, mono)

Rechargeable D?LI92 Lithium?ion battery

Other: AC Adapter, optional

Performance *recording capacity approx. 240 pictures*and 230 mins ** in vide mode.
Height 60 mm
Width 108 mm
Depth 34mm
Weight 191 g (charged with battery) Approx. 170 g (naked body)
PC Windows XP SP3, (SP3), VistaTM and 7
Mac OS X 10.3.9 or above
Included Software Software: (CD-ROM) S-SW121
Kit Content USB cable I-USB7, AV-IAVC7 video cable,  rechargeable battery Li-ion D-DLI92, battery charger D-BC92, O-ST104 strap and software.
Optional Optional AC adapter

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