Pentax Optio S1 Review

June 22, 2011 | Gavin Stoker |

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.

The Pentax looks great so, perhaps inevitably, the pictures it produces are something of a let down. It's a little disappointing that the camera's Auto Picture mode is hit and miss - opting for macro/close up option when landscape mode was the one to go for, for example, so on a handful of occasions we ended up with frames completely blurred. Which is not what you want from this 'auto everything' point and shoot camera. Pentax suggests in its press blurb that you can 'almost' leave it up to the camera to take the photos for you; here almost in our humble opinion translates as 'not quite'. For auto white balance performance is variable from shot to shot too, meaning that colours can sometimes look a little unusual.

At maximum wideangle setting we're losing a bit of definition towards the edges of the frame though this is far from the worst example we've seen - but again it is a tell tale sign of a budget camera perhaps over stretching its boundaries. Pixel fringing and softness at maximum telephoto are likewise expected issues here and generally we could have done with photos being sharper overall. In terms of colour saturation however the news is slightly better and red and greens are especially vibrant and punchy.

In terms of low light capability the Pentax isn't quite the star performer, despite a broader than average range stretching between ISO 64 to 6400. Though our examples show a little bit of what we've been talking about in terms of variable white balance, we'd also recommend sticking at ISO 800 or below if at all possible. Yes, ISO 1600 would be usable at a push, but is becoming gritty in appearance, whilst ISO 3200 and ISO 6400 merely look soft as noise reduction kicks in.

So in summation not an unexpectedly mixed imaging performance given the affordable price tag and trinket-like appearance of the S1, but not a great one either.


There are 8 ISO settings available on the Pentax Optio S1. 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 64 (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 S1's 5x zoom lens offers quite a 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 S1 handled chromatic aberrations fairly 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 S1 has a fantastic Super Macro mode that allows you to focus on a subject that is 5cms 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 S1 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 (28mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (28mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (140mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (140mm)

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 S1'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 1/15th seconds at ISO 800.


Night (100% Crop)