Pentax Optio X70 Review
The Pentax Optio X70 is a full-featured ultra-zoom with a 24X very wide-angle zoom going from 26mm to 624mm and basic manual controls. Additionally it shoots HD 720p video, making it one of the few modern ultra-zooms to do so.
Most remaining features of the X70 are now standard fare for ultra-zooms models with manual controls:
- 12 Megapixels sensor
- 24X Wide-angle optical zoom lens
- Optical image stabilization
- ISO 64-1600 at full-resolution
- ISO 3200-6400 at 5 megapixels
- Shutter speeds from 1/4000s to 4s
- Manual controls including manual focus
- Automatic, preset and custom white-balance
- Exposure bracketing, 3 frames, 1/3..2 EV steps in 1/3 EV steps
- 1280x720 @ 15 FPS HD 16:9 widescreen movie-recording
- Digital wide function and in-camera panorama stitching
- Blink detection and smile capture
- Automatic highlight correction
- 2.7" LCD with 230K pixels
- EVF with 200K pixels
Suitability - What is it good for?
The Pentax Optio X70 is highly versatile due to its 24X optical zoom which starts at a very wide-angle 26mm and reaches 624mm, in 35mm equivalent terms. This wide range covers most photographic uses, particularly well in the telephoto range for wildlife and bird photography. This super-long reach puts the X70 even beyond the reach of DSLR lenses under $1000 USD. Macro photography is also possible with the Pentax Optio X70 which can focus as close as 1cm (0.4").
Additional ultra-wide flexibility is provided by a digital wide function which blends two portrait images into an image with a field-of-view equivalent to a 20mm lens on a 35mm film or full-frame digital camera. The stitching makes it not entirely rectilinear but its not fisheye either. This results in a 5 megapixels image. Note that the same thing is doable by computer using a program like Autostitch but with user control and more opportunity for trial-and-error, as the X70 does not preserve the source images when attempting to stitch. The same is true of its panorama mode.
The Pentax Optio X70 also features full-manual controls for creative and versatile exposures. With a shutter-speed range from 1/4000 to 4s, this digital camera can in theory handle action but unfortunately not low-light photography. The limiting factors here are noise and speed of the camera. Regardless of the level of performance described on the next review page, it is to be expected that this is where a camera like this one mostly trails digital SLRs.
The X70 is reasonably compact relative to the reach of its lens. Its moderate size means that it is easy to carry such a powerful zoom and shoot rather discretely with it. Size is key to versatility simply because a smaller camera gets taken to more places.
With a 12 megapixels sensor, images from the Optio X70 are suitable for relatively large prints, up to 24"x18" when ISO is kept low. Any computer display or web-use will not be a problem.
Storage and power options for this digital camera are rather typical of ultra-zooms. The X70 supports SD-HC cards which always means SD too. it is powered by a small proprietary lithium-ion battery.
Capability - What can it do?
As an ultra-zoom, most of the flexibility comes from the X70's huge zoom range. Like most ultra-zooms, this digital camera is equipped with a number of advanced features. Below is a list of its most useful features, followed by explanations, when required.
- Program exposure with shift, shutter-priority, aperture priority and manual exposure
- Metering: multi-segment, center-weighed and spot
- Exposure compensation: +2 to -2 EV, in 1/3 stop increments
- Flash compensation: +2 to -2 EV, in 1/3 stop increments
- ISO selectable from 100 to 1600 at full-resolution
- ISO 3200 and 6400 at 5 megapixels
- Selectable maximum Auto-ISO, 200 to 1600
- White-balance: Auto, 6 presets and custom
- Flash: Auto, off, on, auto-redeye, forced-redeye, slow-sync and slow-sync plus redeye
- Focus mode: Normal, macro, 1cm macro, infinity, manual-distance and manual-point selection
- Automatic selection of macro mode
- Focus area: center, wide or continuous tracking
- Drive: Single-shot, 3-speed continuous, self-timer, exposure bracket and internal shooting
- Exposure bracket: 3 shots, 1/3 to 2 EV, in 1/3 stop increments
- Self-timer: 12s or 2s
- Automatic highlight correction
- Custom image parameters: 3 color modes, contrast, sharpness and saturation settings
- Camera power-off memory settings
- Shake reduction
- Blink detection
- Digital wide function
- Automatic panorama stitching
The automatic macro setting lets the Pentax X70 enter macro mode without changing focus modes. Selecting 1cm macro mode zooms-in automatically to the right focal-length needed. Highlight correction uses a different tone-curve to reduce chances of having clipped highlights.
In smile capture mode, the camera takes a picture when a smile is detected, no need to press the shutter-release. Blink detection simply warns if the camera detects that someone may have blinked in the last picture taken. The interval timer feature shoots up to 408 images. The time between shots can range from 10 seconds to 99 minutes. A start delay between 1 minute and 24 hours can also be set.
The digital wide function and automatic panorama use the camera to stitch low-resolution panoramas of either 2 portrait or 3 landscape images.
The Pentax 24X optical zoom lens of this digital camera has a wide range from 26mm to 624mm in 35mm terms. This is 2mm wider than what is considered wide-angle and reaches well into the telephoto range used for wildlife photography and birding. The exact same range is found on the Nikon Coolpix P90
Nikon Coolpix P90 and Kodak Z980. Olympus does slightly more with its 26X zoom, starting at 26mm but reaching 676mm.
Shake Reduction is Pentax's image stabilization. which compensates for involuntary camera movements, up to 3 stops compared to no stabilization. This helps with the usability of such a long zoom. Recall that the rule-of-thumb is to shoot at 1 over the focal-length. Thus, at the 624mm end, shooting at 1/750s is expected for shots to come out sharp. Considering the maximum aperture is F5 at 624mm and the desire to use low ISO settings, a shutter-speed of 1/750s can be difficult. With stabilization, this requirements is reduced to 1/200s or even 1/100s. In movie-mode, Shake Reduction is not available. Instead, stabilization is digitally simulated. In order to do so, the X70 has to reduce the field-view of the lens, thus losing some wide-angle coverage.
Pentax X70 Highlights
Sensor-Size: 6 x 5mm
Actual size when viewed at 100 DPI
|12 Megapixels Ultra Zoom||ISO 50-1600|
|24X Wide Optical Zoom||Shutter 1/4000-4s|
|Built-in Stabilization||Full manual controls, including Manual Focus|
|0.20" Built-in EVF 200K Pixels||Custom white-balance|
|1.2 FPS Drive, 6 Images||Spot-Metering|
|1280x720 @ 30 FPS Video Recording||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|2.7" LCD 230K Pixels||Secure Digital High Capacity|
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