Pentax Optio RS1500 Overview
The Pentax Optio RS1500 is very closely related to the RS1000 model, which was announced in September 2010. The most immediately obviousy difference in the RS1500, which shares the same image sensor, lens, display, and storage media slot is an updated snap-on face plate design, rather than the screw-on kind used in the RS1000. The RS1500's faceplate is similar to that from the earlier camera other than the tool-less connection method, featuring interchangeable skins which are held under a removable, transparent acrylic panel that lines the entire front surface of the camera. In the US market, the Optio RS1500 will ship with ten standard skin designs, and further skins will be available for download from an online PENTAX SKINS gallery, while PENTAX PERSONAL SKIN DESIGNER software (Adobe Air-based) will allow owners to make their own skin from a favorite photo or design. The panel is held in place by the removable lens ring, which is offered in two colors -- orange, or black.
Underneath the customized exterior, the Pentax RS1500 is based around a 1/2.3-inch type, 4:3 aspect ratio, RGB CCD image sensor with an effective resolution of 14 megapixels (14.53 megapixels total). This sensor sits behind a Pentax-branded 4x optical zoom lens with actual focal lengths ranging from 4.9 to 19.6mm, equivalent to a range of 27.5mm to 110mm on a 35mm camera -- a useful wide angle to a moderate telephoto. Maximum aperture varies from f/3.2 to f/5.9 across the zoom range, and the lens design features six elements (three aspherics) in five groups. The Pentax RS1500 doesn't include any form of optical or mechanical image stabilization, instead relying on software deblurring and the use of high ISO sensitivities to freeze camera and subject motion.
The maximum resolution for still images is 4,288 x 3.216 pixels, and the Pentax RS1500 also offers a 16:9 aspect ratio mode with resolution as high as 4,224 x 2,376 pixels. Continuous burst shooting is possible at one frame per second for up to three frames. In burst mode, this increases to 3.2 frames per second for ten frames, while a VGA-only 16-frame mode captures 16 shots at a rate of 7.5 fps at 640 x 480 pixel resolution. The RS1500 can also record standard or high definition movies, with monaural audio. The RS1500's movies are recorded at either 15 or 30 frames per second, at 720p (1,280 x 720), VGA (640 x 480), or QVGA (320 x 240) resolution.
On its rear panel, the Pentax RS1500 offers up a 3.0-inch TFT LCD display with wide viewing angles, and a resolution of 230,000 dots, roughly equating to a 320 x 240 pixel array with each pixel comprising adjacent red, green, and blue dots. This display serves as the sole interface between camera and user, with the Pentax RS1500 not offering any form of optical or electronic viewfinder.
As well as a Program mode, the Pentax RS1500 offers a generous selection of thirteen scene modes that help users tailor the look of their images, as well as an Auto Picture mode that automatically selects from a subset of eleven common scene types, as the camera deems appropriate to the subject. New scene types that can be recognized in Auto Picture mode include Group Photo, Portrait x Blue Sky, Portrait x Sunset, and Portrait x Backlight, while three scene modes are dropped (Fireworks, Party, Digital Wide), and one added (Half Length Portrait, recorded at three megapixel resolution). For creative types, there are also nine digital filter modes on offer, including Toy Camera, Retro and Sepia.
As you'd expect in an entry-level model, direct control over shutter speeds or apertures aren't available on the RS1500. Exposures are determined using multi-segment metering, and 2.0 EV of exposure compensation is available in 1/3 EV steps. ISO sensitivity ranges from 100 to 1,600 equivalents at full resolution, while 3,200 to 6,400 equivalents are available at five megapixel resolution or below. Available shutter speeds range from 1/2,000 to four seconds, depending on operating mode. Six white balance modes are available, including Auto, Manual, and four presets. A built-in five-mode flash offers an effective range of up to sixteen feet at wide angle, or 8.5 feet at telephoto (ISO Auto). A digital panorama function can automatically stitch a three-shot panorama in-camera with a minimum of fuss, and a frame composite function allows one of twenty frames to be overlaid on images in-camera.
The Pentax RS1500 uses contrast detection autofocusing, and includes a face detection feature which can recognize up to ten faces within the image frame. In addition to using this information to take account of your subjects' faces when determining focus and exposure variables, this is also used to provide a smile shutter function that captures an image when your subject is smiling. The Pentax RS1500 also includes a tracking AF function that can follow moving subjects around the image frame, and can operate in three-point or spot AF modes. Minimum focusing distance is ordinarily 1.31 feet, but the RS1500 can focus as close as 0.49 feet at wide angle in Macro mode, and to just 0.26 feet in Super Macro mode with the lens focal length locked towards the middle of the range.
The Pentax RS1500 stores its images and movies on Secure Digital cards, including recent SDHC types -- but not the latest generation of SDXC cards. There's also 21.6MB of available built-in memory (about 3MB more than in the RS1000), enough for a handful of shots if you accidentally leave your flash card at home. Connectivity options include USB 2.0 High-speed data for PC transfer, and standard-definition NTSC / PAL video output for viewing images and movies on a TV. Power comes courtesy of a D-LI108 lithium ion rechargeable battery pack. An optional AC adapter is also available for use with the RS1500. The updated software bundle includes ArcSoft MediaImpression 3.0 for Pentax, compatible with Windows XP SP3 / Vista / 7, and MediaImpression 2.1 for Pentax compatible with Mac OS 10.3.9 /10.4 /10.5 / 10.6 platforms.
The Pentax Optio RS1500 ships from April 2011, priced at about US$150, the same point as that of the RS1000.