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Pentax's Optio 555 digital camera. Courtesy of Pentax, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Pentax replaces the Optio 550 (UPDATED)
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(Wednesday, September 3, 2003 - 11:01 EDT)

Pentax Corp. has today announced three new digital cameras which it will be previewing at the Digital Focus media event on September 15th alongside the PC EXPO trade show in New York.

The first of the announcements - the Pentax Optio 555 - is an evolutionary update to the existing Optio 550 model, which we felt worthy of inclusion on our Dave's Picks list when we reviewed it earlier this year. Whilst the general layout of the camera remains much the same, it has been totally restyled. Gone is the dramatic silver trim around the lens, in favor of a much more conservative design with subtle detailing that will also make the camera easier to grip.

The 5 megapixel image sensor and 5x optical zoom lens are the same as used on the previous camera. Manual focus mode now allows focusing right down to the 0.79 inches that both cameras offer automatically in Super Macro mode, rather than being limited to the standard Macro mode distance of 5.9 inches. Pentax now lists the main AF mode as a "wide AF" rather than a 5-point AF. Shutter speeds now range from 15 to 1/2000 second, rather than the previous 4 to 1/4000 second - which should make the camera more useful for night photos, but may slightly limit options for freezing high-speed action.

Unlike its predecessor, the Optio 555 is what's generally referred to as a "shooting priority" camera - meaning that when in playback mode, simply touching the shutter button will revert the camera to capture mode, avoiding missed photo opportunities. Pentax says that shutter lag on the camera has been reduced, which should also help in this area.

The Optio 555 now offers flash exposure compensation, which should make it easier for users to get good flash exposures. The movie mode is no longer limited to 10 minutes - movies can now be as long as you've got capacity to store on your Secure Digital or MultiMediaCard. The camera no longer has 16MB of built-in memory; the press release doesn't state if a memory card is bundled. Images can now be rotated in-camera, and the Optio 555 gains PictBridge compatibility for printing images without a computer (on PictBridge-compatible printers, of course).

The Pentax Optio 555 will ship in October, with pricing not yet announced. Specifications, product photos and the Pentax press release follow below:

Pentax Optio 555
Pentax's Optio 555 digital camera. Courtesy of Pentax, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!
Camera
Type Compact-type digital still camera with built-in zoom lens, autofocus, auto exposure and auto flash
Image Capture Device
Type 1/1.8 inch interline transfer CCD with a primary color filter
Total Pixels 5.25 megapixels
Effective Pixels 5.0 megapixels
Color Depth 12 bit x 3 colors
Recorded Pixels Still – 2592x1944 Pixels, 2048x1536 Pixels, 1600x1200 pixels, 1024x768 pixels, 640x480 pixels; Movie – 320x240
Focus System
Type Hybrid AF (TTL contrast detection autofocus system combined with exo-passive sensor)
Autofocus Wide AF, Spot AF & Infinity Landscape Mode
Manual Focus 0.79 inches (0.02m) to Infinity
Focusing Range
Normal: 1.97ft (0.6m) to Infinity
Macro: 5.9 inches (0.15m) to 2.13ft (0.65m)
Super Macro: 0.79 inches (0.02m) to 2.13ft (0.65m) at 7.8mm
Lens
Type smc PENTAX power zoom
Focal Length 7.8mm - 39mm
35mm Equivalent 37.5mm - 187.5mm
Aperture Range f2.8 - f4.6
Construction 9 elements in 7 groups (two dual-sided aspherical elements)
Optical Zoom 5x
Digital Zoom 4x
Combined 20x
Exposure Control
Light Metering Method TTL metering with choice of: Multi-segment, Center-weighted & Spot meter
Sensitivity Auto, or user select ISO 64,100, 200, 400
Exposure Control Method Program AE
Exposure Modes Metered manual, Aperture-priority AE, Shutter-priority AE, Program, Picture, Panorama assist, Movie, 3D image, Digital filters, User
Exposure Compensation +/-2 EV (1/3 steps)
Shutter
Type - Programmed AE electronic lens shutter with CCD electronic shutter
Shutter Speed – Approx. 1/2000 - 15 seconds(1/1000 in Metered manual and Shutter-priority AE)
White Balance
White Balance Control - TTL Auto, Pre-set, Custom White Balance
Available Settings - Auto, Daylight, Shade, Tungsten Light, Fluorescent Light (W, N, D), Manual
Flash
Built-in series-control auto flash, flash exposure compensation (+/- 2 EV in 1/3 steps), auto discharge under low light and backlit conditions in auto mode
Operation Modes - Auto, Flash-Off, Flash-On, Auto + red-eye reduction, Flash-On + red-eye reduction
Range - approx. 1.31ft (0.4m) – 17.1ft (5.2m) (7.8mm at ISO Auto); approx. 0.5ft ( 0.15m) – 10.5ft (3.2m) (39mm at ISO Auto)
Shooting Specifications
Shooting Modes Metered manual, Aperture-priority AE, Shutter-priority AE, Program, Picture, Panorama assist, Movie, 3D image, Digital filters, User
Picture Modes Landscape, Night scene, Flower, Portrait, Surf & Snow, Autumn color, Sunset, Fireworks, Text
Digital Filter Black & White, Sepia, Red, Pink, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple, Soft
Drive Modes Single-Shot, Continuous, Self-timer-10 sec. Remote control, Interval timer, Multiple exposure
Movie Mode Shooting time: As long as memory remains - with sound
Time
Modes dd/mm/yy, mm/dd/yy, yy/mm/dd
World Time Display of the time in 62 cities (28 time zones)
Alarm Clock Displays image (three memory settings), Snooze function
Image Storage
Storage Media Removable: Secure Digital (SD), Multimedia card(MMC)
File Formats
Still - JPEG (Exif 2.2), DCF (Design rule for Camera File system), DPOF (Digital Print Order Format), PictBridge compatible
Movie - MOV (QuickTime Movie Format) 15 fps with sound
Voice – WAV (ADPCM) Recordable time depends on the remaining capacity of the memory card
JPEG Compression Mode Tiff, Good, Better, Best
Recorded pixels with 16MB Card
  Best Better Good
2592 x 1944 4 8 14
2048 x 1536 7 12 18
1600 x 1200 11 20 27
1024 x 768 25 45 56
640 x 480 53 82 100
Viewfinder
Optical Actual image zoom viewfinder with diopter adjustment from approx. -3m-1 to +1-1
LCD Monitor 1.5 inch, low temperature Polysilicon TFT color LCD with Histogram Display
LCD Coverage 100%
Playback Specifications
Playback Modes File Single, Index- Nine image
Magnification 8x
Playback Mode Slide Show, Scroll and Voice Memo, Image rotating
Erase Modes Single, All
Image Protect Single, All
Interfaces
Type AV output terminal, USB terminal, DC input terminal
Video Output Compatible with NTSC and PAL formats (monaural sound)
Power Supply
Power Source Lithium-ion battery (rechargeable) approx.400 shots with one charge (According to in house PENTAX testing), AC adaptor kit (optional)
Physical Specifications
Operating temperatures 32°– 104°F (0 – 40° Celsius)
Camera Casing Aluminum Alloy
Dimensions (W x H x D) 3.9 x 2.3 x 1.6 Inches (100 x 59 x 39.5 mm)
Weight
7.2 oz (205g) without battery and SD memory card
8.8 oz (250g) loaded and ready
Computer System Requirements
Mac Requirements OS: Mac OS 8.6 or later (QuickTime 4.0 or later to view movies), CPU: Power PC 266MHz or higher, Memory: 8MB or more, Hard disk space:6MB or more, Standard equipped USB port
PC Requirements OS: Windows 98,98 second edition, 2000, Me, XP Home edition / Professional, CPU: Pentium or later recommended, Memory:64MB or more, Hard disk space: 15MB or more, Standard equipped USB port
More Photos
Pentax's Optio 555 digital camera. Courtesy of Pentax, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!
Pentax's Optio 555 digital camera. Courtesy of Pentax, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!
Pentax's Optio 555 digital camera. Courtesy of Pentax, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!
Pentax's Optio 555 digital camera. Courtesy of Pentax, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!
Pentax's Optio 555 digital camera. Courtesy of Pentax, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!
Pentax's Optio 555 digital camera. Courtesy of Pentax, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!
Pentax's Optio 555 digital camera. Courtesy of Pentax, with modifications by Michael R. Tomkins. Click for a bigger picture!
.

UPDATED 2003-09-05 11:24ET: We now have pricing information for the Pentax Optio 555. In the USA, suggested list price will be US$767, and street pricing is anticipated at US$549.95. In Canada, street pricing is expected to be CAD$899.

Original Source Press Release:

PENTAX EXPANDS FIVE MEGAPIXEL DIGITAL CAMERA LINE WITH FASTER, MORE RESPONSIVE OPTIO555

ENGLEWOOD, Colorado (September 3, 2003)…PENTAX U.S.A., Inc. proudly presents the Optio555 5.0 megapixel digital camera. A successor to the popular Optio550, which recently received an Editor’s Choice award from PC Magazine, the Optio555 offers exceptionally compact and light weight design that is ideal for use anywhere.

PENTAX maximized the responsiveness of the Optio555 including reduced lag time so the camera is instantly ready when the power is turned on. In addition, a single touch of the playback button brings up recorded images and just a touch of the shutter button is all that is required to return to shooting. With enhanced operation capability and maximized responsiveness, the Optio555 allows satisfying shots to be taken with extreme ease. Add a powerful 5X optical zoom (4X digital zoom for a combined 20X total zoom), and the superb clarity of 5.0 effective megapixels, the Optio555 offers extreme versatility with superb detail and accuracy.

PENTAX will preview the Optio555 at the Digital Focus media event on Monday, September 15 at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City during the PC EXPO trade show.

The Optio555 includes an ACDSee™ software package designed exclusively for PENTAX Optio digital cameras that includes ACDSee™ 5.0. Valued at more than $150, the ACDSee™ digital camera software makes it easy to retrieve, view, manage, print, enhance and share your digital photos. The Optio555 will ship with the software in October in plenty of time for the Holiday 2003 buying season.

The Optio555 also features PictBridge™ compatibility that eliminates the need for PC connectivity during printing by allowing the camera to be connected directly to a compatible printer. This feature allows direct control over printing and a full range of other functions.

PENTAX U.S.A., Inc. is an innovative leader in the production of digital and film cameras, binoculars, lenses, mobile printers, scanners and internet cameras. For more than 80 years, PENTAX technology has developed durable, reliable products that meet the needs of consumers and businesses. PENTAX U.S.A., INC. is a wholly owned subsidiary of PENTAX CORPORATION.

OPTIO555 FACT SHEET

Compact, powerful 5X optical zoom lens
Despite the compact size, the lens of the Optio555 delivers the versatility of 5X zooming that extends from 37.5mm wide angle to 187.5mm telephoto shooting. It also offers simple lever operation, achieves minimal distortion, and can be combined with the easy-to-operate 4X digital zoom for a combined capacity of 20X zooming.

High-level detail with 5.0 effective megapixels
With the power of 5.0 effective megapixels, the Optio555 offers precision that sets it apart from other compact digital cameras. The camera also features a high-precision smc PENTAX lens and employs advanced image processing technologies to capture powerful images.

Simplistic, swift operation
The Optio555 was designed to be ready within mere seconds of the power being turned on, and it is easy to switch between playback and shooting modes. A single touch of the playback button will bring up recorded images, and just a touch of the shutter button is all that’s required to return to shooting. Modes are easy to select through a handy mode dial, and it is easy assign frequently used functions to independent buttons.

PictBridge
PictBridge compatibility does away with the need for PC connectivity during printing by allowing the camera to be connected straight to a compatible printer. This provides direct control over printing and a range of other functions.

11 easy-to-select capture modes
A turn of a dial is all it takes to choose from a selection of 11 capture modes.

  • Programmed exposure
    This mode enables casual shooting whenever an opportunity arises. The mode automatically selects the most appropriate shutter and aperture settings for the subject.
  • Aperture-priority AE
    With Aperture-priority AE, the Optio555 lets you take control over depth of field. Select a large aperture to throw a background out of focus, or stop down to a small aperture for clarity that extends to the horizon. Whichever aperture you choose, the Optio555 automatically selects the most appropriate shutter speed for optimal exposure.
  • Shutter-priority AE
    Shutter-priority AE lets you select shutter speeds better suited to your subjects. Freeze a fast-moving object through selection of a fast shutter, or choose a slow shutter to create blurred effects that emphasize movement, for example.
  • Metered manual exposure
    For greater involvement in the achievement of stunning images, the Optio555 has metered manual mode. This allows you to select both shutter speed and aperture for yourself when dealing with difficult circumstances or striving to produce a more creative image.
  • User mode
    User mode lets you customize the Optio555 to suit your own personal style and enables you to select a combination of settings you find appealing and save them for easy access.
  • Picture modes
    The Optio555 offers a selection of nine convenient picture modes — Landscape, Night Scene, Flower, Portrait, Surf & Snow, Autumn Color, Sunset, Fireworks and Text. These prepare you for a wide range of conditions and situations and can be selected with ease.
  • Panorama assist
    For expansive scenes, Panorama assist will allow you to take a series of horizontal or vertical images following the camera’s directions, which may aligned and combined on a PC with the enclosed ACDSee software.*
    * ACD Photostitcher is compatible with Windows systems only.
  • 3D image mode
    3D image mode adds another dimension to digital shooting. Simply take two shots following guidance given by the camera then enjoy a genuine sense of depth and perspective when you view the results with the enclosed viewer.
  • Digital filters
    Digital filters deliver creative opportunities of conventional filters, without the need to lug an accessory bag. The Optio555 offers the choice of black and white, and sepia shooting as well as a range of other tones (red, pink, yellow, green, light blue, blue, and purple). It features a Soft focus filter that can be used to achieve more flattering portraits.
  • Movie*
    The Optio555 has the power to capture more than just stills. It captures video at 15 frames per second, with 320 x 240 recorded pixels. All clips are recorded in MOV format, allowing easy playback on a PC.
    * System requirements: PCs running Windows 98, 98SE, 2000, Me, or XP operating systems with QuickTimeTM 6.0 installed (included on the
    accompanying CD-ROM). PCs running Windows 98 and 98SE require installation of the exclusive driver. Macintosh machines running OS9.0 or higher with QuickTime 6.0 or higher installed.
  • Voice recording mode
    Audio can be recorded to the full capacity of the external memory, allowing the Optio555 to be used as a regular voice recording device. With a 64MB memory card allowing the recording of up to 2 hours and 12 minutes of audio, this mode makes the Optio555 even more useful in so many more situations.

Voice memo mode
The Optio555 also allows you to record and attach up to 30 seconds of sound for each image.

Built-in auto flash
With an auto flash that can be set to fire automatically in low-light conditions, the Optio555 extends your shooting options. The camera also features Flash-on, Flash-off, and red-eye reduction* modes for greater control and additionally offers Slow shutter sync mode, which can be selected for use in combination with Night Scene mode.
* This feature does not eliminate “red eye” in all instances.

Flash discharge level control
Offering the ability to control the level of flash discharge, the Optio555 allows you to avoid the “washing out” of subjects in close proximity.

Optical viewfinder
A viewfinder offering actual image zoom allows you to conserve power by switching off the LCD monitor. It features diopter adjustment for greater accuracy in relation to your eyesight.

Digital zoom
When combined with the 5X optical zoom of the Optio555, the 4X digital zoom offers and impressive 20X zoom.

9-frame display/zoom display
Nine images may to be displayed simultaneously, and the LCD screen of the Optio555 significantly speeds the process of searching for a select image. Every image may be displayed with up to 8X magnification, allowing you to closely inspect each shot for focus and fine details.

Choice of autofocus
With a choice of Wide AF and Spot AF, the Optio555 allows you to place the focus sharply on even off-center subjects, or select the desired center of focus from one of five horizontal and vertical points.

White balance settings
With a choice of eight white balance modes, the Optio555 is ideally equipped for a range of different lighting circumstances. These include settings for daylight, shade, tungsten light, and three types of fluorescent light. There is an auto setting, as well as the manual setting, which allows you to take greater control over the balance of color with regard to your lighting circumstances.

Three metering systems
With a selection of multi-segment metering, center-weighted metering, and spot metering, the Optio555 offers closer control over the evaluation of exposure.

Exposure compensation
The Optio555 enables exposure compensation across a range of +2EV in steps of 1/3EV. This allows you to take a set of images of a single subject and then select the exposure most closely suited to your tastes.

Manual settings for sharpness, saturation and contrast
With settings that allow you to take manual control over sharpness, saturation, and contrast, with three grades for each, the Optio555 lets you manipulate the final outcome to a greater extent than other digital cameras.

Auto sensitivity setting
An auto sensitivity setting allows the Optio555 to make the best possible use of available light. It enables manual selection allowing you to choose from settings equivalent to ISO400, 200, 100, and ISO64.

Hybrid AF
Optio555 effective metering is streamlined through the TTL contrast detection and external passive sensor.

Macro shooting modes and Infinity-landscape mode
Macro mode allows the Optio555 to be used for close-up compositions as close as 5.9 inches from the subject, while the super macro mode allows shots to be composed from as close as just .79 inches. Both modes may be combined with 4X digital zoom. The Optio555 also offers Infinity-landscape mode, which is ideal for capturing expansive scenes and even provides pleasing focus when shooting through windows.

Consecutive shooting
Continuous shooting allows you to shoot images in rapid succession and capture action scenes.

Interval shooting
Interval shooting is an excellent way to capture events that take place over a long period of time. Simply select the time to start shooting, the duration of the interval between shots, and the number of frames — then leave the Optio555 to operate itself.

Time-lapse movie
Time-lapse movie mode runs a set of sequential recorded frames together as a short film. It offers a selection of X2, X5, X10, X20, X50, or X100 recording speeds and can be used to achieve effects such as construction scenes or clouds rushing across the sky.

Multiple exposure
Multiple exposure mode lets you combine two frames as one shot. Use it to make a person appear twice in the same shot, for example, or combine vastly different scenes for surreal results.

Convenient self-timer
A handy self-timer allows the user to enter into group shots or minimize camera shake when taking pictures in low light.

Function setting
Four functions can be customized from a selection of eleven. These can then each be allocated to the useful four-way controller for easy access that suits user needs.

Digital filter function for after shooting
With the Optio555, the use of digital filters is not confined to the time of shooting. Indeed it has a special function that allows the user to choose from ten different filters (B&W, sepia, red, pink, purple, blue, green, yellow, soft, and brightness) to apply to images that have already been recorded.

Resize function
A handy resize function allows you to free up more memory space without having to delete a single shot, altering the data size of recorded pictures or reducing the level of quality to allow further shooting. Once you’ve resized the data, you even have the choice of whether to save it as a new file or use it to overwrite the original image.

Trimming function
Excellent composition is not confined to the time of shooting. With the convenient Trimming function, images may be cropped at any time and selected parts can be stored as individual new files.

Histogram display
The detailed histogram function is extremely handy during both playback and shooting, allowing you to check the range of light levels with greater accuracy.

Image protection
The Optio555 features a function that protects and prevents the deletion of shots you want to save.

Alarm function
This convenient function makes serve as an alarm and reminder, and you may display an image of your choice when the alarm sounds. There is also a handy snooze function.

Noise reduction function
For longer exposures, the Optio555 automatically activates a function for reduced interference.

Customized functions
The Optio555 can be customized to match your style more closely, allowing you to select a favorite shot for use as the start-up screen, and choose different sounds to accompany different functions and actions.

Mode memory function
Combinations of settings producing pleasing results can be simply saved, then returned to automatically when the power is next switched on.

World time function
The Optio555 can display the time for 62 different cities around the world. It may record the time and date for each recorded shot, making it the ideal travel camera and image organizer and sorter.

DPOF print convenience
When used in combination with DPOF-compatible printers, the Optio555 gives you a greater degree of control over the date function and the number of prints*.
* Some printers may not support the above functions. Please consult the supplier of your printer for more information.

Operation in 8 languages
With multilingual operation extending to all menus and messages, the Optio555 can be easily operated by speakers of English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Chinese, and Japanese.

USB* and ACDSee for PENTAX
USB compatibility makes it fast and easy to import multiple recorded images into common PC applications via simple cable connection. The camera also comes complete with ACDSee software designed exclusively for PENTAX, which may be installed and used on both Windows and Mac systems.
* System requirements: PC running Windows 98/98SE, Windows 2000, Windows Me, Windows XP Home Edition/Professional or Mac OS 9.0 or higher (installation of the included driver software is required, except in the case of Mac 0S 9.0 or higher, Windows Me, Windows 2000 or Windows XP). Compliance with the aforementioned system requirements does not guarantee USB compatibility.

AV (video/audio) output terminal
An AV output terminal makes it easy to connect the Optio555 to a TV, allowing the display of images on a much grander scale.

Power sources
The Optio555 even offers options in terms of its power source. Choose from an exclusive rechargeable lithium-ion battery for shooting anywhere, or make use of an optional AC adapter if you happen to be close to a power outlet.

High-precision LCD monitor
The 1.5-inch poly-silicone TFT LCD monitor delivers quality images of your potential subjects. The monitor is also ideal for inspecting shots that are already recorded.

SD memory card / MultiMediaCard
With SD memory card and Multimedia card compatibility, the Optio555 is able to store a large amount of images while retaining high-level accuracy.

Exif Print (Exif2.2) and PRINT Image Matching II* compatibility
The Optio555 achieves prints of an even higher quality when connected to Exif-compatible printers, while PRINT Image Matching II compatibility allows the creation of a stronger link between the camera and printer for greater control.
* This product supports PRINT Image Matching II. When used in combination, PRINT Image Matching II enabled digital still cameras, printers, and software help photographers to produce images more faithful to their intentions.
Copyright 2001 Seiko Epson Corporation. All Rights Reserved. PRINT Image Matching is a trademark of Seiko Epson Corporation. The PRINT Image Matching logo is a trademark of Seiko Epson Corporation.

Remote control (optional)
Even greater versatility comes in the form of two remote control units available as options. Known as remote control E and remote control F, they offer the convenience of immediate shutter release and a three-second timer, while the former also offers the advantage of zoom control.

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