Digital Camera Home > Digital Camera Reviews > Pentax Digital Cameras > Pentax Optio750Z

The Imaging Resource

Quick Review

Pentax Optio 750Z Digital Camera

Camera QuickLook
Review Date
01/11/2005
User Level
Novice to experienced amateur
Product Uses
Family / Travel / Special Events
Digicam Design
Point and Shoot / Full Manual Control
Picture Quality
Good/very good, 7.0-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
Sharp 11x17s
Availability
Fall, 2004
Suggested Retail Price
(At introduction)
$599

Introduction

Pentax 750Z Review Links
Overview
Picky
Details
Design
Operation
Recommended Accessories
Test Images
Specifications
Conclusion
The Pentax Optio 750Z is the latest in an increasingly broad line of digital cameras from that company. Pentax is a camera maker with a long tradition in the film-based world, and has been making a name for themselves lately in the digital arena, particularly in the subcompact end of the market. With the Pentax Optio 750Z, Pentax raises the standard in both function and style with a higher resolution CCD at 7.0 megapixels, and offers more detailed user control and a flexible, swiveling LCD monitor. It's very similar in design and function to previous Optio models, but with a few cosmetic changes in addition to its expanded features, which include an 11-point selectable AF area and a couple of additional preset scene modes. Entirely unique to the Pentax 750Z is its new Digital Exposure Metering mode, which turns the camera into a flexible digital spot exposure meter for use with your older film-based cameras. Read on for the full details.

 

Camera Overview

The new Pentax Optio 750Z features a similar body shape and design to previous Optio models, though this new addition to the family features a swiveling LCD monitor and a black textured front panel reminiscent of an old manual 35mm camera. The rugged, metal body can withstand a lot of wear and tear, and the front grip pad really sticks to your fingers as you hold the camera. The camera features a high-resolution, 7.0-megapixel CCD and 5x SMC Pentax lens, for capturing a lot of fine detail with sharp definition. Control layout is similar to previous Optio models, as is the overall design. The Pentax 750Z measures 3.9 x 2.4 x 1.6 inches (100 x 62 x 42 millimeters), and weighs a slightly hefty 8.9 ounces (255 grams) with the battery and memory card. The all-metal case no doubt contributes to the camera's weight, but the Optio 750Z is still quite portable. Though it's too large for most shirt pockets, it should easily fit into larger coat pockets and purses. A neck strap comes with the camera, and is a welcome accessory as the camera doesn't offer much of a hand grip. It can be used as either a neck strap or a wrist strap by following the simple instructions in the manual. The 750Z's compact design includes a built-in, shutter-like lens cover which opens when the lens telescopes out, eliminating the need for a lens cap. The telescoping lens keeps the camera front smooth when stowed, and pocket friendly as well. At 7.0 megapixels, the Pentax 750Z's CCD produces high resolution, print quality images, with options for lower resolution, email-ready images to share with family and friends.

Built into the Pentax Optio 750Z is a 5x, 7.8-39mm SMC Pentax lens, the equivalent of a 37.5-187.5mm lens on a 35mm camera. Maximum aperture ranges from f/2.8 to f/4.6, depending on the zoom setting, and the setting can be automatically or manually controlled. Focus ranges from 1.97 feet (0.6 meters) to infinity in normal shooting mode, with a Macro option covering from 6.0 inches to 1.6 feet (0.15 to 0.65 meters). Super Macro mode lets you focus even closer, from 0.8 inches to 2.13 feet (0.02 to 0.65 meters). (Normal Macro mode is available throughout the zoom range, while Super Macro is only available with the lens at full wide angle.) The Pentax 750Z offers both manual and automatic focus (AF) control, with Spot and Wide AF modes. Spot AF mode focuses from the very center of the frame or from one of 11 AF points around the central spot (selected via the Four-Way Arrow pad). Wide AF mode focuses from a larger area in the center of the frame. There's also an Infinity / Landscape fixed focus setting, and a manual focus mode. In addition to the optical zoom, the 750Z offers as much as 8x digital zoom, for an effective zoom capability of 40x. However, I always remind readers that using digital zoom decreases image quality, since it simply enlarges the center pixels of the CCD image. You can choose between the real-image optical viewfinder or the 1.8-inch, color TFT LCD monitor to compose images. The LCD monitor swivels 270 degrees for a wide range of viewing angles, and can flip around to face the rear panel when closed, which protects the monitor surface from dust and scratches. An informative display in Record mode reports not only shutter speed and aperture settings, but also a wide range of basic exposure options. Additionally, the Pentax 750Z's LCD monitor features a histogram display for checking exposure (both in record or playback modes) and areas of potential over- or underexposure are indicated with a blinking highlight/shadow overlay (areas in danger of overexposure flash red and underexposure danger zones flash yellow. Through the Setup menu, you can customize the LCD information display, which is a feature I find very useful on a digicam.

Exposure can be manually or automatically controlled on the Pentax Optio 750Z, a nice feature for novices wanting to learn more about photography. You get the convenience of automatic exposure when you want it, or full manual control when you'd like to experiment. An On/Off button on top of the camera controls the power, and a Mode dial lets you select between Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program, Picture, Panorama Assist, 3D, Digital Filter, Movie, Audio, and Digital Exposure Metering modes. Most exposure options are controlled through the LCD's on-screen menu system, which offers straightforward navigation. You can control focus mode (auto, macro, landscape, manual, or spot AF point selection), the self-timer, drive mode, exposure compensation, and the flash mode externally. You can also configure combinations of external buttons to control your choice of 17 different camera settings. In Manual exposure mode, the user controls aperture and shutter speed (from 1/2,000 to 15 seconds), in addition to all other exposure variables. Aperture and Shutter Priority modes give the user control over one variable, while the camera controls the other. Program mode keeps the camera in charge of the basic exposure, though the user maintains control over the rest of the available settings. The Digital Exposure Metering option on the Mode dial turns the camera into a light meter. In this mode, the camera does not capture images, but instead provides an exposure reading when you press the Shutter button. Thus, you can get a reading on the scene, then switch back to Manual exposure mode, and adjust the exposure accordingly. Pro photographers could also use this as a spot meter replacement, especially if they're already Pentax users.

By default, the Pentax 750Z uses a Multi-Segment metering system to determine exposure, which reads points throughout the entire frame to find the best exposure. However, Spot and Center-Weighted options are also available. Exposure Compensation is adjustable from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments. You can also adjust the camera's sensitivity setting, which offers ISO equivalents of 80, 100, 200, and 400, as well as an Auto setting. For times when you can't determine the best overall exposure, the camera's Auto Bracketing mode can bracket either exposure, white balance, saturation, sharpness, or contrast. Auto Bracketing mode captures three images at different exposure settings (or any of the other values), and you can adjust the step size. The camera's White Balance setting features an Auto mode for most average lighting conditions, but also offers Daylight, Shade, Tungsten, Warm Fluorescent, Neutral Fluorescent, Daylight Fluorescent, and Manual options. The Optio 750Z's built-in flash is effective from 1.31 to 17.1 feet (0.4 to 5.2 meters) with the lens at full wide angle, with a more limited range at the telephoto setting. Available flash modes are Auto, Off, On, Auto with Red-Eye Reduction, On with Red-Eye Reduction, and Slow-Sync (available in certain exposure modes).

In addition to the standard exposure modes, the Pentax Optio 750Z's Picture mode setting offers 12 preset "scene" modes for shooting under unusual circumstances. Once in Picture mode, you can choose from Landscape, Flower, Portrait, Night-Scene, Surf & Snow, Autumn Colors, Self-Portrait, Night-Scene Portrait, Sunset, Food, Sport, and Fireworks b settings. Each mode addresses a specific shooting situation, and optimizes the camera for the best overall results. Panorama Assist mode lets you capture panoramic images, in either horizontal or vertical directions. Guide arrows appear on the LCD display to let you choose the direction in which the photos will be captured (up, down, left or right). After the first shot, subsequent frames show a small translucent portion of the previous image to help you line up shots. Note that exposure is not locked from frame to frame, so some panoramas may still be best achieved by shooting manually. The accompanying software "stitches" the captured images together into one panoramic frame on a computer. The 750Z also offers a 3D recording mode, which debuted on the Optio 230 model and has since appeared on several models in the Optio line. In 3D mode, the camera produces three-dimensional "stereo pairs" of images similar to old-fashioned stereographs. The camera guides you to capture two images of the same subject (one just slightly off-center from the other) and then combines them as a "stereo pair" in a single frame of image memory. A translucent display of the first image captured remains on the LCD monitor, so that you can keep everything aligned as you move the camera over slightly and capture the second image. (Very slick, this eliminates one of the biggest problems with hand-held 3D stereo photography.) The 750Z supports either the Parallel format - which means you view the stereo photo with your eyes looking straight on, or the Cross format - which means that you cross your eyes to see the stereo effect.

The 750Z also has a nice range of creative tools, including a Digital Filter mode, which offers 10 filters for special effects. Color filters include Black and White, Sepia, Red, Pink, Purple, Blue, Green, and Yellow, and a Soft filter softens the overall image. A Brightness filter is also available, but only post-capture. An Image Tone option offers Standard or Vivid shooting modes, while image contrast, saturation, and sharpness settings provide further creative options. The User setting on the Mode dial lets you save a set of exposure adjustments so that they can be quickly recalled at a moment's notice. For example, if you frequently shoot in the same environment with the same lighting, saving a set of user options lets you quickly set up the camera without having to fish through LCD screens to make the adjustments.

In Movie exposure mode, the camera captures moving images with sound for as long as the memory card has available space. Movies are recorded at either 640 x 480 or 320 x 240-pixel resolutions, and at either 30 or 15 frames per second. Limited exposure options are available. The Pentax Optio 750Z also features an Audio recording mode, which records solely audio for as long as the SD memory card has available space. The Pentax 750Z also lets you record short audio clips to accompany captured images, like a voice caption. Time-Lapse Movie mode uses a slower frame rate to capture lengthy periods of motion (such as clouds moving across the sky), with capture ratios (the amount the camera will appear to speed up the action) ranging from x2 to x100. Note that no sound is recorded in Time-Lapse Movie mode. An Interval shooting mode snaps from two to 99 successive photos at programmable intervals ranging from 10 seconds to 99 minutes. There are also two Self-Timer modes, which provide either a two- or 10-second delay between pressing the Shutter button and the camera actually taking the picture, allowing you to get into your own shots. A remote control is available as an accessory, meaning you can take your time arranging the shot before tripping the shutter with the remote. (Two Remote Control options are available through the drive setting.) For shooting fast action subjects, the Pentax 750Z's Continuous Shooting mode captures a rapid series of images for as long as you hold down the Shutter button, much like a motor drive on a traditional 35mm camera. The space available on the memory card determines the maximum number of images the camera will capture in the series, and details like resolution, shutter speed, and the state of the camera's "buffer" memory determine the shooting interval. Finally, a Multiple Exposure mode lets you capture two or more images on top of each other, much like a double-exposure on a film camera.

The Optio 750Z stores images on SD/MMC memory cards, and comes with a 32-megabyte SD starter card. I'd recommend buying at least a 128-megabyte card at the same time as the camera, so you don't miss any shots for lack of memory space. The camera uses a D-LI7 rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack for power, and both a battery and external charger are included with the camera. Since the Optio 750Z does not accommodate AA batteries (or any other form of commonly available battery), I highly recommend buying an extra battery pack and keeping it freshly charged. The optional AC adapter could also be useful for preserving battery power when reviewing and downloading images.

Basic Features

  • 7.0-megapixel (effective) CCD captures image resolutions as high as 3,056 x 2,296 pixels.
  • Real-image optical viewfinder.
  • 1.8-inch color TFT LCD monitor that swivels 270 degrees.
  • Glass, 5x, 7.8-39mm lens, equivalent to a 37.5-187.5mm lens on a 35mm camera.
  • 8x digital zoom.
  • Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual exposure modes.
  • Shutter speeds from 1/2,000 to 15 seconds.
  • Aperture range from f/2.8 to f/7.8, depending on lens zoom position.
  • Built-in flash with six modes.
  • SD/MMC card storage (32-megabyte card included).
  • Power supplied by one D-LI7 rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack or optional AC adapter.
  • ACDSee software and USB drivers included for both Windows and Mac platforms.

Special Features

  • Movie and Time-Lapse Movie modes with sound.
  • Audio recording mode.
  • Continuous Shooting mode.
  • Interval Shooting, Multiple Exposure, Auto Bracketing, Panorama Assist, and 3D modes.
  • Digital Exposure Metering mode.
  • 12 preset "scene" photography modes.
  • User mode for saving frequently-used exposure settings.
  • Two- or 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release.
  • Remote-Control mode for use with optional remote control unit.
  • Digital Filter mode with eight color filters for special effects, one Soft filter, and a post-capture Brightness filter.
  • Macro (close-up) and Super Macro lens settings.
  • White balance (color) adjustment with eight modes, including a manual adjustment.
  • Image Tone, Contrast, Sharpness, and Saturation adjustments.
  • Multi-Segment, Center-Weighted, and Spot metering modes.
  • Sensitivity setting with four ISO equivalents and an Auto setting.
  • Wide and 11-point Spot AF area modes with user-selectable AF Spot, as well as a manual focus mode.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
  • USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included).

Recommendation
Offering a 7.0-megapixel CCD and an impressive 5x zoom lens, the Pentax Optio 750Z is packed with features. Though most of its functions are the same as those that have appeared on previous models, the 750Z offers a higher-resolution CCD, expanded preset Scene mode options, and the Digital Exposure Metering mode, plus a larger 640 x 480-pixel movie resolution. The 750Z offers automatic, manual, or partial manual exposure control, accommodating just about any user level. A range of preset shooting modes tackle difficult shooting situations, and a host of creative effects and capture modes are fun to play with. Compact and sturdy with its metal body, the Optio 750Z is a great option for novices and enthusiasts. (The Digital Exposure Metering mode may make it particularly interesting as a "second camera" for professional shooters.)

 

Design

With a fairly compact size and familiar Optio styling (plus a couple of enhancements), the Pentax Optio 750Z looks similar to previous Optio models. A swiveling LCD monitor offers 270 degrees of viewing angles, and a rubbery, leather-textured pad on the front panel is a throwback to old-style manual 35mm cameras, giving the camera a handsome allure. A few small protrusions interrupt the otherwise smooth design, but don't protrude far enough to interfere with pockets. With the lens stowed, the 750Z measures 3.9 x 2.4 x 1.6 inches (100 x 62 x 42 millimeters), which is just a bit too large for most average shirt pockets. Still, the Pentax 750Z should fit easily into larger coat pockets and purses, and comes with a handy neck strap that can be tightened down as a wrist strap. The camera's metal body adds some heft, as the camera weighs 8.9 ounces (255 grams) with the battery and memory card in place. Still, the rugged metal body helps protect against daily wear and tear.

The front of the camera holds the lens, flash, optical viewfinder window, autofocus window, self-timer lamp / AF illuminator, tiny microphone, and the sensor window for the optional remote control. A shutter-like, retractable lens cover protects the lens whenever the camera is powered off, sliding quickly out of the way when the camera is turned on. The lens then telescopes out from the camera body about an inch. The front of the camera is flat with only a slight bump for a finger grip, though the textured black pad actually provides a good grip for your fingers. Still, I'd recommend keeping the strap securely cinched around your wrist when holding the camera, as there's not much to keep it from slipping out of your hand if you get bumped while shooting.

The right side of the camera (as viewed from the rear) features the connector compartment, covered by a thin, plastic flap that remains tethered to the camera. Beneath the flap are the PC/AV and DC In connector jacks. Also on this side of the camera is the eyelet for attaching the neck strap. At the very bottom of this side is the edge of the battery compartment door, and the small release lever for the battery.

The opposite side of the camera is featureless and smooth, showing only the hinge of the swiveling LCD monitor.

The Optio 750Z's top panel features the speaker, Mode dial, Front lever, Shutter button, and Power button. From this view, you can also see the diopter adjustment for the optical viewfinder.

A handful of external controls dot the camera's back panel, along with the optical viewfinder eyepiece and 1.8-inch color LCD monitor. The LCD monitor lifts off of the back panel, and can swivel 270 degrees into just about any viewing position. You can flip it around to face the back of the camera and close it, to protect it from any scratches. Two LEDs next to the optical viewfinder report the camera's status, such as when focus is set, when the flash is charged, etc. At the top of the eyepiece is a diopter adjustment control, which adjusts the view to accommodate eyeglass wearers. To the right of the eyepiece are three multi-function buttons, which access different settings in Playback and Record modes. In the top right corner is the optical / digital zoom control, which also controls playback zoom. A Four-Way Arrow pad in the lower right corner of the rear panel features an "OK" button at its center for confirming menu selections and controlling the LCD display, and is the navigational tool for the LCD menu system. The three remaining controls are the Menu, Function, and Playback buttons, lining the right side of the LCD monitor.

On the bottom panel of the Pentax Optio 750Z are the tripod mount and battery / memory card compartment. The plastic, threaded tripod mount is off-center from the lens because of the camera's small size, but provides a fairly stable mount. The battery compartment features a sliding, hinged door, too close to the tripod mount to allow quick battery changes while working with a tripod. However, the side-access of the DC In port should alleviate any studio shooting concerns (though you will have to dismount from the tripod to change out the memory card).

 

Camera Operation

The Pentax Optio 750Z's user interface is similar to previous Optio models, with a good selection of external controls and a fairly concise LCD menu system. For standard point-and-shoot operation, the most basic features such as flash, focus mode, and zoom are all adjusted via external controls. You can also access drive mode and basic exposure settings (shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation) externally. The Mode dial lets you quickly set the camera's main operating mode, with just a turn of the dial. When it is necessary to enter the LCD menu system, you'll find it simple to navigate. Three menus are available, delineated by subject tabs at the top of the screen. The arrow keys of the Four-Way Arrow pad scroll through each selection, and the OK button in the center of the pad confirms any changes. You can also program the arrow keys of the Four-Way Arrow pad to control 17 specific exposure functions when the Function button is held down, and the User mode setting makes it quick to recall frequently used settings. It shouldn't take much more than a half-hour or so to become familiar with the camera setup, as it's fairly intuitive.



Record-Mode Display
By default, the Pentax Optio 750Z's display shows the central autofocus area along with currently-selected options for exposure mode, macro and flash mode, the number of images of the current size and quality that can be stored in the remaining space on the memory card. A battery icon also appears, reporting the approximate level of charge left. You can also have it show a more detailed display including image size and quality white balance, metering pattern, and ISO. The expanded information display also includes a small live histogram, and blinks any under- or over-exposed areas in the frame. By pressing the Display/ OK button again, you can dispense with the information overlay entirely. (You can also customize the LCD information display through the camera's Setup menu.)

Playback-Mode Display
In Playback mode, you can press the wide-angle side of the zoom toggle to show images on the memory card in the form of thumbnails, nine at a time. Pressing the telephoto side of the zoom toggle zooms in on the image as much as 10x. Pressing the Display button cycles between modes that show limited information (the default), detailed information with a histogram, or no information.

 

External Controls


Power Button
: Located unobtrusively left of the Mode dial on the camera's top panel, this button powers the camera on and off.


Mode Dial
: Sitting on the far right side of the top panel, this dial controls the camera's operating modes, with the following options available:

  • User: Lets the user save a set of exposure settings, for instant recall.
  • Manual (M): Provides total exposure control to the user, including aperture and shutter speed settings.
  • Shutter Priority (Tv): Allows the user to adjust the shutter speed, while the camera selects the best corresponding aperture.
  • Aperture Priority (Av): Operates similarly to Shutter Priority mode, only the user now controls the aperture while the camera adjusts the shutter speed.
  • Program (P): In this mode, the camera controls both aperture and shutter speed settings, while the user has access to all other exposure variables.
  • Picture (Pict): Accesses 12 preset shooting modes, including Landscape, Portrait, Night-Scene, Night-Scene Portrait, Sport, Flower, Surf & Snow, Fireworks, Autumn Colors, Sunset, and Food scenes.
  • Panorama Assist: Assists the user in recording a series of images to be stitched together on a computer as a single panoramic image.
  • 3D: Records a stereographic pair of images in a single frame, for viewing as 3D images using the viewing glasses included with the camera.
  • Digital Filter: Offers a selection of eight color filter modes, including black and white, sepia, several color tints and a "Soft" filter for softening images.
  • Movie: Records moving images with sound, for as long as the memory card has available space.
  • Audio: Records only audio, with the amount of available recording time limited only by the memory card space.
  • Digital Exposure Metering: Turns the camera into a light meter. Pressing the Shutter button meters the scene instead of capturing an image.

Shutter Button (see image above): Surrounded by the Mode dial on top of the camera, this button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed, and fires the shutter when fully pressed.


Front Lever
: Directly underneath the Mode dial, this lever controls the exposure compensation setting.


Zoom Toggle
: Located in the top right corner of the back panel, this button controls the optical and digital zoom in any record mode. In Playback mode, this button lets you zoom in on captured images, to check focus or precise framing. Pressing the "W" side of the button when not zoomed in activates the nine-image thumbnail index display mode.


Focus / Erase Button
: Directly to the left of the zoom toggle button, this button is the first in a series of three across the top of the back panel. In any record mode, this button cycles through the available focus modes: Autofocus (no icon), Macro mode (flower symbol), Super Macro mode, Infinity / Landscape focus mode (mountain symbol), Manual Focus mode ("MF"), Spot AF mode selection (adjustable to one of 11 points located around the center AF point), and Normal mode (either Wide or Spot AF depending on the current menu setting). In Playback mode, this button deletes the currently-displayed image / video / sound clip, the sound attached to an image, or all files from the memory card.


Drive Mode / DPOF Button
: To the left of the Focus / Erase button, pressing this button cycles through Two- and 10-second Self-Timer modes, Remote Control (three-seconds), Standard Remote Control, Continuous Shooting, and Multiple Exposure modes when the camera is in Record mode. Note that the remote control is an optional extra that is not included with the camera. With the camera set to Playback mode, this button pulls up the DPOF on-screen menu, allowing you to mark individual or all images for printing, as well as establish the number of print copies and activate a time and date stamp.

When setting the image resolution in the Record menu, pressing this button switches between 4:3 and 3:2 aspect ratio options.


Flash / Protect Button
: The final button in the series, this button cycles through the available flash modes in any Record mode. Flash modes include Auto, On, Off, Auto with Red-Eye Reduction, On with Red-Eye Reduction, and Rear Curtain (not available in all exposure modes). In Playback mode, pressing this button write-protects the current image, or all images on the card. (Write-protection prevents images from being accidentally erased, except via card formatting.)


Diopter Adjustment Control
: On top of the optical viewfinder eyepiece, this sliding control adjusts the viewfinder display to accommodate eyeglass wearers.


Playback Button
: Next to the top right corner of the LCD monitor, this button places the camera into Playback mode. A second press returns to Record mode.


Function Button
: Just below the Playback button, this button retrieves functions that are registered on the Four-Way Arrow pad, when pressed before or at the same time as one of the arrow keys. (Functions are assigned through the Setup menu and appear onscreen when the Function button is pressed.)


Menu Button
: Next to the lower right corner of the LCD monitor, this button calls up the settings menu in both Record and Playback modes.


Four Way Arrow Pad
: Taking up the lower right corner of the rear panel, this four-way multi-controller navigates through settings menus.

In Manual exposure mode, the up and down keys adjust the aperture setting, while the left and right keys change the shutter speed. In Aperture Priority mode, the up and down arrows adjust the aperture setting, while the left and right keys adjust shutter speed in Shutter Priority mode. In Digital Filter and Picture modes, the up and down arrows scroll through the available filters or presets. In Playback mode, the left and right keys scroll through captured images on the memory card, the down arrow rotates the image 90 degrees clockwise, and the up arrow starts or stops playback of a sound clip (attached to an image) or starts playback of a movie or voice memo. When playing a movie or voice memo, the up arrow pauses it, the down arrow stops it and returns to the previous screen, while the left and right arrows cue backward or forward though it.

Through the Setup menu, any of the four arrow keys can be assigned a specific function, accessed when pressed in conjunction with the Function button.

OK / Display Button (see image above): Nestled in the center of the Four-Way Arrow pad, this button confirms menu selections in any mode.

When outside of a settings menu, this button also controls the LCD display modes. In Record mode, pressing this once calls up a histogram display of the subject area (a graphical representation of the light and dark values in the image), a blinking display of any over- or underexposure, as well as a readout of basic settings such as resolution, quality, white balance, etc. A second press dismisses the histogram and information display, showing only the image area. A third press cancels the display entirely. In Playback mode, pressing the Display button once pulls up an information display, while a second press adds an extended histogram and information display, and a third press dismisses it.

 

Camera Modes and Menus

Record Mode: In Record mode, the camera can capture still images or movie files. The Mode dial on top of the camera selects between Manual, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Program, Picture, Panorama Assist, 3D, Digital Filter, Movie, Audio, Digital Exposure Metering, and User modes, which provide varying levels of control over the exposure. (The Digital Exposure Metering option simply turns the 750Z into a spot meter.) The Record menu is displayed by pressing the Menu button in any of these exposure modes, and the following options are available:

  • Record Mode Settings
    • Resolution: Sets the image resolution to 3,056 x 2,296; 2,592 x 1,944; 2,048 x 1,536; 1,600 x 1,200; 1,024 x 768; or 640 x 480 pixels. If the aspect ratio has been set to 3:2, options are 3,056 x 2,040; 2,592 x 1,728; 2,048 x 1,368; 1,600 x 1,064; 1,024 x 680; or 640 x 424.
    • Quality level: Sets the JPEG compression level to Good, Better, or Best (three stars being Best and one star being Good). A TIFF option is also available.
    • White Balance: Adjusts the overall color balance of the scene. Options include Auto, Daylight, Shade, Incandescent, Warm Fluorescent, Neutral Fluorescent, Daylight Fluorescent, and Manual. (Manual white balance lets you use a white object to set the camera's color balance.)
    • AF Setting: Pulls up a sub-menu of AF options:
      • Focusing Area: Designates the area of the frame that the camera determines focus from, either Spot or Wide. Spot AF lets you pick one of 11 AF areas, (including the default center area) to determine focus. Wide mode bases focus on a large area in the center of the frame.
      • AF Mode: Offers Single and Continuous focusing modes. Single sets focus only when the Shutter button has been pressed, while Continuous mode always adjusts focus, and is good for moving subjects.
      • Focus Limiter: If activated, limits the lens' focusing area. For example, limits the focus to far distances in normal mode, and to closer settings in Macro mode. This enables faster shooting.
      • Aux. AF Light: Turns the AF illuminator on or off.
    • AE Metering: Chooses how the camera determines exposure, choices are Spot, Center-Weighted, and Multi-Segment.
    • Sensitivity: Adjusts the camera's light sensitivity, options are Auto, or 80, 100, 200, or 400 ISO equivalents.



    • Flash Exposure Compensation: Adjusts flash power from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments.
    • Auto Bracket: Selects the type of auto bracketing sequence. Options are Exposure, White Balance, Sharpness, Saturation, and Contrast. For Exposure, the step size can be selected from 0.3 - 2.0EV in 0.3EV steps, and for White Balance it can be set to +1 - +5 in +1 steps.
    • Interval Shooting: Activates the Interval Shooting mode, and lets you designate the time interval between shots, the number of shots to record in a series, and how long to wait before beginning shooting. Intervals can range from 10 seconds to 99 minutes, the number of shots captured can range from two to 99 (or less, depending on available card space), and the delay before starting can run from one minute to 23 hours 59 minutes.
    • Movie: Pulls up the following submenu:
      • Recorded Pixels: Sets the movie resolution to either 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 pixels.
      • Color Mode: Selects Full Color, Black and White, or Sepia color modes.
      • Frame Rate: Sets the frame rate to either 30 or 15 frames per second.
      • Time-Lapse Movie: Turns on the Time Lapse Movie mode, which uses a slower frame rate to capture long periods of activity. Frame settings extend from x2 to x100 (referring to the rate of playback speed). Sound is not recorded, and the frame rate is set at 15 frames per second.
    • 3D Mode: Sets the 3D recording mode to Cross or Parallel. (Cross means you need to cross your eyes slightly to see the 3D effect. Parallel means you need to look straight ahead.)
    • Digital Zoom: Sets the digital zoom to 2x or 8x, or turns it off. When enabled, the digital zoom kicks in after you've zoomed the optical lens all the way to its telephoto position.



    • Instant Review: Turns the Instant Review function off, or sets the review time on the LCD screen to 0.5, 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 seconds.
    • Memory: Lets you decide which settings will be remembered when the camera is shut off. Any setting not selected returns to the default setting whenever the camera is turned off and back on again. Features that can be remembered include Flash, Flash EV Compensation, White Balance, EV Compensation, Digital Zoom, AE Metering, Sensitivity, Focus Mode, Zoom Position, Manual Focus, Display, and File Numbering.
    • Image Tone: Offers Standard and Vivid image tone settings.
    • Sharpness: Adjusts the overall image sharpness to Normal, Hard, or Soft.
    • Saturation: Controls the level of color saturation. Options are Normal, High, or Low.
    • Contrast: Adjusts overall image contrast to Normal, High, or Low.


  • Playback
    • Slideshow: Specifies the display interval for images in a slideshow playback, from choices of 3, 5, 10, 20 or 30 seconds. Once a time is selected, the slideshow automatically begins. (Pressing the Menu button stops the show.)
    • Resize: Resizes the selected image to smaller pixel dimensions. The image can either be overwritten with the resized version, or saved with the next available filename.
    • Trimming: Crops an image and saves it as a smaller file. Images can be cropped to one of the standard image sizes as above, and saved with your choice of quality setting. The zoom controls are used to select the size of the trimmed area, and the arrow buttons are used to select the area that will be trimmed. The Flash / Protect button chooses whether the area will be trimmed as a landscape or portrait image, regardless of the original format, and the Drive / DPOF button changes the aspect ratio.
    • Digital Filter: Lets you apply one of 10 digital filters to the captured image (eight color filters, plus Brightness and Soft filters). You can choose whether to overwrite the original image or save the modified file separately.
    • Quick Zoom: When turned on, this function enlarges images to either two, four, or 10 times zoom with only one press of the zoom toggle button.
    • Quick Delete: When activated, this function displays the Delete screen (whenever the Focus / Erase button is pressed in review mode) with "All Images" automatically selected.
    • Alarm: Turns on the camera's alarm clock function, and lets you set as many as three alarm settings. Alarms can be set to occur once only, daily, or disabled, and the camera can either be set to allow or disallow "snoozing" the alarm by pressing a camera button. If "snoozing" is allowed, then the alarm must be disabled by holding down the Menu and OK buttons together. An image can also be selected using the camera's DPOF function from those on the memory card to be displayed alongside the alarm, if desired. After setting an alarm, the camera will turn itself off. The alarm will sound only if the camera is turned off; if it is on, obviously you must be awake to be using it! (Note that turning the camera on and off after setting an alarm but before it sounds will not cause it to be cancelled.) The camera could potentially run out of battery power if it wasn't charged before you went to sleep (particularly if you use the snooze feature, which leaves the LCD display on while the camera is "snoozed").



  • Setup
    • Format: Formats the SD/MMC card, erasing all files (even protected ones).
    • Sound: Adjusts the volume of the camera's overall sound, and assigns specific sounds to startup, shutter, and operation functions.
    • Date Adjust: Sets the camera's internal date and time.
    • World Time: Allows you to set the time in another city, so that when traveling you can have the camera show and record in your images the local time without needing to adjust the time of the camera's clock. You select a home city and the city you're currently in from a selection of 62 cities (listed in the manual), and then enable the World Time feature. City names are listed as standard three-digit abbreviations, and to help you in finding the correct city, the current city is indicated on a world map.
    • Language: Changes the menu language to English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Korean, Chinese (traditional and simplified), or Japanese.
    • Folder Name: Designates the method by which the camera names folders, either Standard or Date. Standard mode names folders XXXPENTX, where "XXX" is a three-digit folder number. Date mode names folders XXX_mmdd, where "XXX" is the same three-digit folder number, but followed by the month and day.



    • Start-up Screen: Determines what image is displayed when the camera is powered on. The "Optio" screen is the default, but you can specify an image from the SD/MMC card, which is then copied to the camera's built-in memory. The factory-default startup screen is not overwritten, and can be restored at a later date if you change your mind. You can also opt to disable the startup screen altogether.
    • Display: Lets you customize two user settings dictating how much information is displayed on the LCD monitor.
    • Brightness Level: Controls the brightness of the LCD display.
    • Video Out: Sets the video format to NTSC or PAL.
    • USB Connection: Sets the USB connection to PC or PictBridge.
    • Sleep Timeout: Disables the Sleep function, or sets the camera to go to sleep after 30 seconds, or one or two minutes of inactivity.



    • Auto Power Off: Turns this feature off, or sets the camera to shut off after three or five minutes of inactivity.
    • Function Setting: Assigns specific exposure functions to the arrow keys of the Four-Way Arrow pad when the Function button is held down (Recorded Pixels, Quality Level, White Balance, Focus Area, AF Mode, Focus Limiter, Aux. AF Light, AE Metering, Sensitivity, Flash Exposure Compensation, Digital Zoom, Image Tone, Sharpness, Saturation, Contrast, Format, and MF).
    • User Setting: Lets you register up to three sets of camera settings that will be instantly called up whenever the Exposure Mode dial is turned to the USER setting.
    • Reset: Resets all camera settings to their defaults.

Playback Mode: This mode lets you review captured images / movies and listen to the voice memos on the memory card, as well as erase them, protect them, set them up for printing, add sound clips, etc. Pressing the Menu button in Playback mode displays the same menu screens described above.

 

Test Images

See our Pentax Optio 750Z sample image page for all our standardized test images and detailed analysis of the results . The thumbnails below show a subset of the test images, click on a thumbnail to see the full-size photo.

"Sunlit"
Indoor Flash
Indoor
 

 

 

House
Musicians
Macro
 

 

 

Davebox
Resolution
Viewfinder Accuracy

 

"Gallery" Photos

For those readers interested in a set of less "standardized" photos from the Pentax Optio 750Z, we've put together a "photo gallery" of more pictorial shots captured with the 750Z.

 

Specifications

For detailed specs, see the Pentax Optio 750Z spec sheet.

 

Picky Details

Information on shooting speed, battery life, etc. can be found on the Pentax 750Z "Picky Details" page.

 

In the Box

The following items are packaged with the Pentax Optio 750Z:

  • D-Ll7 rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack.
  • Battery charger with AC plug cord.
  • USB cable.
  • AV cable.
  • Neck/Wrist strap.
  • 32-megabyte SD memory card.
  • Software CD.
  • Operating manual and registration card.

 

Recommended Accessories


Recommended Software: Rescue your images!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. I get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A surprising number of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digicam reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...

 

Test Results

In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the Pentax Optio 750Z's sample pictures page.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Pentax Optio 750Z with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

As with all Imaging Resource product tests, I encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the camera performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how the Pentax 750Z's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

  • Color: Pretty good color, not as highly saturated as most consumer digital cameras though. The Optio 750Z produced slight color casts throughout my testing, regardless of the white balance setting. I typically noticed a red cast with the Auto white balance, and a cool, magenta cast with the Manual setting, but none of the color casts were outside what I'd consider an acceptable range. Because of slightly dark exposures, color was also a little dark, but was generally fairly accurate. There were a few minor hue shifts in some parts of the spectrum, but the color delivered by the 750Z was for the most part more accurate than average among the digital cameras I test. That said though, "more accurate" means "less saturated," since most consumer (and many professional) digital cameras over saturate color slightly to appeal to mass-market consumer tastes. If you like the highly saturated color of most consumer digicams these days, the more subdued color rendition of the 750Z may look a little flat to you. Despite the slight color casts noted above, the Pentax 750Z handled the difficult incandescent lighting of the Indoor Portrait (without flash) better than most cameras I test, producing acceptable results with auto, incandescent, and manual white balance options. Overall, generally accurate, but slightly understated color relative to much of the camera market.

  • Exposure: A tendency to underexpose. High contrast under harsh lighting, helped only somewhat by the low-contrast adjustment. The Pentax Optio 750Z's exposure system tended to underexpose our test shots, almost regardless of the lighting setup. The high-key lighting of the "Sunlit" Portrait tricked the camera into underexposing the shot a great deal, requiring a +1.3 EV exposure compensation boost to get a reasonably bright image. (Most cameras require 0.7 - 1.0 EV on this subject.) Though contrast wasn't high enough to affect tonal handling on the Davebox, it did limit the dynamic range on the outdoor house shot and on the "Sunlit" Portrait, even with the camera's contrast control set to its lowest value. Shadow detail was marginal in most cases, and the highlights were often too bright with limited detail.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: High resolution, 1,450 - 1,500 lines of "strong detail," very much on par with the rest of the 7-megapixel field. The Pentax Optio 750Z performed well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart for its seven-megapixel class. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 1,200-1,250 lines per picture height vertically and horizontally. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,450 lines horizontally (corresponding to the vertically-oriented target elements) and 1,500 lines vertically. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,800 lines.

  • Image Noise: Low to moderate image noise. Usable at ISO 400, but a fair bit of subtle detail is traded away. Some image noise is present in the 750Z's images, even at the 80 and 100 ISO settings, though the grain pattern is fine and tight, and levels are generally low enough that you need to look at the individual color channels in isolation to see the noise. At ISO 200, noise increases somewhat, but remains well within an acceptable range, and there appears to be only a modest tradeoff of subtle detail to hold the noise in check. At ISO 400, the noise becomes higher, albeit with a relatively fine pattern. That said, the Pentax 750's ISO 400 images are quite usable. Its noise-suppression algorithms work well at suppressing the noise, but do trade off quite a bit of subtle detail to do so.

  • Closeups: A very small macro area with great detail. The camera underexposed with the flash, but good detail was still visible. The Pentax Optio 750Z performed very well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 1.61 x 1.21 inches (41 x 31 millimeters). Resolution was very high, and a lot of fine detail was present in the dollar bill. Details were soft on the coins and brooch due to the shallow depth of field from the very short subject distance. A moderately high level of image noise interfered with detail definition slightly, but results were still pretty good. Details softened quite a bit toward the corners of the frame, but were fairly sharp on the dollar bill. (Most digicams produce images with soft corners when shooting in their Macro modes.) The Pentax 750Z's flash throttled down a little too well for the macro area, producing a dark exposure. Still, results weren't too bad, considering most digicams' flash performance at such close range. (I'd still say to plan on using external lighting for your closest macro shots.)

  • Night Shots: Pretty good low-light performance, although a slightly reddish color balance. Pretty good low-light focusing, very good with AF-assist light enabled. The Optio 750Z produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/8 foot-candle (1.3 lux) light level at the 200 and 400 ISO settings (though you could arguably use the image captured at the 1/16 foot-candle, 0.67 lux, limit of the test at ISO 400). At ISO 80 and 100, images were bright down to the 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux) light level, though the target was visible at some of the lower light levels. Color balance was reddish with the Auto white balance setting, and the red cast increased as the exposure darkened. Noise was fairly low in most shots, and even at ISO 400, image noise was lower than I expected. The 750Z focused down to between 1/2 and 1/4 foot-candle with its autofocus-assist light turned off, and in more or less complete darkness (on nearby objects, anyway) when the AF light was enabled.

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: A tight optical viewfinder, but very accurate LCD monitor. The Pentax Optio 750Z's optical viewfinder was very tight, showing only 82 percent of the final image area at both wide angle and telephoto zoom settings. The LCD monitor actually proved very slightly loose, showing just a bit more than what made it into the final frame, though results were near 100 percent accuracy. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the Pentax 750Z's LCD monitor performed well here, but its optical viewfinder has room for improvement.

  • Optical Distortion: Lower than average barrel distortion at wide angle, higher than average pincushion at telephoto. Low chromatic aberration, very good corner to corner sharpness. Geometric distortion on the Pentax Optio 750Z is lower than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 0.6 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared about the same, as I measured approximately 0.6 percent pincushion distortion there. (While the barrel distortion at wide angle is lower than average, 0.6% pincushion is quite a bit more distortion than average at telephoto focal lengths.) Chromatic aberration is very, as I only about one pixel of faint coloration. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.) Sharpness is also much better than average in the corners of the frame.

  • Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: Average shutter response, slower than average cycle times. With full-autofocus shutter lag ranging from 0.84 - 0.93 second, it's solidly in the middle of the average range of shutter response. Its shutter response when "prefocused" (by half-pressing and holding down the shutter button prior to the shot itself) is fast enough to capture fleeting action, but at 0.22 second, is slower than average these days. Shot to shot cycle times are slower than average, a bit over 3 seconds between shots in single-shot mode, and fully 1.4 seconds for large/fine JPEG images in continuous mode.

  • Battery Life: Very good battery life. With a worst-case run time of 154 minutes in capture mode with the rear-panel LCD enabled, and 216 minutes in capture mode with the LCD turned off, the Pentax Optio 750's battery life is well above average. In playback mode, the camera should be able to run for over 5 hours on a freshly charged battery. While I always recommend purchasing an extra battery right along with your digital camera, the Pentax 750Z's battery life is good enough that most users will probably be able to get by with just the battery pack that's included with the camera.

 

Conclusion

Free Photo Lessons

Check out the Free Photo School program for lessons and tips on improving your photographs!
Simple pro lighting and use tips let you snap stunning photos. Check out our free Photo School area!

With a 7.0-megapixel CCD, 5x optical zoom lens, exposure control ranging from fully automatic to fully manual, and a wide selection of creative modes and features, the Pentax Optio 750Z offers a lot of the functionality of higher-end digicams in a compact, easy to use package. The camera's varying levels of exposure control suit it for any level of user, and novices will enjoy being able to slowly expand their control as they gain more experience. New Optio features such as the Digital Exposure Metering mode and customizable LCD display refresh the line, while expanded options like an 11-point AF area and swiveling LCD monitor make the camera even more flexible. I liked the mix of features and functions a lot, and found the "retro" styling with the pseudo-leather accents very appealing. I was less enthusiastic about its color handling and shooting speed though. While its color rendering is technically more accurate than many digicams, that translates into somewhat understated colors, and the saturation adjustment had too few steps to let me really tweak the color to get it looking the way I wanted. For my taste (you might feel differently, be sure to check out the 750's images in our Comparometer(tm)), I ended up with color that was either a little too saturated, or a little too dull. More steps in the color saturation adjustment, covering the same range would have let me get it just right. Also, while its shutter lag was solidly in the middle of the average range for consumer digital cameras, its shot to shot cycle time was rather sluggish by current standards. That said, the camera does have a lot going for it: If you like slightly less saturated color than is the norm in the current digital camera marketplace, and don't need to capture rapid-fire action, the Pentax 750Z packs a lot of photographic capability into a compact, attractive package.


 

Reader Comments!
Questions, comments or controversy on this article? Click this link to see what other Imaging Resource readers have had to say about Pentax Optio750Z, or add comments of your own!


Follow Imaging Resource:

Purchase memory card for Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 digital camera
Enter this month to win:

1 $300 Adorama Gift Certificate

2 $200 Adorama Gift Certificate

3 $100 Adorama Gift Certificate