Pentax W10 Review

 
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Pentax Optio W10 Exposure


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Good overall color, if a little dark in some cases. Strongest oversaturation in the bright blues, and some in the bright reds, but overall good results.

In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located towards the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center.

Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life. The Pentax Option W10 pushes the blues around a bit to enhance skies, with a mild elevation of reds and magentas, but the camera also undersaturates some tones, notably yellow and orange. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc. The W10 does produce pinkish skin tones that are slightly on the pale side, but my sense is that most consumers will be pleased with the results.

The other important part of color rendition is hue accuracy. Hue is "what color" the color is. Here, the W10 performed fairly well, though it pushed cyan toward blue for good-looking skies, and blue toward violet, but overall color appeared natural in most cases.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Good color with the Manual white balance setting, though maybe a hint greenish. About average positive exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance +1.0 EV Incandescent WB +1.0 EV
 
Manual White Balance +1.0 EV  

Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was reddish with the Auto white balance setting, though the Incandescent and Manual options both produced more accurate results. In the end, I settled on the Manual option, despite a very slight greenish tint. The Optio W10 required an average amount of positive exposure compensation here, at +1.0 EV. Overall color looks good, though a hint dark. Additionally, the blue flowers are very dark and purplish, which is a common problem among digital cameras with this shot. Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.

 

Outdoors, daylight
About average exposure accuracy, though slightly high contrast outdoors. Good overall color, but a little on the dark side.

Auto White Balance,
+0.7 EV
Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure

Outdoors, the Pentax Optio W10 produced high contrast under harsh sunlight, with slightly blown-out highlights. The shadows held onto a fair amount of detail, however. Overall color was fairly accurate, though dark. The W10 typically required about average positive exposure compensation or slightly less, and overall results were generally pleasing.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
High resolution, 1,200 lines of strong detail.

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,200 lines per picture height, with extinction at around 1,650. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail. Beware that while you might be able to make out what looks like distinct lines at numbers higher than those we've mentioned here, the camera is just doing its best to continue interpreting the lines. The lines you see at 1,550 and higher are really only artifacts generated by the camera's imaging system.

Strong detail to
1,200 lines horizontal
Strong detail to
1,200 lines vertical

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Reasonably sharp images overall, though some noticeable edge-enhancement on high-contrast subjects. Moderate noise suppression limits detail in the shadows.

Good definition of high-contrast elements, though with visible edge enhancement. Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur detail in areas of subtle contrast, as in the darker and lighter parts of Marti's hair here.

The Pentax Optio W10 captures fairly sharp images, though high contrast subjects (such as the crop above left) show a fair amount of edge enhancement from the camera. (Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.)

Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears. The crop above right shows this, as the darker and lighter areas of Marti's hair show limited detail. Only higher contrast strands of hair appear distinct.

ISO & Noise Performance
Low to moderate noise at the normal sensitivity settings, though a big jump in noise with strong blurring at the high settings.

ISO 64 ISO 100 ISO 200
 
ISO 400 ISO 800  

Noise levels are low to moderate at the Pentax Optio W10's lower sensitivity settings, with higher noise at ISO 400 and 800 (as you'd expect). At ISO 400, image noise results in fairly strong blurring (though detail is also a bit blurry at ISO 200 as well). Image noise at ISO 800 is very high with a strong pattern that interferes with fine detail.

Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with strong overall detail, but high contrast and limited shadow detail. Pretty good low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images under average city street lighting and slightly darker conditions.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

Sunlight:
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)

The Pentax Optio W10 produced slightly high contrast with washed-out highlights and deep shadows under the harsh lighting of the test above. Noise suppression is visible in the shadows, contributing to the loss of detail there. Though color balance is slightly reddish with the Manual white balance setting, overall color looks pretty good. (In "real life" though, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.)

  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
ISO
64
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400
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Low light:
The Pentax Optio W10 captured bright images down to the 1/8 foot-candle light level at ISOs 400 and 800 (about 1/8 as bright as average city street lighting at night), but images were only bright to one foot-candle at the ISO 64 setting. The camera's autofocus system was able to focus on the subject down to just below the 1/4 foot-candle light level, which is slightly less than the camera's exposure capabilities. Keep in mind that the long shutter times necessary here absolutely demand the use of a tripod or other camera support to get sharp photos. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.

Flash

Coverage and Range
A fairly strong flash. Our indoor shots required slightly less than average positive compensation in the normal flash mode.

38mm equivalent 114mm equivalent
Normal Flash, +0.7 EV Night Mode, +1.0 EV
 
Soft Mode, +1.3 EV  

Flash coverage was only a little uneven at wide angle, with some falloff still visible in the corners at telephoto. In the Indoor test, the Optio W10's flash underexposed our subject at its default setting, requiring a +0.7 EV positive exposure compensation boost, though results are still a hint dim overall. The camera's Night mode resulted in a brighter overall image, at +1.0 EV, though the longer shutter time resulted in a strong orange color cast and hot highlights on the white shirt. In the camera's Soft mode, results were similar to the normal flash mode, though here the camera required a +1.3 EV exposure adjustment. In both Normal and Soft shots, there's a slight pink cast.

Flash Range: Wide Angle
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft
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16 ft
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Flash Range: Telephoto
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft
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Flash power remains pretty strong to about 10 feet at wide angle, though intensity is quite low at 16 feet. At telephoto, the flash is bright to about eight feet before decreasing in intensity.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Soft prints, mediocre color, soft 8x10 inch prints. ISO 400 images are soft but usable at 8x10, ISO 800 shots are only usable at 4x6.

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon i9900 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5200 here in the office. (See the Canon i9900 review for details on that model.)

With the Pentax Optio W10, we found that its images produced soft 8x10 inch prints. They were moderately sharp at the center, but quickly got soft radiating out from the center. At high ISO, image noise levels are held in check up to ISO 400, with increasing softness at 8x10, but 5x7 and 4x6 were useable. The jump to ISO 800 gets quite a bit rougher. ISO 800 shots are really only usable as 4x6 inch snapshots. Given the softness that radiates out from the center even at ISO 64, shots from the Optio W10 are best kept to 5x7 or 4x6.

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Pentax Optio W10 Photo Gallery.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Pentax Optio W10 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!

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