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Quick Review

Pentax Optio 430 Digital Camera

 
Camera QuickLook
User Level
Novice to experienced amateur
Product Uses
Family / Travel / Special Events
Digicam Design
Point and Shoot / Full Manual Control
Picture Quality
Great, 4-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
4x6 to 8x10 and larger
Availability
Now
Suggested Retail Price
$699


Introduction
Review Links
Overview
Picky
Details
Design
Operation
Recommended Accessories
Sample Pictures
Specifications
Conclusion

Pentax is a camera maker with a long tradition in the film-based world, but a relative newcomer to the digital arena. They co-developed several cameras with Hewlett Packard, but now are beginning to step out on their own, with digicams entirely of their own design. They recently introduced the Optio 330, an ultra-compact 3 megapixel design that actually claims the crown as the smallest zoom-equipped 3 megapixel currently on the market. Now, they've produced the smallest 4 megapixel digicam, the Optio 430. Despite Pentax's newcomer status in the digital arena, I found the 430 to be a very competitive entry in the ultra-compact digicam market. Read on for all the details... (If you've already read my review of the Optio 330, you can skip down to the Test Results, as most camera functions are identical.)


Camera Overview
The Optio 430 is about the same size as a deck of playing cards, making it one of the most portable digicams I've seen (the exact same size as the Optio 330). At 3.6 x 2.3 x 1.4 inches (92 x 59 x 31 millimeters) and 7.2 ounces (205 grams) without the battery or CompactFlash memory card, the Optio 430 can be easily concealed in a shirt pocket. The compact design includes a built-in lens cover which opens whenever the camera is powered on and the lens telescopes out. The Optio 430's 3x zoom lens features both manual and automatic focus control, which, combined with the variety of manual exposure options, packs a lot of creative power into the tiny camera. The 4-megapixel CCD produces high resolution, print quality images, as well as lower resolution images suited for email. With a good lens and a (much) larger CCD than offered on most digicams this size, the Optio 430 is perfectly suited for active adults and teens who don't want to compromise on image quality for portability.

The Optio 430 has a 3x, 7.6-22.8mm lens, the equivalent of a 37-111mm lens on a 35mm camera. The lens can focus over a range of 1.31 feet (0.4 meters) to infinity in normal shooting mode, with a Macro option covering from 5.5 inches to 1.6 feet (0.14 to 0.5 meters). Not only does the Optio 430 offer manual and automatic focus control, it also allows you to change the area of the image that the camera determines focus from, useful when shooting off-center subjects. In addition to the optical zoom, the Optio 430 offers up to 2x digital zoom, (though I always remind readers that digital zoom decreases the overall image quality, since it simply enlarges the center pixels of the CCD image). You can choose between the real-image optical viewfinder or the 1.6-inch, color TFT LCD monitor to compose images, although I found the LCD monitor had the most accurate framing. (As is commonly the case.)

Exposure can be manually or automatically controlled on the Optio 430, a nice feature for novices wanting to learn more about photography: The convenience of fully automatic exposure when you want it, or full manual control when you want to experiment. An On/Off button on top of the camera turns the camera on or off, and a Mode dial allows you to select between Automatic, Twilight, Manual, and Movie exposure modes. Most exposure options are controlled through the LCD's on-screen menu system, which offers very straightforward navigation. That said, you can control focus mode (auto, macro, landscape, or manual), the self-timer, Continuous Shooting mode, exposure compensation, and the flash mode externally. In Manual exposure mode, the user can control aperture (selecting from two available apertures, which range from f/2.6 to f/4.8, and from f/5.0 to f/9.2, depending on the lens' zoom position) and shutter speed (from 1/2,000 to 15 seconds), in addition to the White Balance, Exposure Compensation, Metering Mode, ISO, Color Mode, Sharpness, Saturation, Contrast, and Flash settings (also available in Automatic mode). The Optio 430's built-in flash is effective from 5.5 inches to 9.2 feet (0.14 to 2.8 meters) with the lens at full wide angle, with a more limited range at the telephoto setting.

In addition to these basic exposure options (offering surprising flexibility for a subcompact camera), the Optio 430 has a few other tricks up its sleeve. In Movie exposure mode, the camera captures 320 x 240-pixel resolution moving images (without sound) for a maximum of 30 seconds per movie. A Self-Timer mode provides a 10-second delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and the camera actually takes 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. For shooting fast action subjects, the Optio 430'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 amount of available memory space determines the maximum number of images the camera will capture in the series, and details like resolution size and shutter speed determine the shooting interval. The Multiple Exposure mode allows you to expose one image on top of a previously-captured image, mimicking the effect of a double exposure in film photography. And finally, the Night Scene mode adjusts the camera for taking pictures in darker settings, by slowing down the shutter speed to allow more ambient light into the image (a tripod is recommended when shooting in this mode to keep the camera steady and prevent any blurring).

The Optio 430 stores its images on a CompactFlash Type I memory card, and a 16MB Lexar card was included in the box with our eval unit. The camera uses a D-LI2 rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack for power, which accompanies the camera, along with the necessary battery charger. Since the Optio 430 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

  • 4-megapixel CCD.
  • Real-image optical viewfinder.
  • 1.6-inch color TFT LCD monitor.
  • Glass, 3x, 7.6-22.8mm lens, equivalent to a 37-111mm lens on a 35mm camera.
  • 2x digital zoom.
  • Automatic and Manual exposure control.
  • Shutter speeds from 1/2,000 to 2 seconds.
  • Aperture range from f/2.6 to f/9.2, depending on lens zoom position.
  • Built-in flash.
  • CompactFlash (Type I) card storage, though card not included.
  • Power supplied by one D-LI2 rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack or optional AC adapter.
  • ACDSee software and USB drivers included for both Windows and Mac platforms.

Special Features

  • Movie mode.
  • Continuous Shooting mode.
  • Multiple Exposure mode.
  • Night Scene photography mode.
  • 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release.
  • Remote-Control mode for use with optional remote-control.
  • Adjustable color mode for black-and-white and sepia effects.
  • Macro (close-up) lens setting.
  • White balance (color) adjustment with six modes, including a manual adjustment.
  • Image Contrast, Sharpness, and Saturation adjustments.
  • Multi-Segment, Center-Weighted, and Spot metering modes.
  • Sensitivity setting with two ISO equivalents and an Auto setting.
  • Adjustable autofocus area.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
  • USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included).


Recommendation
The Optio 430 offers decent picture quality in a very compact, well-engineered package. In full automatic mode, it'll be a good match for point & shoot photographers wanting a camera that travels easily in a shirt pocket or purse. With a full-manual mode though, it should also serve well as a "second camera" for enthusiasts too. Its four-megapixel resolution delivers plenty of data for sharp 8x10 prints, even with some cropping of the final images. Overall, an excellent entry into the ultra-compact digicam market.


Design
With a tiny size no bigger than a deck of playing cards, the Optio 430 is one of the most portable digicams I've seen, in league with its cousin, the Optio 330, and the Canon ELPH series. Its sleek, smooth styling is free from any extreme protrusions except for the lens, which telescopes outward when powered on. Still, the Optio 430's small dimensions of 3.6 x 2.3 x 1.4 inches (92 x 59 x 31 millimeters) mean you can stash it in a shirt pocket or even a small evening bag when you're on the go. The Optio 430 is light weight as well, at just 7.2 ounces (205 grams) without the battery or CompactFlash card.

The front of the camera holds the lens, flash, optical viewfinder window, flash sensor, self-timer lamp, 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 by about 1.5 inches. The front of the camera is flat without any finger grips, making the grip a little tenuous: I'd recommend keeping the wrist strap securely around your wrist when holding the camera.

On the right side of the camera (as viewed from the back) is the CompactFlash memory card slot. A hinged door protects the compartment, and opens via a latch on the back panel. The center of the door hinge serves as the eyelet for attaching the wrist strap.

On the opposite side of the camera are the PC/Video and DC In jacks, covered by a flexible plastic flap that slides out of the way to reveal the connectors.

The Optio 330's top panel is fairly smooth, and features the Mode dial, Shutter button, and Power button.

A handful of external controls dot the camera's back panel, along with the optical viewfinder eyepiece and 1.6-inch color LCD monitor. 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 optical viewfinder eyepiece is a diopter adjustment control, which adjusts to accommodate eyeglass wearers. (It seems to have a pretty wide range, more or less accommodating my 20/180 vision. - It also offers a fairly high eyepoint, such that I could use it reasonably well with my eyeglasses on.) To the left of the viewfinder eyepiece are three multi-function buttons, which access different settings in Playback and Record modes. In the top left corner is the optical zoom control, which also controls playback zoom. A Four Way Arrow pad dominates the center of the back panel, with an "OK" button in the middle for confirming menu selections. The two remaining controls are the Menu and Display buttons.

On the bottom panel of the Optio 430 are the tripod mount and battery compartment. The plastic, threaded tripod mount is just off-center from the lens because of the camera's small size, but provides a fairly stable mount. I prefer metal tripod sockets, but the small size and low weight of the 430 mean the plastic socket should hold up fine. The battery compartment features a locking, hinged door, too close to the tripod mount to allow quick battery changes while working with a tripod. (I doubt that this will be of much concern to most users though, as the Optio 430 is clearly designed for on-the-go shooting.)


Camera Operation
The Optio 430's user interface is very straightforward, with only a few external controls and a fairly concise (though still three page long) LCD menu system. For standard point-and-shoot operation, the most basic features such as flash, focus mode, and zoom all feature external controls. The Mode dial allows you to quickly set the camera's 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. It shouldn't take much more then half and hour to an hour to become familiar with the camera setup, as it's fairly intuitive.


External Controls


Power Button: Placed unobtrusively 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:

  • Playback: Allows the user to review and manage captured images on the CompactFlash card.
  • Automatic Record: Places the camera in Record mode, with the user able to adjust all exposure features except for shutter speed and aperture.
  • Night Scene: Basic exposure remains under the camera's control, though now with a bias toward longer exposures for darker shooting conditions.
  • Manual Record: Provides the user with full control over the exposure, including shutter speed and lens aperture settings.
  • Movie: Records silent, moving images, for a maximum of 30 seconds per movie.
  • Multiple Exposure: Produces a double exposure effect, combining a new shot with one previously saved on the memory card. (I confess I don't really understand the need for this feature.)

Shutter Button: Encircled 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.


Zoom Toggle Button: 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.


Focus / Protect 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), Infinity focus mode (mountain symbol), and Manual Focus mode ("MF"). In Playback mode, this button marks the currently selected image as protected, or removes protection. ("Protection" means that the image cannot be altered or deleted, except by formatting the card.)


Drive Mode / DPOF Button: To the left of the Focus / Protect button, pressing this button cycles through Self-Timer mode, Remote Control mode, and Continuous Shooting mode when the camera is in Record mode. 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, crop the image, and activate a time and date stamp.


Flash / Erase 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, and Red-Eye Reduction. In Playback mode, pressing this button displays the Erase menu, allowing you to erase all images on the card or just specific ones.


Diopter Adjustment Control: Hidden in the top of the optical viewfinder eyepiece, this sliding control adjusts the viewfinder display to accommodate eyeglass wearers. (As noted earlier, it seems to offer a wider than average range of adjustment.)


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


Four Way Arrow Pad: Below the Menu button, this set of arrow keys 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 any other Record mode, the left and right keys adjust the exposure compensation, from -2 to + 2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments. In Playback mode, the left and right keys scroll through captured images on the memory card.

OK Button: Nestled in the center of the Four Way Arrow pad, this button confirms menu selections in any mode. In Playback mode, pressing this button during image review displays a nine-image thumbnail index display.


Display Button: The final control button on the back panel, the Display button is just off the lower right corner of the LCD monitor. 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), 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 just the image area, and a third press disables the LCD monitor entirely. In Playback mode, pressing the Display button pulls up the same histogram and information display, as well as 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 Auto, Night Scene, Manual, Movie, and Multiple Exposure modes, which provide varying levels of control over the exposure. 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 size to 2,240 x 1,680; 1,120 x 840; or 640 x 480 pixels.
    • Quality level: Sets the JPEG compression level to Good, Better, or Best (three stars being Best and one star being Good).
    • White Balance: Adjusts the overall color balance of the scene. Options include Auto, Daylight, Shade, Incandescent, Fluorescent, and Manual.
    • Focusing Area: Designates the area of the frame that the camera determines focus from, either Spot or Seven-Point AF.
    • Digital Zoom: Turns the 2x digital zoom on and off.
    • AE Metering: Chooses how the camera determines exposure, choices are Spot, Center-Weighted, and Multi-Segment.
    • ISO Speed: Adjusts the camera's light sensitivity, options are Auto, ISO 100, or ISO 200.
    • Color: Determines the color shooting mode, options are Full, Black-and-White, and Sepia.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • Memory: (Sets which settings are remembered when the camera is shut off. Any setting not selected returns to the default setting.) Features include Flash, White Balance, Focusing Area, Digital Zoom, AE Metering, ISO Speed, MF, Display, and File Numbering.

  • Setup
    • Format Card: Formats the CompactFlash card, erasing all files (even protected ones).
    • Date Style: Cycles through available date formats.
    • Date Adjust: Sets the camera's internal date and time.
    • World Time: Allows you to set the time in another city, so that you can display the time in London, for example, on the LCD monitor. A full list of cities is in the manual.
    • Beep: Turns the camera's beep sound on or off.
    • Language: Changes the menu language to English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, or Japanese.
    • Video Out: Sets the Video Out signal to NTSC or PAL.
    • Sleep Timeout: Turns the Sleep function off, or sets the camera to go to sleep after 30 seconds, or one or two minutes.
    • Auto Power Off: Turns this feature off, or sets the camera to shut off after three or five minutes of inactivity.
    • Reset: Resets all camera settings to their defaults.

Playback Mode: This mode allows you to review captured images on the memory card, erase them, protect them, set them up for printing, etc. Pressing the Menu button displays the following options:

  • Playback Settings
    • Slideshow: Activates an automatic slide show of images on the card. You can set the image interval time.
    • Alarm: Allows you to set up to three alarms. When the alarm goes off, the camera beeps and you can set a certain image to be displayed.
  • Setup : Offers the same Setup menu options as in Record mode.

 

Sample Pictures
See our sample pictures and detailed analysis here. The thumbnails below show a subset of our test images. Click on a thumbnail to see the full-size photo.

Outdoor
Indoor
Indoor Flash
 

 

 

House
Musicians
Macro
 

 

 

Davebox
Resolution
Viewfinder Accuracy


Specifications
See the specifications sheet here.


Picky Details
Information on shooting speed, battery life, etc. can be found here.


Test Results

  • Color: Overall, the Optio 430 produced good to very good color throughout my testing. The Manual white balance setting most often produced the best color balance (despite slight magenta tints in some cases), as I sometimes noticed a slight warm cast with the Auto setting (particularly with the Indoor Portrait). Surprisingly, the Incandescent white balance setting performed much better under household incandescent lighting than did the same setting on the Optio 330. - This alone could be enough reason to pay the extra dollars for a 430 over the 330, if you plan to do a lot of indoor photography after dark. Skin tones looked about right, and even the always-difficult blue flowers in the Indoor and Outdoor portraits came out pretty well (this is a tough blue for many digicams to get right).
  • Exposure: The Optio 430 did a good job with exposure, showing very good tonal distribution on the Q60 target of the Davebox. Shadow detail was fairly good as well, although not the best I've seen. The camera does have a limited dynamic range when shooting in bright sunlight though, losing a fair amount of detail in both strong highlights and darker shadows. - Shadow noise was also higher than average, a bit more so than the Optio 330, which was already a little high.
  • Sharpness: Image sharpness was a little low for a four megapixel camera, as I noticed some softness in the smaller details. Purely horizontal/vertical details such as the house trim looked reasonably crisp, but the fine detail in foliage and Marti's hair were a bit soft. Overall, the 430 delivers more resolution than the 330, but not as much as I'd expected to see. - It's about equal to the best three megapixel full-sized cameras, but not up to the performance of the best full-sized four megapixel units.
  • Closeups: The Optio 430 performed a little below average here, capturing a minimum area of 5.44 x 4.08 inches (138 x 104 millimeters). Good detail and resolution, but with a hint of corner softness from the wide-angle lens setting.
  • Night Shots: The Optio 430 was limited in its low-light shooting capabilities, thanks to a two-second maximum shutter time. (This is the biggest tradeoff between the 330 and the 430: With a 15 second maximum shutter time, the Optio 330 beats the pants off the 430 for low light shooting.) The camera captured usable images at light levels only as low as four foot-candles (44 lux) when shooting at ISO 100, and as low as two foot-candles (22 lux) when shooting at ISO 200. (Average city street lighting at night is about one foot-candle, or 11 lux.) Low light shooting is thus the biggest weakness of an otherwise quite decent camera...


In the Box
Packaged with the Optio 430 are the following items:

  • D-Ll2 rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack.
  • Battery charger with AC plug cord.
  • Video cable.
  • USB cable.
  • Wrist strap.
  • Software CD.
  • Operating manual and registration card.


Recommended Accessories

  • Large capacity CompactFlash memory card.
  • Additional D-LI2 lithium-ion battery pack.
  • AC adapter.
  • Small camera case.


About Batteries
We've gotten so many emails about power issues for digicams, that we're now inserting this standard notice in the reviews of all AA-powered cameras on our site: Don't even *think* about using alkaline AA batteries in a digicam! Despite their being packed in the box with many cameras, they simply don't have the juice to handle typical digicam demands. (Even the "high power" ones the battery manufacturers say are designed for devices like digital cameras.) Spend the $35-40 or so it takes to get a set (or two) of high-capacity NiMH rechargeable batteries and a good charger! The few dollars up front will save you literally hundreds of dollars in the long run, not to mention the hassle of wimpy batteries running out in the middle of the action. We suggest you buy two sets of batteries, so one can always be in the charger, ready to go, and so have two sets available for longer excursions. Good brands of batteries include Maha (our favorite), GP, Kodak, and Nexcell. Also, buy the highest capacity AAs the manufacturer makes, the few extra dollars for the extra capacity is usually well worth it. Getting a good charger is critical though, almost more so than buying good batteries. We recommend the Maha C-204F (see the photo at right), the charger we use the most in our own studio. - Read our review of it for all the details. Or, just click here to buy one, you won't regret it.


Conclusion
Just as with the Optio 330 I tested before it, I liked the Optio 430 quite a bit. It's a very appealing package, with an excellent, rugged "feel" in the hand. Easy to use in full automatic mode, it also provides a surprising range of "enthusiast" features, such as full-manual exposure control, and options for manual focus and white balance setting. Color was quite good under most shooting conditions, and the manual white balance option let it handle even very difficult lighting quite well. A nice surprise relative to the 330 (and indeed many consumer digicams) was how well its incandescent white balance worked under normal household lighting - Color was surprisingly rich and accurate under this very difficult light source. Just as with the Optio 330, my two biggest beefs with the Optio 430 were its somewhat short battery life (the bane of the ultra-compact digicam) and less-than-stellar image sharpness. - You'll be able to make quite good-quality 8x10 prints, but they probably won't be as sharp as those produced by a full-sized three megapixel camera, let alone a good four megapixel one. The Optio 430 also has rather limited low-light capability, particularly relative to the excellent performance turned in by the 330. Overall, a good choice for a bring-along compact digicam, with good color and a surprising range of capabilities, but with less resolution than a full-sized four megapixel camera, and somewhat limited low light capability. The camera to get if you like the compact size and excellent build quality, want more resolution than its little brother the Optio 330 delivers, and don't mind giving up the 330's excellent low light capability.


 

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