Pentax Optio 550
5 Megapixels In A Compact Digicam
It was once thought that the big megapixel counts would be limited to digital SLRs, the thinking being that anyone who might want a near 15MB image file at largest resolution would want SLR features as well. That's changed with a new breed of digicams (non-SLR digital cameras) from a number of manufacturers. Recently we got our hands on the Pentax Optio 550, a 5-megapixel camera that delivers lots of functionality and features in a camera the size of a compact 35mm.
We won't go too deeply
into the specs in the text, as you can scan them on the accompanying sidebar,
but to give you an idea of what the Pentax packs we'll highlight
some of those that showcase what the 550 offers. First off, as behooves
a 5-megapixel camera, you can shoot in JPEG or TIFF, the latter being
the non-compression mode that delivers those big file sizes. You can work
with multi-segment, center-weighted, or spot metering. You can choose
among an ISO range of 64-400 and work with exposure compensation when
desired. Shutter speeds range from 4 seconds to 1/4000 sec, with that
being crimped a bit when you work in Manual or Shutter-Priority exposure
mode. There's a 5x optical zoom from moderately wide to a healthy
telephoto, plus all sorts of white balance, flash, and image adjustment
modes, including soft focus and various color enhancing effects. You also
get a movie mode with sound and panorama assist, among other shooting
functions. The camera records on SD or MMC cards.
That said, the main task of any camera is providing field functionality and a way of working that does not hinder your capturing the type of images you want in the field. In that sense the Pentax delivers all the ease of use and fun a digicam should. We made images under dim and high-contrast lighting conditions, at Macro settings (in Super Macro you can get as close as 0.79"!), and using the built-in flash. Images delivered required little adjustment afterward, and a built-in histogram display allowed us to make any exposure changes we required right in the field.
In terms of handling, portability,
and responsiveness, the Optio 550 makes for a very good traveling companion.
We'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story. At around $600
it's coming in at about the high-end average for this class, but
for that price you get a great little digital camera that will surprise
you in terms
Shutter Speeds: 1/4000
to 4 sec