Pentax Optio S4i
At a Glance
The Pentax Optio S4i's attractive silver metal body measures 3.3 by 2 by 0.8 inches, and the camera weighs only 4.5 ounces, including its rechargeable lithium ion battery. Somehow Pentax has managed to find room on the back of this tiny camera to fit a 1.8-inch LCD screen. Unfortunately, that leaves scant room for the optical viewfinder, which is smaller than the one on competing models.
If you have large hands, the S4i's small size will pose a challenge when you try to change the zoom with your thumb and keep your finger on the trigger while holding the camera one-handed. In contrast, changing settings with the four-way thumb pad is fairly easy. You'll have to scroll through the menus a bit, but they're arranged logically; and because they use full words instead of icons to identify selections, they're easy to understand.
When you press the mode button, which doubles as the down button on the four-way selector, the camera presents you with an LCD screen filled with icons representing the camera's many shooting modes. As you scroll over each icon, a helpful text prompt appears in the lower left corner of the screen. You can select from 15 different scene modes, including some unusual choices, such as one for shooting in soft focus and another for capturing autumn colors. The S4i also has an interesting 3D mode that helps you make side-by-side images that produce a stereo effect when printed and viewed with the simple, included 3D image viewer. The S4i's most unusual mode is its Slim Filter, which stretches the image either vertically or horizontally by a factor of two, either to slenderize subjects or to broaden them. (We're not sure how we'd use it, but it may appeal to someone's odd inventive streak.)
A green button labeled "QUICK" lets you switch quickly to a favorite mode; it's set to fully automatic by default, but you can have it launch any one of 20 other capture modes. The camera also has a user mode that lets you save a collection of settings--such as exposure method, resolution, and sharpness--and instantly recall them. The $350 purchase price covers only 10MB of internal memory; SD memory cards will cost you extra.
We were disappointed in the Optio S4i's image quality. The colors in our still life photo looked somewhat muddy; pure colors had visible speckling; and our outdoor scene lacked sharpness. Our flash shot looked dark and underexposed. Overall, the images suffice for simple snapshots, but they'll probably frustrate finicky photographers.
A white plastic cradle, slightly larger than the camera itself, charges the S4i's lithium ion battery. It doesn't need a separate power converter, so you can travel with it easily. Oddly, the cradle lacks a USB connection. To upload your photos to your PC (or PictBridge-compatible printer), you'll have to connect the USB cable directly to the camera.
With the 4Si, Pentax bundles ACD System's ACDSee for Pentax: It's a great software package for managing your photos, though it isn't as user friendly as products like Adobe's Photoshop Album. Other extras available for the 4Si include a wireless remote trigger and an underwater housing.
The Pentax Optio S4i is relatively inexpensive and exceptionally easy to tote around, but its image quality falls short.
Pentax Optio S4i
4-megapixel resolution, 10MB internal memory plus SD slot, 35mm to 105mm focal range, 320 by 240 video with audio, 4.5 ounces. One-year warranty on parts and labor, 9-hour weekday toll-free support.