Pentax Optio S40
At a Glance
About the size of a deck of cards, the $250 Optio S40 is a nice size if you're looking for a camera to keep with you, no matter what the event--say, light-and-fast business travel, a night out to the opera, or a day at the beach. But aside from its low price, there's little to distinguish the S40 from other thin-profile models. Its 4-megapixel imaging and 3X pop-out optical zoom lens are fairly common features now. Boot-up time is a relatively quick 3 to 4 seconds. Image quality is a just a bit above average compared with that of other 4-megapixel cameras we've tested recently, illustrating that higher resolution does not automatically equate to better images--the Nikon 3200, for example, with only 3.2 megapixels, earned higher overall image-quality scores and costs the same. With flash or under controlled lighting, the S40 produced shots with accurate exposures and color. However, they were not as sharp as those we've seen from other 4-megapixel cameras (though they were adequate for 8-by-10 enlargements). Our high-contrast outdoor photo was about a full stop underexposed.
Using the S40 is workable, if not completely intuitive. It has the usual mode dial with icons on top, and a four-way thumb pad with shortcuts to key functions such as the flash settings and macro mode. The thumb pad is flush with the back of the camera, though, as is the selection button in the middle of the pad; as a result, we sometimes made a wrong choice due to an errant button press. Much the same can be said for the menu system; it too works after a fashion, but could be far better designed. The menu labels look like badly scanned text, and running through the system is slow.
For taking simple snapshots, the camera is easy to use--it has a large, smoothly working shutter and zoom buttons, and dedicated buttons let you quickly review your work and delete images. The camera also feels solid and reliable. And in a nod to novice photographers, the unit has a simple text-based help system, though at most it reminds you of what the mode dial icons represent.
The S40 uses AA batteries--great for travel, but in this case terrible for battery life. The camera lasted only 90 shots on a fresh set of AAs. You'll most likely want to switch to a single CR-3V battery, which is more expensive but typically lasts much longer. The camera has 11 megabytes of internal memory; forget to put your SD Card (an added-cost option) in, and you're not completely out of luck. The unit also has a few advanced features, such as panorama assist, manual focus, and white-balance calibration. Pentax bundles ACD Systems' image editing and image management software ACDSee 5, a nice package for intermediate to advanced camera users.
A small, if unremarkable, digital camera, the Pentax S40 takes fine snapshots and is attractively priced for a 4-megapixel model.
Pentax Optio S40
4 megapixels, 2304 by 1728 maximum resolution, 35mm to 105mm focal range (35mm equivalent), shutter speeds from 4 seconds to 1/2000 second, optical and LCD viewfinders, USB and video connections, 11MB internal memory plus SD Card slot, 3V disposable lithium ion or AA batteries, 6.2 ounces with batteries, ACD Systems ACDSee 5 software. One-year parts and labor warranty, 9-hour weekday toll-call support.