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Pentax Optio A40 Digital Camera

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Pentax Optio A40 Compact Camera

The Pentax Optio A40 is the latest result of Pentax's tradition of producing simple, usable, ultracompact cameras that have high-quality optics. Retailing for about $250 (as of September 1, 2008), this 12-megapixel black-and-silver model has a serious look.

At 2.5 inches diagonally, the camera's screen is smaller than the screens on some competing models, though it works just fine indoors and out. When I saw how petite the Optio A40 was--it's only about 3.5 inches wide--I was a little concerned about how it would handle, but the camera felt substantial in my hand, and two well-placed grips kept my fingers away from the lens and the flash.

The camera's image-stabilization feature has you covered if things get shaky. Though I'm a pretty steady shooter, this feature worked so well that I kept it turned on nearly all the time. In photos of moving subjects, it definitely improved the sharpness of my shots.

Getting into and around the menus is fairly simple, even without poring over Pentax's detailed manual. If you do have a question, you'll probably find it answered in the documentation. And the Optio A40 has enough dedicated function buttons that you probably won't have to slow down, even in full-automatic mode. Macro, zoom, and flash settings are readily accessible via dedicated buttons, and pressing the menu button lets you change everything else, depending on the mode you're in.

Unlike many other digital cameras priced under $300, the Optio A40 delivered outstanding image quality. Photos was sharp without undue halos or artifacts. Don't expect miracles, though: Like most digital cameras, the A40 is not immune to noise, though it does all right. Shots were occasionally hit-or-miss in my low-lit indoor situations and in quick street snaps, but this Pentax's output consistently beat the results from several competing point-and-shoot cameras I've been testing--and the camera did especially well in bright sunlight.

The Optio A40 includes a setting for expanding its dynamic range; using this setting added quite a bit of detail to shadowed areas in my tests, though it didn't appreciably affect highlights. Overall, my pictures showed good color, sharpness, and exposure. If anything, the camera tended toward underexposure, yielding good-looking, balanced, and saturated landscapes. Highlights were generally under control regardless of whether I expanded the dynamic range.

The Optio A40 throws in a handful of other features that have been cropping up on similar cameras: slide shows in playback mode, face recognition, soft-skin portraits, kids, and even different settings for pets of different colors. You also get a silly feature that adds a cartoon frame around your subject, so you can capture manga-style photo-booth shots wherever you want. Manual settings include manual exposure (in preset, nonstandard increments only), shutter priority (but not aperture priority), saturation, contrast, color filtration effects, and white balance. The camera shoots 640 by 480 video and lets you zoom in and out fairly smoothly while recording.

A few minor complaints: I wish that Pentax had included a RAW image option (at 12 megapixels, why not?). I'd also love to have seen a 5X (rather than 3X) optical zoom and a wider-angle lens. Despite those minor shortcomings, the Optio A40 is a good, no-nonsense camera that captures pictures with surprisingly good image quality.

This story, "Pentax Optio A40 Digital Camera" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • The 12-megapixel Optio A40 offers a great feature package in an easy-to-use camera.


    • Digital and optical image stabilization
    • Attractive design
    • Great features and 12-megapixel sensor
    • Very Good photo quality
    • Sturdy and compact design


    • Battery door seems a little flimsy
    • No optical viewfinder
    • Can't get very close with macro mode
    • Movie format requires installing a plug-in
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