Pentax Digicam Captures The Bollywood Spirit

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The ultra-compact and affordable Pentax Optio S10 seems built for travelling so we decide to test it out on the road…to India!

If the number of young folks out on a Saturday night taking happy snaps of themselves on their phones is any indication, you could definitely say that many digital camera users are just looking for something to, well, point-and-shoot. Forget apertures, forget ISO settings, the truth is many consumers are most comfortable to stick a camera on Auto and hope for the best.

Meeting Ken Duncan recently on a Panasonic camera launch brought home the fact that when you’re off traveling, fiddling around with the controls on a slick DSLR can sometimes cost you the shot. So there’s much to be said for the convenience of a camera that you keep on the one setting, and that’s ready to go whenever you see a memorable moment in the making.


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So when I got my hands on Pentax’s latest 10-megapixel ultra-compact S10 with f2.8-5.4 38mm-114mm-equivalent 3x zoom lens and 2.5-inch LCD with a reasonable RRP, I thought why not give this camera the ultimate test: a Bollywood wedding.

Setting off to Mumbai for a cousin’s wedding with the S10 easily ensconced in one of the pockets in my handbag, I was ready to take some photos. Those of you who have yet to experience an Indian wedding will know that there’s always lots to see. Stretching over seven days, this wedding incorporated a host of parties, pujas (prayers and worship), henna painting, incense, coconut-holding and of course, about a thousand dazzling saris.

 

With the Indian equivalent of a bridesmaid’s role in this wedding saga, I was “on call” for most of the seven days – too much on-call to be fiddling around with settings but with just enough time on my hands to sneak in to capture some quick behind-the-scenes moments the professional photographer wouldn’t get to see.

(What a great idea, I thought, to make a photo album of all the photos I took (if they turn out well enough) to give to the bride?)

So how did the Pentax go in this chaotic world of incense, rice throwing and jewels? Surprisingly well. Firstly, its compact size, with the 3x zoom lens sliding flush into the body meant that I could fit it into my smallest and most stylish of clutch purses with ease.


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Startup time was quick, so I could whip it out for a shot pretty quickly. And what’s ideal for Indian-wedding-shooting, the camera’s face detection feature most of the time was able to work out the faces I was trying to frame in shot. Unfortunately, it didn’t work all the time, so I have a few shots of some meddlesome aunty in the background in focus, when I was really after a nice picture of the bridegroom.

Controls were laid out in a very intuitive fashion – it was easy for me to work out where all the crucial buttons were. And while I made an almost conscious effort not to waste my precious time in India fiddling with buttons, I easily discovered the modes menu, (with nice little picture icons representing each mode) on one of my explorations. The night shot function dealt very well with the glittery sequined beauty of Mumbai’s glitterati at the reception.

 

With bated breath I received my pictures back from the photo developing shop, and lo and behold, they were pretty good, if I do say so myself. Colour reproduction did justice to the ladies’s outfits, shots at night (outside in the dark) proved clear, with little noise. Often the more megapixels a camera has makes images rather noisy – if there isn’t a decent image processing engine at the core. Obviously the S10’s is not too bad at all, and the families were well-chuffed with my albums.

Coconut refreshments at the wedding, photo shot using the S10

That said, my partner brought along an old 3.2 megapixel, 10x zoom Olympus digital camera, used on Auto for most of the time, and some of his shots – particularly those in full sun tended to turn out better than mine. Also, the face detection got a little annoying at times, especially when I was shooting scenery rather than people. The forced red-eye feature didn’t always work so well – it did on most people, but rarely on shots with me (not sure what’s going on there).

The other thing to keep in mind is that if you do want a camera that lets you do some manual or semi-manual fiddling, this is probably not your best option. But if like me, you want a no hassles, decent performer that’s quick and easy to use, and takes nice little happy snaps on holidays, then this could be your machine. Take it to India, I say!

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Pentax Optio S10 |$249 | | www.pentax.com.au
For: Size; ease-of-use; decent picture quality
Against: Face detection sometimes off the mark; Red-eye correction not consistent limited feature-set
Conclusion: A compact, affordable camera perfect for quick travel snaps

 

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