Conclusion - Pros
- Excellent resolution, natural accurate color, subtle processing
- Low noise at low ISO settings
- Better than average detail retention at higher ISOs
- Usable (at a pinch) ISO 800 Candlelight mode
- Excellent all-metal construction
- Good white balance
- Good flash performance
- Very compact
- Shake Reduction
- Useful 'green button' offers good degree of interface customization
- Decent macro mode
- DivX movie mode very space-efficient
- Lots of 'fun' features
- Image corrections and effects in playback mode
- Playback mode and menu operation nice and fast
- Cool 'tracking focus' mode
- Fairly well priced
Conclusion - Cons
- Slow focus, shutter lag
- Slow flash recycling
- Shake Reduction not as reliable as some competitors
- Annoying unresponsive, jerky zoom mechanism
- Screen impossible to see in bright light, no optical viewfinder
- No manual controls over apertures and shutter speeds
- Program mode tends to choose small apertures over high shutter speeds
- Slightly higher than average number of exposure and focus errors
- Mediocre battery life
- No preview or review in burst mode
- Movie mode a bit jerky
- Supplied dock doesn't offer any connectivity
The Optio A10 is a deeply frustrating camera for a reviewer; on the one hand it is capable of producing some of the best results in its class, the lens is obviously excellent, image processing is fairly subtle, and unlike so many similar cameras the default contrast, saturation and sharpening are spot-on. On the other hand it can be really, really annoying to use; by today's standards shooting feels slow and unresponsive, and has a screen that can't be seen at all in bright weather. Throw in the dismal battery life and total unsuitability as a social 'party snaps' camera and you'd think this was a camera you'd only recommend to someone with a masochistic streak, or someone you really didn't like.
And yet it does produce very good results - especially at ISO 50 - when you're out walking and are not shooting in a hurry, low contrast detail is excellent and the per-pixel sharpness better than many similar cameras. Some of the features are fun, some even quite useful (especially if you tend to get prints done without post-processing), and it's very nicely put together too. I personally couldn't live with the zoom mechanism, screen, battery life and shutter lag, but I was time and time again impressed by the results themselves when it all came together.
Ultimately, though, a camera of this type is about more than its output, and the Optio A10 is - for me certainly - asking for one compromise too many in the handling and operation departments in return for its moments of brilliance. It doesn't matter how fast a sports car is, if it's so uncomfortable and so leaky and so unreliable you only drive it once a year. If you enjoy the challenge of feeling like you are getting great results in spite of, rather than because of the camera you're using, the A10 will be right up your street. But to be honest the target audience wants to just point and shoot, and this camera simply doesn't offer the speed or 'foolproofness' needed in a fiercely competitive marketplace. As someone who first got hooked on photography with a 30 year old Pentax and who has had a soft spot for the brand ever since, I just hope the next generation of Optio can build on the A10's undoubted strengths, and iron out the wrinkles and give us a camera that offers overall performance to match its excellent output.
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