Operation and controls

As with most of its competitors to call the Optio A10 a mere point and shoot device is to do it an injustice; there is a pretty sophisticated camera inside that ultra-compact body - though of course you don't get any direct control over apertures or shutter speeds. Not only do the most commonly accessed controls (flash mode, drive mode, focus mode, flash mode) get their own dedicated buttons, but the highly customizable 'green button' means you can set the camera up to suit your own shooting priorities, meaning more advanced controls, such as ISO, white balance, metering, AE-compensation and so on are easily and quickly accessible if you want them to be.

Rear of camera

Pentax has avoided the temptation - common with such small cameras - to eschew external controls in favor of a more menu-driven system. The rear of the camera features a plethora of buttons and switches - most of which have more than one function depending on whether you are in playback or record mode, and some (as mentioned above) can be customized. Despite the small buttons I found this one of the easier ultra-compact cameras to use.

Top of camera

As the top view shows, this is still a very slim camera, and it's still a tribute to Pentax engineers that the lens retracts fully into the body when not in use. Clever stuff.

Display and menus

There are three display options for record view; the first two are basic (only shows the focus area), and normal (shown here), which indicates shooting mode, remaining shots, date/time and battery level. The third option shows much more detailed information, including image size/quality, white balance setting, metering mode and ISO setting. There is also a live histogram.
There is also a grid overlay option. Interestingly you can also turn the display off completely and 'shoot blind'. Half-press the shutter release and the camera will calculate exposure (AE) and focus (AF) indicating the AF area used and the aperture/shutter speed chosen.
The 'auto pict' mode removes a few options for the novice user (and puts a nice smiley face on the screen). The green button can be set to one of several functions, the most useful of which for more advanced users being 'Fn setting'.
You can assign virtually any shooting function to each of the four positions in the mini 'Fn' menu (corresponding to the four directional buttons on the back of the camera). Pressing the down arrow ('Mode') key brings up a palette of 15 icons giving fast access to the subject modes (including the movie mode).
The modes on offer include the normal stuff (landscapes, sports, low light etc) and a couple of oddities, including this charming 'composite frame' option. The main record menu features three pages of shooting options covering image size/quality, white balance, focus area, metering pattern, sensitivity, sharpness, saturation, contrast and much more.
You can select which settings the camera remembers when you turn it off. The setup menu (accessible from either record or playback mode) has three pages of basic camera settings (and card formatting).
Switching to playback mode offers three different display options accessed by repeated presses of the OK button; basic (no information, just the picture), normal (file number, date and time) and detailed (shown here), which gives full exposure information and a neat histogram. You can add a voice annotation to any saved image. The left zoom key (zoom out) brings up a page of nine (3x3) thumbnails...
... the right zoom button enlarges the playback image in six steps. The four arrow keys are used to scroll around enlarged images. There isn't a playback mode 'menu' as such, but pressing the MODE button brings up this page of 15 icons. Here you'll find all manner of goodies including slideshows, image cropping / resizing / rotating, movie editing, copying (to and from the internal memory) and print ordering.
Unusually the A10 has a fairly impressive range of built-in image corrections and effects for use on saved photos, including color filters and corrections, special effects and red-eye removal. And just in case you forgot to use the frame composite option when taking the picture you can add it in playback mode! The effects and filters are fun and easy to use (and even offer a fair level of control) for users who don't want to mess around in Photoshop.