Operation and controls

As with most of its competitors to call the Optio S5i 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. In everyday use the majority of controls you're likely to need (flash mode, focus mode, self-timer, AE compensation, burst mode and program/scene mode) all get their own buttons, and there is some degree of customization available (the 'Quick' key and the left/right arrows can be reassigned to your own choice of controls). I found the interface and control system a real delight to use (though it takes some getting used to), and the menus - though not the prettiest we've ever seen - are easy to navigate and very quick.

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

The S5i may not be the slimmest camera on the market, but at around 0.8 inches (21mm), it is certainly more 'super model' than 'super size me'.

This view also shows just how clever Pentax designers were when they came up with a lens that can flatten completely into the S5i's slim body.

The top of the camera is home to just two buttons: power and shutter.

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.
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. Repeated presses of the focus button allow you to choose between 7-area auto AF, manual focus, 49-point manually selected AF (shown here), macro, super macro, infinity focus and Pan Focus (uses the hyperfocal distance for fast shooting and no AF problems).
Pressing the green 'quick' button returns every setting to automatic (note that this button can be reassigned to another function). Pressing the down arrow key brings up a palette of 20 icons giving fast access to the many subject modes (including panorama assist, movies, user/custom mode and Pentax's unique 3D/stereoscopic mode).
Pressing the left or right arrow keys in record mode gives you direct access to AE compensation. You can, however, reassign these buttons to change anything from sharpness to ISO sensitivity to image size or quality. 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 even select which settings the camera remembers when you turn it off. There's plenty here to play with!
Switching to playback mode offers three different display options accessed by repeated presses of the DISPLAY 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...
...moving the zoom to the right enlarges the playback image. There are only four steps, but it's fairly quick. The four arrow keys are used to scroll around enlarged images (this, however, is a bit slow). Press the up key and you get DPOF print ordering options; the down key rotates images clockwise, 90 degrees at a time.
The playback menu offers the now common slideshow, resize and trimming options. You can also copy images between the built-in memory and SD card and even set an alarm. Finally, the set-up menu, accessible from either record or playback mode. From here you can change basic camera settings (date/time, language etc), format the card and assign your choice of function to the quick button and left/right arrows.