Optio 555 ($550) is an updated version of the popular Optio
our review). Both cameras have a 5 Megapixel CCD, 5X optical
zoom lens, and compact body. The differences between the new
cameras are few. The 555 adds PictBridge support, improved
performance, a larger range of shutter speeds, and a new flash
exposure compensation option -- otherwise they're the same
camera. Those who purchased the 550 a few months ago are probably
not pleased by the rapid introduction of this new model.
liked the Optio 550 quite a bit -- is the 555 just as good? Find
out now in our review!
the cameras are so similar, text from the Optio 550 review
will be reused here.
in the Box?
Optio 555 has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
5.0 (effective) Mpixel Pentax Optio 555 camera
Secure Digital card
rechargeable Li-ion battery
featuring ACDSee software + drivers
page camera + separate software manual (both printed)
with its predecessor, the Optio 555 includes a tiny 16MB Secure
Digital (SD) card in the box. Don't expect to store many 5 Megapixel
photos on that card. I recommend picking up a larger card (256MB
a good place to start) right away. The Optio can use both SD
and MMC (MultiMediaCard) formats.
with the earlier model, the 555's battery packs a powerful punch
-- giving the camera very good battery life. The battery has
6.7 Wh of energy (more than some full-size cameras), and Pentax
estimates that you can take around 400 shots (LCD on, 50% flash),
or spend 210 minutes in playback mode. Those numbers have not
changed since the Optio 550.
Battery charger + battery
it's time to charge the battery, just pop it in the included
external charger. It takes about 3 hours to recharge. This isn't
one of those "plug it right into the wall" chargers
-- you must attach a power cable.
things to note about proprietary batteries like the one used
here: First, they are very expensive, at $40 a pop (I recommend
buying a spare). Also, when you're low on power, you can't just
pop in a regular AA battery to get you through the rest of the
Optio 555 has a built-in lens cover, so there is no lens cap
to worry about. As you can see, it's a small camera.
what's the deal with the 3D Image Viewer that's included in the
box? The Optio has a unique feature which lets you take two shots
in a row and combine them into a 3D image. To view the images
in 3D, you can print them out and then use the 3D image viewer
(kind of like glasses). Once you get the hang of it, you may
be able to do it without the viewer.
could only locate three accessories for the Optio 555. They are
a remote control ($15), camera case, and AC adapter. There are
no lens or flash accessories available (not surprisingly).
includes ACD System's ACDSee for both Mac (v1.6) and PC (v5.0).
It's not Photoshop, but it's good for organizing, editing, and
sharing your photos. Windows users will also get ACD Photostitcher,
which can be used for creating panoramic images. The Mac version
is Mac OS X native.
manual included with the Optio 555 is typical of those included
with a digital camera. It's complete, but confusing at times.
the "trim" on the cameras are different, overall the
Optio 550 and 555 share the same body (the 555 being much easier
to photograph). It's an ultra-compact body, made almost completely
of metal. With a few exceptions, the 555's body is very sturdy.
It's also easy to hold and operate with just one hand.
of size, the dimensions of the Optio 555 are 100 x 59 x 39.5
mm / 3.9 x 2.3 x 1.6 inches (W x H x D, without protrusions),
and it weighs 205 grams / 7.2 ounces empty. Those numbers are
identical to the those of the Optio 550.
to take a closer look at this camera?
of the biggest features of the Optio 555 is its 5X zoom lens.
The F2.8 - F4.6 lens has a focal range of 7.8 - 39 mm, which
is equivalent to 37.5 - 187.5 mm. The 555 does not support add-on
the upper-right of the lens is the built-in flash. The flash
has a working range of 0.4 - 5.2 m at wide-angle, and 0.15 -
3.2 m at telephoto. You cannot add an external flash to the Optio
the left of the flash is the optical viewfinder. Continuing to
the left, you'll find the "passive autofocus sensor".
While not an AF illuminator, it does improve low light focusing.
It also helps the camera focus quickly in normal conditions --
something an AF illuminator cannot do.
the left of the AF sensor are the self-timer lamp and remote
control receiver. The microphone can also been seen.
the back of the camera, you'll find a 1.5" LCD display.
This small screen doesn't skimp on resolution, with 113,000 pixels.
It's sharp, bright, and images on it are fluid. You cannot, however,
adjust the brightness of the screen.
the upper-left of the LCD is the optical viewfinder. It's pretty
large for a compact camera, and as an added bonus, there's even
a diopter correction feature (to focus what you're looking at).
the right of the viewfinder are three multi-function buttons.
They do the following:
setting (Auto, off, on, auto w/redeye reduction, on w/redeye
(self-timer, remote control, continuous shooting, interval
shooting, multiple exposure)
mode (macro, super macro, landscape, manual, move focusing
cover most of the above later in the review. But first, a few
notes about some of those.
shooting mode will take shots sequentially until the memory card
is full. The frame rate will vary depending on the image resolution
and quality setting. At the highest (JPEG) quality setting, the
555 shot a little faster than 1 frame/second.
shooting will take up to 99 shots at a chosen interval. You can
choose intervals ranging from 10 seconds to 99 minutes. You can
also set the start time up to 24 hours ahead. The AC adapter
is a requirement for this feature.
multiple exposure feature allows you to superimpose an image
on top of one you've already recorded. You can give priority
to the brighter image, the darker image, or you can just average
focus will let you use the four-way switch to choose a focus
distance. The center of the frame is enlarged so you can be sure
that your subject is in focus. A little gauge on the LCD will
report the current focus distance. The "move focusing area" feature
lets you select one of five focus points on the LCD (center,
left, right, top, bottom).
to our tour now: the zoom controller (located at the top right
of the photo) is well-placed, and it quickly moves the lens from
wide-angle to telephoto in 1.6 seconds. The zoom wasn't as precise
as I would've liked.
the right of the LCD is the playback mode button., which does
just what it sounds like. Below that is the four-way switch,
used for menu navigation, manipulating manual controls, and setting
the exposure compensation (-2.0EV to +2.0EV, 1/3EV increments).
two buttons below the LCD are for Menu/Function and Display (turns
LCD on and off). The function button allows you to quickly access
your favorite settings, by pressing it along with one of the
directions on the four-way switch. You can put most menu functions
in this spot. The default function is flash exposure compensation.
the top of the camera, you'll see the speaker, diopter control
slider (for the optical viewfinder), power button, mode dial,
and shutter release button.
mode dial has the following options:
mode - fully automatic, with full access to camera settings
priority (Av) mode - you choose aperture, camera chooses shutter
speed. Aperture range is F2.8 - F7.9
priority (Tv) mode - you choose shutter speed, camera chooses
aperture. Shutter speed range is 15 - 1/1000 sec (an improvement
over the Optio 550)
mode - you choose both shutter speed and aperture, using the
mode - quickly access your favorite settings
recording - save audio clips in WAV format. Record until the
memory card is full (which is about 30 minutes on a 16MB card)
mode - more later
- Black & white
Filter - gives pictures a "fuzzy" look
image mode - for creating the 3D stereo images that I described
- Surf & snow
you can see, the Optio 555 has all kinds of options that allow
you to get pretty creative with your photos. Let's continue our
to see here!
the other side of the camera you'll find the I/O ports, which
are kept under a plastic cover. The ports include USB/video out
(one port for both), as well as DC-in for the optional AC adapter.
the bottom of the camera is the battery compartment, memory card
slot, and metal tripod mount.
thing that Pentax did not improve on this model is the cheap
plastic door that covers the battery and memory card slots. I
fear it could break off at any moment.
to the design of the camera, you cannot change the memory card
or battery while the camera is on a tripod.
the Pentax Optio 555
speeds have improved on the Optio 555, with a startup time of
about 3.8 seconds.
the Optio 555 has a passive AF system, it's focusing speeds are
average. It took a little less than a second to lock focus in
almost all cases. One area in which is was better than average
was in dim light -- it was able to lock focus on various objects
around the house (with the lights turned down).
lag was just barely noticeable, even at slower shutter speeds.
The Optio's LCD can show a lot of info
in record mode, including a histogram
speed is excellent. Assuming you have the post-shot review feature
turned off, you can take another picture in about one second.
After a picture is taken, you can hit the delete photo button
to review (and remove) the photo you just took.
here's a look at the image size and quality choices available
on the Optio 555 (Pentax uses a "star system" to represent
shots on 16MB card
you can see, there's a TIFF mode on the Optio 555. You can also
see that you can't actually fit a single TIFF image on the tiny
16MB memory card that comes with the camera. Do note that the
camera is locked up for 25 seconds while the TIFF is saved to
the memory card.
far as file numbering goes, the camera names files as IMGP####.JPG,
where # = 0001 - 9999. The camera maintains the numbering even
if you erase the card.
not the best looking menu system, the Optio 555's system is easy
to navigate. The menu items include:
pixels (see chart)
level (see chart)
balance (Auto, daylight, shade, tungsten, fluorescent, manual)
area (Wide, spot)
metering (Multi-segment, center-weighted, spot)
(Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400)
exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments) - adjust
the flash power; new to the Optio 555
bracket - see below
zoom (on/off) - using this lowers the quality of your photos
review (Off, 0.5, 1-5 sec)
shooting - described earlier
fwd movie (Off, x2, x5, x10, x20, x50, x100) - see below
mode (Parallel, cross) - choose the viewing method for 3D images
- the camera will store the selected settings in memory so
they aren't lost when you turn off the camera. The available
(Soft, normal, hard)
(Soft, normal, hard)
(Soft, normal, hard)
- store your favorite camera settings to the "user" spot
on the mode wheel.
for some further explanation.
you can see, the Optio has manual white balance controls. That's
the best way to get perfect white balance under any lighting.
bracketing system is excellent. Not only can you bracket exposure,
but you can also do it for white balance, sharpness, saturation,
and contrast as well. The camera takes three shots in a row,
with an interval you can choose (for white balance and exposure).
If you've got enough room on your memory card (not to mention
patience), this is a great way to ensure perfect pictures.
forward movie" feature is like a "time lapse" movie.
You can reduce the frame rate by a factor of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50,
or 100. When you play the movie back, they are played back at
15 frames/sec multiplied by the chosen factor. Sound is not recorded.
I hope this makes sense -- try it and you'll see.
addition to the record menu, there's also a setup menu. The options
in this menu include:
- adjust the annoying beep sounds
+ date style
time - view the time around the world
(English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Russian,
Chinese) - not sure about those last two
screen (on/off) - use the default Optio picture, or one of
out (NTSC, PAL)
timeout (Off, 30 sec, 1-2 min) - turn the LCD off after inactivity
power off (Off, 3, 5 min) - turn off the camera after inactivity
delete (on/off) - took me a while to figure this one out. When
on, it shortens the photo deletion process by one button press.
zoom (on/off) - when on, "zoom and scroll" feature
automatically jumps to highest zoom ratio
setting (Recorded pixels, quality level, white balance, focusing
area, AE metering, sensitivity, flash exposure compensation,
digital zoom, instant review, sharpness, saturation, contrast)
- define what the various directions on the four-way controller
do (while the function button is held down).
limiter (on/off) - limits the movement of the lens when shooting.
I'm not sure what this is really for.
- turn settings to back their default values
enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.
555 did an awesome job with the macro test shot. Color, sharpness,
and detail are all excellent.
camera has two macro modes: regular and super. Regular macro
mode gives you a focus distance of 15 - 65 cm. Super macro mode
gets you even closer: just 2 cm from your subject. The catch
is that the lens is locked at wide-angle.
night test shot also turned out nicely. The camera can take in
plenty of light, thanks to its manual shutter speed controls.
Detail and sharpness were good, and purple fringing was at a
cameras usually have a redeye problem, so you won't be surprised
to see the test result above. You can remove this phenomenon
fairly well in software. (Since people have asked, I always take
this shot with the camera's redeye reduction feature turned on.)
distortion test shows mild-to-moderate barrel distortion and
a slight hint of vignetting (dark corners). I saw a little bit
of vignetting in my real world photos, but it wasn't horrible.
the whole, the Optio 555's photo quality is very good. Color,
exposure, and detail were impressive. Pentax obviously has the
in-camera sharpening turned up, which adds a little noise/grain
to the photos. If it's too much for you, try turning down the
sharpening a notch. Purple fringing was not a problem that I
noticed in my limited testing (I wasn't able to take as many
pictures as usual due to my recent move).
just take my words as gospel: view the pictures in the gallery and
make your own decision about he Optio 555's photo quality!
covered one facet of the Optio's movie mode in the previous section,
when I tried (not very well) to explain the fast forward movie
feature. Now here's some info about the standard movie mode.
Pentax is not making a big deal about it, it seems as if you
can now record movies until the memory card is full. On the Optio
550, movies were limited to 10 minutes. I took an 11 minute movie
before giving up on the Optio 555. On both cameras, the resolution
is 320 x 240. Sound is recorded along with the video.
are saved in QuickTime format, at a frame rate of 15 frames/sec.
cannot use the zoom lens during filming.
a rather dull sample movie for you:
Click to play movie (5.0MB, QuickTime
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
Optio 555 has a very nice playback mode. The Optio has the basic
playback features nailed: slide shows, DPOF (and not PictBridge)
print marking, thumbnail mode, and image protection are all here.
zoom and scroll feature is here too, allow you to zoom in as
much as 8X into your photo, and then scroll around. Zoom and
scroll speeds are about average.
of the more advanced features include resizing and trimming.
You can resize an image to any of the smaller resolutions (plus
320 x 240), and you can change the quality as well. The trimming
feature allows you to crop a photo -- the resolution and quality
settings are the same as the original image. In both cases, the
original image is kept.
Optio can show plenty of information about your photos, including
a histogram -- just press the display button.
camera moves through photos at an average pace, with a two second
delay between high res photos.
Does it Compare?
I don't think that Optio 550 owners should be racing out to upgrade,
I do think that the Pentax Optio 555 is an attractive option
for those who want a little more zoom in a compact camera. Not
only will you get more zoom -- 5X in this case -- you'll also
get a camera that takes very good quality 5 Megapixel photos.
Add in full manual controls (with an expanded range of shutter
speeds), and bonus features like digital color filters, and you've
got something that enthusiasts will enjoy as much as beginners.
The super macro mode lets you get within 2 cm of your subject,
which is pretty amazing. Also amazing is the powerful (albeit
proprietary) battery that the 555 uses, giving it much better
than average battery life. There isn't much to complain about.
Images are slightly noisy, with occasional vignetting. Redeye
was an issue as well. While the camera's overall build quality
is excellent, the cheap plastic battery/memory card door leaves
much to be desired. I would've liked to see a larger memory card
included with the camera, and faster performance wouldn't hurt
either (it was just average). But if you want a compact camera
with something other than a 3X zoom lens, then you really can't
go wrong with the Optio 555.
zoom in a compact body
good photo quality
battery life for a compact camera
histogram in record mode
macro mode allows you to get as close as 2 cm to subject
digital color filter effects
3D photo, fast forward movie features
save favorite settings to spot on mode dial
I didn't care for:
slightly noisy, some vignetting
plastic door over battery/memory card compartments
16MB SD card included
other cameras worth checking out include the Canon PowerShot G3 and G5, Kodak
EasyShare DX6440, Minolta
DiMAGE S414, Nikon
Coolpix 5400, Olympus
C-5060 Wide Zoom, and the Sony
Cyber-shot DSC-V1. These are cameras with a 4 Megapixel or
higher CCD and a 4X-5X zoom lens.
always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try
out the Optio 555 and its competitors before you buy!
how the photo quality stacks up in our photo
another review of the Optio 555 over at Steve's
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due
to my limited resources, please do not send me requests for
personal camera recommendations.