Review: Pentax Optio 330
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Tuesday, October 9, 2001
Thursday, October 11, 2001
in the "old days", Canon was the only game in town when
it came to tiny digital cameras. Soon came Casio, and then Kyocera,
and now Pentax. These mini-cameras are very popular, since they're
easy to pocket, and can do about anywhere.
Optio 330 ($699) is a 3.34 Megapixel mini-camera, with a 3X
optical zoom lens. How well does it work? Find out now...
in the Box?
Optio 330 has an excellent bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
3.24 (effective) Mpixel Pentax Optio 330 camera
Li-ion rechargeable battery
featuring ACDSee software and drivers
page manual (printed)
the manual says that a CompactFlash card is optional. But rest assured,
it's not -- a Lexar 8X 16MB card is in the box. I wish camera makers
would start including larger memory cards on these high resolution
almost unavoidable to have a proprietary battery on these micro-cameras
and the Optio is no exception. The D-LI2 is a rechargeable Lithium-ion
battery about the size of two CompactFlash cards put together. If
you're thinking that you won't get much life out of such a small
battery, you're right. Pentax estimates playback time at 75 minutes,
or about 190 photos, depending on flash and LCD use.
includes a battery charger, which takes about 2 hours. An AC adapter
of optional extras, the only thing I could find was a wireless remote
control, but I don't know much about it.
camera has a built-in lens cover, so you need not worry about lens
includes the popular ACDSee software with the camera, for both Mac
and PC. I only played with it briefly but it seems pretty good.
The Optio 330 was compatible with Mac OS X 10.1. It loaded up Image
Capture right when it was connected.
camera manual wasn't too bad -- there weren't a lot of "notes"
at the bottom of each page, and its laid out well.
Optio 330 is a small, metal camera about the size of a deck of cards.
While it's small, it's not necessarily light, since it's all metal.
It's easy to stuff in your pocket, and you can use it with one hand.
chart below compares the dimensions and weight of the Optio with
the other mini-cameras out there:
x 2.3 x 1.2
x 2.2 x 1.2
x 2.2 x 1.1
x 2.5 x 1.2
you can see, it's neither the smallest nor the lightest camera out
there. Let's take our tour of the Optio 330 now.
Optio 330 has a F2.6 Pentax lens with a 3X optical zoom. The focal
range of the lens is 7.6 - 22.8 mm, which is equivalent to 37 -
111 mm. The lens is not threaded.
flash on the camera has a working range of 0.14 - 3.7 m at wide-angle,
and 0.4 - 2.0 m at telephoto.
like to see some sort of AF assist lamp on this camera, since it
has trouble focusing sometimes.
is the back of the camera. The 1.6" LCD is smaller than normal
due to the size of the camera, but its still of excellent quality.
Nose smudges on the LCD will only be a problem if you use your left
eye for the optical viewfinder.
of which, the optical viewfinder is a little small, but that's not
surprising. It does have diopter correction for those without perfect
vision. None of the other mini-cams I've mentioned in this review
have diopter correction.
buttons to the right of the LCD are the usual suspects: Menu, Display,
and the Four-way switch, which is used for changing settings in
the menus and in manual mode.
those buttons are a few more, multifunction buttons:
[record] / Delete photo [playback]
Remote control, continuous shooting [rec] / DPOF print mark [play]
Landscape, Manual focus [rec] / Protect photo [play]
shooting mode really varies depending on the resolution and quality
you've chosen. At 1024 x 768, it went for quite a few shots at a
fast rate. However, at 2048 x 1536, two-star quality, it only did
two shots before stopping.
manual focus feature puts a "bar" on the left side of
the LCD, but it doesn't give you any units to provide an idea of
how far out you're focusing. This was an issue brought up on the
Canon PowerShot G1, and it was resolved on the G2.
the right of that, you can see the zoom controls. I found the zoom
to be smooth and responsive.
top of the camera, you'll find the power button, mode wheel, and
shutter release button. Like all of the mini-cameras, there is no
LCD info display up here, so you're forced to use the main LCD to
see remaining shots, flash settings, etc.
are six choices on the mode wheel:
Exposure mode lets you combine two images into one. You can give
preference to the brighter or darker image, or just average them
record mode lets you choose both the shutter speed and aperture.
There is no shutter/aperture priority mode, just both.
wide-angle, you can choose between F2.6 and F5.0 for aperture. At
full telephoto, you can pick from F4.8 or F9.2. Shutter speeds range
from 1/1000 sec to 15 sec.
this side of the Optio, you'll find the I/O ports under a rubber
cover. Those ports include USB/Video out, and DC in.
the other side of the camera is the CompactFlash slot. This is a
Type I slot, so no Microdrive support. The included 16MB card is
shown. The door covering the slot is one of the few plastic pieces
on the camera, and I worry that it could bust off if you force it.
here's the bottom of the camera. A metal tripod mount, as well as
the battery compartment are located down here.
the Pentax Optio 330
Optio 330 takes 3 seconds to extend the lens and "warm up"
before you can start taking photos. The auto-focus on the camera
was troublesome. When you depress the shutter release halfway and
it locks focus, it takes less than a second to do so. But quite
often, it wouldn't lock focus (showing red brackets on the LCD),
even in situations where most cameras wouldn't have a problem. Pentax
released a firmware
update to improve the autofocus, but I still had trouble. In
most situations (meaning outdoors), the camera focuses just fine.
But indoors, it was frustrating at times. Of course, that's what
manual focus is for.
you take a shot (there's no noticeable shutter lag), it takes about
three seconds before you can take another shot. You have the option
of pressing the Display button to delete a photo before it's recorded
to the CompactFlash card.
other thing I noticed is that the right hand grip of the camera
starts to warm up after using the camera for a while.
Mode LCD screen
Mode LCD screen with stats
using the LCD to take a picture, you can hit the display button
to show some exposure statistics and a histogram. Of course this
blocks the view of the subject!
are three resolution and three quality levels to choose from on
the Optio 330. This chart shows them all:
of photos on 16MB CF card
nice thing about the Optio is that the menus don't differ between
Auto and Manual record modes. Many cameras prevent you from using
some of the manual features found in the menus when in Auto mode,
but not here. Here are the menu choices on this camera:
(2048 x 1536, 1024 x 768, 640 x 480)
(***, **, *)
Balance (Auto, Daylight, Shade, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Manual)
Area (Wide, Spot, Free)
Zoom (on, off)
Metering (Multi-segment, Center-weighted, Spot)
Speed (Auto, 100, 200)
(Full, B&W, Sepia)
Review (Off, 0.5 sec, 1-5 sec) - how long an image is shown on
the LCD after it was taken
(Hard, Normal, Soft)
(High, Normal, Low)
(High, Normal, Low)
of the AF Area choices is "free". This lets you position
the cursor to the point where you'd like the camera to focus. The
Optio also has a manual white balance mode, which lets you shoot
a white or gray card (or whatever you want as a baseline white color),
for photos in any lighting.
is another menu available called Memory. This allows you to choose
the settings that are saved when the camera is shut off. The settings
that can be stored in memory are:
(manual focus) Position
are two rather unique features to this camera that I haven't seen
anywhere else. The first is that the Optio can store two clock settings:
home, and world time. The camera has many cities programmed in,
so you can just change the city name to change the time. The second
feature, though I'm not sure how useful, is the ability for the
camera to act as an alarm clock. You can have up to three alarms,
macro test came out just average on the Optio 330. While it managed
to get the colors about right (the room lighting doesn't help),
the edges seem over-sharpened. Of course you can adjust the sharpness,
but I don't mess with settings when I take these shots. When it
macro mode, the camera locks the lens at full wide-angle. The macro
focal range is 14-50cm.
Optio 330 really surprised me when it came to the night shot test.
It did much better than I expected. I tried Night Scene, Program,
and Manual modes, and only got bad results in Program mode. There
really isn't a lot of noise in the shot, either.
I was satisfied with the photo quality from the Optio 330. Images
were sharp, and the color was good too. If you don't trust me, check
out the photo gallery and judge for yourself.
movie mode on the Optio 330, you can record silent movies as long
as 30 seconds. They are saved as AVI files, at a resolution of 320
x 240. Since sound is not recorded, you can use the zoom lens during
a short sample movie:
to play movie (1.6MB, AVI format)
Optio 330's playback mode may look bare from the menu above, but
it has most of the features that people need. That includes slideshows,
DPOF print marking, 9 thumbnail mode, and image protection.
venerable "zoom and scroll" feature is here as well. For
those of you just joining us, this lets you zoom into a photo, and
then move around it it. This is useful for checking focus, or showing
off to your friends. The Optio's implementation isn't my favorite,
though. You can't tell how far in you've zoomed, and scrolling is
between images on the Optio 330 is pretty quick. When you press
left or right on the 4-way switch, the camera instantly shows a
low-res image of the next photo. A high-res image replaces it in
under 3 seconds.
Detailed Info + Histogram
like in record mode, you can get basic info about a photo, or more
detailed, as seen above.
Does it Compare?
micro-cameras have been getting better and better over time. The
first cameras from Canon were essentially point-and-shoot cameras
in small bodies. The Kyocera Finecam S3 and now the Pentax Optio
330 show that you can have manual controls on a small camera. The
cameras impressive features, good photo quality, and controls lead
me to recommend the Optio 330. There were a few issues though: there's
the usual battery problem (small camera = small battery = small
capacity). There's also the focusing troubles that I had in lower-light
situations (if you're going to be doing lots of low-light shooting
I'd test the camera carefully before buying it). And the camera
also had the tendency to get hot after use.
a real close race between the Optio and the Finecam. The features
are very similar, but I prefer the Optio's use of the CompactFlash
format, rather than MultiMediaCard on the Finecam. The Finecam also
required the use of a card reader, since it had no USB port. Also,
the Optio has a 3X lens, versus a 2X lens on the Finecam. Finally,
the Finecam was slower to startup and operate. I'd probably pick
the Optio myself, but again, take a close look at both, and don't
forget the very nice, but more limited Canon Digital ELPH line.
small, good looking, easy to carry camera
manual controls, unusual for a micro-camera
and exposure info in record and playback mode
use zoom in movie mode
simple to use
I didn't care for:
sound in movie mode
troubles in lower light
up after a few minutes
and scroll", manual focus features could better
other micro-cameras to check out include the Canon PowerShot S110
Finecam S3, Nikon
Coolpix 775, and the Olympus
D-40. There's also a new 4 Megapixel version of the Optio, known
as the Optio
430. Look for a review soon.
always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out
the Optio 330 and its competitors before you buy!
how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos
in our photo gallery!
a second opinion?
out Steves Digicams review
of the Pentax Optio 330.
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for
a personal recommendation.