Pentax Optio E40 compact camera

This snapper needs to sharpen its teeth

If you get confused, press the Green button and the E40 reverts to full auto mode. Battery life is given as around 240 shots, but in practice, it’s closer to 200 with a pair of alkalines.

We took our E40 off to Prague where it proved to be a pretty impressive performer – provided you kept the ISO setting low. Shots taken at ISO 80 or 160 were good, and we think most people would be fairly happy with the results, especially for a camera at this price point. But we were disappointed by the noise levels at the higher ISO rating.

Yes, this is inevitable as the more you increase the ISO setting, but the E40 was producing quite a bit of noise even at ISO 320. What’s more, in auto mode, the E40 tends to select a high ISO rating (the flash often doesn’t fire when taking interior shots).

Sample shots

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The Optio 45's focus system is pretty sharp. This was taken from a glass elevator
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There’s an option for stitching images together to produce a panoramic shot
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The E40 has a 4x digital zoom, which gives you a maximum 12x zoom
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This wide angle shot is at 6.2mm focal length, and the zoom, 18.6mm
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From left to right, ISO 160, 320, 400, 800 and 1000
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On a brighter note, the 3x zoom works better than its humble size would suggest, and the macro mode wasn’t bad either. We also liked the E40’s panorama mode, which lets you stitch a number of shots together to produce an ultra-wide shot or trick shots. The feature isn’t exactly new, but unlike some cameras we’ve looked at, the E40 stitches the images together internally – there’s no need to use photo editing software on a PC. Nice one, Pentax.

A £100 camera is not going to offer the same performance as one costing two or three times as much, but nevertheless, it ought to offer reasonable pictures - after all, who wants a cheap camera which only produces poor images? The Optio E40 can deliver the goods, but only at low ISO settings.

Against that, you do get a pretty well specified camera and a few features you wouldn’t expect to find on a model at this level. But this is a highly competitive sector and with many end-of-line bargains also to be had, we think you should have a good look at the competition before plumping for the Optio E40.

Verdict

The Optio E40 isn’t bad, but, as the old school report used to say: it could do better. It’s got a fair spec and a good range of features for its price, but it’s let down by its somewhat variable picture quality.

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Pentax Optio E40 compact camera

Tries hard, but could give better performance
Price: £100 RRP