The Pentax Optio E30 may look squat for a point-and-shoot digital compact camera, but it's redeemed by a friendly, perky interface. The simple control layout and an automatic 'green' mode make it easy to start snapping. SD cards and AA batteries are convenient and continue the budget theme of this sub-£100 child-friendly camera.
The E30 is a chunky thing, 35mm thick, with the bulbous right-hand side bulging out due to the size of the AA battery compartment. This is good for gripping the camera, but not so good for sliding it into your pocket. The AA batteries also make the E30 quite heavy at 185g.
The E30 has a plastic body, but feels durable. There are a couple of metal accents, including at the top where, unusually, the shutter-release button is slanted forwards slightly. The positioning is quite comfortable to use, but takes some getting used to in terms of how much to press the button.
The dedicated green mode button makes fully automatic shooting a one-touch affair. This makes the E30 extremely useful for straight-out-of-the-box, fuss-free shooting.
Green mode locks all the camera's settings except for the flash. It can be turned off, however. There are 12 preset shooting modes. As on the Pentax Optio M30, the main menu screen features chirpy cartoon icons for all the standard options, and some more unusual selections. A MySpace-friendly self-portrait mode is included, as well as settings for snapping pets and food.
Oddly, the menu is laid out in no particular order: the top row features program, night, movie, voice recording and novelty frames, while the more useful portrait and sport are relegated to the lower tiers. The pre-loaded frames are even lamer than we've come to expect from such fripperies, and they ratchet the processing time right up.
A press of the green mode button at the menu screen provides a pop-up caption explaining the function of each option. They might be more aptly described as crawl-up captions as they're so slow, but at least they give an insight into the process behind modes such as food or pet.
Picture quality is good in well-lit conditions, with the green mode capably handling most situations. The E30 made the most of its 7 megapixels and only started to struggle in lower light. This is primarily a daytime camera, but the younger photographers this is aimed shouldn't mind that too much.
Sadly, shake-reduction mode automatically employs the fast shutter/high ISO combination, rendering it less useful when light is inadequate. Low-light sensitivity only goes up to ISO 400, but noise is already creeping in at ISO 320. Auto focus also struggles in low light for want of a focus-assist lamp.