The Pentax Optio E60 is the cheap camera you always carry -- the type that's slowly being replaced by the camera in your mobile phone. It has few features above and beyond the basics, making it good for beginners, as well as those who just want to take a picture so they can remember a moment. It doesn't encourage experimentation or offer many settings to twiddle with, and, if you're expecting excellent photo quality or lightning speed for its price of around £80, you're bound to be disappointed.
Measuring 99mm by 58mm by 25mm, the black-and-silver polycarbonate body of the 10-megapixel E60 has dimensions just small enough for it to be considered an ultra-compact, and is one of the smaller cameras to support AA batteries. With two batteries and an SD card, the camera weighs slightly more than 170g. Up front is a 3x f2.9-5.2 32-96mm-equivalent lens, which is reasonably wide for a budget compact.
Design-wise, the E60's strength lies in its simplicity, although some may see this merely as a lack of features. On top is a power button and shutter release, with the rest of the controls (zoom rocker included) on the back. If you really don't like small or cramped buttons, you'll probably love the E60. Buttons for menu navigation, flash, capture mode, drive mode, focus, playback and even activating face detection are big and spaciously laid out, reducing the chances of accidental presses. The use of a relatively small 61mm (2.4-inch) LCD makes this possible. The LCD's resolution is comparatively low, too, at 112,000 pixels.
Not surprisingly, there isn't much shooting flexibility with the E60. The mode button opens up a menu of 17 shooting modes, including Pentax's 'Auto Picture' auto-scene-selection option, which determines the best shooting mode for your subject. Auto Picture selects from standard, landscape, portrait, night-scene portrait, night scene, sport and flower. The results are reliable, so those that like to leave it in auto mode should be happy with the results. There's also a program mode that lets you pick focus area and ISO sensitivity, and adjust exposure compensation. Pentax's anti-program setting, 'Green' mode, takes away all control.
The camera performs reasonably well, especially given its low price. Powering on to first shot takes 1.9 seconds on average, and it typically takes the same amount of time from shot to shot. Using the flash adds a second. Shutter lag is on point for its class, at 0.5 seconds in bright conditions and 1 second in dim light. Burst mode offers a below-average continuous shooting speed of 0.8 frames per second. There is a faster 16-shot burst, but it's at a reduced 640x480-pixel resolution.
Photo quality is good for a camera in the E60's class. It renders vibrant, accurate colour both indoors and outdoors, and photos are relatively sharp -- Pentax errs on the side of a more natural look, rather than over-sharpening, as many manufacturers do. There is no white-balance control at all, so it's a good thing the E60's auto white balance is fairly consistent in natural light. Shooting in incandescent light, however, results in the overly yellow scenes typical of auto white balance. Subjects occasionally underexpose, while background highlights blow out slightly. The lens also displays some barrel distortion, particularly on the left side, which results in purple fringing.
The camera offers ISO sensitivity settings from 100 to 6,400. ISO 3,200 and 6,400, however, are fixed at a 5-megapixel resolution. The E60 is best at or below ISO 200, but photos are noisy at all of the sensitivities, giving them a grainy appearance, and subjects tend to look soft, with fuzzy edges. The noise becomes an issue at ISO 400, as it starts to mess with detail and colour uniformity (it also means you're better off not using any of the higher settings). On the whole, photos taken at ISO 200 and below are good quality, suitable for prints up to 8 inches by 10 inches, and definitely fine for viewing on-screen or sharing on the Web.
The E60 can record VGA-quality (640x480) motion JPEG video. The quality isn't good for the most part, however, and the optical zoom doesn't function while recording. It's sufficient for small Web videos, but little else.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)||Typical shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Pulling off a decent low-cost ultra-compact camera is difficult because there have to be compromises. The Pentax Optio E60 succeeds because it is very easy to use, with big, simple controls, few menu options, and a reasonably accurate auto-scene-detection mode. Photo quality at low ISOs was also good overall, despite some noise and softness.
Additional editing by Charles Kloet