An 18x zoom lens, 16 megapixel resolution, a full price of £199.99/AU$299/US$299.95 and a street price of around £100/AU$150/US$120? It's certainly a headline that demands your attention. After all, anyone in the market for a take-anywhere pocket compact camera is looking for a combination of the biggest zoom and best resolution.
And to be able to offer that (on paper) for such a low price, well, Pentax has all the makings of a high-volume seller in the Optio RZ18. But more importantly, what else is onboard the Pentax Optio RZ18 at this price?
The Pentax Optio RZ18 isn't heavy on those clever features that you might only use occasionally. But what it does offer is some of the key necessities in a take-anywhere compact camera. Chief among its specifications is its wide-angle 18x zoom lens with an equivalent focal length of 25-450mm.
The aforementioned 16 megapixel sensor is another of its key selling points, helping it stand out among other cameras in this class, as is its 3-inch, 460,000-dot LCD screen.
Also onboard the Pentax Optio RZ18 is a Dual Shake Reduction system, a dynamic range setting for high-contrast scenes and a range of artistic filters for achieving toy camera and miniature effects, sepia tones, high-contrast monochrome and more.
As you'd expect, it also has a range of scene modes for just about every situation.
HD video recording is limited to 720p, however, which lags behind some of its competitors, and it should be noted that you don't have access to the 18x zoom while filming video.
Build and handling
The Pentax Optio RZ18 has a very minimalist design, which often is a nicer way of saying a camera lacks many direct controls, but for a camera like this there are only so many that you need.
The Pentax Optio RZ18 is housed in a plastic body, and yes it has that familiar hollow plastic sound when you tap it, but don't let that put you off. The camera actually looks rather stylish in a retro sort of way, and its construction feels solid. It may be plastic, but the camera still feels robust.
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Unlike other travel zooms, the Pentax Optio RZ18 has no raised grips on the body design. Instead it offers a large textured area on the front and a small textured thumb grip on the back. While not inspiring to see coming out of the box, these work surprisingly well to hold the camera securely in your hand.
On the back, underneath the thumb grip are playback and Face Detection buttons. Beneath these is a four-way controller, which offers direct controls for setting (in clockwise order) the drive mode, macro mode, the overall Mode button and the flash.
The Mode button brings you directly to a menu where you can choose from 24 scene modes, ranging from Auto Picture to Landscape, Portraits, Panorama, Flower, Sky Saturation, Movie and more.
On top of the camera are the power and shutter buttons, and the standard toggle for zooming in and out of a scene.
While the Pentax Optio RZ18's menu and direct controls are decidedly limited, they are extremely simple and quick to use. And for this type of camera in this price range, you aren't looking for complexity.
So on this level the Pentax Optio RZ18 succeeds. We were able to shoot and adapt our settings with ease and speed and never missed a potential shot due to scrolling through complex menu systems.