Excellent value for money
image quality with effective automatic correction for barrel distortion
Customizability – perfect for target market
Large and colourful LCD screen
Use of lithium-ion battery helps to keep weight and size down
Poor LCD viewing angle
Finer details lacking when viewed at full size
Focusing system could be faster
Chromatic aberrations sometimes very obvious
Occasional white balance inaccuracies
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Changeable covers may have been all the rage with mobile phones ten years ago, but, for whatever reason, the concept never really took off with compact cameras. With its latest RS1500 model, though, Pentax clearly reckons the audience for them is still there, with the camera equipped with ten changeable covers and two lens rings as standard.
The model follows Pentax's RS1000 which worked on the same principle, only the company claims that the covers may now be changed with greater ease and with no additional tools. And, should none of the ten provided quite suit the user's personality, they're invited to download further options from Pentax's website, or even design and print their own creations using software.
The new model is otherwise a carbon-copy of the previous RS1000. It sports a 14MP CCD and a 27.5-112mm zoom lens, the latter of which incorporates three aspheric elements to help control distortion and spherical aberration. This is particularly impressive for a model priced at £70, as is the 3in LCD screen on the camera's rear, although, unsurprisingly, it's resolution is at 230,000 dots.
On the inside, Pentax has equipped the RS1500 with a trio of focusing options: 3-point multi area, spot and AF tracking. It's capable of focusing down to a minimum distance of 40cm on its standard mode and 15cm when set to its Macro option, although the Super Macro setting only brings this figure down down to a minimum 8cm. Face Recognition, Smile Capture technology and a Shadow Correction option are all provided, as are a range of scene modes and digital filters such as Fisheye and Toy Camera.
The camera's sensitivity settings span a native range of ISO 100-1600, while further options equivalent to ISO's 3200 and 6400 are provided for when the standard options won't suffice. Sadly the camera's metering pattern cannot be adjusted from its default multi-segment option, although the capability of a 3.2fps burst mode at full resolution is a nice surprise.
Not all budget compacts have caught up to offer with HD video yet, but the RS1500 provides 720p recording at a maximum 30fps. While this isn't complemented with an HDMI port, this is unlikely to be a deal breaker for most. Instead, the model relies on a sole micro USB port for transferring images and videos. The model also runs on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, rather than on AA cells common to budget compacts, which helps to keep its profile slim next to similarly priced models.
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