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The Pentax Optio RZ18 has some obvious faults, but it also offers some impressive specifications at this low price point. And then there's that 18x zoom. We were genuinely impressed to find that high level of versatility in such a slim package.
But unfortunately the 18x zoom and low price tag are about all the Pentax Optio RZ18 has going for it.
The versatility of the 18x zoom lens is to be applauded, and the Dual Shake Reduction system aids shooting at the telephoto end.
The 3-inch LCD screen is big and bright, making composition and selecting settings easy. Sensible button layout helps with this, and the Dynamic Range setting really did make a noticeable and pleasing difference to images.
Strong colours, noise-free images at lower sensitivities and adequate processing speeds are fundamental needs in a camera, and the Pentax Optio RZ18 fails - or at best, stumbles - in providing these.
Not having access to the 18x zoom while recording videos is a little frustrating, plus the camera is slow to process, and there is noise and smearing of detail at lower ISO settings. We struggled to capture strong colours in bright conditions, too.
The camera does have some useful and effective features, such as the Dual Shake Reduction system and Dynamic Range setting, and the range of creative art filters and scene mode do produce strong effects.
But for all the little things it does well, the Pentax Optio RZ18 lags behind in the fundamentals compared to some of the other cameras in its class, such as the Samsung WB700 - another 18x superzoom that even offers manual control.
Ultimately, whether you should buy the Pentax Optio RZ18 comes down to one question: is fine detail important to you? Are you OK with images that appear smudged and smeared under closer scrutiny?
For many people this isn't a problem. For many, a Facebook photo album is enough. And if this is the case, the Pentax Optio RZ18 offers all you need at the best price currently on the market.
But if your ambitions lie beyond an online photo gallery, you might want to consider some of the Pentax Optio RZ18's rivals, such as the aforementioned Samsung WB700.