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Pentax Optio M85 review

Pentax Optio M85
Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £95
inc VAT

Tries to provide too much for too little – sadly, image quality is overlooked.


1/2.3in 12.0-megapixel sensor, 3.0x zoom (32-96mm equivalent), 128g

With its M85, Pentax appears to be going all-out to provide the most impressive specs for the lowest price possible. Inside the slim, aluminium shell there’s a massive 3in screen and Li-ion battery, and it can even record 720p HD video – not bad for £95.

The screen’s viewing angles aren’t great, though, becoming washed out when viewed from above and turning into a surreal negative image at other angles. Viewed head on, it produces a bright, vivid image, and brings a sense of luxury to the camera. The same can’t be said for the camera’s controls. The plastic mode dial looks cheap and the zoom rocker that encircles the shutter release button feels loose and indistinct.

The 720p video mode is crippled by a 15fps frame rate, producing very jerky results. To achieve a smooth 30fps, the resolution must be dropped to VGA. This is particularly disappointing because picture quality is actually pretty good, despite the fixed focus and zoom and poor sound quality.

The M85 ditches Pentax’s long-standing menu system in favour of one where options scroll across the bottom of the screen. We found this disorientating to navigate compared to the old system of discrete menu pages. There are some surprisingly advanced features including exposure bracketing, but no manual white balance option. Performance is excellent, with just 1.9 seconds between shots, but the flash slows it down to around nine seconds when firing at full power. The 0.9fps continuous mode is excellent at this price.

Image quality in our tests was poor, even for a camera as cheap as this one. Contrast was overcooked, resulting in lost highlights, murky shadows and unnatural-looking colours. Focus tended to be a little soft and low-light shots were hopelessly blurred as noise-reduction processing obliterated noise and details in equal measure. At least the automatic exposure settings were well judged, making the most of the camera’s limited potential.

The M85 is almost a bargain, but image quality flaws mean its other strengths are immaterial.

Basic Specifications

Rating **
CCD effective megapixels 12.0 megapixels
CCD size 1/2.3in
Viewfinder none
Viewfinder magnification, coverage N/A
LCD screen size 3.0in
LCD screen resolution 230,000 pixels
Articulated screen No
Live view Yes
Optical zoom 3.0x
Zoom 35mm equivalent 32-96mm
Image stabilisation none
Maximum image resolution 4,000×3,000
Maximum movie resolution 1280×720
Movie frame rate at max quality 15fps
File formats JPEG; AVI (M-JPEG)


Memory slot SDHC
Mermory supplied 100MB
Battery type Li-ion
Battery Life (tested) 215 shots
Connectivity USB, AV
HDMI output resolution N/A
Body material aluminium
Lens mount N/A
Focal length multiplier 5.6x
Kit lens model name N/A
Accessories Combined USB/AV cable
Weight 128g
Size 58x90x19mm

Buying Information

Warranty one year RTB
Price £95

Camera Controls

Exposure modes auto
Shutter speed 2 to 1/2,000 seconds
Aperture range f/2.9 to f.5,3
ISO range (at full resolution) 80 to 3200
Exposure compensation +/-2 EV
White balance auto, 4 presets
Additional image controls contrast, saturation, sharpness
Manual focus No
Closest macro focus 10cm
Auto-focus modes multi, centre, face detect
Metering modes multi, centre-weighted, centre, face detect
Flash auto, forced, suppressed, red-eye reduction
Drive modes single, continuous, self-timer, AE bracket