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Pentax Optio M85 review

Ben Pitt
17 Mar 2010
Pentax Optio M85
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
95
inc VAT

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

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Specifications

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 megapixels12.0 megapixels
CCD size1/2.3in
Viewfindernone
Viewfinder magnification, coverageN/A
LCD screen size3.0in
LCD screen resolution230,000 pixels
Articulated screenNo
Live viewYes
Optical zoom3.0x
Zoom 35mm equivalent32-96mm
Image stabilisationnone
Maximum image resolution4,000x3,000
Maximum movie resolution1280x720
Movie frame rate at max quality15fps
File formatsJPEG; AVI (M-JPEG)

Physical

Memory slotSDHC
Mermory supplied100MB
Battery typeLi-ion
Battery Life (tested)215 shots
ConnectivityUSB, AV
HDMI output resolutionN/A
Body materialaluminium
Lens mountN/A
Focal length multiplier5.6x
Kit lens model nameN/A
AccessoriesCombined USB/AV cable
Weight128g
Size58x90x19mm

Buying Information

Warrantyone year RTB
Price£95
Supplierhttp://www.bristolcameras.co.uk
Detailswww.pentax.co.uk

Camera Controls

Exposure modesauto
Shutter speed2 to 1/2,000 seconds
Aperture rangef/2.9 to f.5,3
ISO range (at full resolution)80 to 3200
Exposure compensation+/-2 EV
White balanceauto, 4 presets
Additional image controlscontrast, saturation, sharpness
Manual focusNo
Closest macro focus10cm
Auto-focus modesmulti, centre, face detect
Metering modesmulti, centre-weighted, centre, face detect
Flashauto, forced, suppressed, red-eye reduction
Drive modessingle, continuous, self-timer, AE bracket