Pentax Optio RZ18 review

Ben Pitt
17 May 2012
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
inc VAT

A big, sharp 18x zoom lens at an incredible price, but only consider it if you're not interested in video or low-light photography



1/2.33in 16.6-megapixel sensor, 18.0x zoom (25-450mm equivalent), 191g

The march of progress never ceases, but we still find it astonishing that this 16-megapixel camera with an 18x zoom and 3in screen costs just over £100. We wondered how Pentax had brought it in at such a low price, but close inspection reveals quite a few reasons.

The plastic body looks pretty basic, but it isn’t ugly. There's no HDMI output, though, and the plastic buttons feel cheap. The lack of any dials for changing modes or adjusting settings doesn't come as a surprise, but we'd have liked a dedicated video record button. Instead, there's a button for face detection and a smile shutter, which captures a photo about a second after your subject displays a toothy grimace; not the most deserving features for a dedicated button.

Pentax Optio RZ18 front

The Optio RZ18 uses a basic plastic body, but it isn't ugly.

Then again, this video mode is unlikely to see a lot of use. It captures at 720p in the inefficient Motion JPEG format, which gobbles up 180MB of card space per minute and limits clip lengths to just over 10 minutes.

Zoom and focus are fixed for the duration of clips, but at least that means there's no chance of lens motors interfering with the soundtrack, which was full-bodied and clear. Sadly, its video picture quality elicits few positive comments. Details were poor even compared to other 720p cameras, and well-lit outdoor shots suffered from fizzy noise and vertical purple streaks. Handheld shots at the full zoom extension were particularly unpleasant, with the optical stabilisation transforming gentle shakes into a series of sharp jolts.

It isn’t particularly fast either, taking 2.4 seconds on average between shots. The 0.8fps continuous mode is pretty hopeless, but dropping the resolution to five megapixels let us shoot at up to 9.2fps for an impressive 40 frames, which is just the thing for capturing fast-paced action.

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