Pentax Optio 550

Looking through the glass counter at the digital camera booth in the big tech store can be quite daunting. There are literally hundreds of cameras to choose from, some only differing from others by one or two offered features. Take the safe way out of this mess by going with the camera that offers it all, the Pentax Optio 550.

The first thing that will catch your eye will be the brush-metal front of the camera. Its flashiness suggesting to you that it’s worth a peek. The tiny 1.5-inch silver camera indeed has everything. Nearly all compact digital camera features available on the market come with the 550.

5 megapixels might appear like a small amount, and it is if your purpose is to create very large prints, but for the Facebook-friendly album photos, this camera is probably going to give the best quality images around.

The Optio 550 boasts an optical viewfinder as well as an auto-focus viewfinder. This feature simply adds to the romanticism of the little beast. The only part of the camera that comes as somewhat of a surprise is the stark choice of plastic for the tripod threads on the bottom of the camera and for the side compartments where connections, the battery and the memory card are housed.

The camera offers an advanced 5x optical zoom, a full loop ahead of the competitions’ 4x optical zoom. Photos appear sharp, and the brilliant LCD screen is clear and legible. It might appear like a maze at times with all the status numbers and icons, but a simply switching off of the display deals with that tiny annoyance in a second.

The buttons are easy to use, and have a good feeling to them. When trying out cameras, users should press the buttons; it’s surprising how button comfort can affect your choice. The programming software is easy to use, with logical navigational menus.

Other features that the camera boasts are a double exposure option, the ability to fast forward in video playback, a 3D shooting option, a macro feature that focuses under one inch, time-lapse photography (lovely), and more. At their fingertips users have the ability to dictate how the photo comes out. From white balance adjustment, contrast and exposure controls, sharpness and saturation options, the 550 is an advanced little machine.

Although a little slow to turn on, the nine program modes, excellent image quality and good low light functionality make the Optio 550 one of the best compact digital cameras on the market.