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05-29-2010, 05:10 PM   #1
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Pentax Optio X90 vs Panasonic Lumix ZS7

I have not used a fixed lens camera for years now. For a number of reasons, I've decided it's time for me to get one again and use it - at least give it a try. I'd like a relatively inexpensive camera to carry around with me all the time when I'm not working with my DSLRs.

At first I thought I wanted something really small and simple, and I was quite tempted by the Pentax Optio H90. It's gotten really good reviews and the price right now ($120 at Amazon.com) is terrific. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that, if I simply want a very basic camera that fits in my coat pocket, well, I could look to the 8MP camera in my Droid Incredible smart phone. I'm pretty sure the H90 is better, but I suspect it's not better ENOUGH or different enough in its capabilities, to make it worth carrying around, when I've already got the phone.

So I'm looking at cameras with more features. What I want:
  1. Good image quality. Don't expect it to rival my K20D + Pentax 70 f/2.4 limited (for example) but I would like it to be decent enough for prints. I might be taking vacation pictures with it and these matter to me.
  2. Zoom with some oomph - better than 5x
  3. Wide angle (at least 28mm equivalent)
  4. Some manual exposure controls, Av and especially Tv and if possible M, would be nice
  5. Video

I think that describes the essentials. GPS support (found in the Panasonic ZS7) is nice, in theory, but apparently it eats up the battery. I don't consider it necessary. Most of the other bells and whistles found on these cameras are not very important to me.

Which brings me to my two finalists: The Pentax Optio X90 and the Panasonic Lumix ZS7. They cost basically the same (both about $325 from Amazon.com or B&H).


I'm REALLY having a hard time making up my mind.

At one minute, I've just about decided in favor of the Pentax, because of the awesome zoom. It's almost as wide (26mm equivalent) as the Panasonic (25mm-E) at its widest angle, and at that widest focal length the Pentax is faster (f/2.8 vs f/3.3).

But the Panasonic has a couple of advantages, too. It's more compact. While I may appreciate that 26x zoom later this summer when I vacation in Yellowstone National Park (say, if I see a wolf!!), for daily life here in the big city, the Panasonic's 10x zoom (25-300) is more than adequate. And the Panasonic boasts a Leica lens. For some reason, that sounds better to me.

Anybody able to help me out with any thoughts here? This is NOT an apples-and-apples comparison, the way it would be if I was comparing the X90 to the new Olympus 30x superzoom. I know that.

I guess what I'm MOST interested in knowing is, is the image quality of the Pentax X90 good to very good? I've found it hard to find reviews of the X90. The reviews of the Panasonic ZS7 are generally very, very good.

Will

04-10-2011, 05:03 PM   #2
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If you have average sized hands, then although the X90 is a little bigger, it seems to fit the hand a bit better.

To compare image quality look at Imaging Resource "Comparometer" Digital Camera Image Comparison Page where you can compare the full sized, screen sized and thumbnail images from both cameras side by side.

Also, to me, the controls on the Pentax X90 seemed a bit more "solid" and less "plasticky", although I can't comment on the long-term durability of either.

Both seem to give a good image quality to me, with minimal chromatic aberration and almost no purple hazing around high contrast areas and that is the critical thing. For the rest of the features you have to just decide what suits your personal needs the best.
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