The Pentax Optio H90 takes things right back to basics, not least when it comes to its looks. This compact camera is a minimalist’s dream, all clean lines and block colours – inspired, says Pentax, by ‘Japanese lifestyle trends’.

We’re not quite sure what that means, but we are sure that we like the look and feel of this camera. It’s elegant and understated, with a design that doesn’t try too hard that it comes off as forced. Not too poncey, in other words.

Pocket rocket

Perhaps more importantly, the H90 is extremely lightweight and genuinely pocket-friendly. There aren’t many compact cameras you can stuff in a jacket pocket without really noticing the weight, but this is one of them. Yes, it’s a wee bit plasticky, but it’s also sturdy and the lightness should help lessen the damage if you ever do drop it.

The control layout gets a similarly enthusiastic thumbs-up from us, too. And speaking of thumbs, all the main buttons are located within easy reach of your right hand’s fattest digit, allowing you to flick the H90 into its macro mode, or one of the special shooting modes, in a matter of moments. There’s even a dedicated button for toggling between the various smile detection modes.

Off its rocker

The zoom rocker isn’t as easy to move as the ‘rotatable wheel around the shutter button’ method used by a lot of compact snappers, but that’s really the only aspect of the Pentax H90’s control layout that doesn’t hit the mark.

What about picture quality? Surely a cheap, lightweight point-and-shoot model can’t really deliver the goods? Well, given some decent lighting conditions, the H90 certainly can: we took it out on a sunny day and snapped some very nice shots demonstrating an adeptness with colour, contrast and detail.

There’s a touch of colour fringing in high-contrast areas, particularly towards the corners of images, but that’s to be expected on an entry-level model – and, in any case, it’s not particularly noticeable unless you’re really looking for it.


Lifeless low-light shots

In less-than-ideal lighting the H90 isn’t quite so stellar. Turn off the flash and try to shoot indoors and photos tend to look murky, grainy and lifeless due to a lack of punchy contrast and detail. That’s the main area where the camera’s entry-level status really shows up.

Metering and autofocus are accurate, and the super macro mode lets you focus on subjects very close to the lens.

Admittedly, the screen isn’t among the best you’ll find on a compact camera, being pretty low-res (230,000 dots), but it’s fine for framing and basic reviewing of shots – there are also a number of built-in effects filters that can be applied to photos, but annoyingly their effects can’t be previewed before shooting.

The Pentax H90 isn’t perfect but it does deliver everything a cheap compact should – and it really is a bit of a bargain at £130.

Stuff says... 

Pentax Optio H90 review

Stylish, user friendly and a decent performer – as long as the light conditions aren’t too demanding