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Old Aug 6, 2004, 9:18 PM   #1
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Fit and finish good

options good

Battery life is outstanding


Extreme low light noise

grossly distorted pictures.

Difficult focusing

When I approached customer service on the distortion. Their answer was within acceptable limits. CRAP! I took and compared the same photos with another major brand. No contest. There was no noticeable distortion. Looks like I spent awhole lot of money on a paper weight.:sad:
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Old Aug 7, 2004, 9:25 AM   #2
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If you'd like me to take that "paperweight" off of your hands, I could use a small camera with a long focal length lens at times -- especially one with much better than average flash range compared to other models in it's class.

The barrel distortion on the Pentax Option 550 at it's wide angle setting measures around .54%. This is better than average, which is around .8%. Pincushion distortion measures around .62% at the telephoto end (which is a little higher than average -- but it's lens is also much longer than average, compared to other models in it's class).

If you need to take photos of subjects with vertical lines close the edge of the frame, you will see some curvature (but it's not as bad as other cameras in it's class). For these types of photos, you may want to zoom in a little bit to reduce it (this distortion is worse at the widest zoom setting).

You can also get some pretty good tools to correct for barrel distortion. I think Paint Shop Pro can correct it.

Helmut Dersch's Panorama Tools Photoshop-compatible plug-ins have a feature that can be used as a debarrelizer, too (but this product can be difficult to learn and use).

Richard Rosenman has a free photoshop plug-in called "Lens Distortion Corrector V1.0 that is very easy to use.

It uses slide bars to quickly correct distortion, while you're looking at a small version of the image.

It's not very sophisticated, but it's quick and simple to use, so you may find it suitable for quick "eyeball" correction of barrel distortion.

If you go to Richard's web site at http://www.richardrosenman.com/ , then select "Software", "Photoshop", you'll see a page of his plug-ins. Scroll down to the one for Lens Distortion Corrector v1.0 and click on the screenshot to download the .zip file. This is the direct link to the file:


If you don't have an image editor that can use this plug-in, then you can download irfanview from http://www.irfanview.com (it's free). To use it from Irfanview, go to Irfanview's "Image", "Effects", "Adobe 8BF Filters" menu.

As far as noise, this model has been critcized for higher noise levels, compared to other models using the same Sony 1/1.8" CCD. The newer Optio 555 is better in this area. Some have speculated that it's the way the sharpening algorithms work in the Optio 550. You may want to try reducing in camera sharpening. Also, shoot at lower ISO speeds in low light (which will reduce noise), versus leaving the camera set to Auto ISO.

Also, keep in mind that when viewing a 5MP image on screen at 100% size, it's much larger than you're ever going to print at. That's why you see noise blend in at typical viewing sizes.

You can get tools to reducenoise if very large print sizes are needed. Here are some good ones:

Neat Image: http://www.neatimage.com

Noise Ninja: http://www.picturecode.com

Noiseware: http://www.imagenomic.com/

Note that Noiseware is a free product. It does have some limitations (for example, it strips out the EXIF information, which contains information about the camera settings used). However, it seems to do a pretty good job with noise.

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Old Aug 7, 2004, 11:28 AM   #3
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How about posting a "grossly distorted picture". I have no idea what you are talking about. Steve doesn't do anything special in his sample shots and they don't look distorted at all. There are also shots up on pbase from 550s that look fine.

Take shots at various zooms in bright sunlight. If the images don't have the kind of gross distortion you are referring to there isn't a problem with the camera. If you still get this distortion in bright sunlight post some images – the camera could have a problem.

The lens is f4.6 at 5X zoom and that doesn't let you shoot in low light without the flash and within flash range or with a tripod or brace of some sort. By low light I'm referring to "in the woods" kind of low light. You can forget indoors without flash or tripod.

My guess is that all three of your problems are the same. You are shooting in limited light at full zoom and expecting good photos. Your 5X zoom is equivalent to about 188mm. If you are really good at holding the camera you can shoot at 1/150 second at 5x and get sharp pictures. That is a little slower that an experienced pro would consider sufficient but I'm giving credit here for your being really good at steadying the camera.

1/150 sec at f4.6 and ISO 50 or 100 requires very good light. Set the camera on ISO 100, zoom full out and take a look in the LCD at the shutter speeds you generate when aiming at various targets outdoors in the shade. If you don't view the images 100% or crop or print larger than 8 X 10 you could probably get away with 1/100 sec if you really work at steadying the camera. But the camera is trying to stick with the reciprocal of the focal length rule to give you 1/188 second shutter speeds. Once the lens is open to the full f4.6 it has no choice but to increase the ISO if you left it on auto. That gives noisy pictures. Limit the ISO or shoot in light too low for the ISO to give a decent shutter speed and you get motion blur in your shots.

Focus for indoor flash shots is a problem with most small cameras without a focus assist light. Try focusing on something the same distance with brighter light or better contrast. When you pre-focus by holding the shutter halfway you also hold the exposure, but with a flash shot the difference in the ambient light won't really affect the shot. Or put the camera in manual focus and use the scale to set the right distance. I don't have much luck using a LCD image to do fine focus even with LCD zoom, but maybe your near vision is better than mine.
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