Recently, I found out one of my favourite camera vendors was leaving the local flea market. He had been running a stand at the flea market for a little over a decade and he was now in is mid seventys and age was taking a toll on him. He struggled to haul his wares around, and the exposure to the weather at the outdoor market wasn't helpful either. When it got really cold in the thick of the winter, he just skipped the market altogether. As the seasons revolve, it had come to that time of the year again; the weather was getting colder. This time, however, instead of skipping, he decided to call it quits. So, for his last appearance, he was selling everything, with an additional promise to donate whatever remained. Of all the items in his inventory that day, he had just a single camera. Who do you think is the best person to sell that camera to? Me, his most dedicated camera customer. He kept the camera off the shelf so I could have the first option at buying it — the last camera he will ever sell. This camera was the Pentax iQzoom 150sl, a beautiful compact, point and shoot camera.
When I took the camera home, it spent a better part of a month just sitting on my desk. Honestly, my interest in it wasn't as high as it should be. I felt I knew all I could about the camera just from the name on the pouch, and the physical size. Of course, I rightly guessed it was a pentax point-and-shoot, but what I didn't know was just how special this camera was. I still don't remember what made me pick up the pouch to look at the camera inside, but I remember how surprised I was when I first saw it. It was really beautiful to look at, and it felt quite cold to touch. I wondered, was it made of metal? I couldn't really tell. After all, it felt too light to be metallic. Or, was it made of plastic with a metallic coating, one that probably gave it its dull golden sheen? It was all very surprising. What wasn't surprising, though, were the plastic silver buttons that were obviously meant to complement the golden body. It was just a beautiful camera.
The camera had one more surprise to offer. Usually, the next thing I try to find after receiving a new camera is a battery. This camera, however, sprang to life when I pushed the power button. The single CR-2 lithium battery in it was still kicking; it was not dead after however long it had been in there. For me that was good news, though. It meant I could start testing this camera with one less thing to worry about.
For specs, my little research confirmed the body of this camera is indeed made out of metal — precisely aluminium. With a gold coloured metal body, it was positioned as an upscale luxury point-and-shoot camera. Beautiful body aside, this camera has a tiny lens with a rather long zoom range of 38mm, with a maximum aperture of f5.6 to 105mm, with a maximum aperture of f12. There are a total of five autofocus points, and although you cannot specifically select the points you want (like in a modern camera), you can use the spot AF feature to focus with just the middle AF point. Apart from auto-focusing, you have a large number of exposure modes that offer different flash and exposure settings — including a bulb mode! And, like every 90's point and shoot, this camera packs a dateback too.
On the down side, the shutter is not as fast with a max speed of 1/350. That in itself may not be a problem because, the slow lenses, advanced metering, and advanced flash systems compensate for the camera's shutter speed deficiency. The viewfinder is also not that large, it is actually quite tiny, but it's also really bright, and in the spirit of a true premium camera, has full dioptre adjustments.
Shooting with this camera is just as fun as the camera looks. Auto-focusing on the wide end of the lens is very fast. On the telephoto end, though, things get murky: focus acquisition is a little hard, and the image in the viewfinder shakes a lot. Image sharpness is great, although it's not consistent through all focal lengths. The telephoto end appears to be a tad softer than the wide end. Personally, when I can, I'd rather move around to frame my image while keeping this camera at the wide end to get that little extra image sharpness.
Another shooting feature on this camera is its panorama mode. In that mode, the camera shoots wide images, not by using a wider frame, but by retracting black bars over the standard 35mm frame. You can call this cheating, and I'll agree with you. I'd rather capture the entire frame and crop in post. But then, when you think about it a little further, this limitation is another avenue for artistic expression.
I do not have a count on the number of rolls I shot through this camera. Being as light as it is, I carried it around a lot. I was very happy my friend gave me the first option to purchase this camera. As for my friend, he opened his stand at the flea market again when it got a little warmer. He just couldn't stay at home.