Pentax Optio S12 – Jankuary Camera that Meows

By Hamish Gill

I thought I would kick of my Jankuary experiences with a cheap as chips Pentax digital point & shoot – or as they are called these days – digicam. Before I say anything else though, I just want to mention that I bought this Pentax Optio S12 solely because it meows like a cat when you turn it on and when you take a photo.

There’s actually 3 options for sounds for both the action of turning the camera on and taking a photo. The other 2 for each setting are fairly conventional beeps and shutter sounds. For some reason though, Pentax decided that the 3rd option for both would be a meow. And why not I say. It certainly made me smile, and my younger daughter – as a bit of a cat lady in making – thinks it’s brilliant.

Of course, it’s also a camera so I should probably talk a bit about that. The Pentax Optio S12 is a 12mp CCD based camera from 2008. Aside from the meowing, it’s a fairly basic camera with few settings and very little going for it aside from its tiny size. This camera really is very small indeed – so small it’s almost a little tricky to hold comfortably, but it does go into a pocket almost unnoticed.

Pentax Optio S12 back

The Pentax Optio S12 also, somewhat conveniently takes the same battery as my current digital camera of choice – the Pentax Q7. In fact, I paid less for this camera, battery and charger than I would have done for a spare battery and charger for the Q7, so really in that sense it basically cost me nothing, and for that reason alone I was happy to give it a run.

I took it out with me on two little outings over the first week of January. One was when visiting some friends, and the next was on a day out with my wife and youngest kid. The day out with friends only really gave me a shooting opportunity when we popped to a nearby village for some dinner. We parked up and walked into the village where there were a few shops and a Lamborghini garage…! I took a couple of shots in the village, nothing too exciting. The Pentax Espio S12 worked fine at the wider angles, but it’s limited ISO range and slower lens at the long end of the zoom meant it struggled with lower shutter speeds, and thus blurry photos on some occasions thanks to the very dull weather.

Janky Pentax Espio S12

The Pentax Optio S12 also struggled with higher contrast lighting thanks to its limited dynamic range. It couldn’t ever really deal with the very slightly brighter sky on the odd occasion there was a slight break in the otherwise basically solid grey sky.

Janky Pentax Espio S12

That said, I quite like the look of this particular image.

Janky Pentax Espio S12

The Lambo garage was a bit of a surprise. Turns out this is a particularly affluent bit of Berkshire. I used to love supercars when I was a kid. I mostly find them brash and ugly these days. They just look plasticky and crappy I think. I did quite like the colour of this one though. Even on the rubbish grey day it really popped. I wouldn’t own one mind. Anyway, I thought the tiny Pentax did an ok job here too.

Janky Pentax Espio S12 Janky Pentax Espio S12

The next outing with the Pentax Optio S12 involved a day out in Hereford. We took the kid to a play centre then went for a wonder around the town. I must admit, I did enjoy the feel of snapping cheap snaps of the football ground and car park. It gave me the feel I used to get out of shooting point and shoot film cameras before that activity started costing about a pound a bloody photo… (I’m exaggerating slightly, but you take my point).

Janky Pentax Espio S12

This shot shows just how much distortion the lens produces at the wider angle end.

Janky Pentax Espio S12

The final test – and fail – of the Pentax Optio S12 was a low lit shot in the place we went for lunch. Too little light/too high ISO and the little Pentax seems to suffer from banding. A product of age, or just it being a crappy camera, I’m not sure. Probably the former. Either way, I’m not going to lose much sleep since it’s unlikely I will use the camera again.

Janky Pentax Espio S12

In conclusion

The Pentax Optio S12 is a tiny camera that takes ok-ish photos as long as you don’t mind the distortion, low dynamic range, and banding in low light… joking aside, I did have fun with this tiny camera. It did act as a little reminder that carrying a crappy camera just for the activity of seeming snaps of nothing is something that I enjoy and just don’t really do with my iPhone or even the Pentax Q7 as much as I could. Perhaps this is the fun of a Janky camera as play. Perhaps this is the whole point of Jankuary. I’m certainly having fun and enjoying being creative already!

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About The Author

By Hamish Gill
I started taking photos at the age of 9. Since then I've taken photos for a hobby, sold cameras for a living, and for a little more than decade I've been a professional photographer and, of course, weekly contributor to 35mmc.
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Comments

Alexander Seidler on Pentax Optio S12 – Jankuary Camera that Meows

Comment posted: 12/01/2024

Ok-ish ;-)
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Paul Quellin on Pentax Optio S12 – Jankuary Camera that Meows

Comment posted: 11/01/2024

Lovely article Hamish. I can't help but feel this is to be encouraged generally. Picking up old, inexpensive cameras and using them where they might otherwise be scrap. The article reminded me that with cameras like this we may be less inclined to take time over making serious images and somehow just grab quick candids of things that matter... like family. Note to self to point the little Konika 35EF at Mum whilst I am here on this visit.
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Ibraar Hussain replied:

Comment posted: 11/01/2024

Well said. The obsession with higher resolution expensive digital mirror less cameras and smartphones has not made a single photographer a better one and hasn’t resulted in any photos being ‘better’ than anything shot over the last 100 years. These little gems have character and a real charm which isn’t present in over processed snaps taken by the latest phones and cameras.

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Eric on Pentax Optio S12 – Jankuary Camera that Meows

Comment posted: 11/01/2024

Nice. Very nice. Now I want to drag out my Olympus Camedia and give it another spin.
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John replied:

Comment posted: 11/01/2024

I found that camera quiet handy for a day trip with reasonable quality photos till I had it stolen on holiday

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Hamish Gill replied:

Comment posted: 11/01/2024

DO IT!!

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Hamish Gill replied:

Comment posted: 11/01/2024

When was this?

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Ibraar Hussain on Pentax Optio S12 – Jankuary Camera that Meows

Comment posted: 11/01/2024

I'm on a crap camera journey lately. I'm scouring ebay for some throw away stuff. It's great fun and a challenge!
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Hamish Gill replied:

Comment posted: 11/01/2024

Yeah, 100% this has defo taken me back to my earlier explorations of p&s film cameras when they were cheap

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Ibraar Hussain replied:

Comment posted: 11/01/2024

I’ve just bought a Minolta X1 8MP compact - the last they made. From 2006 I think. For £30. Looking forward to using it in anger

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Ibraar Hussain on Pentax Optio S12 – Jankuary Camera that Meows

Comment posted: 10/01/2024

What a delightful review and the photos have so much character! I want one, have to get one if only for the lovely form factor and especially the Meow!!! Thanks!
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Tony Warren on Pentax Optio S12 – Jankuary Camera that Meows

Comment posted: 10/01/2024

Hello Kitty perhaps?
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