Point and Shoot Pity Party Part 5: Pentax IQ Zoom 160

This is Part 5 of a recurring series on basic point and shoot consumer cameras, the details of which can be found here.

To be offered something for the cost of shipping is a tough thing to turn down, particularly when one has the tricky habit of adopting point and shoot cameras that few people want.  On a recent post of mine about my "Point and Shoot Pity Party," a kind reader offered to send me a few examples of point and shoot cameras languishing in his possession for the cost of shipping.  I got only a general idea of what was coming my way but thought the endeavor would certainly be fun.  Among the treasures in the box was the Pentax IQ Zoom 160, a late model mega-zoom P&S that was among the top tier among traditional point and shoots of its era.  I quickly took to this camera, and spoiled it on a Spring outing with some fresh Ektar film to see just what it might be able to do.  

Front View (open)

Top View (extended) - talk about overcompensating!

Through the decently sized viewfinder.  The bracket marks actually compress as you zoom out to assist in focusing. If you focus on a close object, the top of the viewfinder screen will grey out to assist with parallax correction.   

Name: Pentax IQ Zoom 160
Format: 35mm
Type: Autofocus Point and Shoot 
Year: 1999
Features: Fill Flash, Flash Off, Night Portrait, Bulb with and without flash, Self Timer, Remote Trigger, Multiple Exposure, Spot AF and Forced Infinity Focus, Backlit top LCD, Panorama Mask, Parallax Mask in VF, Red Eye Reduction Mode.
Lens: 35-160mm, f/4.5-12.0 (11 elements in 7 groups).
Battery: 1 CR-123 cell.
Manual: http://www.derrybryson.com/manuals/Pentax/35%20mm%20Point%20and%20Shoot/IQZoom160.pdf

Cost: $5.50 (the cost of shipping)
Cost When New (and adjusted): $269.00 ($390.00)
Where I found it: Sent to me by a kind site visitor for the cost of shipping.
Why I got it: I was asked if I was interested and I said "sure am!"

What film: Kodak Ektar 100.

What I liked: 
  • Main Dial Control.
  • Adjusting focal points in VF when zoomed. 
  • Parallax mask.
  • Comfortable in Hand
What I didn't like: 
  • Had to turn past flash settings to get to flash-off settings, a minor quibble.
  • Main dial had a tendency to flip on easily by accident.
  • No EV Compensation or Backlight feature. 
A shot taken in varied lighting rendered well on the Ektar film, which is known for being a bit less tolerant of exposure errors. 

Though one can't select focusing points, locking on a focal point at the center of the frame and recomposing the image was a snap with the Pentax.

In a shaded setting, the IQ Zoom did a decent job of getting an image with just enough exposure and contrast, but some sharpness was lost. 

Taken at the same time as the shot taken with the Aiborg, this result came out more or less looking much the same as those from the Official Camera of the Death Star.

A little fun with the multiple exposure option.  Decent, in a strange way. 

An attempt at using the zoom to full extent.  Even on a bright day, it was no match for 100 speed film with its f/12 minimum aperture. 

The camera does close subjects quite well, as seen here.  Admittedly, the bokeh, like that of the Aiborg, is somewhat disappointing. 

Again, the camera handles varied lighting in scenes pretty well. 

Another close subject shot.  It certainly nailed the focus on the desired subject despite the open holes that were invitations to focus in the distance.  

As with most super zoom cameras, the best image results still seem to come from the wide end of the focal range. 

A little bit of motion blur evident as I attempt a quick grab shot with the IQ Zoom. 

Back lighting was handled OK by the Pentax, but the lack of even an EV compensation or backlight feature seems the one loss in the vast feature set. 

Can't quite tell if the blur here is a by product of focus or motion, but suspect the latter. 

A decent result in somewhat harsh light, but still a hint of motion blur in the left hand. 

Some backlit results came out better than others.  I generally like this shot. 

Even modest action didn't seem to be well handled by the IQ Zoom.  

Overall, this was a particularly fun point and shoot to play with.  Abundant with features and seemingly ready for anything, the camera does put quite a lot in a compact package to tote along mostly anywhere.  The challenge is that a camera like this seems poorly suited for 100 speed film, even when shooting even the most basic movements in full sun, or when extending the zoom outward.  

I'm certainly not done with the IQ Zoom 160, but feel this may be a better camera for me to test a few rolls of 800 speed film I'm hanging on to, rather than getting decent shots only when I stick to sunny landscapes taken at the wide end of its vast focal range.  More to come!