Pentax Optio W30 Review
Review Date: June 11th 2007
Author: Mark Goldstein
The Pentax Optio W30 is a new waterproof camera that can be used at a depth of up to three metres for 2 hours. The W30 is also weather-sealed and immune to dust and sand, making it a great camera for the beach. On the camera side, the Pentax W30 has a 7.1 megapixel sensor, 3x optical zoom lens (38-114mm) and a digital Shake Reduction mode for both still pictures and video. Other standout features include a 2.5 inch LCD monitor, 1cm macro mode, ISO 64-3200 and Face Recognition. I subjected the Pentax W30 to the ultimate test - a trip on a lifeboat, courtesy of the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) at their training college in Poole, UK. They certainly showed me what their job is all about, speeding along at up to 25 knots in a £2.5 million Tamar-class lifeboat, getting battered by waves and sea-spray. Carry on reading to find out if the Pentax Optio W30 survived the sea voyage.
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Ease of Use
The Pentax Optio W30 is a fairly compact, slim digital camera that just about fits in the palm of your hand, measuring 107.5(W) x 54 (H) x 23.5mm (D) and weighing around 140g. This is a camera that you won't notice carrying in a trouser/shirt pocket or a handbag. It has an under-stated appearance that is fairly attractive, but which isn't going to really wow anyone either, with grey seals around all of the important slots and compartments. A sticker on front of my review sample proudly proclaims that the Pentax Optio W30 is Class 8 waterproof, Class 5 dustproof and allows underwater photography. As mentioned in the introduction, the W30 survived a gruelling afternoon on a lifeboat in the English Channel. Despite getting soaked in rain and seawater, the camera was fully functional at all times. The Royal National Lifeboat Institute exclusively use the Pentax Optio W30 to record their daily activities, both in and out of the water, which is a great testament to the camera's ruggedness. It should easily survive your next beach holiday!
The 3x optical zoom lens is a non-extending model that has a protective clear cover in front of it, helping to keep things water and dust proof. It means that the lens is always visible, which is a little disconcerting at first. Apart from the lens and grey seals, this a very conventional camera in all other respects. The Pentax Optio W30 is a point and shoot camera with no advanced exposure controls, so it's not particularly complex in terms of its design. There are 11 external controls in total. The large 2.5 inch LCD screen dominates the rear of the camera, with most of the controls situated to the right of the LCD, including a thumb-operated zoom lever. The On/Off and shutter buttons are located on the top, battery and SD card slots on the left, and AV / DC In ports on the bottom. Pentax have even managed to locate the plastic tripod mount in the middle of the bottom of the camera.
The main menu system on the Pentax Optio W30 is straight-forward to use and is accessed by pressing the Menu button below the navigation pad. There are two main menus, Rec Mode and Setting. The majority of the camera's main options, such as image size, sharpness, metering mode and ISO Speed, are accessed here, so the Rec Mode menu has 15 options spread over 3 screens. Due to the large LCD screen and restricting the number of on-screen choices to 5, the various options and icons are very clear and legible.
|Lens Cover Open||Rear Controls|
If you have never used a digital camera before, or you're upgrading from a more basic model, reading the comprehensive and easy-to-follow manual before you start is a must. Unfortunately Pentax have chosen to only supply it as a PDF on a CD, and not as a printed manual. The large 2.5 inch LCD screen is the only way of framing your shots, so if you have to have an optical viewfinder, look elsewhere now. The various icons used to represent the camera settings are clear and legible, and the camera managed over 200 shots before the battery needed to be recharged, which isn't too bad.
The Pentax Optio W30 has a digital anti-shake system called Digital SR, which works in both still and movie shooting modes. Choose this scene mode and the Pentax Optio W30 automatically compensates for camera shake, which is a slight blurring of the image that typically occurs at slow shutter speeds. Unfortunately this isn't a mechanical-based system. Instead the camera just increases the ISO speed up to the maximum of ISO 3200, which allows for slower shutter speeds but also increases the noise levels. More experienced photographers will also already know how and when to manually change the ISO speed to help combat camera shake. The Digital SR is a good choice for beginners when shooting in low-light conditions, but be prepared for noisier images.
The new Face Recognition feature offered by the Pentax Optio W30 didn't make a great deal of difference if I'm being honest, as there's the tendency of the user to pre-focus on the subject – and obviously a face if taking a portrait – before fully pressing the shutter button anyway. Pentax have also only applied it to three specific scene modes (Portrait, Self-Portrait and Natural Skin Tone), rather than a general setting that applies to whichever shooting mode is currently selected, which rather limits its usefulness. Face recognition does work if the subjects are looking directly at the camera, but the W30 takes a while to lock onto the subject, and I think that the tried and trusted method of half-pressing the shutter button to focus and then recomposing the shot is a quicker and more reliable method.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
The start-up time from turning the Pentax Optio W30 on to being ready to take a photo is quite quick at around 2 seconds, and it takes 1.5 seconds to zoom from the widest focal length to the longest. Focusing is very quick in good light and the camera happily achieves focus most of the time indoors or in low-light situations, despite the lack of an AF assist lamp. The visibility and refresh rate of the 2.5 inch LCD screen are good, although the low number of pixels (115,000) does make the image a little grainy. It takes about 0.5 second to store a JPEG image, allowing you to keep shooting as they are being recorded onto the memory card - there is no LCD blackout between each image. Note that there is a few seconds delay if you try and playback an image straight after taking it. In Continuous mode the camera takes 1 frame per 1.2 seconds for up to 4 images at the highest JPEG image quality, which isn't particularly fast. There is a high-speed mode which gives 2.5fps, but the image resolution is reduced to 3 megapixels. Overall the Pentax Optio W30 is fairly quick in terms of operational speed.
Once you have captured a photo, the Pentax Optio W30 has an excellent range of options when it comes to playing, reviewing and managing your images. You can instantly scroll through the images that you have taken, view thumbnails, and zoom in and out up to 8x magnification. You can view slideshows with audio and effects, set the print order, delete, protect, crop, rotate and resize an image. There are a range of different effects, including red-eye reduction, digital filters, frames and in-camera movie editing. There's also a new Image Recovery option which will rescue deleted images, just so long as you don't turn the camera off first. The OK button toggles detailed settings information about each picture on and off, such as the ISO rating and aperture / shutter speed, and there is a small histogram available during both shooting and playback. When taking a photo, pressing the OK button toggles between the detailed information, the histogram and no information.
In summary the Pentax Optio W30 is an easy-to-use, unassuming point and shoot camera with the obvious attraction of the water and dust proofing.
PhotographyBLOG is a member of the DIWA organisation. Our test results for the Pentax Optio W30 have been submitted to DIWA for comparison with test results for different samples of the same camera model supplied by other DIWA member sites.