Pentax Optio 33WR Review

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Pentax Optio 33WR


Steve's Conclusion

Pentax has made a splash in the consumer digicam market with the introduction of the Optio33WR (the WR stands for Water Resistant); this camera is small, stylish, sturdy and weatherproof -- something we haven't been able to say about many digicams except for the Olympus Stylus 300 or the Stylus 400. There are a number of cameras out there that can be used with affordable underwater housings, but this adds to both cost and bulk. The Optio33WR employs a sturdy plastic exterior and durable rubber materials on the inside to seal gaps and prevent moisture from entering the body; it is rated JIS (Japanese Industrial Standard) Class 7, which means that it is immersion resistant. Most photographers stop shooting when the rain starts falling to prevent water damage to their camera; you can keep shooting with the Optio33WR, and the only precaution you'll need to take is drying the water droplets off the lens so that the shot isn't ruined!

The Optio33WR is a 3.2 megapixel 2.8x optical zoom point-n-shoot that's easy enough for a beginner to use, offering an automatic Program mode as well as a variety of scene modes programmed for unusual shooting conditions. Intermediate users will appreciate the ability to set the camera's white balance, metering mode, ISO, exposure compensation, sharpness, saturation and contrast, but the advanced user will find that manual, aperture priority, and shutter priority modes are not included. In addition to the movie mode, which lets you choose resolutions of 320x240 or 160x120, the Optio33WR offers a time-lapse recording feature, which lets you set the time to start shooting, the duration of the interval between shots, and the number of frames - the camera will then begin operating unattended. Because of its water resistant rating, we were surprised that the Optio33WR has audio capability for the recording of voice memos and in movie mode.

The Pentax 2.8X optical zoom lens produces sharp results throughout its range, but with noticeable barrel distortion at extreme wide angle and pincushioning at full telephoto. The operation of the optical zoom is smooth and quiet, but not continuous; it moves through its 37-104mm range in 12 distinct steps, more than adequate for composing most shots.

The Optio33WR's shooting performance is good. From power-on till the first image was captured measured about 2.5 seconds. Shutter lag, the delay between depressing the shutter and capturing the image, was 2/10 second when pre-focused and 9/10 second including autofocus time. The Optio33WR has a "Snap" scene mode that is claimed by Pentax to reduce autufocus time; using it, autofocus shutter lag improved to 6/10 second. Shot-to-shot delay averaged about 2.3 seconds. The Optio33WR offers two continuous shooting modes: Multiple Continuous, which captures 4 1024x768 images in a single frame in under 2 seconds, and Continuous, which captures 6 full-size 2048x1536 images in under 5 seconds. These timings were obtained using a 256 MB SD memory card, with the camera set for an image size of 2048x1536 at best quality with flash off, and include viewfinder delay, photographer response time, and image capture - they are numbers you can reproduce in the real world. In continuous mode, the LCD viewfinder blanked during image capture; you'll be happy that an optical viewfinder is included so you can follow a moving subject while taking continuous shots. The Optio33WR is responsive enough for you to capture many unposed moments and images of your children's sports activities.

Outdoors, the Optio33WR produces good results, both well-exposed and nicely saturated. The 2.8X optical zoom lens has enough range, 37-104mm in 35mm equivalence, to provide flexibility in composing your shots and is sharp enough to produce pleasing 8x10-inch prints. The LCD viewfinder has no anti-reflective coating and its brightness can not be adjusted; we found it difficult to view in direct sunlight, so you'll be using the zoom-coupled optical viewfinder on bright days.

Because of the limited flash range and 37mm wide angle focal length, you'll realize the best indoor results when shooting portraits of individuals and small groups; capturing an image of a large banquet room is beyond the Optio33WR's capability. You'll be able to include yourself in group portraits because it is equipped with both a tripod socket and self-timer. We did notice some drop off in illumination at the corners of shots taken with the zoom at extreme wide-angle. Although it has no focus-assist lamp, the Optio33WR's autofocus system was quite effective in low ambient light, as was the LCD viewfinder. The Optio33WR was also very effective at squelching its flash during macro-photography, and would make an good camera for online auction product shots.

With its ease of use, wealth of features, and very good image quality, the Pentax Optio33WR offers alot of value at its MSRP of under $350. Yes, you'll be able capture high-quality images of family events, travel, and your childrens sports activities. But the sun doesn't always shine, 71% of the earths surface is covered by water, and your children splash in the tub; the Optio33WR is able to capture the moments of your active life that would otherwise go unrecorded, and that by itself is worth the price of admission.





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