Pentax Optio WPi Review
The Pentax Optio WPi is the big brother to the Optio WP
we reviewed last year, and incorporates many of the features like the water resistant JIS
Class 8 waterproof rating, 3x optical zoom lens and 2.0-inch LCD, but with increased resolution
at 6-megapixel. This is a versatile point-n-shoot model that can be used by any member of your
family, whether you're at the beach, by the pool, or even in the water. Its fully automatic
"Green" mode is perfect for those beginners who like simple operation, while the Program AE and
various scene modes let users explore their creative side.
Like the WP, ergonomics were good. Being about the size of a candy bar, it fits nicely in your hands (even my large hands), with the controls spread out in a comfortable manor. The Menu system is logically organized, allowing for easy navigation and changes to camera settings. Its 2.0-inch LCD worked well in various lighting conditions.
Outdoors I had no problems framing in bright sunlight, but indoors the display fails to "gain up" which sometimes made it difficult to frame the subject when in very dim lighting. The only aggravation I had with the LCD was when using the camera's power saving features, the backlight turns off until you depress the shutter release. Depending on the time you have set (5 seconds is the factory default), determines how long you have until it gets darker. Indoor this wasn't much of a problem, but outdoors it made framing very difficult. But, this is easily remedied by either tapping the shutter release or turning the power saving feature off.
At first glance, you'll probably ask yourself "how can that thing take pictures underwater?" But, with a quick flip of the battery/memory card door, you can see how this is accomplished. There's a rubber gasket inside the door that blocks out any precipitation. However, even though this camera is capable of capturing images underwater, the JIS Class 8 waterproof rating limits it to 1.5 meters (about 5 feet) for no more than 30 minutes.
Shooting performance was good for a camera in this price range. From power up to first image captured measured about 3.5 seconds. Shutter lag, the delay between depressing the shutter and capturing the image, was 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and 6/10 of a second including autofocus time. The shot to shot delay averaged about 2.3 seconds without the use of the flash and about 2.6 to 3.5 seconds with the flash, depending on subject distance. The Optio WPi offers two continuous shooting modes: Continuous, which captured 4 images in a about 2.8 seconds, while HS (High Speed) Continuous captured 9 1280x960 images in about 1.6 seconds. It then takes about 7 seconds to clear its buffer and continue shooting. When using either of these modes, the LCD viewfinder blanks during image capture so following moving subjects will be difficult. These timings were obtained using a Sandisk Ultra II 512MB SD memory card, image size/quality set at 6M ***, flash off, with all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
The WPi features a Pentax 3x optical zoom that helps produce sharp images throughout its range, with average barrel distortion at wide angle and slight pincushioning at full telephoto. The operation of the optical zoom is smooth and quiet, but not continuous; it moves through its 38-114mm range in 10 distinct steps, more than adequate for composing most shots. The 9-point autofocus system did very well in most situations, however it would benefit greatly from a focus-assist lamp when shooting in low ambient lighting; focus will fail more often than not in these conditions.
I was pleased with our outdoor samples. Using the 6M *** mode produced sharp images that showed both good overall exposure and color balance. Noise levels were average for a consumer digicam, more noticeable in areas of high or low contrast. When shooting people photos in portrait mode, facial features are well defined and skin tones are very natural. Like we mentioned several times, the WPi can be used underwater and even includes a scene mode especially for times when exploring the depths of your swimming pool, etc. I found it captured relatively sharp images underwater. We used the macro focus option and were able to take a decent shot of a quarter laying in the muck of a pond. Just remember to follow the limitations of its JIS class 8 rating.
Indoors it produced good results when shooting portraits of individuals from about 5 feet away, using the mid telephoto end of the lens. When doing so, flash exposure is good. The WPi's flash covers a typical range of about 10 feet at wide angle, with the sensitivity set to ISO Auto. We found it was sufficient when shooting in mid sized rooms, but lacks the power to illuminate the subject and background in large open areas. Its macro focus mode works very well, allowing you to focus on subjects as close as 0.4 inches (0.6 meters.) It also does an excellent job of controlling the flash output to ensure your subject is not over exposed.
Movie mode captures QuickTime video at 320x240 with sound. The length of a clip is limited by the amount of space left on your SD card. I was a little disappointed to see that Pentax has not yet upped the resolution to 640x480 on these models. Our movie samples were nothing spectacular, showing the usual amounts of compression noise.
Battery life was pretty good for a compact model. Pentax claims that their D-Ll8 3.7v 710mAh pack can power the camera for up to 180 shots or 230 minutes of continuous playback. We had no trouble capturing about 90 samples and several movies, along with other tests before the battery was exhausted.
Bottom line - Pentax has yet again created a "cool" digicam that can capture great photos whether you're at home, in the office, or taking a dip in the pool. With 6-megapixels, you have plenty of resolution to work with and will have no problem making beautiful 8x10-inch or larger prints. Priced at around $299, it offers an excellent value for such a versatile little camera.
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