Pentax Optio W60 Review
Pentax's new waterproof model, the Optio W60, features a 10-megapixel imaging sensor, 28mm wide 5x internal optical zoom lens, 2.5" LCD screen, face detection technology and smile shutter mode. They have also included blink detection to help stop you from taking pictures when your subject blinks. While a lot of these features are new, the main idea of the camera has not changed. It still has JIS Class 8 Waterproof and JIS Class 5 Dust proof performance. This allows you to capture images and video up to 4 meters below the surface for up to 2 hours. It also includes underwater shooting and video modes to assist you in recoding in these conditions. Another addition is the option to record 720p HD video (1280x720) at 15 fps along with the standard 640x480 30 fps video.
The body of the camera has been slightly redesigned to make it easier to operate with one hand. The internal zoom lens is very nice because it is always protected. The zoom controls on the back of the camera are easily operated with the thumb while still being able to press the shutter release on top at any point. The rest of the buttons on the back are small but well labeled and well spaced so that they are still easy to push. The menu systems are the same as previous Pentax models and are very easy to navigate. The 2.5" LCD screen is bright and very easy to see in all lighting situations including bright sunlight and low-light situations as the camera does an excellent job of gaining up, although it does get very grainy.
While shooting in water, the camera does an excellent job when the water is clear and there is enough light. Our sample underwater picture was taken in a partially cloudy, but well lit stream. We also tried to take some samples at the local outdoor pool. This provided us with a problem. In full sunlight we found out that the screen is almost impossible to see when you are underwater with the camera. This makes it very hard to frame your images. We also noticed that in the cloudy water the subject had to be incredibly close to the camera in order to pick up any color other than blue.
Performance from the Optio W60 is almost identical to that of the W30 that Pentax introduced last year. On start up, the camera is able to capture its first image in just 2.7 seconds. The camera's shutter delay, the time it takes for the camera to capture an image after the shutter release has been pressed, is very fast at just 1/10 of a second when the camera is pre-focused and just 4/10 of a second when allowing the auto focus to work. In single shot mode, I was able to capture 5 images in 13.1 seconds without the flash and 5 images in 13.5 seconds with it. These come out to approx 2.6 seconds per image. The flash charges very quickly keeping the camera delay similar to when you are not using the flash.
The camera also features two burst modes. Continuous burst mode captures a little over 1 fps, but after the first 5 images the camera starts to slow as the buffer fills. When using high speed burst mode, the camera will only record with a 5-megapixel size image, but captured 7 images in just 1.9 seconds before the buffer filled. Neither of these burst modes allow for use of the flash. All of our tests were completed using a Lexar Professional 133x Speed 2GB SD memory card, program shooting mode, ISO auto and all other settings at the factory defaults. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
Image quality of our outdoor images was very pleasing. The camera produced excellent exposures in most of the pictures, however, in the cannon shot the image seems slightly overexposed on the front of the cannon as well as around the tops of the trees. The camera was able to produced rich, natural colors, and distortion like edge softness and chromatic aberrations were controlled very well; a nice improvement over the previous models. The 28mm wide 5x optical zoom covers a range of 28-140mm (35mm equivalent). This makes the camera great for travel as the wide end is ideal for shooting vast landscapes and group portraits. The telephoto end is great for singling out individuals in a group as well as using it to help frame your landscape shots. 140mm is not enough, however, to get you incredibly close to a subject that is off in the distance.
The Optio W60 performs just as well indoors as is did out. The exposures are very good and colors are very realistic with natural skin tones. When shooting in portrait mode, the camera raised the ISO to 400 when using the flash. This is a little higher than we like to see since the room was not dark. At ISO 400 the grain is not too bad and should not show up in most sized prints. This can be fixed by setting the ISO to Auto with a Max. ISO of 200 or less (the default is 800 or less). The camera also has a very impressive macro mode. When using the flash in macro mode, we did notice a little over exposure in our candy shot. The camera also includes a 1cm macro mode that gets you closer to the subject than just about any other camera we've tested. The flash also works with this mode, but is not controlled very well either.
The W60 has added the ability to shoot video in 1280x720 HD resolution at 15 fps. This is a great addition to the standard resolutions of 640x480 and 320x240. The quality of the video in 640x480 (30fps) mode is very good. The exposures are good and the video runs very smoothly. The camera also did a descent job when recording audio, however, any loud noises or yelling that takes place too close to the camera ends up being distorted. The HD mode also produced good results. Video is relatively smooth, even with the slower frame rate, but the exposure system had a little problem. If you look at our HD example on the samples page, you can see the two kids in the distance are a bit "blown" out.
Powering the W60 is a 3.7v 680mAh rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery. The rechargeable battery provided us with enough power to capture about 100 images and several videos before needing to be recharged. I was not able to complete all of the tests before I had to recharge, which was a bit disappointing. You will definitely want to keep an extra battery charged and on-hand at all times; this will help you to not miss out on a good spontaneous photo opp. Also included in the box is an external battery charger, making it very easy to keep that second battery charged.
Bottom Line - The Pentax Optio W60 is an easy to use and very versatile, go anywhere camera. With various pre-programmed shooting modes and the one-push green "Easy" mode, the W60 is easy enough for anyone to use. While many features are the same as found on the W30, the 10-megapixel imaging sensor, HD movie mode and 28mm wide 5x optical zoom make great additions. Overall, we found that shooting performance and image quality were great for a camera in this class. With a MSRP of US$329, this is an excellent deal for anyone that travels or spends a lot of time around water.
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