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Pentax Optio W90

Pentax Optio W90 rugged camera

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With enough tough credentials to survive a warzone, it's surprising that the W90 keeps coming up with interesting features. Front-mounted LEDs on cameras to help with lighting macro modes are nothing new, but the W90's arrangement of three bright lights clustered around the lens is unusual.

Pentax Optio W90

Illuminated macro mode from three LEDs around the lens

They illuminate when you select the W90's Digital Microscope mode, which allows extremely close focusing. Indeed, it worked well with the subject just under 1cm from the front element. The extra light is a necessity for ad hoc macro shots as it prevents the camera shadowing the object. The drawback? The W90's maximum resolution in Digital Microscope mode is a miserly 2.1Mp.

Regarding the other features, these are a fairly familiar bunch. There's an effective face detection mode, including a surprisingly reliable smile mode, which as the name suggests, waits for the subject to crack a grin before taking the picture. In a nod towards purists, there's a bracketing mode: keep your finger down and the W90 takes three pictures – one at what it thinks is the correct exposure and one a stop either side.

Continuous shooting in best-quality mode happens at a tedious frame per second although you can up the speed to 5fps if you're willing to use ISO 3200 or higher, and reduce the resolution to 5Mp. However, the buffer will only accommodate six shots before expiring and flashing a "Data being recorded" message.

Pentax Optio W90

Will outlast its owner in the desert

Power-on happens in just over a second, and the shot-to-shot time is around two seconds. It isn't rocket-like, but unless an important scene is unfolding in front of you it's unlikely to be an issue. The lens is good and sharp, reaching from 28 to 140mm in 35mm terms, and offering a reasonable aperture range of f/3.5-f/5.5.

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