Pentax Optio W10 waterproof 6Mp camera
Safe to use in the desert... and underwater
Review Pentax's WP series of waterproof cameras has received a boost with the W10, a 3x optical, 4x digital zoom compact boasting a six-megapixel resolution, shake-reduction technology and a hat full of scene modes.
While the camera's styling could be called bland, it's bland in a curvy way. All the edges are neatly rounded with signature chromed features and fitments adding a little sparkle. The predominantly plastic build belies the camera's proofing against water - it's airtight at a depth of up to 1.5m. It's safe from dust too, being proof against particles of dirt as fine as talcum powder. So the camera is well protected for almost any outdoor activity, snorkeling included.
The camera's remarkably compact, even with a 3x optical zoom lens. The optics stay safely housed within the camera body behind a protective screen. The lens provides a 38-114mm focal range. You also get large 2.5in colour screen, which boasts an anti-reflection coating and is nice to use in all but the brightest conditions, where the lack of an optical viewfinder becomes irksome, as with all such cameras. Underwater, however, the large screen comes into its own.
In terms of control and handling, the W10 presents a clean set of lines: just an on/off switch and shutter button on the top plate, while a four-way controller, menu, playback and zoom controls grace the back plate. You also get a small green button that jumps the camera back to an all-auto shooting mode or displays neat help screens when pressed. If you're scrolling any of the many scene modes, the same button helps you to reorder menu options within menus to your preference - a neat touch.
Among the 25 scene modes you get the usual range of landscape, portrait and night options, plus, perhaps unsurprisingly, an underwater setting and a few more unusual modes that include a soft focus setting and a synchro sound-recording option, which, to paraphrase a certain advert, does exactly what it says on the tin.
There's an underwater movie mode, too - movies can be recorded at a 640 x 480 and at up to 30fps, underwater or not - and a food setting, presumably for snapping your dinner before you eat it. Ideal for those heavy nights out when you've got three sheets to the wind on booze and can't remember what type of sauce you had on your donner kebab and chips. Yum!
The W10's focusing and metering work well, with nine-focus zone predictive AF, and evaluative, spot and centre-weighted metering. Exposure compensation is included too, which adds a measure of extra control beyond simply selecting another scene mode better suited to difficult lighting.
Image quality is good overall, with the lens only letting the side down at full zoom where I had some odd soft edges to my shots, or a strange halo effect on some highlights. General shots are fine and while noise is well controlled up to ISO 400, at ISO 800, the top sensitivity, things get a bit hazier, with marked noise intruding into areas of once colour - blue sky, say - or shadows and darker areas of a shot.
The Pentax Optio W10 provides a tough package ideal for the more active among you, though the plastic body may not live up to the rough and tumble of a drop from a great height when mountain climbing or an impact with a submarine rock. However, image quality is more than adequate for most snappers' requirements and the fact that you can go swimming/snorkeling with this camera or take it to the Sahara desert and not worry about sand getting into it, all adds to the attraction.