Pentax Optio WP review

Started Apr 10, 2006 | User reviews
rchalfan
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Pentax Optio WP review
Apr 10, 2006

I live in the US Virgin Islands and frequently snorkel. I bought the camera because it looked like a combination of features that would work for me.

With reasonable expectations on the part of the user, I would recommend it.

It is capable of good underwater photos if....

Mmmm, if.

If you can get close to the object (it goes without saying that the water needs to be as clear as possible).

If the object is not moving or you get lucky.

If it is bright daylight.

If you can focus on the small screen held a foot or two from your face.

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If you are not close, then image contrast is lowered by any particulate in the water, much like high altitude aerial photos. Strong processing can restore color and contrast, but like ANY strong processing, artifacts and noise will be present. I found that under reasonable water clarity conditions that around 2m (6 ft.) was a good maximum working distance for me.

I found it VERY hard to take pictures of swimming fish. The shutter delay is significant. That coupled with my difficulty in focusing at something a foot from me (see later note), I often ended up with a picture of the tail of a fish. So I would try to predict where the fish would be when the shutter tripped. Mixed success here.

It needs to be bright daylight for a number of reasons. Under real water conditions on the reefs here (even when it LOOKS pretty clear) if you use a flash it bounces back off of all the sediment and particulate in the water and generally unacceptably lowers the already low contrast. So I gave up using the flash. I think under some conditions, especially in a pool or in crystal clear water, it might be OK. Another reason for daylight, is that like most consumer cameras the image gets noisy when illumination drops. And if anything is moving, a slow shutter speed makes it even more difficult to get a good picture.

A problem that not everyone will have is focusing on the viewing screen. My eyes will NOT focus inside a meter (3 ft). If I get diopter lens inserts for the inside of my face mask I can solve this problem. So seeing a blurry screen made it harder to get pictures of moving things. I can see well enough that contrasty things that stayed put, like coral, came out OK. But coupled with the shutter delay, my eyes were a problem.

So my overall opinion is positive. It is REALLY CONVENIENT to take a little camera like this with you on snorkel trips (though I put a couple of fish floats on the strap, as it WILL sink). It was also nice to use on a boat as spray won't bother it. Not having a housing to worry about is very nice. And the maintenance the camera needs after a swim is minimal and easy.

So if you want nice pictures for casual recording of your "water experiences" this is a great choice.

Problems:

I thought the camera had failed only to discover that it is possible to put the battery in "turned around". I wouldn't think they would let you do that. I got the contact end down (I would hope I could figure that out) but it will go in either way, though the contacts aren't symmetrical. At least the battery made NO contact turned the wrong way, so there was no damage.

rchalfan's score
3.8
Average community score
4.1
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