Pentax Optio W30 review
As a serious underwater photographer I use housed cameras with external strobes. A need to photograph fish in shallow rock pools however made the use of such systems virtually impossible - simply not enough space. I thus decided to invest in a small amphibious camera. I looked at the Olympus 1030sw and this Pentax Optio W30, and went for the latter because of price, much better macro facility with flash, and better placed lens, over seemingly similar other features.
Extensive usage in small rockpools revealed that the camera focused incredibly quickly, incredibly close to the subject (some fish photographed were less than 2cm short, with the camera 3cm or less away), and generally very accurately. I always use the flash.
Although user over-rides are limited on this automatic camera, setting it to a specific white balance (sun), lowest ASA rating (to eliminate noise), fixed centre spot focus and soft flash (to avoid over-burning at close range - seriously handy feature!), as well as placing EV compensation, white balance, metering and focusing under the "green" button for quick access, allowed me to configure the camera enough for my needs. Once configured like this the controls are very easy and logical to use.
In general, I am very happy with the results and while the image quality does not quite match that of my housed cameras, for my requirements (images printed will be only 6.4cm wide), more than adequate.
Conclusion: while I would not use it for every day photography, for the niche that I do use it I find this camera near perfect.
Some purple fringing on the edges with some softness in areas of high contrast (white shell on dark green algae, for example).
Due to refraction the flash angle isn't enough to cover the area to the right of the lens adequately when close to the subject (2-3cm) - I made a diffuser to angle the light across and now have few problems.
Use in cold water on a hot day, dipping in and out of the water can result in some lens condensation - leave it in cold water and it disappears, and keep camera wrapped in towel so it does not absorb heat and it stays away.
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