'Waterproof' Camera Group Test (Q2 2009)
Pentax Optio W60
10.0MP | 28-140mm (5.0X) ZOOM | Waterproof 4m/13ft | $240/£190
Pentax has been making waterproof compact cameras for quite some time; the early Optio 33WR (which was only water resistant and not waterproof), evolved into the Optio WP in 2005, which allowed you to actually take pictures underwater. For 2009 Pentax has introduced the W60, which allows you to take the camera to 4 meters underwater, and features a versatile 28-140mm zoom lens (35mm equiv). The sensor records 10 Mp stills and 720p HD videos (although this is only at 15 fps), and this all comes in a compact rectangular package. In terms of features this is the most attractive package in this group test, even if cosmetically it may not be the prettiest. The W60 comes in three colors: Silver (shown here), Ocean Blue and Coral Pink.
- 10.0 effective Megapixels
- 28-140mm equiv lens with 5.0x optical zoom and up to 5.7x Digital Zoom
- Waterproof to 4m / 13ft
- Dust proof, cold proof to -10°C
- 720p (1280x720) Video at 15 fps, AVI format
- 2.5-inch LCD with 230,000 dot resolution
- ISO sensitivity from 50 to 1600 with 3200 and 6400 at a reduced resolution of 5 MP
- Auto ISO with selectable upper ISO setting
- 22 Scene modes
- In-camera Image Retouching
- Panorama assist mode and a digital wide mode
- Battery life 205 shots (CIPA standard)
Click here to view the specifications (opens in new window)
While not as compact as the smallest in this group test (the Z33), the W60 is still petite in dimensions, and with its rectangular shape and lack of protrusions, it should easily fit into any jacket pocket. There is a metal panel on the front of the camera, but the predominant build material is plastic. Compared to the other cameras in the test group, the W60 feels a little bit cheap and not as well made, and the lack of a hand grip combined with the finish on the front of the camera makes it a little slippery to use.
Specification wise the W60 is one of the most impressive in this group of cameras. The 10 MP sensor is not the highest resolution in this group (that honor is shared between the Canon D10, Panasonic FT1, Pentax W80 and Olympus Tough 8000), but to most users the difference between 10 and 12 MP is insignificant. The zoom range of the lens reaches from 28mm to 140mm (5x), which is the most useful in this group, and there is also digital zoom available (though we don't generally recommend using it). The W60 offers HD video recording at 720p (1280x720), though unlike the FT1 or W80 it does so at the reduced 15 fps (it can do a full 30 fps at VGA / 640x480 resolution). The W60 also offers an impressive ISO range from 50 to 6400 (3200 and 6400 are at the reduced resolution of 5 MP), and the W60 offers auto ISO with a user-selectable top ISO setting. There is also an impressive array of 22 scene modes for just about every situation you could think off.
Despite the impressive array of features, there are a few missing, the most noticeable of which is image stabilization. Pentax compensates for this by offering digital shake reduction, which simply increases the ISO setting to increase the shutter speed. We feel that with the longer telephoto reach, the W60 could be a more usable camera in low light conditions with either in-lens or CCD-shift image stabilization, especially as small sensor compacts don't produce fantastic image quality at high ISO settings. The other major flaw with the W60 is that it offers the smallest capacity battery in this group test (at 680mAh), and with all those features and extended zoom range it is disappointing to see the battery run dry so quickly. What's more the W60 tends to have a fairly inaccurate battery indicator which will go from full to red (almost flat) in a very short space of time. The LCD is also the smallest of this group (though the resolution is the same as other cameras in this group).
Operationally the W60 is fairly straightforward. It is not the quickest camera in the group, but it is by no means the slowest. Like all of the other cameras in this test, the W60 features a Program mode which allows the user to set some of the parameters on the camera, and the green button can be set to act like a function button in program mode (by setting it to Fn in the menu). Pressing the green button in program mode will bring up four (customizable) shooting parameters such as exposure compensation or ISO sensitivity. The Pentax menu system overall seems quite clunky compared to the clearer Canon system or the icon driven Olympus systems.
Image quality and performance
The Pentax W60 was middle of the pack performance-wise in testing. It was one of the slowest focusing cameras in this group taking 1.5 seconds to achieve focus lock (only the Olympus Tough 6000 was slower). The W60 managed to zoom from the widest setting to the most telephoto setting in 1.6 seconds, and while that may not sound great, you have to remember that 28mm-140mm represents the widest zoom range of all the cameras in this test. A time of 1.8 seconds to power up was not as quick as the Canon D10, but still acceptable in terms of compacts, and the W60 was one of the fastest in the group to write an image to card, taking only 1.2 seconds.
Taking a closer look at the images from the W60 reveals that it can capture detailed images with little noise in the shadows at lower ISO settings. While the images don't appear as sharp 'out of camera' as the Canon D10 due to lower in camera sharpening, it is still clearly better than the Tough 8000, Tough 6000 and Z33. The combination of the wide zoom lens and one of the longer telephoto reaches meant that the W60 was amongst the most versatile of all the cameras in the group, and impressively for a lens with the joint widest zoom range it exhibited no more chromatic aberration than the other cameras in the group.
The color reproduction, white balance and exposure of the W60 was very good, and although we did notice that in some situations it would drift towards the warmer end of the spectrum, this was not a common enough problem to be of real concern in daily use. There is a live histogram available by pressing the ok button to cycle through available view options in record mode. The Program (P) mode allows you to have some manual control of the camera, and you can set your most used functions to the function menu assigned to the green button. Auto focus performance was relatively consistent and accurate, despite the relatively slow focus speed.
The flash test results revealed that while the W60 did a relatively good job in terms of sharpness and detail, it used a little too much flash power and produced a result that did not retain as much ambient light as the D10; it was also equal worst performer in terms of red eye. At high ISO settings the W60 took a different approach to the D10, seeming a little more detailed but with both more visible noise and noise reduction artifacts. Up to ISO 400 it did quite a good job, but above that the image quality deteriorated noticeably. There are ISO 3200 and 6400 settings, but they are so noisy (and reduced resolution) that they are almost completely useless.
The W60 manages to translate its out of the water performance into good underwater image quality. However while the shutter button was easy to operate in the water, the other small buttons combined with the slightly ugly menu system meant that settings were not as easy to change.
The W60 is a great alternative to the Canon D10 if you feel that the latter is too bulky for you to carry around. With its versatile 5x wide zoom lens that starts at 28mm, wide ISO range (albeit with the top two settings at reduced resolution) and 720p HD video recording, it is surpassed in features by the FT1 and W80, but its the image quality of the W60 which lifts it above other cameras in this group with results at low ISO settings almost as good as the D10 or FT1. If you want a camera that you can use all the time, and occasionally use underwater the W60 is certainly worth a look.
- We like: Compact design, sharp detailed images straight from the camera, good colors and exposure, versatile with wide zoom range, 720P HD video recording, wide ISO range.
- We don't like: Not the most attractive camera in the group, no built in image stabilization, small battery
Jul 22, 2009
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