Pentax Optio WP Review
The Pentax Optio WP is an ultra-compact digital camera with the ability to be taken underwater and in adverse weather without the need for a bulky external housing. Its waterproof body can be submerged up to 1.5m (5ft) for up to 30 minutes. Thanks to this unique ability, the Optio WP can be taken nearly everywhere. The only limiting factor to its go-anywhere capability is its use of a relatively weak proprietary lithium-ion battery.
Given its 5 megapixel sensor, its 3X optical zoom lens and its rich feature set, this camera is well suited for general purpose photography and snapshots. Other notable features of the Pentax WP are:
- ISO sensitivity: Auto, 50, 100, 200 and 400.
- White balance: Auto, daylight, shade, tungsten, fluorescent and custom.
- Focus modes: Normal, macro, infinity, pan and manual.
- Exposure compensation: -2..+2 stops, 1/3 stop increments.
- Drive modes: Self-timer (2 or 10 seconds), continuous 1 FPS unlimited.
- Movie mode: 320x240, 30 or 15 FPS, with zooming and no sound or with sound.
- Voice recording: Photo-annotations, separate or synchronized with a picture.
- Metering control: Evaluative, center-weighed or spot.
- Image parameter adjustment: Sharpness, saturation and contrast.
- Panoramic assist mode.
- In-camera software redeye removal.
- Quick-delete and undelete feature.
Suitability - What is it good for?
Just like the vast majority of ultra-compact cameras, the Pentax Optio WP does not have control over shutter-speed, aperture and the focus-point. However, the WP shows the chosen exposure parameters and has an optional live-histogram with blinking highlights during recording and playback - this is not found on most ultra-compact cameras.
The WP is also quite good at focusing. It focuses faster and dramatically better than previous Pentax ultra-compact digital cameras which had trouble with low-contrast subjects. Since the WP may be faced with challenging situations, like bad-weather and underwater photography, this is particularly important. In such situations, the WP's multiple focus modes become increasingly useful: manual, infinity and pan. Each of these modes reduces the shutter lag by focusing the camera in advance. For manual focus, the photographer sets the focus using a distance scale. For infinity focus, the camera is set for maximum sharpness at infinity. Finally, pan-focus maximizes depth-of-field by setting the lens to the hyperfocal distance based on the current zoom.
Usability - How easy is it to use?
The Optio WP is fairly easy to use but not quite as simple as other Pentax cameras. There are plenty of harder to use cameras out there, it is just that Pentax normally does better. At fault here is the lack of a mode-dial and an interface which is overly iconic in some places (more details below).
The two initial impressions left by the Pentax Optio WP are how small it is and how sturdy it feels. Being a waterproof camera, we did not expect it to be that small. Indeed, the WP is significantly smaller than the Fuji F10 and to its Pentax water-resistant predecessors. Probably by necessity for its waterproof body, this camera feels very solid for its size. All buttons have a tough feel to them, even the zoom controller does not wiggle. The combined battery and memory compartment door is thick and double locked. Contributing to its durable build is a non-protruding lens covered by glass. This makes the camera more resistant to falls but also more prone to getting dirty in front of the lens.
A low-resolution 2" LCD with an effective anti-reflective serves as the Optio WP's only viewfinder. The LCD shows fluid motion and has a good angle-of-view except in continuous shooting mode when it simply blanks out. Not having an optical viewfinder, the WP's continuous shooting modes pretty much useless. Note that for shooting underwater, optical viewfinders are pretty much useless anyway.
Since this camera is strictly point-and-shoot, there are not many controls. Like all buttons on the WP, the shutter-release is somewhat stiff but it is easy to feel the halfway point. Most camera settings are changed by an easy-to-use menu system. The 4-way controller gives access to flash-modes, drive-modes, focus-modes and camera-modes. The latter replaces a mode-dial which is absent from the WP - this is the less friendly part of the interface.
Pressing the down-arrow summons the mode-palette which shows 15 icons. Each icon represents a camera mode. One problem is knowing what each icon represents without having to highlight it. Once it is highlighted, however, a title appears and an explanation can be display by the press of the green button. Another problem is that there are 20 modes, but only 15 icons. The missing 5 modes can only be used by replacing some of the icons using a slow process. Our opinion is that the camera should not have so many modes in the first place - that would result in a cleaner and simpler mode changing interface.
The Option WP allows customizing the green button with up to 4 functions which are selected sequentially. This is very useful to bring commonly used functions closer to being used. Another good usability feature is that the power-off behavior can be customized to reset or remember various settings. That is a useful feature which can prevent accidentally taking pictures with the wrong settings.
The Pentax Optio WP is mostly an average camera with the unique ability to go under water. For an ultra-compact camera, the WP is also quite sturdy. Its performance speed is average overall, with fast focusing and slow shot-to-shot speeds. Its image quality is above average in terms of sharpness and below average in terms of noise. It is the combination of a sturdy waterproof body and an average photographic performance which makes this a good camera. For those who have no use for underwater ability, it should be considered average.
Pentax WP Facts
|5 Megapixels Ultra Compact||ISO 50-400|
|3X Optical Zoom||Shutter 1/2000-1s|
|Waterproof to 2m for 30min||Custom white-balance|
|1 FPS Drive, Unlimited Images||Spot-Metering|
|320x240 @ 30 FPS Video Recording||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|2" LCD 85K Pixels||Secure Digital|
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