FrontThe slender rectangular camera’s face is silver with the lens sitting just above center. The small lens does not protrude at all and is surrounded by a shiny metal silver ring with the lens specs embossed into it. The narrow rectangular flash, echoing the general shape of the camera, is situated to the upper right, with the Optio name unobtrusively embossed in the chassis below. The word Waterproof is printed in ocean blue below this, angled along the half-pill-shaped indentation that runs laterally along the front. A clip-like design element, whose only function is to hold the hole for the wrist strap, extends in from the left, echoing the shape of the indentation. The edge of the port door on the bottom of the W30 shows along the bottom of the front as well. **Back**The back of the camera is dominated by the large 2.5" LCD screen on the left, which is standard for most point-and-shoots. The edge of the battery/memory card door is visible along the left edge of the camera body. At the top right sits the lens toggle button, and just below, to the left, is the Playback button which serves to shift between Record and Playback modes. The thumb pad, with five raised dots, lies along the right edge of the camera. The 4-way controller is just below these last two elements, with the Self-timer/Burst button at twelve o’clock, the Focus button (flower icon) at three o’clock, the Mode button at six o’clock, the Flash button at nine o’clock, and the OK button at the center of the dial. The Menu button sits below and to the left of the 4-way, and the Trash button, which also functions as the programmable Green button, is to the right of this. **Right**The left side of the W30 shows only the clip for the wrist strap, anchored to the central, dark gray metal band that runs along the side and over the top. **Left**The Pentax Optio W30's left side contains only the battery/memory card door, with its release lock and thumb pad in the center. The words battery and SD are embossed above this, and an arrow to indicates the direction to push in order to open the door below. **Bottom**The tripod mount sits in the center of the W30’s bottom, with the port connection door housing the computer and DC connections to the right. This door also features an extra latch for a better seal. **Top**The dark gray band that encircles the narrow sides of the camera runs along the top with the words Optio W30 printed in white along it and the words 7.1 Megapixels printed in dark gray on the brushed silver chassis. An oblong shiny silver metal piece dominates the right side with, from left to right, the microphone holes, the speaker holes, the On/Off button, and the Shutter button.
ViewfinderThe W30, like most current point-and-shoots of this size, doesn’t have an electronic viewfinder. **LCD Screen**The 2.5" TFT LCD dominates the back of this small, slim camera. The special anti-refraction coating covers the LCD screen, which supposedly increases its angle of view (according to the booth rep). This seemed to hold true for the side-to-side angle that had nearly a 180-degree view, but the top to bottom angle was poor, with barely an estimated 90-degree view. This and the poor pixel count was something Pentax should improve, especially since they’re gearing the camera toward sports enthusiasts. In addition, sharpness could definitely be improved upon, as well as color saturation.
In standard viewing, the screen appears dark until the shutter is depressed, probably a power-saving function but awkward nonetheless. Contrast, brightness, and even sharpness are adjustable, and the highest settings of all these seemed the best for the poor conditions of the show floor. **Flash**Although the flash’s position on the upper right of the camera’s front is typical for a point-and-shoot, in this small model, it poses problems. In many test shots, unless the camera can be held in the right hand only, fingers easily slipped in front of the flash.There are a good range of flash settings, including Auto, Off, On, Auto and Red eye, On and Red Eye, and Soft, a reduced power option. The flash range was pretty poor, only 11.8 feet at wide-angle view and 9.8 feet at telephoto view. **Zoom Lens**The 6.3-18.9mm Pentax lens (equivalent to 38-114mm in 35mm camera lenses) on the W30 is a non-telescoping lens that does not extend out from the camera body, an advantage for the camera to remain compact. However, the trade-off comes in the camera’s extremely narrow aperture range, f/3.3 to f/4.0. Don’t expect to take stunning landscapes with this baby. The lens was also slow to respond to the zoom function, which is controlled by the toggle switch at the top back of the camera, though this could potentially be improved on the production model. A nice feature that Pentax incorporates is the Digital Shake Reduction mode, which increases the ISO to 3200 to reduce subject blur in low light. These features, upgrades from the W20 released last year, would be a particularly helpful feature for underwater photography.
**Model Design/Appearance**The squat, narrow, slim Pentax Optio W30 presents itself unobtrusively, yet it remains a simply attractive camera. The same aluminum alloy material that makes up the camera body is carried into the inside to make for a very durable package. The camera’s slim design is meant for the pocket. However, the lens has no cover, so without a case, it’s destined to get mucked up or scratched. A special SP coating supposedly keeps water from beading up on the lens. Let’s hope it works to keep it clear of dirt as well. **Size/Portability**At a tiny 4.2" x 2.1" x 0.93" size and weighing only 5.6 ounces with the battery and memory card loaded, the W30 is an easy shirt-pocket camera. Since this camera is meant for getting wet and dirty, its seals against moisture and grime are top-notch, achieving some of the highest ratings for these sorts of things by the people who go to pains to measure them. **Handling Ability**We found the Optio W30 difficult to handle because of its small size. It’s all too easy for the fingers of the left hand to get in the way of the flash. Handling with one hand is possible, so hopefully the Digital Shake Reduction will help with those low-light underwater situations. We’ll be testing this more fully in our labs when we receive a review model. The strap lug is nicely placed at the center of the left side, the slightly heavier side of the camera. We imagine it to balance easily from the wrist strap and be barely noticeable. **Control Button/Dial Positioning/Size**A tiny camera begets tiny controls, and the Pentax Optio W30 is no exception. While no smaller than other compact camera controls, these would still be hard for large and less nimble fingers to use. That said, the placement of controls was logical and uncomplicated. Unlike many point-and-shoots, the W30 doesn't have a mode dial to switch between record, playback, and other commonly accessed modes, but this omission is understandable since it would probably compromise the unit’s waterproof ability. The W30 also lacks a display button to change views on the display. This is handled by the OK button in the shooting mode, an efficient if not intuitive alteration of the style. The Playback button, with its dual function of switching between Record and Playback functions, is another example of this change in style, but one that the user can more easily adjust to. The choice of functions for the quad buttons is logical. Having the self-timer and burst settings, flash modes, focus modes, and modes handily selectable here was a good choice. It's also beneficial that the camera allows the user to add any additional functions which they would prefer to have at hand programmable into one of the three selectable Green Button options. **Menu**The Pentax W30’s menu is chock full of options, most easily navigated. One of the highlights of the menu structure is the option to reset the order of the menu items, so users can move more commonly used functions toward the top of the menu for easier access. The menu design is simple, with a half-tone-like screen containing the menu over the live preview or playback image. White tabs and text with dark gray tabs, while not bright and bold, were not especially difficult to navigate.
In the Playback menu, moving the cursor over each item brings up a screen briefly describing that function.
Ease of UseAlthough the W30 has a deep menu structure, there are many options for simplifying, including reordering the menus, programming the Green button, setting the Focus Limiter off, and turning the camera into Full Auto mode. The live histogram viewable in full display mode is small but easily readable. The problem highlights and shadow areas are highlighted on screen as well. Manual focus controls were easy to operate, though not that easy to actually focus with because of the poor screen resolution. The new Face Recognition function did not actually function on the show floor, either for the reviewer or for the floor personnel, who guessed that infrared signals in the Convention Center may be interfering with the camera’s settings. This function will be fully tested at DigitalCameraInfo’s labs when we get our flippers on a full production model. The camera’s auto locking doors are easy to open and close and ensure the guts are protected.
**Auto Mode**The Auto Mode on the Optio W30 is fully automatic, with no options available to the user, useful when handing the camera over to someone unfamiliar with it. There is also a Program mode that allows some options, including white balance, exposure compensation, and ISO settings. **Movie Mode**The following selections are possible in movie mode. Movie Shake Reduction uses the same Digital Shake Reduction feature available in the still settings and increases the ISO to 3200 to compensate for moving subjects in low light conditions. Only 20 seconds of movie time was possible with the internal 22 megabytes of memory at the higher quality setting. Zooming was possible while in movie mode.
Drive/Burst ModeSettings for this mode include self-timer, burst, and continuous (standard and high speed). The continuous high speed responded well with 5 shots per burst in about 2 to 3 seconds. Extensive testing of this option was not possible as the floor model did not have a memory card inserted. **Playback Mode**Even though the W30 only allowed 8x zoom in playback, it was still enough to pick out the noise and detail of the shots taken on the PMA show floor.
Three view settings are possible on the LCD in both shooting and playback modes: no information, minimal information, and full information—featuring mode, flash mode, picture quality, battery life, date and time, focus mode, and frame number. Slideshows transition from image to image with a wipe at intervals of 3 to 30 seconds, and movies are treated as stills. Navigation through captured images was pretty quick, with options for single image, nine image, and calendar viewing. Only single image views are suitable for immediate image review. Options for deleting single or multiple images or the whole card are possible, as well as transfer of images to a PC. **Custom Image Presets**The Pentax Optio W30 features a wide range of custom presets, with some not typically seen, including Museum, Report, and Text. The usefulness of these modes is questionable, except for maybe the text option. Many of these features will be explored in more detail in our full review.
**Manual Control Options**The W30’s manual control options are adequate, with typical settings found on most compact cameras. Unique features, like the Focus Limiter, Green Button controls, and 3200 ISO, are very helpful for this type of camera—a point-and-shoot used for outdoor or underwater fast moving subjects with quick changes between focusing ranges, say from a close-up of a coral reef sponge to a quick wide angle of that shark bearing down on you. The ability to change ISO is key, especially when the Auto setting is 400. It also defaults back to this setting when the camera is turned off and back on, so it’s important to be able to change it quickly. Linking ISO settings to a Green button would be a good first customization. **Focus***Auto Focus*Auto focus performed well, but some close subjects, especially under lower light conditions were difficult to assess with the low resolution of the LCD. Three settings are possible: full screen, spot, and panning focus. Only full screen focus was tested, and this did provide challenges to the telephoto settings of objects at various depths of field, but again, this is based on a preproduction model. *Manual Focus*Manual focus was pretty easy to access. All focusing options are accessed through one of the 4-way controls. The options are Auto focus, Macro, Infinity, Pan Focus, and Manual. Manual and Macro focus were tested. The manual focus controls were easy to use via the top and bottom keys of the 4-way. Focus speed was moderate. It was difficult to ensure correct focusing on the LCD on the show floor so focusing outdoors in daylight lower ISOs is probably much easier.
The macro function worked well and did indeed focus as close as the 0.5 inches cited in the spec sheet. With the Focus Limiter set to off, focus was easily switched from the letters on a page to a display twenty-five feet away. **Exposure Exposure compensation range for the W30 was typical, with a range of -2 to +2, settable in 1/3-stop increments. Metering**Three focusing modes—Multi-segment, Center-weighted, and Spot—are common to compact cameras, so no surprises here. However, the multisegment option seemed to overexpose images on the show floor. **White Balance**The Optio W30’s white balance settings performed as well as could be expected in the confines of the Convention Center. Auto White Balance left color casts on some surfaces. The manual setting produced similar results. **ISO**The W30 boasts an impressive ISO range for a compact camera— Auto (400), 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, and 3200. Many don’t go as low or as high as this camera, although it was not possible to adequately test the lower settings at the show. There’ll be further examination of this in the full review. **Shutter Speed**A good range of shutter speeds are utilized by the W30’s programmed AE electronic lens shutter, from 4 seconds to 1/2000 second, which is entirely adequate for users of this camera, especially with a 3200 ISO option. No manual settings of shutter speed are possible with this camera. **Aperture**The aperture range of this camera, f/3.3-f/4.0 is, in one word, pitiful. We assume Pentax was limited by the lens design having to remain within the confines of the camera body, but the limited depth of field places serious constraints on users looking to photograph any landscape-like images. Comparable waterproof cameras, such as the Olympus Stylus 770SW, have only a slightly larger range, f/3.5-f/5.0.
**Picture Quality/Size Options**The quality and size options of the W30 are good for a compact camera, with a maximum size of 7 megapixels, and options for 5, 4, 3, 2, 0.79, and 0.3 megapixels. Quality options include good, better, and best. **Picture Effects Mode**Digital filters can be applied in playback mode, including black and white, sepia, six color filters, color extraction (red, green, and blue from black and white), red-eye reduction, and soft.
**Connectivity***Software*Pentax has an agreement with ACD See to include their bundled image editing and printing software with all Pentax cameras. Exact software versions were not provided in the spec sheets. *Jacks, Ports, and Plugs*A computer USB port and a DC port can be found behind the port door on the bottom of the camera. These are typical for direct connection to a computer. *Direct Print Options*Like many other compact cameras, the W30 is PictBridge compatible, so it can be connected to any printer with a PictBridge connection to print images directly. PictBridge is a standard print format, so its inclusion here is right on par with many other cameras. Making the camera compatible with additional formats, such as DPOF or ImageLink, another format commonly used by Pentax, would make the camera even more compatible and widely desirable. *Battery***The power source for the Pentax W30 is a proprietary Li-ion battery, which the manufacturer says has a life of about 200 shots or a playback time of 240 minutes. These estimates will be tested in our labs on a review model, but this reviewer did notice that what was apparently a full or nearly full battery ran out during show floor testing. *Memory*The camera is compatible with SD and SDHC memory cards, a standard media for many compact cameras. The slim design of the W30 would likely prohibit incorporation of any other media card slots. Internal memory of 22 megabytes could only accommodate three high resolution images at most. **Other Features***Green Button* – Any of the W30’s menu functions can be set to be displayed and utilized via the Green button at the lower right of the camera back. This customizable option is a great feature, especially in the absence of a mode dial. *Focus Limiter* – This control, while on the Off setting and accessed through the menu (but programmable to the Green button) makes it easier to switch between focusing modes. This is a handy feature, especially for quick change situations.* *
**Value****The Pentax Optio W30 has a hefty price tag for a compact in this class. Shoppers looking for a standard point-and-shoot will probably steer clear, especially since better lenses and LCD screens can be found in other cameras with similar image resolution. However, the $300 price tag seems justified for the durable construction and waterproof ability, especially considering that it’s $100 cheaper than some comparable models. **Who’s This Camera For?***Point-and-Shooters* – Basic compact camera users may steer clear of the W30 because of the beefier price tag, but the waterproof, durable construction might reel in those with a few extra bucks. *Budget Consumers* – People with limited funds would probably prefer a 7-megapixel compact camera without the waterproof abilities, many of which are available for at least $100. *Gadget Freaks* – Techies will love the waterproof and dustproof slim design, perfect to impress your body-surfing or poolside friends with underwater stills or movies. *Manual Control Freaks* – There are plenty of manual controls, albeit in a limited range, on the W30. However, the absence of manual shutter and aperture settings will probably keep this crowd away. *Pro/Serious Amateurs* – While pros may be tempted by the rugged construction and waterproof abilities to use as a slim vacation camera, the lousy lens and LCD resolution of the W30 will totally turn them off.
******Conclusion**The Pentax Optio W30 offers some great features for a slim, pocket camera, like multiple scene modes, customizable menus, programmable control button, good macro focus range, and of course, the waterproof qualities. However, unless you’re only interested in shooting underwater shots, it remains difficult to recommend this camera due to the lens’ poor focal length and aperture range, and the inadequate LCD screen.
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