Cameras

Pentax Optio W30 Digital Camera Review

Read a digital camera review of the Pentax Optio W30 waterproof digital camera.

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Testing / Performance

Color*(5.26)*

Using the Pentax Optio W30 we snapped images of a GretagMacbeth color chart and uploaded them to Imatest software. The program used the most accurate picture from the W30 and compared its colors to those of the original color chart. The chart below is modified by the software to show the ideal colors in the vertical rectangle of each tile, the Pentax W30’s colors in the outer frame, and the luminance-corrected ideal in the inner square.

W30-Colors.jpg

Each of the 24 color tiles are plotted on the graph below. The ideal colors are depicted as squares and the W30’s colors as circles. The center of the image is unsaturated and the outer edges are more saturated – so if a circle is bending outward from where it should be, it is oversaturated.

W30-ColorER.jpg

Many of the colors aren’t where they should be. Many of them are undersaturated too; it is surprising to see the reds undersaturated as that is one end of the spectrum that most digital cameras oversaturate specifically to enhance Caucasian skin tones. The W30’s colors were undersaturated at 97.11 percent. The mean color error came out to an awful 11.4, giving the camera an overall poor color score of 5.26. This is even lower than the Pentax W10’s awful 5.56 mark.

Resolution*(5.2)*

We secured the Pentax Optio W30 to a tripod and snapped pictures of an industry standard resolution chart for this test. We used different apertures and focal lengths to be sure that any bias from the lens was eliminated. We uploaded the images to Imatest software, which sorted through all the pictures and selected the sharpest one. That image was taken using a 14mm focal length, an aperture of f/3.9, and the lowest ISO 64 setting.

W30-Res-sm.jpg


Click to view high-resolution image

The 7.1-megapixel digital camera didn’t do a very good job of keeping the resolution chart sharp. Even in the center, some of the smaller lines blur together into an almost colorful soup. There is a lot of barrel distortion evident from the bowed black line on the bottom of the picture, accompanied by heavy purple fringing. Add to that the overall washed out look that only fades worse in the corners and the blurriness too. The entire right edge is blurrier than the rest of the image especially in the upper corner.

Imatest output numerical results in units of line widths per picture height (lw/ph) to describe the sharpness. More specifically, that unit of measurement describes the theoretical number of alternating black and white lines of equal thickness that could fit across the frame without blurring. The Pentax W30 resolved 1473 lw/ph horizontally with 6.5 percent oversharpening and 1327 lw/ph vertically with 0.6 percent undersharpening. By way of comparison, the 7.1-megapixel Canon A570 read 1794 lw/ph horizontally and 1656 lw/ph vertically. The numbers back up what the eyes can see: the Pentax W30’s resolution isn’t very good.

Noise – Auto ISO*(1.38) *

When set to the Auto ISO setting and positioned in a studio with 3000 lux on the chart, the W30 automatically selected an ISO much too high. It selected an ISO 250 setting and produced more noise than it should have in such brightly lit conditions.

Noise – Manual ISO* (4.88)

*The Pentax Optio W30 has an expansive manual ISO range that reaches from 64 to 3200. We measured the noise at each ISO setting and plotted it on the chart below. The horizontal axis shows the ISO settings and the vertical shows the percentage of the image lost to the speckled stuff.

W30-Noise-GR.gif

Noise steadily rises with each increase in ISO sensitivity. The first two ISO settings are comparable with the Pentax W10’s, but the W30 has much more noise at ISO 200. At ISO 400, the Pentax W30 has much more noise than the older W10. Beyond ISO 400, the speckled noise is easily seen to the naked eye in even a 4 x 6-inch print. The scary thing is that these images were taken in optimal studio lighting – just wait until the lights go dim!

Low Light*(5.14)*

The studio lights were dimmed for the next test, which challenged the camera’s ability to photograph subjects in low light. We took pictures of the color chart at diminishing light levels of 60, 30, 15, and 5 lux. At 60 lux, reading is still a comfortable endeavor. At 30 lux, readers resort to squinting but can still get the job done. 15 and 5 lux is very dark and is when most people simply put their books away and give up. The first two tests are fairly common situations for photography; think places like dimly lit restaurants and night clubs. The last two tests are more useful for determining any limitations the camera may have.

And the Pentax Optio W30 has its limitations. At and below 15 lux, the camera had trouble focusing because there was no assist lamp. That doesn’t bode well for low light photography. The pictures shown above get darker, noisier, and discolored the dimmer the lights are. At 30 lux, the color error still held at 12.8 and saturation was very good. It is just the darkest two tests that really fell apart.

The longest exposure available from the Pentax W30 is 4 seconds and because shutter speeds can’t be manually adjusted, it is found in the night scene mode. We measured the amount of noise produced from this long exposure in low light and it came out to 2.37 percent of the image. In the end, if you can’t read without squinting, don’t even think about picking up the W30. It’s not built for low light photography.

Dynamic Range*(5.19)*

To see how well the Pentax W30 could capture a full range of blacks, whites, and details in between, we photographed a backlit Stouffer test film. This film has a row of rectangles that are completely black on one side and transparent on the other. We uploaded the pictures into our imaging software and it measured how many exposure values the camera could capture at different ISO settings because ISO greatly affects the amount of details captured.

W30-DynRange-GR.gif

Below is a chart showing the manual ISO settings on the horizontal plane and the number of exposure values captured in a single image on the vertical plane.

Once again, the PentaxW30’s first two ISO settings performed similarly to the older W10’s. The W10’s ISO 200 and 400 settings capture more detail but then that camera crashed at ISO 800 with only 2 exposure values. The comparable setting on the W30 sits just under 3. The ISO 3200 is about as bad as it gets: pictures taken with this setting won’t show much detail at all. The ISO 64 setting yields the best dynamic range on the Pentax Optio W30 and should be used whenever possible.

White Balance*(5.72)*

Auto (5.33)

The automatic white balance setting was most accurate when shooting in fluorescent lighting and it also performed better than the tungsten setting, which usually isn’t the case.

Preset (6.11)

In general the presets didn’t perform as well as they should. The fluorescent preset was less accurate than the auto setting as well as tungsten, although both the preset and auto settings were horribly inaccurate. The Pentax W30’s most accurate white balance preset was shade. There was no flash preset and it was hard to test the flash at all even in the auto mode because the camera couldn’t focus on the test chart in the dark.

Still Life Sequences

Click to view high-resolution images.

**

Speed/Timing**

*Startup to First Shot (6.9)

*Have this camera turned on and ready to go long before any photo opportunity might present itself. The W30 is like a teenage girl in the bathroom before a date: slow. It took the camera 3.1 seconds to start up and take its first picture.

*Shot-to-Shot (9.7)

*In the Continuous mode, the Optio W30 took a shot every 0.7 seconds and paused after 4 shots. It then slowed down and continued to shoot a picture every 1.9 seconds. This isn’t incredibly impressive, but the camera has a high-speed mode that quickens the pace considerably. It takes 5 shots with each picture 0.3 seconds apart. Users have to choose between speed and longevity with these burst modes: you can’t have it all.

Shutter-to-shot (9.0)

When the shutter release button was pushed halfway and the exposure and focus were already locked, it was hard to measure any shutter lag at all. When users pick up the camera and try to catch a candid shot of a buffalo running across the road, they might be out of luck. It takes the W30 a half-second to focus on static subjects, and it takes longer for moving buffalos.

Processing (7.8)

The high-speed burst mode snapped 5 shots and then took 5.5 seconds to process, coming out to 1.1 seconds for each shot to register on the memory card.

Video Performance *(2.36)***

***Bright Indoor Light - 3000 lux *

As with all digital cameras, the movies bring a whole new set of challenges. At 3000 lux, the still images had a disappointing mean color error of 11.4. In the same light, video had a mean color error of 19.4. Ouch. As seen in the chart below, the automatic white balance is completely off and probably contributes to the overall skewed coloring. While images were slightly undersaturated, video was oversaturated at 130.4 percent. The average amount of noise in the image came out to 0.58 percent, which isn’t great in such bright light.

*Low Light -30 lux *

When the lights were dimmed and a video of our test chart recorded, the mean color error jumped to 22.6 but the saturation returned to within normal range at 113 percent. This figure describes the overall saturation though and there were outliers in both directions. The blue end of the spectrum was very undersaturated and many of the reds were very oversaturated. The noise was the most bothersome aspect of the video in low light; noise reached an average of 2.69 percent of the video.

*Resolution *

The video’s resolution wasn’t phenomenal by any stretch. We recorded a movie of a standard video test chart and ran it through Imatest software. The program output results using the same lw/ph measurement. The Pentax Optio W30 read 272 lw/ph horizontally with 17.6 percent undersharpening and 358 lw/ph vertically with 3 percent undersharpening. These aren’t impressive numbers but not many digital cameras have impressive movie modes anyway. That’s why there’s still a market for camcorders: they’re better.

100% crops

Outdoor Motion

We took the Pentax W30 outside and videoed some cars and other moving objects. The 30 fps frame rate still wasn’t enough to render smooth motion; subjects stuttered quickly along. There was also a lot of moiré visible, but the contrast outdoors was still good.

Components

**Viewfinder ***(0.0)*

As with most point-and-shoots, there is no optical viewfinder on the Pentax Optio W30. The LCD monitor replaces the optical viewfinder, which is better for underwater shooting anyway. The only downside to not having a viewfinder is that users are forced to use the monitor to compose every shot, which eats away battery life. To compensate for the missing viewfinder, the Optio W30 does offer a Power Saving Mode in which users can control how long the LCD stays on (intervals from two minutes to off).

LCD*(6.25)*

W30-lcdON.jpg
The Optio W30’s 2.5-inch LCD monitor is a fair size compared to other point-and-shoots in its category - 2.5-inches is currently about the industry standard. The W30’s 115,000-pixel resolution, however, is outshined by newer models that offer a higher 230,000 pixel count. Users who like to pass their camera around the crowd to show off their photos might be disappointed with the less-than-stellar LCD resolution as images may appear pixilated. It's also difficult to check focus and technical details in an image using the screen.

Users can adjust the brightness of the monitor by two steps. The default brightness setting seems too dark for most indoor uses. Users might want to consider the brightest setting for most occasions, especially when underwater.

Images can be viewed just fine when the camera is held straight-on; however, the LCD tends to solarize when shifted to extreme horizontal or vertical angles. Overall, the LCD is a nice standard size, but the monitor’s resolution and default brightness are below average.

W30-flash.jpg
Flash*(6.5)*

Like many other point-and-shoots, the W30’s built-in flash is located to the right of the lens. The flash offers a healthy dose of light when needed but isn’t conveniently placed. The flash’s off-axis placement might lead users to sometimes accidentally block it with their left hand.

The Pentax W30 provides even flash coverage. With a reported effective range of 7.87 inches-11.8 feet inches in wide mode and 1.64 inches-9.84 feet in telephoto mode, the camera can effectively light a dark hallway or all the faces in a close group shot. Users can select standard Auto Flash, which as the function name implies, turns the flash on or leaves it off, depending on the lighting situation. Users can also manually choose from Flash Off, Auto Red-Eye Reduction, Flash On with Red-Eye Reduction, and Soft Flash, accessed through the flash button on the multi-selector.

W30-lens.jpg

The flash is sometimes slow to recharge -- there is about a 3-second delay from the moment the shutter is pushed to the time an image appears on the LCD. This may take some getting used to -- users will have to learn to keep the camera in place even after the pre-flash fires to prevent blurry photos.

Zoom Lens*(6.5)*

The Optio W30 is fitted with a 3x optical zoom Pentax lens, made up of 11 elements in 9 groups. The W30 has a non-extending zoom lens, which makes sense for underwater photography. The lack of a lens barrel will also prevent sand from seeping into the cracks and crevices. Geared for the active beachgoer or even the drink-spiller, the lens also has a water resistant coating.

The camera has a zoom range of 6.3mm – 18.9mm, equivalent to 38-114mm in traditional 35mm format. This focal length allows users to take sufficient close-up or landscape shots. The aperture, which can’t be manually controlled, ranges from f/3.3 – f/4, which is a bit slower than most. 

Design / Layout

Model Design / Appearance*(8.5)*

The Pentax Optio W30 has an attractive, unique design. Like Captain Planet’s planeteer Gi, this waterproof, dustproof camera is petite, cute, and apt for water activities such as surfacing or sunbathing. Not only is it easy on the eyes, the Pentax W30’s aluminum alloy body is durable enough to survive the natural wear-and-tear that goes along with bringing a digital camera outdoors. Updated with a redesigned locking battery compartment and secure port system, the Pentax W30 was built so that users need not worry about water damaging the camera’s fragile insides.

**Size / Portability ***(7.75)*

The Optio W30 isn’t the thinnest or lightest camera around, but it’s still small enough to fit in an average-sized pants pocket. The camera measures 4.23 x 0.92 x 2.12 inches, akin to the clamshell cell phones. The Pentax camera weighs 4.91 ounces without a battery or memory card. With the additional accessories, the W30 weighs about half a pound (5.62 ounces); it’s a sturdy camera. The W30 will sink in water, so users should beware the 10 feet submergence limit that the manufacturer recommends.

**Handling Ability ***(7.75)*

There are really two criteria for evaluating handling the Pentax W30 – one for when it’s dry and one for when it’s wet. On land, the camera handles pretty average for a point-and-shoot. Like other cameras in this category, the flash’s placement isn’t ideal. The location of the front and back thumb grips allow for a secure hold with the right hand.

When wet, the camera handled better than expected. The Braille-like thumb grip which seemed only mediocre above water actually aided in underwater handling. The front grip is also very helpful in controlling the camera underwater. To ensure the tide doesn’t pull the camera from your hands, it is recommended users hold on to it with both hands or utilize the included wrist strap.

Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size*(6.75)*

The Pentax W30’s button controls are well-labeled, well-positioned, and evenly spaced. However, they did seem a bit too small in comparison to the rest of the camera. The buttons do not take full advantage of the extra spacing on the back though - a shame when you're fumbling underwater to capture the fleeting trail of an exotic sea creature.  

The camera lacks a mode dial, and instead offers a Mode button on the four-way controller which engages automatic shooting and scene modes (Portrait, Underwater, Landscape, etc.). Other functions on the four-way controller include access to the self-timer, flash control, and macro modes, which are likely to be the most frequently used settings. Other functions on the button control panel include the zoom toggle for wide and close-up shooting, the playback button, menu button, and the Green Mode button which doubles as the Trash button. This is a logical control layout for casual point-and-shooters, though the design doesn't completely play into the camera’s underwater element, where a chunky mode dial would complement the camera’s oversized shutter release and help users access features when submerged.  

Menu*(7.0)*

The menu system on the Pentax Optio W30 left us with mixed sentiments. The involved menu system is thorough, with options to change everything from picture size to shutter sounds. However, the expansive menus may be overwhelming to beginners.

The bright side is that users can customize the menu structure so that the most commonly used features are at the top of the list.

The main menu is divided into two sections: (1) Record, and (2) Setting. The Pentax W30 would benefit from having four sections: Record, Setting, Movie, and Green Mode, but instead, Movie and Green Mode functions are buried in a menu within a menu. The Record menu is as follows:

The Setting menu allows users to set camera functions such as LCD brightness, the alarm clock, and sounds. Some menu functions also offer live preview. For example, a user who wants to change monitor brightness can preview brighter or darker screens before setting it.

To access the Green mode, users must go through the Setting menu. The Green Button allows users to customize four settings and then access those settings with one dedicated button. For instance, if a user frequently takes pictures of her child outdoors that she wants to post on the Web, she could set the Green Button to a smaller file size with a low ISO sensitivity, Daylight white balance, and Focusing Area AF.

Ease of Use*(7.0)*

Overall the Pentax W30 is pretty intuitive with the right amount of external controls and well-placed hand grips. The Green Button is a great escape, helping users to quickly return to an automatic setup if they've accidentally strayed into the more manual aspects of the W30's menu design. Internally, the Optio W30 could use a little work. The menus offer so many choices to the point of confusion. The upside is that users have the option to customize their W30, with the ability to change around the menu priority and even set the date stamp to their hometown time zone. It might take a new user an hour or two to fully customize the menus to their liking, but after that, the camera should be well-suited to the user.

Modes

**Auto Mode ***(7.25)*

The Pentax W30 really has three automatic-type modes that range from fully automatic to semi-automatic. The Pentax W30 has a full Auto Mode that automates all the settings - for most point-and-shooters, it is likely the most-used function of a camera.

The Program Auto Mode allows the user to select certain functions while automating others. In Program, users can select functions on-the-spot such as flash and recorded pixels, but the camera automatically selects the shutter speed and aperture for an even exposure.

The camera also offers a separate automatic mode, the Green Mode; users can assign up to four functions to the button. The Green Mode includes a full range of options, including recorded pixels, white balance, and focus type, while allowing users to make changes to the flash and focus settings.

Movie Mode*(6.75)*

Taking video with the Pentax W30 requires a few steps. Most point-and-shoots dedicate a position on the dial or button to the movie mode, the Pentax W30 does not. The W30’s Movie Mode is accessed through the main Record Menu. The Movie Mode offers plenty of customizable settings. Users can capture at a standard 640x480 or 320x240 resolution in either 30fps or 15fps, making the movie mode suitable for either television or the Web. The camera’s zoom and shake reduction features work in movie mode.

The Pentax W30’s movie mode has a host of options compared to other point-and-shoots in its category. In addition to an Underwater Movie mode, users can record videos in full color, black-and-white, or sepia. Users can focus video manually or automatically and have the option to take timed movies.The Pentax W30 does record sound, but the location of the microphone on the top of the camera limits its abilities.

The Movie menu is accessed under the Record menu, meaning that users might have to push the four-way controller a few times before actually reaching the Movie menu to change movie size or frame rate.

In all, the W30 has a competitive set of video capture options; however, the video quality is substandard. To read more of the W30's video performance results, refer to the Testing/Performance section of the review.

Drive / Burst Mode*(5.5)*

Users can access the burst mode through a dedicated button on the four-way controller. There are four settings: Drive Mode Standard, Drive Mode Self Timer, Continuous (standard and high speed), and Drive Mode Interval Shoot. Like the rest of the camera’s functions, the burst mode gives the user lots of choices to customize how they want to take a series of photos. The Drive Mode Self-Timer can be set for a standard 2 or 10 seconds.

For Continuous Shooting, an image is immediately saved to the memory before capturing the next, meaning that the higher the quality setting (image quality and megapixel), the longer the interval between each frame. For High Speed Continuous Shooting, otherwise known as the burst mode, the camera pre-selects a reduced resolution. The High Speed Continuous Shooting records 3-megapixel images. Unfortunately, flash is not available during continuous shooting so the burst mode is recommended for outdoors or brightly-lit indoor settings.

The Pentax W30’s Interval Shoot mode can be set to take images at intervals between 10 seconds and 99 minutes. The W30 can take up to 1,000 images in this mode and the start time can be delayed for up to 24 hours.

Our timing tests concluded that the W30 captures successive images at 1.43 frames per second. This is quite slow, even by point-and-shoot standards and will be problematic for users attempting to capture action sequences underwater.  However, it is still faster than the Olympus 770SW's 1.1 frames per second burst rate.

Playback Mode*(8.0)*

The W30’s playback mode options are plentiful. Users can scroll though images using the four-way controller and view them individually, or in a 9-thumbnail or calendar format.

When users press the OK button, the histogram and EXIF data - such as aperture and ISO setting - are displayed for each image. The playback mode allows for 8x magnification, which is enough zoom to check for closed eyes, although the limited screen resolution limits its use as a measure of focus.

Users can edit their photos on the W30 without the use of a computer, as many point-and-shoots now offer built-in editing functions. As with the rest of the W30’s functions, users can customize how they review their photos with options such as timed slideshows, cropping, image rotate, color changes, and red-eye correction.

**Custom Image Presets ***(8.0)*

The Pentax W30 offers a variety of custom image presets. The camera has the basic scene modes - Portrait, Landscape, and Sport - and also a few options unavailable on most competing point-and-shoots, such as the Food preset and Underwater Movie mode.

The automatic presets are accessed by pressing the Mode button on the four-way controller. Each scene mode is marked by a graphic icon. When a user selects a particular scene icon, the camera displays a brief text description.

A user can even change the Pet shooting mode to match their type of animal and its fur color, with options for either a Dog or Cat and white, gray, or black fur. We don’t come across this feature very often. While interesting, the extra Pet mode options do not seem all that necessary – unless you take a lot of pet photos.

Control Options

Manual Control Options

Like most point-and-shoots, the Pentax W30 offers basic manual controls. Users can adjust the flash, white balance, and ISO. The focus can also be controlled digitally. As expected, users can’t manually control aperture or shutter speed.

Focus

***Auto Focus
(6.75)*

Users can easily access the number of auto focus modes with a dedicated button on the four-way controller. The camera possesses four TTL auto focus modes: Standard, Macro, Infinity, and Pan Focus. The W30 has a 9-point automatic focusing system, with a standard focal range of 1.31 feet – infinity. If users want to zoom in closer, the camera has a Macro mode capable of focusing 0.03 – 1.97 feet from the subject. Infinity focus is geared for distance objects, like landscapes. The Pan Focus mode keeps both the foreground and background in focus, ideal for shooting scenery through a window or when a user asks a stranger to take a picture for them, according to Pentax.

In practice, we found the camera locked focus well in brightly lit conditions, though it struggled in low light due to its lack of an autofocus assist lamp.

PentaxW30-focus-1.gif

Manual Focus*(5.5)*

As expected, the W30 doesn’t have a focal ring like those found on SLRs. However, users can manually focus their photos using the four-way controller and reset focus with a sliding scale that indicates distance (from infinity to 0.1m). The W30 manually focus from 0.03 feet – infinity in wide shooting or 1.64 ft. – infinity in standard range. The manual focus will most likely be ignored by most point-and-shooters, as they will tend to use the automatic focusing for quick snapshots, but it’s a nice option to include on the camera for low contrast shots or other situations that may fool the camera's auto focus.

Exposure*(6.5)*

The Pentax W30 has a standard EV range of +/- 2 in 1/3 steps. This is pretty much standard among point-and-shoot cameras and in-line with most of the W30's direct competition. Users can access the W30's EV compensation through the main Menu and change settings using the four-way controller. This is a slow and cumbersome setup; more advanced cameras generally allow some means to alter the exposure from the shooting position, without having to enter into a menu setup. 

PentaxW30-exposure-1.gif

The camera also has a live preview of EV values so that users can determine which setting to use. Unfortunately, this point-and-shoot does not include other exposure modes such as aperture priority or shutter, nor does it include exposure bracketing.

**Metering ***(7.0)*

The Pentax W30 has three TTL metering modes - Multi-pattern, Center-weighted, and Spot metering – accessible through the main Record Menu. Each metering mode is marked by a graphical icon. Unfortunately, the camera does not spell out what the name or function of each metering mode is, which may confuse some users at first. The Multi-pattern system divides the image into 16 sections to evaluate for exposure. The Center-weighted system, as the name implies, evaluates overall image brightness based on the center of the image. Lastly, Spot metering takes only the center spot into consideration to set the exposure.

PentaxW30-metering-1.gif

White Balance*(7.25)*

There are six white balance settings on the Pentax W30, accessed through the Record menu. The W30’s white balance modes are: Auto, Daylight, Shade, Tungsten, Fluorescent, and Manual, which cover most indoor and outdoor lighting conditions. Users can also assign a frequently used white balance mode to the Green Button, which allows access to the setting with the push of a button. Many other point-and-shoots offer multiple fluorescent settings, but the Pentax W30 limits it to one setting which is all that is really necessary. Overall, the W30 has enough white balance choices for basic point-and-shooting and a bit beyond.

PentaxW30-wb-1.gif

**ISO ***(8.75)*

The W30 has a range of ISO settings: 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, and 3200, making it capable of a full range of indoor and outdoor shooting. The Auto setting has a default ISO setting of 400 ISO. Pentax lauds the W30’s high top ISO 3200 sensitivity as one of its main selling points. A select few camera manufacturers including Fuji and Sony have also brought higher max ISO settings down to their entry-level cameras. The benefit of a high ISO is that users can shoot with less available light, ideal for indoor shooting, birthday parties, museums, or underwater. Unfortunately, images shot at the 3200 ISO were marred by noise and limited dynamic range – this setting should be avoided. Instead, users should stick with the lower ISO settings. Pentax also offers a digital blur reduction system called Digital SR (Shake Reduction) that automatically boosts ISO but does not reduce blur optically or mechanically.

Shutter Speed*(0.0)*

The Optio W30 offers a standard speed range of 4 to 1/2000 seconds. Manual control over shutter speed is not offered. For a long shutter exposure, users can opt for the Night mode or Fireworks mode.

Pentax offers a digital blur reduction system called Digital SR (Shake Reduction) that boosts ISO but does not reduce blur optically or mechanically.

**Aperture ***(0.0)*

The Pentax Optio W30 has a limited aperture range of f/3.3 to f/4.0, while other waterproof point-and-shoots offer a slightly broader range. Like shutter speed, aperture is set automatically.

Image Parameters

**Picture Quality / Size Options ***(7.75)*

The W30 has a standard set of picture resolution options: 7MP (3072 x 2304), 5MP (2592x1944), 4MP (2304x1728), 3MP (2048x1536), 2MP (1600x960), 1040x768, and 640 x 480. Users can also select image compression in the Quality Level menu. Options are Best (******), Better (****), and Good (**).

Pentax-W30-quality-1.gif

Picture Effects Mode*(8.0)*

One of the benefits of the Pentax Optio W30 is that users can have fun with their pictures without editing them on a computer screen. Using plenty, and we mean plenty, of built-in picture effects. The camera has the standard resize, crop, image rotate, red-eye correction modes, while adding some more unique effects.

Color effects in the camera are not just limited to black and white and sepia but include a rainbow of digital color filters. Users can also selectively change an image to black-and-white except for one colored object, such as a red rose against a black-and-white background.

Users can add a heart, flower, or cartoon bubble frame composite border to an image. Even more, the camera features built-in movie editing to capture a still photo or stitch video clips together.

Connectivity / Extras

**Connectivity **

*Software (6.0)

*Users will find that the software is consistent with the menu-heavy Pentax W30 camera. The W30 includes ACDSee for Pentax 2.0 CD ROM software. Using the software, users can view, organize, and edit images. Unfortunately, the software buries commonly used functions in menus, accessed through the top toolbar. For instance, to rotate an image, a user must highlight a photo to be dropped into an Image Basket, then select Modify on the toolbar, then select the degrees of rotation, and then wait for the image to load the change. Other software included with point-and-shoots oftentimes has a one-click rotate button.

The ACDSee software allows users to change settings through a View menu to Filmstrip, Thumbnails, Tiles, Icons, and Details. Users can also change how the images are sorted by filename, file size, or date, among other options. To make editing changes, a user has to select the image that opens up a different screen, separate from the browser. From there, users can apply a variety of styles to their images, including pencil drawing and oil painting.

Overall, the Pentax software is sufficient if one has the time to comb through the menus and features. There are plenty of options but they are difficult to find. There are better all-in-one browser and editor options.

*Jacks, Ports, Plugs (9.0)

*The port system is one of the better updates made to the Pentax W30. The PC/AV and DC In ports, located on the bottom of the camera, are safely hidden under a rubber sealed locking compartment so that water or dust doesn’t leak in. The Pentax Optio port compartment is much sturdier than that of most point-and-shoots that usually have just a flimsy rubber cover.

*Direct Print Options (6.5)

*

W30-battery.jpg
Like most point-and-shoots, the Pentax Optio W30 offers a DPOF (Direct Print Order Format) that stores printing preferences. The W30 is PictBridge compatible so that users can directly link their PictBridge-printer to the camera via USB connection, without having to go through a computer editing program.

*Battery (5.25)

*The Pentax camera comes with a lightweight Li-ion D-LI63 battery. The battery is sealed under an effective locking compartment, which keeps it dry. The Li-ion battery takes a reported 120 minutes to recharge.

*

W30-memory.jpg
Memory (3.5)

*The Pentax W30 accepts SDHC, a high capacity storage media so that users do not have to change their memory cards frequently. SDHC cards are currently available in up to 8GB of storage, plenty of space for large files. The SDHC card is located in the dual battery/memory compartment on the side of the camera.

Other Features*(4.5)*

Waterproof / Dustproof – The camera carries Class 8 Waterproof classification and Class 5 Dustproof grade, meeting standards to protect against debris and withstand up to 10 feet of underwater submergence for 2 hours duration.

Alarm/Clock/Calendar – The alarm can be set to ring once or every day at a specific time. Users can set their hometown time and a travel time.

Voice Memo – Users can record a digital grocery list or their baby’s laugh with the W30. The camera records WAVE audio.

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Image Recovery* – The absent-minded will appreciate the Image Recovery function on the camera that caters to kids (and parents) who accidentally erase their photos. Users can access the function through the playback menu immediately after images have been erased.

Overall Impressions

Value*(7.5)*

If last year’s digital camera trend was face detection, this year’s is waterproof cameras. Only a few manufacturers, such as Olympus and Ricoh, offer built-in waterproofing without the need for additional (and costly) external camera housing. One of the best things about the Pentax W30 is its price; at $299, the Pentax W30 currently holds the best value in the waterproof digital camera category. However, if waterproofing is not a concern, we recommend looking at cameras with otherwise similar specs for as low as $100 or upgrading to a model with superior manual control or image quality.  

Who’s this Camera For?

Point and Shooters – The Pentax W30’s target consumer is the point-and-shooter who enjoys basic control options, built-in editing tools, and its waterproof feature.

Budget Consumers – The Optio W30 comes at an economic price for a waterproof camera, considering external underwater housing oftentimes shares the price tag of the camera itself. Users not interested in the camera’s aquatic abilities should shop around for a less expensive camera.

Gadget Freaks – The enticing waterproof capabilities of the W30 might just be enough to persuade the Technocurious into the unexplored Pentax camp. Even if the camera user isn’t a water sport athlete, it can still be used in the rain or for aquatic photo experimentation.

Manual Control Freaks – Controlling types will likely look to a DSLR or compact ultra-zoom instead of this point-and-shoot. The Pentax W30 offers little control over aperture or shutter speed. 

Pros / Serious Amateurs – Photo professionals might consider it a gift for someone else or a back-up camera taking their cameras where their SLRs won’t go – underwater.

**Comparisons

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Pentax Optio W20 – Introduced in August 2006 at same $300 introductory price, the Pentax W20 shares the same basic specs as the newer W30. The W30 and W20 share a 7-megapixel count, 3x optical zoom, and 2.5-inch LCD. However, the W30’s sensitivity range (3200 ISO) clearly trumps that of the W20 (1600 ISO). The W30 also surpasses the W20’s 5 feet/30 minutes underwater limit with a new standard of 10 feet/2 hours.

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Olympus Stylus 770SW – The Olympus Stylus 770 SW, ideal for the accident-prone, is shockproof, waterproof, freezeproof, and crushproof. For $80 more than the Pentax W30, users will get a 7.1 megapixel sensor, 3x optical zoom lens, and a 230,000-pixel 2.5-inch LCD screen. Like the Pentax camera, the Olympus 770 SW has a JIS Class 8 Waterproof classification, a water immersion grade in accordance with the Japanese Industrial Standards. However, the Olympus model promises an increased depth of up to 33feet. Olympus also promises added superpowers: it will survive a 5-foot fall, temperatures as low as 14 degrees F, and 220 pounds.

720sw.jpg
Olympus Stylus 720SW – The 770 SW’s predecessor matches its 7.1 megapixel count, 3x optical, and 2.5-inch LCD. At a retail price of $380, the Olympus 720SW is more costly than the Pentax W30. The Olympus camera has a 10 feet limit on underwater submergence for up an hour, verses the Pentax’s 10 feet limit for up to double the amount of time (2 hours). With the Olympus camera, users will gain 5 feet of shockproof abilities, a feature not offered on the W30.

Conclusion

**Conclusion

**The Pentax W30, simply put, is a fun camera to use. It will likely find a wide audience, eliciting praise from Michael Phelps types to kids wanting to play Mikey from the Goonies. With waterproof, dustproof (and kid-proof) abilities, the Optio W30 functions as an all-around camera that can be transported on land or water. It also includes basic PDA functions such as alarm and calendar. With an array of internal editing, the camera makes it easy to bypass the computer.

There are a few downsides though. This menu-heavy camera offers so many options that it may overwhelm a new user, although it does provide plenty of customizable options to grow into. Coupled with hard-to-navigate software, W30 users may need to invest some time to figure out their equipment.

The W30's biggest quality issues were its inaccurate color reproduction, limited dynamic range, and slow operation. The minimal 115k pixels on the camera's LCD screen also made it difficult to gauge focus and share photos on-screen. The W30 did handle noise better than its competition and produced clean images through ISO 800 and usable images up to ISO 1600.

The Pentax W30 gets props for improvements made to the previous model, including increased waterproof times and submergence depths, and a new locking system. Overall, the Optio W30 makes solid strides in its targeted areas and offers an effective all-around waterproof camera at an affordable price.

Sample Photos

Sample photos

*Click on the thumbnails below to view the full resolution images.

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Specs / Ratings

**Specs Table

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