|Home | Reviews | Q&A | Links | Gallery | Free Photo Hosting|
this to say about the camera:
"The Optio W
series of cameras are waterproofed for underwater photography without
requiring a waterproof case or other accessories. This model features
a new Shake Reduction mode, which allows you take sharper photos without
camera shake or subject blurring even of low-light scenes or fast-moving
subjects, and an upgrade to a 7.0-effective-megapixel. All told, this
camera boasts better image quality in a fun, easy-to-handle package."
You can find more information on the Pentax H20 website.
The Camera: a visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Canon Digital IXUS I7 Zoom)
Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.
Specifications / Features:
Better than average box contents - the inclusion of a printed manual is a nice feature (and becoming rarer). There is a small amount of internal memory provided with the camera and you should invest in a much larger memory card. Some kind of case would be useful to help protect the camera, however, rubber cases are available from Pentax.
Battery usage: Battery life is average for an ultra-compact digital camera, rated at 240 shots according to CIPA standards, I managed only 125 videos and photos before the battery went flat. This is slightly disappointing but assuming you manage around 240 then this would be considered average (not brilliant, but not too bad either) for an ultra-compact but not as good as the excellent 580 shot battery life of the the Fujifilm FinePix F30.
Camera Operation and Options: The mode button on the back of the camera lets you switch between the main modes (including all the scene modes and video modes), with the play button switching between playback and video mode. The modes / scenes available are: Auto, Program, Night, Movie, Voice recording, Landscape, Flower, Portrait, Underwater, Underwater movie, Blur reduction, Surf and Snow, Sport, Pet, Frame composite, Synchro sound record, Kids, Soft, Self-portrait, Fireworks, Food, Text, Museum, Natural Skin Tone, Report.
Screen / LCD display in photo mode: (shown above, left) The screen resolution of 115,000 pixels is average for a 2.5" screen however pictures look clear on it. The screen is clear and the text and menus are easy to read. The screen can seem a bit cluttered in use. A histogram is available in photo mode. Accessing some of the most popular options (such as Flash, Macro, Self-Timer etc) is easily done using the 4-way controller, and the "Green" button can be customised to select some of your favourite options (ISO, WB, etc).
Photo menu options: Picture size, Quality / Compression options, White balance (including custom), AE Metering, Sensitivity (including AUTO ISO range), EV Compensation, AF Setting (Fast focus option), Movie options (640, 320, Quality, 30fps, 15fps, Colour mode (Colour, B&W, Sepia), Movie anti-shake, Optical zoom), Interval shoot, Digital zoom, Instant review, Memory, Sharpness, Saturation, Contrast.
Setup menu options:
Sound, Date, Alarm, World Time, Language, Folder name, USB Connection,
Video out, Brightness level, Power saving, Auto Power off, Quick Zoom,
Green button, Guide display, Reset.
Optical / Electronic Viewfinder: There is no optical viewfinder on this camera.
Playback (Review) mode/menu:
Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is very quick. Zooming in is very quick and magnifies the image up to 8x. Zooming out shows 9 images at a time as thumbnails, as well as a calendar view. Further photo information (shown above, left) is available by pressing the display button.
Playback menu: Sildeshow, Resize, Trimming, Image / Sound copy, Image rotation, Digital filter, Brightness filter, Movie edit, Frame composite, Red-eye compensation, Voice memo, Protect, DPOF, Image recovery, Start up screen.
Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures, and the following number will fit in the 22mb of built in memory provided:
As shown in the table above, higher quality images take a large amount of memory, so a high capacity memory card is definitely recommended. You can fit a limited number of 7mp Fine images on the built in memory, and you will definitely need to buy a larger memory card, unless you are willing to take smaller images of lower quality.
A large memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 512mb memory card, and preferably a 1gb (1000mb) memory card, especially considering the relatively low prices - the larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to be away from a computer for a long time (such as when going on holiday) then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in. This camera takes only secure digital memory. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Pentax Optio W20:
Find the latest
prices for SD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 256mb: £6,
1gb (1000mb): £7,
2gb (2000mb): £17,
4gb (4000mb SDHC): £47
(with USB reader)
Speed: The camera's switch on time is average (although not as slow as some) and takes around 2 seconds to switch on - then another 1.3 seconds to take a photo. Focusing is quick at around 0.4 - 0.5 seconds - focusing speed can be increased by changing the focus mode to infinity or pan focus - shutter response is quick at around 0.1 seconds. Shot to shot time is around 4 seconds (with review on and set to 1 second, with review off shot to shot time is around 3 seconds), with flash on this slows down to around 4 seconds between shots (with review off). Playback mode is quick, and its easy to zoom in on your last shot and check for blur with the zoom control. Moving from picture to picture is very quick but you can also get an overview of 9 shots at a time if you zoom out one more notch. Moving around the different menu options is rapid. Continuous shooting is slightly sluggish at slightly less than 1fps - flash is unavailable whilst in continuous shooting mode - there is a high speed continuous shooting mode that will take 5 photos at roughly 4fps at a resolution of 3 megapixels.
Ease of use: Using the camera is veryy straightforward, simply switch it on and start taking photos, and to change modes you simply press the mode button and select the mode you want. This is made easy to do thanks to the clear icons and explanation provided. To access some of the more advanced functions you simply press the menu button. The only slightly unexplained feature is the "Green mode" - this button can be customised to give quick access to ISO, Image size, White Balance etc, so that you don't have to enter the menu. I have lent this camera to other people, and they have been able to use it straight away without any explanation.
Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc.) The camera feels fairly solid, with a robust plastic body. The design is quite cute. However there isn't much that your thumb can grip onto, and the front of the camera only has a small smooth grip. The zoom control is easy to use, and is positioned well for use with your thumb. The shutter release button feels quite good. The compact camera fits very easily into small pockets. The camera labels are fairly clear (apart from the green button, and the OK button that doubles as a display button). The buttons and controls are all positioned so that the camera can be operated with one hand. The only criticisms I have are that the power button is a bit small and slightly difficult to press, and the buttons could be a bit small for some, especially under water. The light weight of the camera makes it feel as though it wouldn't stand up to rough treatment, however it is waterproof and dust proof, so should survive wet and dusty conditions where others wouldn't. (For extreme conditions have a look at the Olympus Mju 720, 725, and 770)
Image Quality: Here are some real world sample photos taken in various settings, such as Inside, Outside, Macro, to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the Pentax Optio W20 Sample Photo Gallery!
Inside: The camera has good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo - although there is very noticable red-eye in the photo - thankfully there is very little redeye in the group photo. The colour is quite richly saturated and detail is quite good - saturation can be increased. It has a fairly decent flash, although it occassionally will struggle if the subject is too far away, and noise becomes more noticable the darker the scene. The camera copes fairly well with group photos, and on AUTO ISO, the ISO setting was kept fairly low in these photos. The camera did a good job at focusing most of the time even in low-light.
ISO Noise Test: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels, and manual ISO settings (ISO: 64, 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1600).
Below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops from the image taken at different ISO settings, compared with the 6 megapixel, Fujifilm FinePix F30, (which is currently the benchmark compact camera for noise tests due to it's excellent high ISO performance), and 7 megapixel Canon Digital IXUS 850 IS.
ISO Noise Test Photos - Flash is off. Fujifilm FinePix F30 on the left, Pentax Optio W20 in the middle, Canon Digital IXUS 850 IS on the right. The colour difference is due to automatic white balance.
The Pentax Optio W20 found our indoor lighting slightly too dark, as can be seen in these underexposed shots, where the slowest shutter speed the camera choose was 1/4 sec. The results from the Pentax Optio W20 are fairly typical - noise at the higher ISO settings - and less detail as the camera uses fairly heavy noise reduction. For noise free images it's best to stick with the lower ISO settings, and only use the higher ISO settings (or blur reduction mode) when it's absolutely necessary. The higher ISO settings may be useful it you want a quick photo, and aren't too concerned about quality, and may be useful if you only intend to print at 6 x 4 inches. The camera has a clever "AUTO ISO" mode that allows you to choose the ISO range, for example, if you only wanted the camera to use ISO settings 64 - 200, then you can set the AUTO ISO range to this - likewise if you never wanted the camera to use ISO800 or ISO1600 you simply set the ISO range to 64 - 400.
Image Stabilisation: The Pentax Optio W20 does not have hardware or optical image stabilisation but instead has a "Blur Reduction" mode - this uses high ISO settings (upto ISO 1600) to avoid image blur by increasing the ISO setting and increasing the shutter speed. This can be a useful feature but does introduce a lot of image noise when compared to true image stabilisation systems.
Outside: The camera has vibrant, saturated and pleasing colour with good contrast and good detail. Saturation, sharpness and contrast can be increased / reduced in camera. Noise was low in ISO64 photos. The quality was set to maximum to minimise any jpeg artefacts.
Zoom: This camera has a 3x optical zoom lens and a built in 4x digital zoom - in the case of this camera the digital zoom basically takes a smaller area of the photo and enlarges it using software blurring the image so that it is not pixellated. Generally it's best to avoid using digital zoom as it degrades the quality of the image and, often, better results can be obtained by using a photo package such as Adobe Photoshop. I've included examples below to show what the 3x optical zoom and 4x digital zoom is capable of.
Exposure The photos of the clock tower seem well exposed, with good detail in the dark areas, some blown out highlights in the wide-angle shot. This can be altered using exposure compensation.
Lens noise and zoom: The lens makes some noise in operation, however it is very quiet, and only noticable when using the optical zoom whilst recording videos. There are eight steps between wide and telephoto zoom, this gives you good control over how you frame your subject.
Quality issues: Purple fringing was noticable in some photos, and
can be seen in the macro photo below and in the wide-angle clock tower
photo, however this shouldn't cause problems in the majority of photos
unless there is a lot of contrast in the photo (another
example can be viewed here). I didn't notice any corner softness in
The macro mode allows you to be roughly 1 cm away from the subject - this gets excellent close up shots, and detail appears good, however some noise is visible. Custom white balance helps get better colours, and automatic white balance was generally good.
Video mode: The camera features a good video mode - it records VGA videos at 30fps with sound as MOV files. The camera gives you a lot of options - more than most digital cameras - such as three different compression options, anti-shake (digital), and recording with optical zoom and sound.
Summary: The Pentax Optio W20 is one of the cheapest completely waterproof digital cameras available - available from only £139 you'd be tempted to think that Pentax have made compromises in order to get the price so low - thankfully this isn't the case. Pentax have done an excellent job making a compact and easy to use digital camera full of features. Some you wouldn't expect to see on a compact point and shoot, such as manual focus, custom white balance, video recording with optical zoom and digital anti-shake. The camera doesn't compromise on image quality either, with good results available, especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors or taking macro photos. The only weakness was the camera's higher than average noise when taking photos indoors. If you're looking for a compact, waterproof, 7 megapixel digital camera with a 3x optical zoom lens, and a 2.5" screen, then the Pentax Optio W20 is an excellent choice.
What I like:
What I don't like:
Additional Test Images are viewable in the Pentax Optio W20 Sample Photo Gallery.