DigitalCameraReview.com
Pentax Optio W10 Digital Camera Review
by Ben Stafford -  4/20/2006

If you're looking for a camera that needs to be able to take a light dunking, the 6 megapixel Pentax Optio W10 is an excellent choice. The W10 is the third generation of waterproof Optio camera and Pentax just keeps tweaking minor things to make improvements each time. If you spend a lot of time on the beach or near the water, the Pentax Optio W10 can withstand a drop in the sand and can get the underwater movie of your trout swimming away to be caught again another day.

pentax optio W10
(view large image)

Compared to the previous generation (Optio WPi), the W10 has a non-glare coating on the larger LCD which comes in handy in wet environments and underwater. Also, some "soft" features, like Face Recognition auto focus/auto exposure and Tracking auto focus have been added.

NUTS & BOLTS

Image Sensor

A 1/2.5 inch CCD has an effective resolution of 6 megapixels (2816x2112 pixels). You can also capture images at 5M (2560x1920), 4M (2304x1728), 3M (2048x1536), 2M (1600x1200), 1280 (1280x960), 1024 (1024x768), and 640 (640x480). Three quality settings (Best, Better, Good) varying the JPEG compression rates.

Environmental Protection

The Pentax Optio W10 is JIS Class 8 waterproof and Class 5 dustproof (IP58). In layperson's terms, the camera can withstand immersion for up to 30 minutes at a depth of 5 feet and is "dust tight". You'll notice the rubber gaskets on the battery compartment door, the cover on the lens and slightly harder pressure need to press the buttons.

Viewfinder/LCD

The 2.5 inch LCD with 115K pixels of resolution is your only method to frame your shot -- there is no optical viewfinder on this camera. After having just reviewed the Pentax Optio A10, with a 232K pixel LCD, the drop in resolution is noticeable. However, the display is fluid and colors are good. The default brightness is a little dim, but you can just bump it up in the Setup menu. In full sunlight, the display was a little harder to see, but the non-glare coating was good when viewing the LCD at tough angles. You can use the Ok button to cycle through screens of varying amounts of information, with the most informative display showing the mode, flash status, battery status, image resolution and quality, white balance setting, metering mode, ISO setting, and a live histogram.

pentax optio W10
(view large image)

Zoom Lens

The 3x optical zoom lens on the W10 has a focal length range of 6.3mm -- 18.9mm (35mm equivalent of 38mm -- 114 mm). The aperture range of the lens is f3.3 -- f/4.

Shooting Modes

On the Pentax W10, you can shoot a single frame, with a 10 second timer, with a 2 second timer, and in continuous mode (normal and high speed).

Focus Modes and Focus Ranges

The TTL contrast detection 9 point auto focus has a range of 1.3 feet to infinity in Normal mode, and a super-close 0.4 inches to 2 feet in Macro mode.

While shooting, you can choose between standard Auto Focus, Macro, Pan Focus, Infinity Mode, and Manual Focus. By default, the camera is set to a multiple area focus, but you can also choose Spot focus, and Tracking AF (in Program shooting mode). The tracking focus is a nice feature that is automatically enabled in certain shooting modes (like Pet mode). Once auto-focus is achieved with a partial press of the shutter, the AF point will follow the object that it is focused on (within reason). The idea is that a moving pet will be "tracked" with the Tracking AF. The Face recognition auto focus/auto exposure is enabled in Portrait, Self-Portrait and Natural Skin Tone modes. It will determine where the face is in a picture and a square will focus in on the face.

pentax optio w10
Focus mode selection

Flash

Pentax claims that the flash has a range of 12 feet when at full wide angle mode and 9.8 feet when shooting at full telephoto. You can set the mode to Auto, Disabled, Always On, Red-eye reducing Auto, Red-eye reducing always on, and Soft Flash (lower intensity).

pentax optio w10
Flash mode selection

Memory Media

10.5MB of internal memory and an additional slot that accepts SD memory

Image and Movie File Formats

Still images are stored in JPEG format. Movies are stored as MOV files.

Connectivity

USB 2.0, A/V out, and DC in

Power

Power is provided by a 710mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery (D-LI8). To charge, insert the battery in the included charger. The charger doesn't plug directly into the wall, but an AC cord is provided to connect the charger to the outlet. Charging time was around 100 minutes.

Battery life was good. I took around 150 shots under normal use and then about 50-75 more shots with the flash on and LCD on at full brightness. However, I didn't get a chance to fully deplete the battery. The battery indicator still had all its bars.

EXPOSURE

The Pentax Optio W10 has just the right amount of shooting modes for its target audience. There isn't a shutter priority or an aperture priority mode, but you get a Program Auto mode that gives you a lot of flexibility with the settings. If you want to access the other shooting modes, just press the Mode button to enter the Mode Palette. From here, you can choose Landscape, Flower, Portrait, Underwater, Candlelight, Surf & Snow, Sport, Pet, Kids, Soft, Self-portrait, Fireworks, Sunset, Museum, Natural Skin Tone, Report, Text and Food modes.

pentax optio w10
Mode Palette

Movie Mode

To enable the movie mode on the W10, you'll need to enable it via the Mode Palette. A separate movie mode, for underwater use, is also available in the Modes. You can capture movies, with mono sound, at 640x480 and 320x240 at 30 frames per second or 15 frames per second. You can capture movies as long as you have storage space. The Shake Reduction is enabled by default during movie capture and you can't use the optical zoom.

Metering

With the Pentax W10, you get three light metering modes. The default is a multi-segment metering mode that evaluates the entire frame and determines exposure that way. If you need more control over metering, you can also choose a Center-Weighted mode or Spot mode. Center-weighted only evaluates the center of the frame, while the Spot mode evaluates a smaller spot in the center of the frame.

White Balance (WB)

With several preset white balance settings and a way to set a custom white balance, the W10 should have the white balance covered. The presets are Auto, Daylight, Shade, Tungsten Light, and Fluorescent Light. Switch to Manual mode to set your own white balance by placing a white target in front of the camera and pressing the shutter release.

Sensitivity

The W10 provides a pretty standard range of ISO (sensitivity) values. In Program Auto, and most other shooting modes, you can select Auto or ISO values of 64, 100, 200, 400, and 800. Noise performance was good up to ISO 200. At ISO 400, noise becomes a bit more noticeable, and at ISO 800, noise was high enough that you should use the sensitivity level sparingly.

pentax optio w10 sample image

In-Camera Image Adjustment

During image capture, you can adjust the exposure compensation, increase or decrease sharpness, increase or decrease saturation, and increase or decrease the contrast. If you want to further tweak your images, there are several things you can do from the Playback menu.

During playback, you can adjust the physical properties of the image by resizing, cropping, or rotating. If you want to edit the image, you can apply a Digital Filter, where you can make the image black & white, or give it a hue of a variety of colors. When you apply a filter, you're prompted to overwrite the original, save as a new image, or cancel the filter.

CONTROLS, DESIGN, ENGINEERING, & ERGONOMICS

The Pentax W10 is a pretty standard-sized compact camera. It's about the size of a typical candy bar style cell phone and comes in standard-issue silver. It's slim enough (0.9 inches) that it's easily pocketable. The plastic body has a matte finish with some chrome accents for a small touch of style. To aid the waterproof-ness of the camera, the lens does not protrude from the camera and is protected with what feels like a clear plastic cover (it could be glass). This cover has a tendency to pick up fingerprints, so keep a micro fiber cloth handy. The battery, USB jack, DC in jack and SD card are accessible via a swinging door on the bottom of the camera. To prevent any accidental opening while the camera is wet, there is a locking mechanism that keeps the door in place. A rubber gasket can be seen inside the door that seals the compartment to keep dust and water out.

pentax optio w10
(view large image)

pentax optio W10
Top view (view large image)

pentax optio w10
Bottom view (view large image)

 

The ergonomics of the camera are good. The waterproofing features of the camera make the buttons a little harder to press than your typical camera, but it's an acceptable price to pay for a waterproof camera. The five way directional pad on the back is actually five separate buttons (as opposed to one piece of plastic that rocks one way or another) -- a wise choice by the Pentax designers. A slight lip on the right side of the camera (when looking at it from the back) improves your grip on the camera.

One thing that I like on the W10 (as well as the Optio A10 I just reviewed) is the customizability of the camera. There is a whole screen in the main Menu that allows you to tell the camera which settings to save for the next time you turn the camera on. For example, if you always want to shoot with a -1 EV setting for exposure compensation, you just click Menu, scroll down to Memory, scroll down to Exposure Compensation and mark the checkbox to tell the camera to save that setting. Also, there is a "Green" button on the lower right of the camera. This button can be customized to enable certain features. By default, it enables the Green mode that is a sort of simple use mode where a lot of options are disabled. However, you can also use it as a one click button to adjust the exposure compensation, sensitivity, or focusing area.

Included in the box

USB cable, AV cable, wrist strap, lithium-ion battery (D-L18), battery charger with AC cord, CD-ROM with software, user's manual, and warranty card

PERFORMANCE

Image Quality

I was very impressed with the image quality of the Optio W10. Images showed accurate color and good exposure in a variety of conditions. Detail in the images was excellent throughout the entire frame. Chromatic aberration was very hard to notice, but I did see some reddish edges when looking very closely at some images containing some high contrast areas. Macro performance was also very impressive, showing good detail on a lot of close-up shots.

Sample Shots

pentax optio w10 sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)

pentax optio w10 sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)

pentax optio w10 sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)

pentax optio w10 sample image
Lichen on a sugar maple tree (view medium image) (view large image)

pentax optio w10 sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)

pentax optio w10 sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)

Timing/Shutter Lag

The speed of the camera operation was good -- not the fastest, but not the slowest. Start up time was about two seconds and shutter lag was minimal when the camera has achieved auto focus/auto exposure lock (about average for this class of camera). Shutter lag for a full press of the shutter was significant, especially when the flash needs to fire. You should get in the practice of doing the partial shutter press anyway -- you will have a better idea of what your camera is going to focus on and can correct it if it's not right. Cycle time was also average and can be adjusted to some extent by changing the review time via the camera menu.

A Few Concerns

I don't have any major complaints with this camera. The LCD could have a bit more resolution and it can be hard to see in full sunlight, even with the anti-glare coating. Also, the shutter lag with a full shutter release is a bit higher than I would like to see.

Conclusion

The Pentax Optio W10 can withstand an accidental dunk in the water, a drop in the sand, or even some shallow snorkeling. Good image quality, good battery life, and easy operation make it a great performer, above water and below. This is a great camera for anyone who likes to spend time near water and take pictures.

Pros

Cons