Pentax Optio W10 digital camera review

4 out of 5
£269

For

Excellent metering, great colour, good (but plastic) build, great underwater and dust proofing; can dive to down to around 5 feet (1.5m)

Against

The bad: lens softness at the full zoom, limited manual control, no optical viewfinder

Pentax’s WP series of waterproofed cameras has received a boost with the fully waterproof W10; a 3x optical zoom compact boasting 6-megapixel resolution and a hat full of scene modes.

While the camera’s styling could be called bland, it’s bland in a curvy way, all the edges are neatly rounded with signature chromed features and fitments adding a little sparkle.

Predominantly plastic build belies the camera’s proofing against water, to a depth of 1.5m (that’s around 5 feet), and the dust that will protect it from particles of dirt as fine as talcum powder, so the camera is well protected for almost any outdoors activity, making it an ideal camera for the beach; snorkeling included, skiing, camping, canoeing or any adventure style holidays.

The camera’s remarkably compact even with a 3x optical zoom lens, which stays safely housed within the camera body behind a protective optical screen; the lens providing a 38-114mm focal range. You also get large 2.5-inch colour screen, which boasts an anti-reflection coating and is nice to use in all but the brightest conditions where the lack of an optical viewfinder becomes irksome, as with all such cameras. However, underwater, the large screen comes into its own of course.

In terms of control and handling the W10 presents a clean set of lines; just an on/off switch and shutter button on the top plate, while a four-way controller, menu, playback and zoom controls grace the back plate. You also get a small green button that jumps the camera back to an all-auto shooting mode or displays neat help screens when pressed and you’re scrolling any of the many scene modes or the same button helps you to reorder menu options within menus to your preference, a neat touch.

Of the 25 scene modes, you get the usual range of landscape, portrait and night scene modes plus, perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s an underwater setting and a few more unusual modes that include a soft focus setting and a synchro sound recording setting, which, to paraphrase a certain advert, does exactly what it says on the tin.

There’s an underwater movie mode too (movies can be recorded at a 640x480-pixel 30fps max, underwater or not) and a food setting, for snapping your dinner before you eat it. Ideal for those heavy nights out when you’ve gotten three sheets to the wind on booze and can’t remember what type of sauce you had on your donner kebab and chips. Yum!

Focusing and metering work well, with the W10 featuring predictive AF with nine focus zones and evaluative, spot and centre-weighted metering. Exposure compensation is included which adds a measure of extra control outside picking another scene mode in difficult lighting.

Image quality is good overall, with the lens only letting the side down at full zoom where I had some odd soft edges to my shots, or a strange halo effect on some highlights. General shots are fine and while noise is well controlled up to ISO 400 at ISO 800; the top sensitivity, things get a bit hazier with marked noise intruding into areas of once colour (say blue sky) or shadows and darker areas of a shot.

Verdict

The Pentax Optio W10 provides a tough package ideal for the more active among you, though the plastic body may not live up to the rough and tumble of a drop from a great height when mountain climbing or the impact of a rugby scrum.

However, image quality is more than adequate for most snappers’ requirements and the fact that you can go swimming/snorkeling with this camera or take it to the Sahara desert and not worry about water or sand getting into it, all adds to the attraction.