Pentax Optio W60 Digital Camera Review

Matt Grayson sees if it's possible to test an underwater camera without going through the tedious rigmarole of getting wet.

08/09/2008 - 14:17

The Pentax Optio W60 offers you a good enough reason to run into the sea giggling like a child.

Skip to Verdict

Pentax Optio W60: Specifications

  • Resolution: 10 Mp
  • Sensor size: 1/2.3in
  • Pentax Optio W60 Sensor type: CCD
  • Sensitivity: ISO50-6,400
  • Storage: Internal 36.4Mb,SD, SDHC Card
  • Zoom: 5x optical (28 - 140mm in 35mm film format)
  • Focus Area: 9 Point
  • Normal: 0.5m-infinity
  • Macro: 1cm
  • Focus: Auto, Manual, Pan, Spot-AF, focus tracking
  • Metering: TTL; Multi-segment, Centre-weighted, Spot
  • Exposure compensation: -/ 2 EV (1/3 steps)
  • Shutter Speed: 1/1500-4sec
  • Flash: 0.3-3.9m (Wide), 0.4-2.5m (Tele)
  • Monitor: 2.5in LCD 230,000 dots
  • Power:Rechargeable Li-Ion
  • Size: 98x55.5x24.5mm
  • Weight: 125g

The Pentax Optio W60 at £219 offers 10Mp, 5x optical zoom and waterproofing to 4m for two hours.

The only model that comes anywhere near to this in terms of waterproofing is the Olympus Mju 1030SW at £249 with 10Mp, 3.6x optical zoom and waterproofing to 10m.

Pentax Optio W60: Modes and features
The Optio W60 is a simple box of a camera with a chunky plastic ring wrapped around the lens as any external indication of the cameras waterproofing. I've always got worried with cameras such as this that have holes in them and no thick rubber coatings over the buttons.

Pentax optio W60 The glass that covers the lens front element is coated in Pentax' own SP coating to help reduce water spots forming and only the small flash accompanies the lens on the front.

The 28mm lens will easily cope with the sweeping vistas on your holidays.

On the back of the camera, the large 2.5in LCD screen isn't as far over to the left as I'd expect meaning that the buttons on the right are smaller or more scrunched. People with larger hands could run into trouble because of this but it doesn't bother me. However I tend to use my thumbnails which is a habit that comes from years of using stupidly small mobile phones and their equally small buttons. It may be a waterproofing issue but the screen is positioned quite far up to the top which contradicts that theory.

Pentax Optio W60 The zoom is a small rocker with the playback button sat alone just underneath. The main menu button shares space with the face detection with the navigation pad located below. This pad also doubles up with other features such as the flash options, self timer and access to the macro function. You can also enter the modes of the camera by pressing down on the pad. Finally, a green mode button sits at the very bottom of the camera and this is designed to make everything super easy for you. It goes to the lengths of blocking a large portion of the options in the menu so you aren't dazzled with fancy features and technology.

Notable features in the mode menu are the digital wide, panorama, underwater (thankfully), kids and I've noticed recently that Pentax are now incorporating the beach & snow mode back into their cameras.

This is a long lost mode that is actually very useful. Digital compacts are designed to meter on the understanding that the lower portion of the picture (ground) will be darker than the top portion (sky). When it's faced with a scene such as snow where the ground is just as bright as the sky, it gets confused and can meter incorrectly.

Pressing the menu button takes you into the more core features and settings of the camera. Interestingmodes are available in here and most of them can be seen by putting the camera in program mode (P in the mode menu). This is a mode similar to auto but allows more creative control.

The Pentax offers three focusing modes of a broad area, small area and tracking. You can also select the metering modes between centre-weighted, multi and spot. The Pentax Optio W60 also has exposure compensation and is one of the few newest models on the market to feature blink detection where the camera analyses the eyes and tells you if someone's blinked so you can retake the image.

In green mode all the functions found in this area disappear and only the camera settings area is available. This is the area where you can make changes such as date & time, language and power save settings.

Pentax Optio W60: Build and handling
Pentax Optio W60 The camera is protected from the water by JIS class 8 water resistant seals. The only visible waterproofing that can be seen is in the battery bay as the door is covered in rubber. This area is also quite interesting because to open it takes some doing. The locking clasp isn't easy to navigate but I'd rather it was tough to open than just spring open when I'm underwater.

Pentax have put the USB port in the same place as the battery and card. That then reduces the amount of doors on the camera to one increasing the waterproofing.

The recommendation for the rubber sealants is to get them replaced by Pentax once a year which is a little disturbing. I'd expect them to last longer than that and in realistic terms I expect they will. It still seems odd that more resiliant materials aren't used.

The buttons are firm to the point of stickiness. They need a good firm push to make them do anything which is due to the rubber seals that are under the shell of the camera. Similar to the lock of the battery bay, I'd rather struggle and know my camera is safe.

Pentax Optio W60: Performance
Putting the camera into continuous shooting mode is done by pressing the self timer icon on the navigation pad and selecting the picture that looks like some squares piled on top of one another. The Pentax Optio W60 can take seven images in ten seconds giving it a rating of 0.7fps. It also offers a high speed version which still takes seven pictures but does it in a faster time.

Pre-focused shutter lag sits at around 0.08sec which is standard for a compact these days.

The portrait shot looks a little dark but not to the point where you'd disregard it as under exposed. There's ample exposure on the side of the light and it's only the opposite side that needs a boost of flash. Using the flash has done wonders. It's given a delicate boost to the skin without bleaching or even really giving any indication of using a flash apart from the slight shadow in the background and flash catchlights in the eyes.

Pentax Optio W60
The portrait is balanced with a good skin tone and overall exposure.
Pentax Optio W60
Using the flash to fill in the dark side of the face works even better.
Pentax Optio W60
The colours are really nicely done on this. The right colours are boosted and the skin tone is nicely balanced.

The colourchart has predictably boosted the blues and greens but it's nice to see the warmer tones having a shunt too. The skin tone square looks great and we've just seen on the portrait that the Optio W60 works well with people.

The action shot of the surfer illustrates the kind of photography you can do with the W60. It's unfortunate that the focusing couldn't keep up with this.

The Pentax Optio W60 manages to stay underwater for a maximum of two hours at a depth of 4m. This doesn't sound much but at 13ft is longer than two average sized people.

Pentax Optio W60
Grabbing a quick shot like this is bound to have problems. It's slightly under exposed and unsharp.
Pentax Optio W60
The underwater capability is capped at two hours when you go to maximum depth. No good for diving, but great for fun shots.
All sorts of fun can be had from going underwater from exploring tropical reefs to seeing how your fish view your room.
Pentax Optio W60
The landscape image is quite good overall but does have its flaws.

One thing I'm unsure of is the maximum time that the Pentax can stay underwater for. The Olympus Mju 1030SW is waterproof to 10m continuously yet the Pentax has a limited time of two hours.

On what can be loosely described as dry land, the Pentax creates a reasonable landscape image even through the gloom. The sky is threatening to over expose the image, but has just been kept at bay. Meanwhile, the white bars do show fringing which is worrying because of the low contrast day.

Detail is available in the background but only a little and this may be down to the aperture of f/3.5 that was used.

Pentax Optio W60: Focus and metering
Entering the menu system brings up a number of options including the advanced focusing modes. Within the option is the focusing area where you can choose from multi area AF which will choose from any area in the frame, spot AF which focuses only int he centre and tracking focus which does exactly what it says on the tin.

You can also use a focus limiter which sets the focus range to the very distance or the very close. Pentax say this mode is ideal for landscapes or macro shots and also benefits from faster focusing.

Pressing the macro button will also bring up the preset focusing modes of the W60. You can take advantage of macro, 1cm macro, pan focus, infinity and manual.

There are three metering modes within the Pentax optio W60. They are multi, centre-weighted and spot. Multi will analyse 256 different segments of the image and work out a balanced exposure from the results while spot will only meter from the centre of the image. Centre-weighted is the most used mode and works by taking an overall reading from the entire area which is larger than the multi segment area. This mode often has problems due to bright areas in the shot forcing the aperture closed.

Pentax Optio W60: Noise test
I can't help but feel that the processor is oversharpening the images although there's plenty of detail in the lower ISO settings.

Disappointingly, noise is starting to show at ISO200 with the petals losing detail at ISO400.

By ISO1600, the detail in the petals is totally lost and the only way that Pentax can try to cap the noise in the final two settings is to drop the resolution down to 5Mp which they've done.

Pentax Optio W60
The ISO50 test.
Pentax Optio W60
The ISO100 test.
Pentax Optio W60
The ISO200 test.
Pentax Optio W60
The ISO400 test.
Pentax Optio W60
The ISO800 test.
Pentax Optio W60
The ISO1600 test.
Pentax Optio W60
The ISO3200 test.
Pentax Optio W60
The ISO6400 test.

Pentax Optio W60: Verdict
This camera is perfect for shallow scuba diving or, as our pictures show, for watersports such as surfing. Don't go looking on the seabed with it as you won't get far.

I think the performance of the waterproofing needs to be worked on more, simply because there are other models that don't have a time limit on how long they can stay under water. Pentax also say that the rubber seals should be replaced once a year which can work out quite expensive as it's not under warranty.

There are some interesting comments from one of our readers who's let us know what he thought when he tried it, as well as our very own Gadget Granny.

It does have some good features such as the 28mm wide lens, 5x optical zoom and brilliant portrait performance. I'm divided on the results from the noise test. They're not that bad but could be better and if they couldn't increase the quality at higher ISO, I'd personally rather see it taken out.

If you like your trips to the coast for a stroll along the water's edge or if you're a surf dude that wants some snaps, then take a look at the Pentax.

Gadget Granny says:
I took the camera out for a walk with my dog and I like the quality of pictures the Pentax can give me. I don't like the battery life on it, though. I know Matt had been using the camera before me but he told me it wasn't excessive use and I only managed to get three pictures. It's something to look out for if you take the camera out for the day.

Reader testimonial:
One of our readers has been able to try the Pentax Optio W60 as he's going around the world and needs a diverse camera to cope with all weathers and activities. He said:
"I like the build of the Pentax, it's sturdy but small enough to fit in my pocket. It's really easy to use and I like that I'm able to zoom in while filming. I think the screen is bright enough for what I'd need it for and I could even see it in direct sunlight which will be good when I'm in a hot country. I also like the idea of the green button for easy use but that the camera is also fully customisable.

What I don't like is the battery life as I think that in this day and age, the batteries should last a lot longer. One other major downside I discovered when playing back my videos. The microphone picks up the noise of the zoom and focusing so my videos have whirring and clicking noises in the background."

Pentax Optio W60: Plus points
Wide lens.
Good internal zoom.
Excellent portrait results.

Pentax Optio W60: Minus points
Waterproofing is limited.
Battery life isn't up to scratch.
Noise of the zoom and focusing is picked up by the microphone when filming.





The Pentax Optio W60 costs around £169 and is available from Warehouse Express:

Pentax Optio W60.


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