The Pentax Optio W90 was announced about a month ago. It’s the latest waterproof, shockproof point-and-shoot camera from Pentax. I got a sneak peek at the W90 at the PMA tradeshow, the day before it was announced. I made sure they knew I wanted one as soon as it was available. Pentax was the first camera company to make a waterproof digital camera (Pentax Optio WP), way back in 2005. Waterproof cameras have come a long way since then and the new W90 is no exception. It’s a 12-megapixel camera with 720p video and it’s waterproof to 20 feet and can withstand drops from 4 feet. It’s the perfect camera for active outdoor people.
I’ve been shooting with the Pentax Optio W90 for about a week now. I’ve taken it out skiing twice and did a little walk around the neighborhood with it for some variety. By no means am I ready to pass final judgment on it, but here are a few observations. Number one – I like the size and feel of it a lot more than I expected to. I thought it was going to be too big to comfortably fit in a pocket or the little camera pouch I keep on the shoulder strap of my backpack. Not so – it’s totally comfortable in a pants pocket and it fit my pouch perfectly. I think the longer form factor may actually be better than smaller cameras since it makes the camera easier and more comfortable to hold.
I did most of my shooting in the P mode for maximum control and quality. The main issues I’ve had with the camera are the exposure compensation and the white balance. There’s no direct access to exposure compensation – a big mistake in my opinion. Experienced photographers like myself use exposure compensation to fine-tune almost every photo. And less experienced photographers might too if the exposure compensation was easier to use. To access it on the W90 you have to press the menu button and then scroll through the menu options before you can even access it to make changes. That’s way too slow and makes it nearly useless. The camera really needs a dedicated exposure compensation button or a programmable Fn button that can be assigned exposure compensation or whatever the photographer wants.
For average subjects I think the white balance worked ok. But for my snow photos it was pretty wacky. That meant I either accept pink snow or a do a bunch of color correction. Of course, I did a lot of color correction. To be fair, exposure and white balance with snow photos are always difficult. But with the W90 I felt the color was especially skewed and there’s no way I could let it go.
Click on thumbnails to view sample photos.
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Overall, I’ve enjoyed using the Pentax Optio W90 and I look forward to playing with it more. The image quality is about average for a waterproof point-and-shoot. Heavy in-camera noise reduction is obvious, with noticeable softening of detail and that telltale watercolory look when you look closely at the images. I’ve uploaded a bunch of photos, most of them at full resolution. So take a close look and see for yourself. Just keep in mind that they’ve all been adjusted for color and contrast. They didn’t come out of the camera looking like this – especially not the snow photos.
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