Pentax Optio W90 Waterproof Camera Preview And Video

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Pentax Optio W90 waterproof, shockproof, outdoor digital camera 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.

Pentax Optio W90 digital camera - in the snow

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.

Pentax Optio W90 Utah Winter Landscape Sample Photo Pentax Optio W90 ISO 500 Interior Sample Photo Pentax Optio W90 Alta Self-Portrait Sample Photo
Pentax Optio W90 Easter Dinner Sample Photo Pentax Optio W90 Railroad Crossing Sample Photo Pentax Optio W90 Peanuts Sample Photo

Click on thumbnails to view sample photos.
All Pentax Optio W90 Sample Photos >>

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.

Pentax Optio W90 Announcement >>

Related Content:
All Pentax User Reviews
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Pentax Cameras Forum
Outdoor And Waterproof Digital Cameras Guide
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Underwater Photography News & Articles
Pentax Web Site


About the author: Photo-John

Photo-John, a.k.a. John Shafer, is the managing editor of and has been since the site launched back in 1999. He's an avid outdoor enthusiast and spends as much time as possible on his mountain bike, hiking or skiing in the mountains. He's been taking pictures for ever and ever, and never goes anywhere without a camera.

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  • Manuel says:

    Hi John,
    how does this compare to the Olympus 8010?
    My Olympus 8010 leaked on it’s second snorkelling outing, so I have to decide whether to replace it like for like, or change the camera to a different brand. I am not a hardcore photography but need one which gives good underwater images.
    Thanks in advance.

  • Rok says:

    In your review you mentioned … “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.”
    Actually there is a programmable Fn button so called “Green Button” which you will find at the bottom.
    It is programmable via menu option “Green Button”.
    It gives direct access to WB, exposure, ISO, metering … etc. You can program 4 functions to be used at the touch of the button.
    I just got my W90 today and so far I’m quite impressed with all the possibilites that this camera offers for example bracketing and interval shots.

  • Leibuys says:

    Hi John,
    I am also curious to know how you like this camera in comparison to the Olympus 8010. How does the photo/video quality compare. I have many personal uses for the microscope mode on this camera it will work well for my job. I think this camera suits me best but I would like your honest opinion. Thanks for your time!

  • Hi John. says:

    I need a camera for my business. I really need an outdoor camera. I ski as well and it would be nice to have a durable camera during those trips. I am really interested in the Pentax w90 but I enjoy my little old Kodak that I just plug into my usb on my computer and when it is not uploading, it is charging. Looks like the Pw90 needs to pull the battery out to charge. Quite a change from my comfortable routine.

    So it all comes down to this-After watching all your great web movies and reading your comments, should I buy this camera over a Stylus Tough-8010 just for that one comfort I enjoy? I must tell you there is nothing worse than being in Timbuktu without a battery. I have a cell phone back up for pics, but would really like your call on this one. You can email me directly if you would like to offer your opinion privately if that suits you. I hope you receive this soon. I have to make a purchase very, very soon.


  • Larry says:

    I want a WP camera that uses AA or AAA batteries as I go on kayak trips where I cannot use a battery charger. Which would you recommend?

  • Photo-John says:

    I am not aware of any waterproof cameras that use standard AA or AAA batteries. However, the lithium ion rechargeables in current point-and-shoot cameras can take 200 or more photos (on average) before they need to be recharged. Unless you’re going to be out in the wilderness for weeks, I think one extra battery will do the job for you. You could also look into a solar charger. There are a whole bunch on the market now. That’s what I’d do – one extra battery and a solar charger :)

  • Bill says:

    Larry – what solar charger do you recommend for the Penatax Optio?? My son is leaving on a 3-month sail/kayak/jungle survival expedition in Central America. He’s packbacking the entire way – no power outlets! The charger has to be good on salt water and in jungle conditions, but compact enough to be stowed in his gear kit. I have one week to get it to him.
    Thanks for helping!

  • Bill says:

    p.s. I’ve had our Optio for 3 years. FANTASTIC camera. Wouldn’t trade it for the world.

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