Over the past few years I’ve reviewed all of Pentax’s Optio W-series of waterproof compact cameras, most recently the Optio W20 in January this year. Usually Pentax send me these cameras in the middle of winter, and as a result I have to risk life, limb and frostbite to test their waterproof abilities. For the launch of the new Optio W30 however Pentax invited me along on a special event where I could test the camera is in complete safety. Along with a small group of other camera journalists, I was invited along to the RNLI Training College in Poole, Dorset, where we met some of the brave volunteers who man Britain’s lifeboats, and went out to sea on the latest £2.5-million Tamar-class lifeboat. The RNLI issues Pentax waterproof cameras to its crews to record many of their activities, which is an impressive testament to the ruggedness and durability of the camera. Having spent the afternoon crashing through some fairly choppy seas at 25 knots, getting soaked by sea spray and battered around by the waves, I have a whole new respect and admiration for the RNLI crews who volunteer to risk their lives in conditions far, far worse, an average of 22 times a day. I’m also pretty impressed with the W30. In conditions that would have destroyed almost any other camera on the market, I was able to take some fairly decent pictures.
The Optio W30 is very similar to its predecessor the W20 in many ways, not least in its price. The W30 is currently available for around £164, which is only about £10 more than the current list price for the W20. It has the same 7.1-megapixel resolution, the same 115k-pixel 2.5-in LCD monitor (although now with an anti-glare coating), and the same internal 3x zoom lens. It even bears a strong physical resemblance to the W20 although it is actually a couple of millimetres bigger and about five grams heavier. Having used the camera for a week now I find that I actually preferred the body design of the W20. It had a flared shape to the right-hand end of the case that was a lot easier to hold securely. The W30 has a quite a slippery shape by comparison, and is harder to grip. The raised feature on the front and the token thumbgrip area on the back don’t really help much.
The control layout is also very similar to the W20, with only one button in a different location. Some of the buttons are slightly larger, but still not big enough to operate while wearing gloves. The shape of the zoom control is slightly different, but works in exactly the same way.