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The W30 has similar features to the Optio M30 that I reviewed last month. It has 21 scene modes, as well as Program auto and the very useful Auto Picture mode, which automatically selects the appropriate scene mode depending on the type of picture being taken. There are several useful features in playback mode, including automatic red-eye correction, cropping and resizing, voice memo, frame composites and the usual range of colour filters. Additionally it has two underwater modes, one for still images and the other for movies. The movie mode shoots at VGA resolution and 30fps.
In terms of general performance the W30 is about average for a pocket compact. It starts up in about two and a half seconds, and in single-shot mode it has a shot-to-shot time of also about two and a half seconds. It has two continuous shooting modes; a high speed burst mode that can take five shots in two seconds, and an unlimited mode that averages one shot every 1.2 seconds, both of which are quite respectable if not outstanding results. The AF system is reasonably quick in good light, although it does slow down a bit in lower light conditions; however its low-light focusing accuracy is very good indeed, locking on to subjects in near darkness despite the lack of an AF assist lamp. Battery performance seems to be noticeably improved over previous models, not least because of the new 740mAh battery, which is slightly stronger than the one in the W20.
Picture quality is about average for a 7MP compact. Exposure is generally good, although in standard multi-zone metering mode it does tend to under-expose in strong backlighting. Colour rendition is very good, and the lens performs well despite its unusual configuration. It has noticeable barrel distortion at the wide-angle end of the zoom range, but overall detail and corner sharpness are a match for any other 7MP pocket compact. As I’ve already mentioned, the W30 does suffer from quite bad image noise at high ISO settings, but as long as you keep it under 800 it isn’t a major problem.
An improvement over the far-from-shabby W20, the Pentax Optio W30 is an ideal holiday camera, able to survive water, sand, dust and even small children. A well-made and stylish camera, it is as easy to use as any pocket compact and can take a pretty decent picture almost anywhere. Its low-light performance is especially impressive.
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