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Performance-wise, Pentax claims a 0.6 second ready-to-shoot start-up time, but that’s only when the flash and customisable start-up screen and sounds are turned off. In practice, with these all activated it was closer to 1.5 seconds which is still rather good. An impressive continuous shooting rate of 3fps is achievable but is only sustained until the buffer is full or the SD memory card’s capacity is reached, which ever comes first. I managed to fire off a total of seven shots in high speed mode (limited to 1280 x 960 pixels) before the WP’s buffer maxed out.
As for power, the rechargeable lithium-ion battery is a dinky affair that annoyingly (and a tad embarrassingly) slides into its compartment the wrong way. Basically, it needs to be keyed to prevent this. The stated battery life is good for 180 images with the flash used 50 per cent of the time, and it takes about 100mins for a depleted battery to reach full charge. There’s about 10.5MB of internal memory, and a 64MB SD memory card (image/movies capacities below) is provided in the box along with a software CD that includes ACDSee and QuickTime.
In use, I was highly impressed with the majority of images I captured. As we’ve seen the underwater shots were commendable, but outdoors the WP also produced well balanced shots, where colours looked vibrant and realistically saturated. The WP’s metering ensured that highlights were not blown out especially where brilliant whites and yellows were captured against darker backgrounds. Furthermore, if you’re unsure of the overall brightness balance of the shot you’re about to take, a live histogram is there to help, complete with those blinking red and yellow portions that indicate total whiteness and total blackness, respectively – ideal for judging fine adjustments to the WP’s exposure compensation (+/- 2 EV in 1/3 EV-steps).
The level of resolved detail was also good although at ISO 400 pixel noise was clearly evident. In my opinion, the WP’s macro mode is one of the best I’ve come across for a while. You can get as close as 1cm to the subject with the lens at its widest setting, and the resulting images are very impressive for such small optics. Even on the occasions when the flash fired it was throttled back to prevent overexposure. Chromatic aberrations were minimal too. Having said that, I did notice a strange artefact on one particular shot that I can only guess was a result of a droplet on the window that protects the optics. This in turn raises the possible need for a cover to prevent that window from getting damaged, particularly when you consider the sort of environments the WP will be taken to.
On the whole, though, I like this camera, but there is one gripe that comes about when the WP is hooked up to a PC over its USB 1.1 interface, which incidentally isn’t of the more common mini-USB variety. Basically, after connecting it, browsing/copying the images, and then disconnecting it, the WP refuses to return to the recording mode, and instead it remains locked into the playback/preview mode. The only way out is to switch the camera off and then on again.
Despite this grumble, the Optio WP has a lot to offer. This is a waterproof (not water resistant) camera that can take good images, has plenty of options and it’s reasonably priced at £192.50. Recommended, especially for those that enjoy shallow water sports...and confusing aquarium fish.
Quite simply the Optio WP is one of only a handful of fully waterproof digital cameras currently on the market. It spares you the added expense of a separate waterproof housing and in terms of image quality it gives many “normal” compacts a run for their money, while blowing disposable underwater cameras clean out of the water. There are several niggles, but these are off-set by its ‘go anywhere’ practicality.
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