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9/10

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Pentax Optio WP - Waterproof Digital Camera - Pentax Optio WP

As a point and shoot camera outside the aquatic world, the WPs handling, performance and image quality are all rather good, plus there’s plenty of features to keep the amateur photographer occupied.

The small and slim dimensions – 102 x 51 x 22mm (WxHxD) - make it a very pocketable compact, whereas all of the controls can be operated with just your thumb and forefinger. I’m not really a fan of badly positioned tripod mounts and the one here has been shifted right over to one side, although I doubt the WP’s 135g of weight will put too much strain on the screw hole. That said, the offset balance could make the WP more sensitive to vibrations especially when using the Night, Candlelight and Fireworks modes where the exposure times can reach up to four seconds.

There’s no optical viewfinder either, but the 2.0in LCD monitor is a jump up from the company’s Optio 43WR which featured a 1.6in screen. However, the resolution remains the same at 85,000 pixels which means the display isn’t quite as fine. Nonetheless, it refreshes at a flicker-free rate which is always good to see, plus its low-reflection and backlighting system make it a little easier to view outdoors on sunny days.

In terms of features, the mode palette as Pentax likes to call it, makes selecting the available icons very easy. Two of these palettes exist – one for recording pictures and the other pops up when the playback/preview button is pressed. 15 of these icons are displayed at one time, but in the recoding palette there’s another five icons which can be subsituted. The icons can be rearranged and they’re also coupled with brief descriptions as to what they’re intended for. If you want a little more information then pressing the green button will fire up a full descriptive sentence.

That’s not all the green button does, as it’s also used to fire up another mode, imaginatively called the Green mode. This is best described as a restore button, which basically resets the WP back to a standard combination of settings. You can also assign up to four functions to the green button as shortcuts. These can be chosen from the following list: recording image size, image quality, white balance, AF area, focus limit (quicker focusing for near and far subjects), exposure compensation, ISO sensitivity, sharpness, saturation and contrast. This level of customisation, along with the four-way control pad makes operating the WP a quick process, but only after you’ve spent some time to read the detailed manual.

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Among the modes I’ve already mentioned, there’s a movie one that allows you to use the zoom across its optical range of 6.3mm to 18.9mm (equivalent to 38 – 114mm in a standard 35mm camera). You can’t however record at a resolution of 640 x 480, only at 320 x 240 and 160 x 120 pixels at either 30fps or 15fps. At 30fps the quality isn’t as high as, for instance, my Canon Ixus 30, but it’s nonetheless acceptable for short sequences complete with mono audio. You can also edit the movies right there within the camera. Not only can a frame from a movie sequence be saved as a still image, but a single movie can also be split into two, or two movies can be stitched together.

Other modes include adding voice memos to pictures, recording 10 seconds of audio prior to and after shooting a picture (Synchronous Sound Record mode), a recovery function for erased images, a post shot red-eye removal function, a panoramic stitching mode and an option to add frames to your pictures. The WP even doubles up as a timepiece complete with graphical clock face and an alarm. Modes of the more unusual yet specific variety include, Food (more 'appetising' saturation), Flower (softer outlines), and Museum (no flash). All in all, the WP is jam packed with features, some arguably gimmicky, but there’s plenty to keep you occupied. The only really downer is that it lacks aperture and shutter priority, but then that’s not uncommon with point and shoot cameras.

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