I can tell from the pounding of my head that it must be roughly January 1st, so a Happy New Year to all of you. Being early January of course, it is traditional at this time of year for Pentax to send me its latest waterproof camera to test. In previous years this has involved risking frostbite in near-freezing rivers and lakes, but this year the camera arrived a few days early, so I was able to subject it to the ultimate test of both camera durability and photographer’s stamina; the New Year’s Eve Pirate Party.
Down here in Devon we’re rather proud of our pirates, and what better way to celebrate this heritage than getting about 200 people all dressed up like the crew of the Black Pearl, singing an assortment of sea shanties to the accompaniment of a local band, fuelled by copious quantities of ale and a heightened sense of the ridiculous. Shiver me timbers, splice the mainbrace, avast there ye scurvy dogs etc. Honestly, it’s not embarrassing at all if everyone else is doing it too.
The camera that was unlucky enough to be subjected to this mayhem was the Optio W20, the latest in Pentax’s successful line of waterproof compacts. Previous models include the WP, WPi and W10, all of which, both 6-megapixel models, have been reviewed here. The W20 was launched in August 2006 and sells for around £220 on the high street, or around £170 online.
The W20 improves on the specification of the W10 only marginally, adding only a 7-megapixel sensor, a larger internal memory (22MB rather than 10.5), higher maximum sensitivity (1600 ISO over 800 ISO) and compatibility with the new SDHC (High Capacity) memory cards. Other than those changes the two camera are very similar. Even the body design is virtually identical, although the W20 adds a slight flare to the front of the case on the handgrip side, making the camera slightly more secure to hold.
Unchanged are the 2.5in 115,000-pixel monitor, the 3x optical zoom non-protruding lens, and the ability to survive immersion in water to a depth of 1.5 metres for up to 30 minutes.
The W20’s body is mostly plastic, with an aluminium inset front panel. Build quality is very good, and although it doesn’t have the shock-proof abilities of the Olympus mju 725 SW it still feels sufficiently robust to survive a few knocks. The shape is smooth and sleek with no protrusions to catch on clothing or get snapped off.