However there are a number of crucial differences which make the W30 a more interesting camera than the W20. For a start, thanks to new stronger seals around the controls and hatches it is waterproof to a depth of three metres for up to two hours, twice the depth and four times the duration of the W20. This is still less than the five metre depth rating of the W30’s only real rival the Olympus mju 725 SW, but is more than enough for most seaside snorkelling and watersports activities.
Another change from the W20 is an additional sensitivity setting, taking the maximum up to 3200 ISO. Along with this is the slightly misleading Digital Shake Reduction, a feature which the uninitiated might mistake for a proper mechanical image stabilisation system, such as the very effective system on some of Pentax’s digital SLRs. In fact the DSR mode just boosts the ISO setting to produce faster shutter speeds, which does help to reduce motion blur but incurs the risk of increased image noise. As far as I’m aware the W30 uses exactly the same sensor as the W20 and several more of Pentax’s 7MP compacts, so the increased sensitivity is simply a tweak to the image processing engine. The new model’s image noise performance appears to be the same as the W20, in other words not bad up to 400 ISO but progressively worse at higher settings. 1600 ISO was pretty noisy on the previous model, and proves to be the same for the W30, so as you can imagine the 3200 ISO setting is even noisier and produces extremely poor image quality. Since the Digital Shake Reduction mode can push the automatic ISO setting up to this useless maximum in low light conditions, you need to pay attention to what it’s doing or you’ll have some very disappointing pictures.
Another addition is the now almost ubiquitous face detection system in portrait mode, which automatically detects human faces, focuses on them and sets the exposure accordingly. As I’ve mentioned before I don’t consider this to be an especially useful feature, but since it seems to have become standard equipment on even budget-priced digital cameras I’m not going to complain about it.
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