To test the W60’s survival credentials I took it with me on what may have been the wettest camping trip this side of the Amazon rain forest. The camera couldn’t have got much wetter if I’d taken it SCUBA diving, and was also bounced around for two days in the pocket of my jacket along with a compass, a Swiss Army knife and the sticky fragments of an exploded Kendal Mint Cake (did you know they can explode? I didn’t). Despite this treatment it survived completely intact to take some pretty decent pictures, and after a quick rinse under a tap was none the worse for its experience, which is more than can be said for my jacket.
In terms of its overall performance, the W60 is on a par with most other recent compacts. It starts up in approximately 2.5 seconds, which is about average, although it shuts down almost instantly. Its shot-to-shot time in single shot mode is a bit on the slow side at approximately 3.3 seconds, although in continuous shooting mode it does rather better, taking a shot every 1.4 seconds. It also has a high-speed burst mode which can rattle off seven shots in just under three seconds, although this limits image size to 5MP.
Part of the reason for this slightly sluggish performance is the autofocus system, which is quite slow, taking around a second to focus even in good light. It is even slower in low light or at telephoto zoom settings, but it does focus well even in very low light, despite the absence of an AF assist lamp.
The W60’s overall image quality is quite good, although it does have a couple of issues. The level of detail is very good, performing as well as any good 10MP compact, and the relatively low compression at the highest quality setting (average file size 3.4MB) produces very few artefacts.
The lens is a bit of a problem, because it suffers from particularly bad barrel distortion at wide angle settings, with less-than-stellar corner sharpness, although to be completely fair this may be less of a problem when shooting underwater.
The W60 has a maximum sensitivity of an impressive 6400 ISO, although at this setting and at 3200 ISO it is limited to 5MP. Image quality at these settings is as low as you’d probably expect, but at least overall colour balance is fairly good. At lower settings the W60 performs well, producing slightly noisy but usable images at 400 and 800 ISO, and excellent noise-free pictures at 50 and 100 ISO.
I did find that my review camera tended to under-expose on a lot of shots, resulting in some very murky shadows in high contrast scenes, but it was possible to correct this using exposure compensation.
The Pentax Optio W60 is a unique camera. It offers much the same performance, image quality and features as a typical modern compact camera, but with the added bonus of being waterproof and ruggedly built. If you’re looking for a camera for a travel and adventure, but also want a stylish pocket camera for social photography, then you’ve just found it.
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