Compact, Sturdy, Waterproof, Versitile, Excellent Photo Quality
Poor LCD Resolution and FOV; Audible AF in Movies; Non-Locking Strap
I bought the W30 to document industrial, environmental, and sewer issues for my job with a wastewater utility. I wanted something small that wouldn't be crushed if abused and could survive getting wet. The choices were to use a protective dive case on a regular camera (too bulky), the ... Read full review
I bought the W30 to document industrial, environmental, and sewer issues for my job with a wastewater utility. I wanted something small that wouldn't be crushed if abused and could survive getting wet. The choices were to use a protective dive case on a regular camera (too bulky), the Olympus Stylus 720/770 waterproof cameras, and the Pentax W series. We felt this was by far the most cost effective choice.
The W30 is pretty close to perfect for our needs. With a 4GB SD card, it records pictures quickly, it has plenty of tools for getting good photos in unusual lighting conditions, and the small, strong body is ideal for what I do. The only work related "problems" I have are that the camera will sink if dropped in water so using the strap is mandatory, and that strap is just a loop (no lanyard) so you have to be careful. We could attach a float, but that would make it less stealthy (being able to take photos incognito is sometimes important for environmental work.)
Most folks who buy this will be using it for home and they should be aware of it's two biggest issues: the resolution of the LCD display and the clicking you will hear in movie mode. The display is large, and works well to frame the shot when you are directly behind the camera in any light, but the resolution is too low to tell whether the shot you took is in focus (or to focus manually) and you can't see the display from an angle so using the camera above your head or below your waist is almost impossible. This is a pretty major shortcoming because it directly reflects the still photo performance and usability, especially underwater.
Movies are great visually and you can both zoom and focus while taking a movie. But if you do, your soundtrack will sound like a pool full of dolphins echo-locating (more clicks than whistles, fortunately). The microphone picks up way to much noise from the camera to make this camera competitive with others in this price class. I am not sure whether it is possible to avoid this in a waterproof camera because you can't really isolate the microphone from the body and the internal mechanism as you might in a standard camera.
I will not be using the camera under water for work, but I did try it out with my family, and I must say that the results are spectacular - if you can manage to keep your subject in frame. Again, you need to have the camera right in front of you to see the LCD clearly. I got good results from both the standard modes and the special underwater modes in both stills and movies.
I would also note that the "modes" are very useful in general. There are perhaps more choices than you need, but the choices do work exactly as advertised, providing differences in color and exposure control that are really useful. Setting these manually would be a real pain, because most controls are hidden in the menu. Anal retentive photographers with control issues can alter the use of the "green" button to bring up their 4 most used manual settings, but 99.5% of the time, the "modes" get you where you want to go faster and with better results.
So in conclusion this is very close to being a spectacular camera for most people. The LCD resolution and viewing angle, plus the noisy AF in movie mode significantly detract from its appeal as a general use camera, but if you need a compact camera that can be washed in the sink and takes great stills and video (other then sound) under extreme conditions, this is your best buy!