Pentax W60 Review

 
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Basic Specifications
Full model name: Pentax Optio W60
Resolution: 10.10 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/2.3 inch
Lens: 5.00x zoom
(28-140mm eq.)
Viewfinder: LCD
ISO: 50-6400
Shutter: 4-1/1500
Max Aperture: 3.5
Dimensions: 3.9 x 2.2 x 1.0 in.
(99 x 56 x 25 mm)
Weight: 5.1 oz (144 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $330
Availability: 07/2008
Manufacturer: Pentax
Full specs: Pentax W60 specifications
10.10
Megapixels
5.00x zoom
1/2.3 inch
size sensor
image of Pentax Optio W60
Front side of Pentax Optio W60 digital camera Back side of Pentax Optio W60 digital camera Top side of Pentax Optio W60 digital camera Left side of Pentax Optio W60 digital camera Right side of Pentax Optio W60 digital camera

Pentax Optio W60 Overview

Overview by Mike Tomkins
Review by Shawn Barnett, Dave Etchells
and Stephanie Boozer
Initial Test: 11/21/08
Review: 07/15/09

The Pentax Optio W60 digital camera combines a ten megapixel CCD image sensor with a 5x optical zoom lens in a compact, pocket-friendly body designed to take whatever the elements deliver. Capable of being used underwater at depths of up to 13 feet for as long as two hours, and also able to survive operation in temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 degrees Celsius), the Pentax W60 looks to be a worthy successor to last year's design, with a number of changes in many areas.

As compared to the W30, the Pentax W60 is just a couple of millimeters thicker and taller, but almost a full centimeter less wide for a more traditional point'n'shoot shape. About 15 grams has been trimmed off the weight in the process, yet Pentax has still managed to cram in a 5x optical zoom lens as previously mentioned - much more versatile than the 3x zoom of the W30. There's both a little extra at the wide end for a useful 28mm wide angle, plus a creditable 140mm telephoto to get you closer to the action. On the downside, the new lens is just a little less bright than on the previous camera. Where the W30 had a 7 megapixel 1/2.5" CCD, the Pentax Optio W60 instead uses a 10 megapixel 1/2.3" type - the use of a slightly larger image sensor perhaps somewhat helping counter the less bright lens and the increase in resolution.

As with the W30, the Pentax Optio W60 forgoes any form of optical viewfinder in favor of solely a 2.5" LCD display. This is the same size as that used on the previous camera (and pretty much the bottom end of LCD sizes seen on competing cameras), but the resolution has been doubled to 230,000 pixels - so still a noticeable improvement here. Other changes include a new 720p (1280x720 pixel) HD movie mode, although the increase in movie quality comes at a decrease in framerate to just 15 frames per second. At VGA or below, the Pentax W60 can offer 30 frames per second movies. There's also more built-in memory ( 36.4MB instead of 21.9MB), a new battery type (the D-LI78 instead of the D-LI63), a slight increase to the strength of the digital zoom (5.7x) and playback zoom (10x), and a slight decrease in the fastest shutter speed - now 1/1500 instead of 1/2000 second.

The Pentax Optio W60 began shipping in the US market in July 2008, with a list price of US$329.95, but by November 2008 was available from multiple sources online for less than $250.

 

Pentax Optio W60 User Report

by Shawn Barnett

One of the old guard in waterproof digital cameras, the Pentax Optio W60 has a lot of development history behind it. After several generations, it's still light, simple, and flat. Significantly upgraded from the last generation, the Pentax W60 meets many of the market's recent trends, with a wide-angle 5x optical zoom, ranging from 28-140mm. A slightly larger sensor helps keep image quality up despite the 10-megapixel resolution, and a 2.5-inch LCD has higher resolution than its predecessor, with 230,000 pixels, always helpful when checking focus or viewing images after capture.

Look and feel. As I say, the Pentax W60 is light, coming in at 5 ounces (144g) with a battery and SD card, making it one of the lighter models in the roundup. Though the Z33 is lighter, the Pentax W60 feels lighter over its larger body size.

Coming in blue and silver, the front plate has an attractive brushed metal finish, but most of the body appears to be plastic. A rough black bezel surrounds the lens, and serves as a good tactile reminder that the lens is nearby, helping keep fingers away from the lens. A small lip on the edge makes for a good grip, with your fingertips finding traction on the ridged Pentax logo. Four raised bumps on the back help the thumb out a bit. Combined with the light weight, these two grip surfaces make the Pentax W60 easy to hold in most wet conditions, including ocean waves and pools.

Controls. The Pentax W60's controls are rather unconventional on the back, with mostly raised square buttons. Though they're unconventional, they're easy enough to use for a gadget guy like me; however, those with larger thumbs might have a little trouble, especially with the zoom rocker. I'd prefer slightly larger buttons, set more widely apart.

The shutter button is mushy at best, and after some use (and testing in the lab), the button was harder and harder to activate. Not a great sign for durability, unfortunately, though our timing tests have been known to dent a shutter button occasionally.

Shooting. Getting the Pentax W60 out in the open tells a lot more than you can get from a spec sheet. It's a bit of a mixed bag, with some significant positives and significant negatives, unfortunately.

Starting with that shutter button, it's sometimes quite a chore to get the Pentax W60 to take a picture. That's not good in a camera. If you approach it at a hard right angle, however, you can get it to activate more often. In addition to frustrated, having to press so hard on the shutter button introduces more blur in low light, which you can see quite readily on the LCD.

The Pentax W60's f/3.5 lens is not the best light gatherer, either, and includes no image stabilization, so it's best used outdoors.

Unfortunately, the other major downfall of the Pentax W60 is its LCD. I had a very hard time in full sunlight seeing the image on the LCD, at both the beach and at the pool. It was more difficult at the beach, because the brackish water of Tybee Island presented a fairly dark background; but even at the pool I had trouble seeing what was on the LCD. The Pentax W60 was by no means the worst performer, but it was bad enough that it sticks out in my memory as a significant strike.

Click to view movie. AVI player required.

VGA movie. (Click image to download 11MB AVI file.) Click here for 10MB HD movie.

Movie mode was also mixed, producing hazy images. And the HD movie mode is only capable of capturing 15 frames per second, which really isn't sufficient for action. 640x480 performance was the usual 30 frames per second, though it also suffered from low contrast.

On the plus side, the Pentax Optio W60 has the best optical quality of the entire roundup: at wide, tele, and middle focal lengths. Chromatic aberration is low, only mentionable at wide angle, and corner sharpness is quite good. That's unusual. Image rendering is also better, with good color, well-controlled noise suppression that retains detail pretty well, and even white balance performance is good indoors and out.

A special high-speed capture mode is also of value, though it operates at a reduced resolution of 5 megapixels instead of the Pentax W60's 10 megapixels. Still, capturing five frames per second usually requires a mid-grade digital SLR costing $1,200 or more.

Perhaps most remarkable is the high print quality at the lowest ISO, delivering 13x19-inch prints of decent quality across the frame. ISO 800 shots are good at 5x7, which we'll call a pass for this test, especially considering the relatively slow lens.

Shutter lag is also good, unless you factor in that difficulty with the shutter button itself.

And though it's not considered a rugged camera, the Pentax W60 did experience a good drop onto rough asphalt thanks to my five-year-old son, from about three feet. Though it did get a pretty good ding in one of its corners, it still works just fine.

 

Pentax W60 Lens Quality


Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Slightly soft upper right
Tele: Sharp at center
Tele: Softest in lower right corner

Sharpness: Both the wide-angle and telephoto ends of the Pentax Optio W60's zoom show very slight softening in the corners. Blurring is however much lower than most internal lens cameras. Exceptional performance here.


Wide: Higher than average barrel distortion; quite noticeable.
Tele: Higher than average pincushion distortion, also quite noticeable.

Geometric Distortion: The Optio W60's lens exhibits noticeable barrel distortion (about 1.1%) at full wide-angle, and pincushion distortion is also strong (0.5%) at telephoto.


Wide: Moderate
Tele: None

Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide-angle is moderate, mainly showing slightly strong purple, with a hint of some green chromatic aberration as well. Telephoto, however, shows practically none.


Standard Macro
Standard Macro with Flash
Super Macro

Macro: The Pentax W60's Standard Macro mode at maximum telephoto captures good detail, but images are slightly soft overall. There's less less corner softness and chromatic aberration radiating out from the center than we're used to seeing. Minimum coverage area is 1.12 x 0.84 inches or 28 x 21 millimeters. Exposure with the flash enabled was surprisingly even, though a bit overexposed. Super Macro mode didn't result in a smaller coverage area, but wasn't as soft as Standard Macro mode. It did however show more chromatic aberration. 


 

Pentax W60 Image Quality


Color: Good, bright color, without being too saturated. Some color shifts in oranges and cyans, but very pleasing color overall. Skin tones were slightly pinkish, but fairly realistic.


100
200
400
800
1,600

ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail is good at ISO 100 and 200, though with some slight softening. At ISO 400, chroma (color) noise is more pronounced, with splotches of yellow and blue pixels noticeable in the darker background. Going from ISO 800 to 1,600, detail begins to fall apart with stronger blurring. See Printed results below for more on that.


Wide (14.4 ft.):
A little dim and very noisy
Tele (9.2 ft.):
Slightly dim and very noisy

Flash: We accidentally shot these "manufacturer-specified" shots about a foot further away than the actual spec. The results weren't bad, though, in terms of exposure level; the main issue is that the camera boosts ISO greatly, to get acceptable flash range in dim lighting. The wide-angle example was shot at a distance of 14.4 feet (official range spec is 13 feet), while the telephoto example was shot at 9.2 feet (official spec is 8.2 feet), As noted, the exposures are about right, although the wide shot is a little dim (perhaps due to light being reflected from the white ceiling tiles fooling the exposure system). The camera boosted the ISO to 640 for the wide-angle shot and 1,000 for the telephoto one, resulting in very noisy images. Testing separately, we found that the camera doesn't boost ISO quite as much in normal room lighting, where an ISO value of 400 would be more common. That still results in some image noise, but it's within what we'd consider to be a tolerable range for snapshots.


Auto WB:
Very warm
Incandescent WB:
Magenta cast
Manual WB:
Good, but a little cool

Incandescent: Auto white balance was very warm in our tungsten lighting test, and the Incandescent WB setting resulted in a magenta cast. Manual white balance was the most accurate, but a bit on the cool side. Note that the Pentax W60's slowest normal shutter speed (1/4s) required the use of ISO 400 to get reasonably bright shots in this test.


Printed: Plenty of detail, 13x19 inch prints at low ISO were very sharp, The Pentax W60's images are perhaps usable to 16x20 for wall display. The limit for 8x10 inch prints is probably ISO 400, as our shots were quite usable at that size, albeit with a little noise in the shadows. ISO 800 shots looked surprisingly good at 8x10, but there was too much noise in the shadows for us to give them an official "usable" ranking. ISO 800 shots were good at at 5x7, albeit still with some noise in the shadows. ISO 1,600 was OK at 4x6, but with noisy shadows. (Better than most of its competitors at that ISO level, though.) ISO 3,200 shots were rather soft, marginal at 4x6 inches, but surprisingly clean. (We think many consumers would find them acceptable.) ISO 6,400 shots were very soft and noisy, looked more like impressionist paintings than photos. (Still, they're better than what we've seen from most other digicams at that lofty ISO level.) Definitely one of the better performances from a waterproof digicam.


 

Pentax W60 Performance


Shutter lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is very good, at 0.39 second at wide angle and 0.35 second at full telephoto. Prefocus shutter lag is 0.098 second, which is quite fast.


Cycle time: Cycle time is a little slower, capturing a frame every 2.57 seconds in single-shot mode, and every 1.0 second in normal Continuous mode. However, a High Speed Continuous option is much faster, capturing a 5-megapixel frame every 0.33 second for a rate of 3.05 frames per second (quite zippy).


Flash Recycle: The Pentax Optio W60's flash recycles in a relatively quick 4.5 seconds after a full-power discharge.


 

Pentax W60 Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Very good optical quality
  • 28mm-equivalent wide-angle lens
  • 5x zoom
  • Sharp corners
  • Low chromatic aberration
  • Good control over noise suppression
  • Good white balance indoors
  • Waterproof
  • Freezeproof
  • 13x19-inch prints
  • Special high-speed mode of 5 fps at 5 megapixels
  • Responsive shutter
  • Port door closes and seals well; all ports under the one door
  • Light and flat build
  • Good grips
  • Unreliable shutter button is difficult to press
  • LCD is hard to view in bright sunlight
  • Lacks image stabilization
  • Small buttons
  • Noticeable barrel distortion at wide angle
  • HD movie mode only supports 15 fps
  • Lens really washes out when facing into the Sun

 

As I said, some significant lows combined with the most impressive highs where it matters most. If you factor in the possibility that our shutter button was damaged in testing, the major low becomes the LCD's viewability in bright sunlight. Since it lacks an optical viewfinder, it's an issue worth considering. Overall, though, the Pentax W60's image quality pushed it into the Dave's Pick category when we first tested it late last year.

 

Pentax W60

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