**UPDATE: After 9 months of incredibly heavy use… like probably 150 miles underwater with me… I finally killed this camera. The buttons broke down and I couldn’t use it anymore although the screen still worked. I’ve since replaced it with another camera that I don’t like nearly as much. My next camera after that is most likely going to be another Pentax Optio.
I got the Pentax Optio W80 as a Christmas present and it took me a while to actually get it wet. I was kind of nervous that it wouldn’t work, generally electronics and water don’t go together so well. Once I got it into the pool I had to bring it everywhere with me… it’s so cool! I had picked out this particular camera thanks to a recommendation Glenn Mills from GoSwim had made in an interview I did with him last year. The W80 is a really easy camera to use, takes pretty decent pictures, and I would totally recommend it to anyone looking for a waterproof camera for personal use… if you’re a pro photo type I don’t think it’s going to cut it for you in the picture quality department.
According to Pentax the W80 is waterproof, shockproof, dustproof and cold proof. I’ve only tested 2 of those personally. Mine has spent plenty of time underwater and has been tossed around in my swim bag a lot. Technically it’s a 12 megapixel camera and takes really big pictures. When you get up close in detail they aren’t super sharp, but again for a regular person not a big deal. By virtue of being totally waterproof there is only optical zoom on this camera so zooming in from far away isn’t going to lead to great pictures.
I think the camera’s strong suit is underwater pictures and movies while the sun’s up. It takes gorgeous pictures while submerged in the sunshine. It’s functional in the dark but the picture quality isn’t going to be as good. The video works in the dark too, but it gets very grainy when you’re working with low light situations. While we’re talking video, the sound on the camera isn’t so hot. It works, but it’s not impressive. Another thing I’ve noticed is that sometimes it has a hard time focusing in video when the subject isn’t obvious. I’ve done some videos where I leave the camera in a stationary spot and swim past it. I think the camera ends up not focusing on anything because it can’t pick anything to focus on.
The camera retails for about $250 but you can find it on sale out in the internetz for closer to $180. My next project is to figure out how to tether this camera to me while swimming so that I can bring it into the ocean with me!
I’ve included a bunch of pictures and video that I’ve taken over the last few weeks in different situations to give you an idea of what this camera is capable of. To see full size pictures click on them to open them up.