In April of 2005 I bought my first digital waterproof camera – Pentax Optio WP. It was pretty unique little camera at that time which really changed my paddling photography and blogging. Since then, I have upgraded through several models of Pentax Optio as seen on the picture above.
Currently, I am using Pentax Optio WG-2. You can already buy a newer version, Pentax Optio WG-3, and several other similar waterproof cameras from other manufactures. Pentax Optio, whatever version, stays always attached to my life jacket and ready to use.
Here is what I wrote 8 years ago …
April 26, 2005
Canon PowerShot S40 with or without waterproof case has been my main paddling companion. Most pictures on my paddling website are produced by that 3 year old camera. Occasionally, I am also using my digital SLR camera Canon 10D, e.g., in my solo paddler, solo photographer series.
However, I was thinking about a camera I could take to Texas Water Safari. It would need to be small and waterproof. The Canon PowerShot in the waterproof case would be too heavy, too bulky and too awkward to operate for a tired racer at the edge of hallucination. I am ready to add no more than a weight of one or two power bars to my racing setup. A tiny and waterproof Pentax Optio WP provides some hope here.
It is waterproof! The camera has survived a first shooting in a rain during my Big Thompson River paddling and a 15 minute photo session in a glass of water.
It is small, compact, and it looks pretty solid without any protruding parts. A zoom lens is always inside a waterproof case behind the protective glass. The small size has, however, some downsizes. A grip is much less secure than with my larger Canon PowerShot. It is difficult to operate zoom control when holding the camera in a one hand. I had problems to get sharp pictures when shooting with one hand from my tippy Sisson kayak. No problems when both hands are available for photography.
The camera turns on very quickly just with a touch of a button. No need to uncover lens and wait for zoom lens to extend as in my Canon PowerShot.
There is no viewfinder, just an LCD display. It is difficult or impossible to read it in a direct full sun. However, I am ready to accept that compromise in a digital camera, where I can always review the picture and/or histogram after a shot.
As a somewhat advanced photographer I like to have more control over camera operations that it is possible in the most of “idiotproof” point-and-shoot cameras. So, it is easy for me to point out what I am missing in Pentax Optio.
Typically, I am shooting my paddling pictures in Av (aperture priority) mode. The aperture (depth of field) is set to a maximum value and the camera automatically selects the exposure time. If the exposure time is too long for a handheld shooting I am adjusting aperture or, as a last resort, sensor ISO speed. There is no Av (or Tv) mode in Optio. Instead, there are numerous (20 or so) automatic shooting modes from landscape, to portrait, to food or museum. I guess it’s not much different than in other similar point-and-shoot cameras.
I am taking advantage of locking the exposure setting (AE lock) In my Canon cameras – locking the exposure on the specific subject and the recomposing the image. I’ve found that feature extremely useful in my paddling photography. It can be used only in Av or Tv mode, so it’s not available in Optio. There is a exposure compensation in Optio. However, I’ve rarely used it in my Canon cameras. I just prefer to check different parts of my scene with the AE lock until the exposure of the entire picture looks OK. I will need to change my shooting habits … All pictures made with Pentax Optio during my Big Thompson River paddling were shot in the basic picture taking mode – P.
Judging from my recent paddling on Big Thompson River and Beaver Pond, the camera is not only waterproof but also attracts a wet weather …
Anyway, Pentax Optio looks promising for my paddling and racing needs. I am going to post next comments after more paddling and shooting in different conditions and after some more systematic exploration of the camera features. The ultimate test for the camera will be the next Texas Water Safari. The Pentax Optio needs not only to survive the race but also to produce a good photo story!
Pentax Optio WP did really well in 2005 Texas Water Safari and, next, in other ultra marathon paddling races.