Pentax Optio W20

The new Pentax underwater camera proves itself worthy whether in or out of water.


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Pentax Optio W20

How do you define a perfect vacation camera? The things I would look out for would be compact size, fun features, sharp results with bright/vivid colors, easy connectivity and a good amount of resistance to rough weather conditions. We find out if the Pentax W20 waterproof/dustproof camera can fulfill these criteria and if it matches up to other cameras in its budget range in overall performance.

Build & Features
Pentax made some right decisions with the W20. The biggest problem I have with cameras that require an extra housing unit for underwater usage is the added bulk and the discomfort that comes with it. The W20 is an ultra-compact camera, and it stays that way when you take it in water with you. With the little bulk, you or anyone else using the camera will have no reason to leave this one at home.

Pentax Optio W20

Thanks to the camera's transparent protection, it can go up to 1.5 meters in water for 30 minutes and is also dustproof. The only thing you need to worry about is the battery and memory card lid that needs to be manually locked to completely seal it.

The 2.5", 115,000 pixel LCD display is great for most purposes, but suffers from classic problems like the image getting a bit hard to see in direct sunlight. Since this is primarily an outdoor camera, this is something that needs a solution as soon as possible. When I tested the camera inside the water, the screen was a bit hard to see underwater, unless you're wearing underwater goggles.

The button layout is simple and comfortable. Obviously the W20 cannot afford the luxury of a jog dial because of the risk of exposure, so buttons would be the only way to go here.

Even though the W20 has the underwater shooting capability, it still has all the standard features that one can expect from a regular ultra-compact. It has lots of shooting modes including kids, pets, snow, beach, etc. so you can configure your camera to the right mode under most shooting conditions.

The W20 sorely lacks in any kind of manual control, so you have to rely on the scene modes to get your shot. Restricting as it may sound, thanks to its comprehensive shooting modes, you don;t really miss out on too much. Besides, it's a fun vacation camera, so manual modes are many-a-times ignored in these models anyways.
The first tests I did on the camera were in normal everyday environments. I needed to be sure that the W20 was not just a gimmicky single-purpose camera. As you can see from the results below — its not!

The landscape shots I took showed evened out edge-to-edge sharpness. The detail level was pretty high in all the images I captured, and the lines and small details were also quite crisp.

The colors I got out of this camera were perfectly saturated to give a bright cheerful look to the shots I took from it, which is exactly how a vacation camera should be.

But of course the highlight of the W20 was its performance underwater. Without beating too much around the bush, I'll just say it's amazing!

The w20 captured excellent detail, when in water while keeping the cool blue look intact. The clean sharp look that objects tend to get underwater was retained by the camera, which is why these underwater shots look perfectly clear.

The speed of the W20 varied in my performance tests. While the shot-to-shot time was quite fast in regular shooting mode, it showed down to almost 5 seconds between two consecutive shots when I tested it in water.
Pentax Optio W20 comes at an MRP of Rs. 18,500, but the street price is lower by a couple of thousands. Either way, the W20 works great whether in and out of water.

It's not only good for people who like to go swimming, scuba diving, etc. but also great for anyone who's into trekking, nature trips and generally roughing it out. Its protective casing will keep the camera safe and running during conditions, that would normally mess up any other compact camera, and it's extremely convenient to carry and operate.

I'll make the punchline simple--You like roughing it out? Then get this camera!

Pentax Optio W20

Dimensions 107 x 55 x 23mm
Storage Internal/SD/MMC card
Battery Type


LCD Type 2.5", 115,000 px
View Finder
Sensor CCD
Effective Pixels 7.1 Megapixel
ISO Sensitivity
Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400, (800 candle mode)
Optical Zoom 3x
Digital Zoom
Shutter Speed 4-1/2000 sec
Aperture F3.3 - F4.0
Format JPEG
Scene Modes
Pet, Food, Kids, Soft, Text, Flower, Museum, Report, Fireworks, Landscape, Underwater, Night scene, Sports mode, Surf & snow, Portrait mode, Self-portrait, Frame composition, Natural skin tone
White Balance

5 positions, plus manual one-touch

Flash Auto, On, Off, Red-eye reduction
Self Timer 2 - 10 secs
Video Resolution 640x480 @ 30fps

Video Format

QuickTime Motion JPEG
Sound Yes
Street Price Rs. 18,500/-

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