Pentax Optio W20 review

£196
Price when reviewed

Compact digital cameras

Pentax Optio W20 review

With huge TFTs, underwater capabilities and high resolutions for under £200, now is the time to buy

These days, there’s little point in spending more than £200 on a compact digital camera. You can buy a decent 6.1-megapixel camera with a 3x optical zoom for just £144, and the shutter lag associated with older cameras is all but gone. All the cameras here let you shoot great macro photos and take TV-quality movies with audio, as well as prevent blurred pictures thanks to the super-high ISO settings now on offer. Plus, all five here have large TFTs (the Ixus 65 has a huge 3in display), which make it easier than ever to frame shots and check focus.

Pentax Optio W20

Shooting underwater is the Pentax Optio W20’s party trick. Instead of requiring an underwater housing that costs almost as much as the camera itself (as with most others that offer them) the Pentax is Class 8 waterproof and Class 5 dustproof. It means you can shoot for up to 30 minutes at a time at a depth of up to 1.5m. The 21 scene modes include two for underwater use: stills and movies. These enhance blues to make images more vibrant. Plus, at only £10 more than the Ixus, it has a 7-megapixel CCD for 3,072 x 2,304 images.

The battery, SD card slot, USB port and power connector are all protected under a door on the base – audio and video are output via the USB port to composite and RCA connectors. And at 150g, it’s one of the lighter options here.

As the 3x optical zoom is entirely internal, the W20 is longer than average at 110mm. But image quality doesn’t suffer too much – images were a little oversharpened by default, but you can adjust sharpness, contrast and saturation in the menus. Purple fringing is noticeable in high-contrast situations, but the main drawback is the narrow field of view at the widest zoom setting – forcing you to step back when others don’t. Conversely, the macro mode outstrips everything here, letting you get close enough to photograph the veins of leaves when others can only shoot the whole leaf. And if you want to take photos underwater, the W20 will save you a considerable sum of money on an add-on housing.

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