Review : Pentax Optio W90 and remote

Thought it was about time I fed back my impressions of the Pentax Optio W90 camera…

Initial impressions were – a rugged waterproof 12mp camera with HD video and wide angle 28mm lens. But what really intrigued me was the possibilities offered for one of the optional accessories – a waterproof remote control O-RC1 (a first for waterproof camera and ideal for self portraits on the kayak using a RAM mount and an Xshot2 ).

Well, I won’t bore you with the sad techie stuff – there are enough reviews around to view that sort of info. But from a kayak fishing perspective this is what I reckon…

The camera itself is rugged – but the build quality is not as good as say the stainless steel cased Olympus mju’s. That said, this camera has alot of features which the Olympus’s and others do not have – alot of these things are quite minor – but they make a real difference when taking pictures on the yak.

I had to wait a long time (months ) for the remote control to be stocked and sent, but it was worth the wait…

As you can see, the remote is quite small and it is supposed to be waterproof – a claim that was put to the test at Oxwich this weekend where it got a right proper dunking and it survived.

A couple of oddities – the instructions say you cannot chnage the bateries on the remote – so just as well it is good for 50,000 presses

The camera has to be put in a special mode in order for the remote to work. Two options are available in remote mode – one operates the remote immediately, the other delays for 3 seconds…

The top button releases the shutter in camera mode or starts/stops recording in video mode.

The middle remote button zooms in or out – and the bottom “Fn” button appears to do nothing which is a shame – because what would be really useful would be to be able to use this button to be able to switch between photo and video mode.

I have made a simple leash for the remote, with a lightweight crab to attach to my PFD…

The remote only works when the camera is switched on. The camera can be programmed to stay on (in power save mode)… so in theory you could set the camera up out of reach and just use the remote to snap – this could be done for as long as the batteries last on the camera.

The camera can also be programmed to take pictures in time lapse mode ie. take pictures every x seconds (something the GoPRO cameras do well).

Another great feature for kayak fishermen is that you can program the camera to remember settings so that they are not reset when the camera is switched on and off. This used to really frustrate me with other cameras – eg. self timer mode on most cameras resets after each picture is taken, so you have to reset it With the Pentax, it will not only remember between pictures, it can be programmed to retain selected settings even after being switched on and off…

Simple, but very useful. I set it to go into remote mode (3 seconds delay) with fill-in flash whenever it is switched on.

The layout of the buttons is good and the screen is big and wide – this enables the icons and info. to be shown at the side of the screen rather than superimposed over the image…

The screen views well in brigt sunlight (much better than my mju 770SW). I have added a screen protector to cover the screen and protect it from scratches and would advise others to do the same.

The battery and SD card cover is a push and slide job, and has a rubber o-ring inside. Only time will tell how safe this arrangement is – but I have dunked it and washed it in water and it seems to be OK… so far…

The HD video (720) is sharp, but I found that zooming in, or setting the image stabilisation on whilst recording really degrade the quality of the video – it becomes very grainy.

The camera has loads of modes and gizmos which can be duanting, but also has auto modes. Another of my favourite things is that if you are in manual mode and you have set loads of things eg. white balance, flash mode, self timer, auto bracketing… there is a green button on the back of the camera which will return everything to auto so you can just press the shutter and take good pics – press it again, and it remembers your complex settings – simple, but useful.

Some self portraits (well, it would be rude not to )…

I think this camera offers alot of things for kayak fishermen – including some things not found with any other camera on the market today (the waterproof remote).

On the minus side…

1. Lack of a lens cover – scratch resistant glass cover – but a lens cover which opens/closes when the camera switched on/off would have been better.
2. There is no button to switch between video and photo mode (you have to go into a menu)
3. Zooming in degrades HD video
4. Image stabilisation degrades HD video (disable it !)

On the plus side…

1. Wide angle lens is great for self portraits
2. HD video is sharp and colourful
3. Green button is really handy
4. Ability to get camera to remember settings when switched on/off
5. The photo images are very good (esp. for a waterproof camera)
6. The wateproof remote is great (and unique)

All in all – I’d say it was a great camera for kayak fishermen – also worth looking at – the Olympus’s and the Lumix.