Tag: digital camera

First thoughts: Pentax Optio W90

gear bagMy waterproof wonder, the Pentax Optio W30, finally outlived its useful life started to bore me. That camera was easy to use, had plenty of functionality, and took great pictures (despite its owner). So I upgraded.

A few days back the new Pentax Optio W90 arrived on my doorstep. I won’t be providing some detailed technical review – that’s dpreview‘s job. I won’t be providing all kinds of detailed images of the unit either – there are already plenty to go around. What I will do is tell you what I like right out of the box, from a layman’s point of view. Begin!

  • The unit is solid, like a brick. More so that the W30, with its all metal exterior. There’s shock/scratch resistant plastic mounted at every vulnerable point (like corners). The camera feels good in the hand – very grippy all around.
  • That strap with the fake carabiner on the end Pentax markets the camera with? Useless. It actually seems to get in the way of handling, and it was put back in the box not five minutes after assembly and playtime. It won’t be coming back out. On a similar note, Pentax provided another, traditional, wrist strap, but no small mount for it. So it slips across that big strap bar on the side of the unit. This feels a bit clumsy, and I’ve stuck THAT wrist strap back in the box now too. Note to self: find a decent wrist strap.
  • The LEDs on the front of the camera are a very cool feature, making extreme closeup shots without flash a cakewalk.
  • While the specs for the camera show a bigger display than before, a nice slice of the left side is not usable for viewing – it’s reserved for settings. My W30 placed settings over the image in view – I’d rather have the whole screen for viewing, but it’s still livable.
  • The tripod mount should have been an afterthought, but Pentax placed it on the far edge directly underneath the shutter button. Very smart, particularly if you are going to use a small tripod, as the pressure on the shutter button won’t tilt the camera.
  • The battery charger has been slimmed down, but the cord was not. A flexible one to two foot cord would have been nice.
  • The camera has an infrared sensor on the front, and a waterproof remote was supposed to be available by now. I’d buy it if I could find it. Anywhere.
  • Unlike the W30, the W90 sends out that funny little beam when you lightly depress the shutter button. Speed and aperture settings then show up on the display. I’m not sure this will make my pictures any better (what would?!) but I’ve seen the feature on high end SLRs so I assume it’s something pretty fancy.
  • Finally, the rear display feels kind of plastic-ky and hollow. While I hope that’s just my imagination, the display is big, and probably the most vulnerable part of the camera to scratches. I’ll be putting a skin on it pretty darn soon.

From first blush, I’m pretty satisfied with the upgrade. I’d gotten familiar with the Optio W30 menus and buttons, and Pentax was kind enough to keep things similar for me. I have noticed some additional settings, which I’ll get to forthwith. A camera can’t earn its stripes until it sees some real action, and I’m particularly anxious to see how it will perform in really bright conditions.

MG signing off (to read another manual)

UPDATE 7/26/10: The funky carabiner strap is back on. As it turns out, it’s better than the alternatives (strap perpetually sliding around, or no strap at all). There’s still a better way, but I don’t own a sewing machine.

A camera decision turned inside out

For the last few months I’ve been on a mission. A camera mission. I’ve been looking at digital SLRs to replace the Pentax point and shoot I’ve been carrying around for the past two years. The Optio has done right by me – it’s been dunked, dropped, generally beat up just fine, and it still works like a charm. But I wanted better pictures, particularly when fishing, and had convinced myself that a DLSR was the ticket.

After pouring through specifications, perusing a wide variety of opinions, comparing prices, and even toting a loaner around for a few weeks, I’ve come to a decision. I’m not going to get one at all, at least for the foreseeable future. There are plenty of reasons: new offerings seem purposely handicapped in one way or another until you hit the “professional” level, and I’ve got no interest in upgrading next month; some older models are much more sought after, which tells me the manufacturers have a ship that will soon need righting; people are way too optimistic about what units are worth second-hand, a hint that prices may soon come crashing down; and last but certainly not least, it seems a lot of folks buy these DSLRs, set them to auto, and never touch anything but the shutter button again.

Which is pretty much what I’ve done with my little point and shoot, until now.

Instead of dropping a grand that would be much better spent on single malt scotch, I’m going to embark on an experiment: how much can I get out of a point and shoot if I turn off the “automatic” setting, read the manual front cover to back, and really learn how to use it under every possible set of conditions.

The Pentax Optio W30 Manual
Out with the old (automatic mode), and in with the new (program mode)

Leg one of this journey has already ended: I figured out why pictures taken at my desk always turned out yellowish. I reset the white balance, manually via shutter, and the problem was solved.

I wonder what else I’ll discover as I pour through an instruction manual for the first time ever.

MG signing off (to take a bunch of photos with an old camera, betting they’ll turn out decent once I do a little reading)

New digital camera for me

I spend a lot of time outdoors, and most of that standing knee deep in rivers. I’m also semi-famous for doing faceplants while wading, and getting soaked doesn’t bode well for digital cameras. Hence, I’ve kept the camera I have, a little Olympus 435, in a Pelican case tucked away in a pack. I miss a lot of shots because it’s tough access (particularly if you have a rod in one hand and a net full of fish in the other).

I wanted a waterproof compact, but choices were slim – then I found the Pentax Optio W30. I checked out the reviews, and it seemed to fit the bill (and used regular SD cards instead of xD cards like the Olympus Stylus). American Express came to the rescue for roughly 50,000 points (and delivered it in two days flat – I was impressed).

I’d like to say I’m just as impressed with the camera, but the thing has so many bells and whistles it is going to take a few outings to figure them all out (don’t say read the manual – it just won’t happen). Meanwhile, I caught this photo just after dusk yesterday…

Not too bad, I guess (for someone who doesn’t have a clue).

The real test will be if it can catch trout pics while the fish are still “at home”…

Oh Cheesman, Why Art Thou…

So stinking difficult!!!

I’ve been skunked for the first time this season. Cheesman Canyon got the best of me – I think that’s an “again” too, since I’ve been held to zero there before.

FYI – the water is flowing strong, but still crystal, and the crossings weren’t particularly tricky either (even for a guy who is well known for face plants). Fish are, as expected, hugging the banks. And they’re spooky as usual.

Some BWOs came by as the clouds moved in. I threw them, along with WD-40s and assorted other midges. Stripped baby beadhead woolies as dusk set in – no luck there either.

However, I still had some luck – on the way home a call came in – there were several single malts which required my attention (I think that meant before the bottles were emptied). I took those folks up on the offer, and all is good (well kinda good).

I am now hell bent on getting dialed into Cheesman – I mean really wiring the place. Any tips/tricks are appreciated.

PS: My camera got soaked when my chestpack, lying quitely on a rock, took it upon itself to roll off said rock and into the river. By the time I got over to it, the whole thing was drenched, camera included. So I am also looking for camera recommendations, as while I’m drying this one out and keeping my fingers crossed, I suspect it is toast.

UPDATE: Ode to precision screwdrivers and patience. Completely dismantled the Olympus 435, and found a few water droplets here and there. Reassembled and now working, although I have an extra screw and a little clip of some type (that always happens – extra parts!).