Does anyone use a Pentax Optio W20 for cave photography?

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Does anyone use a Pentax Optio W20 for cave photography?

Postby Ronaldo » Jan 7, 2007 1:34 pm

I am in the market for a digital camera for caving and am new to digital photography. I have been reading and researching for weatherproof/ waterproof cameras that can be used with slaves.

The weatherproof models are very limited as far as manual functions but the Optio W20 seems to have the most to offer. It has a manual focus option which most underwater compacts do not have. But it does not have a variable flash power adjustment. It does have an option for the flash called "soft flash" to prevent close ups from being over exposed. I am wondering if this setting can be used to avoid the problems associated with using full power "on camera" flashes, but still fire a slave. If so then I think this would be a good choice over the Olympus 720 which has neither manual focus or a reduced power flash. This camera also has all the fun video and modern functions like the 720 and is a bit cheaper as well.

It uses a lithium battery only good for 150 shots or so but using low power on the flash would help as well as having an extra battery. None of the waterproof cameras use AA's. I spoke to many cavers who have to replace their camera every year or 2... some even more often. The common complaint is that the moving lens gets grit and locks up. The waterproof models have an internal zoom.

Several reviews said that it takes great pics... a few dogged it out. Some were saying that Pentax customer service sucks. Anyone have experience with this?

Any help would be appreciated. I am hoping to decide on something soon.
Thanks Much
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pentax optio

Postby kmstill » Jan 7, 2007 2:01 pm

I have a Pentax Optio 43WR (not sure how many features this model differs from the one your looking at) and I love it! It was a gift, but I'd buy it again. My photos are more for fun than art or "real" cave photograhpy, but it suits my needs great, and with trial and error I'm learning which settings and combos do best in varying cave conditions - clean-up later on the computer (e.g. auto exposure correction) really makes a difference. The camera's not billed as "submersible" but has held up well in wet situations, and has been cleaned and disinfected numerous times with no adverse effects. It's been rugged, though I usually carry it in an otterbox in the cave., and has held up well against the inevitable cave mud/silt. Basically all the pics on my myspace page (kms66) and my avatar here have been taken with the camera, so you can get an idea of how it performs in a non-photographer's hands. I know some others on this list have used it during caving trips, so they can chime in with a less biased opinion. Good luck
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Postby NZcaver » Jan 7, 2007 2:03 pm

Have you read this earlier thread? There's some info on Optios and other cave cameras...
http://forums.caves.org/viewtopic.php?t=1693
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Postby Ronaldo » Jan 7, 2007 2:34 pm

Thanks guys, actually I studied the hell out of the What's a good digital Camera Post topic and it helped me get to my current understanding of things.

My big question now is about the soft flash function. My understanding is that a 1/3 powered flash is good at reducing noise but also powerful enough to fire slaves. The w10 also has the soft flash. I was hoping to find someone here who has used this function. I sent a note to Pentax to find out what percentage of the total flash power the soft flash setting gives. I will post their reply, hopefully tomorrow.

Another question I have about the Optio W20 is about the shutter control. The w20 shutter can stay open for 4 seconds in night mode which is 3 seconds longer that the 720 can stay open. I am hoping someone can give me some feedback on this as well.

I am hoping that this camera can offer some of the good stuff from both perspectives... Good waterproof automatic features with enough manual features to still use some mainstream cave photography techniques.

I know that I can't have it all in a $250. camera but I am hoping for a good compromise.
Muchas Gracias,
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optio

Postby kmstill » Jan 7, 2007 5:40 pm

my optio has the soft flast ("night portrit") but i have not used it with a slave. The shutter in very low light (and night portrit w/ soft flash) does stay open several seconds, but I haven't timed it exactly. you'll want a tripod for those applications, obviously. i'd be interested in the company's reply regarding slaves.
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Optio feedback

Postby Ronaldo » Jan 8, 2007 3:34 pm

I have talked to 2 Pantex Optio WP users today. Yvonne droms uses hers for photography on the run and does not use slaves. She gets good results with hers using manual focus and forced flash but she sometimes gets noise from the on camera flash. She sent me some shots that looked great and some that were distorted by steam. I was amazed at the clarity of the ones that turned out well. One showed a clear pool of water with great detail. And when the camera gets dirty she can wash it off in a pool! She uses an extra battery and can get shots on multi day camp trips in Mexico. She warned not to view a lot of pics to preserve battery life on long trips.

Ty Spatta uses his WP with firefly 3 slaves and gets good results. He is not trying to win photo contests but can still light up a big room and get good documentation of his trips. After going through half a dozen cave cameras he is all about the waterproof option.

I am leaning more towards the optio as time goes on. The w20 is an updated version of the WP with more features and is cheaper! Still no reply from Pentax about the power percentage of the soft flash setting.
More Later,
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Re: Does anyone use a Pentax Optio W20 for cave photography?

Postby Steven Johnson » Jan 8, 2007 9:36 pm

I've been using an Optio W10 for a few months now. In general it does take really good pics, but the flash is fairly weak and is very very prone to puts "globes" in the picture due to dust reflection. For close-ups or simple snaps it's adequate, but an external slave flash will greatly improve your pics (it's on my must-be-bought list). Only a few slaves will work well with it -- I think the Firefly 3 is the one I've seen used.

I've never tried the soft-flash function. I didn't actually know what it was good for :-/

Buy a spare lithium battery (or two); if you look around you can find 'em for $20 or $30 and they are small and weigh nothing.

A nice advantage of the Optio over the Olympus is that it uses SD cards instead of the weird, harder to find xd cards that Olympus uses. The Oly is theoretically more shockproof, though. (I'll be caving this weekend with someone who has the Olympus so maybe we'll be able to take side-by-side pics of the same scenes with each?)

Here are a bunch of pics I took with an Optio W10 (with no slave) in Church Cave:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/beaker/set ... 330200279/

I also had a dive shop make a sort of neoprene sleeve cover for it (I think Bill Frantz originally came up with this design)... it's a great way protect it from small bumps and scuffs. I'll try to post pics of it later if I can remember!
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Nice pics and Cave

Postby Ronaldo » Jan 9, 2007 9:27 am

Thanks for sharing Steve! Looks like a great cave and beautiful topography! From what I have read about the W20, it can photograph subjects as close as 1cm. The soft flash is powered down to not over expose the image at close ranges.

I am hoping that this setting will reduce on camera flash feedback and still fire a slave, but it's only my theory right now. Dave Black and Chris Shotter (Indiana cavers) both use Cannon Powershot A530's and those cameras have the ability to dial down the flash power manually. Chris said that he can dial down to 1/3 power and get almost no on camera flash distortion and still fire slaves.

Thanks a lot
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Pentax Optio W20

Postby george jaegers » Jan 11, 2007 10:31 am

I just got this camera a couple of weeks ago and it is going caving in West Virginia this coming weekend. I will post the results sometime next week. So far my only concern is the lack of an optical viewfinder, which I find much more usable underground than the lcd screen.

I also use a Nikon Coolpix 995 for cave photography and have found that to be an excellent camera for caving. It has to be protected from the elements, of course, but I think the quality of its optics is unbeatable in its price range. I went through a 950 and 990 taking them caving until they just stopped working but used each of them for 2-3 years.
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Re: Nice pics and Cave

Postby Steven Johnson » Jan 11, 2007 12:39 pm

Ronaldo wrote:Thanks for sharing Steve! Looks like a great cave and beautiful topography! From what I have read about the W20, it can photograph subjects as close as 1cm. The soft flash is powered down to not over expose the image at close ranges.


Church Cave is a really fun cave in Kings Canyon National Park. Definitely worth a trip if have the opportunity. I've only been twice but it's a blast.

I haven't tried 1cm but my W10 can definitely get within a few inches, e.g.

Image

Closer may well be possible but I haven't yet found a shot that would call for that.
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Postby KENTO » Jan 11, 2007 1:22 pm

Hi Everybody:
I just read that Pentax Corp has been acquired by the Hoya corporation. This company was formerly known as one of the top 3 companies to make quality filters and lenses for serious photographic enhancement. Hopefully they will continue their reputation for quality now that they make the cameras too , time will tell.
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Going for it!

Postby Ronaldo » Jan 12, 2007 12:17 am

Hey Kento, How's it going? I think I am going to go ahead and buy the Optio W20. I am going to go check one out tomorrow. There are a few questions I have about specific settings and how independent they are of other functions.

Goin' down with Danny, Bart, Chris S. and Ty to The Oregon Trail for a little diggy thing this weekend and I would like to have a new camera to play with. Blast from the past Kento??? We will bypass Ted's lost lunch room and swing over into the Trail. I have never done the pendulum in there before.

Ty has some firefly 3's we can play with. Wish me luck!!!l

Later,
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The Oregon Trail

Postby KENTO » Jan 12, 2007 2:32 pm

Oh yeah...digga, digga , "crack" , "crack", scoop , scoop.
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