Q:

What’s the best waterproof-digital camera for a kayaker?

I’m looking for a digital, waterproof camera that will perform well while I’m white-water kayaking. What’s your take on the Pentax Optio W20 and the Olympus 725SW? Michael Melbourne, Victoria, AUS

Oct 20, 2006
Outside
Outside Magazine
Olympus 725SW

Olympus 725SW

A:

Both are interesting cameras. The Pentax Optio W20 (about US$299; www.pentax.com) and Olympus Stylus 720SW (about US$399; www.olympus-global.com) are seven-megapixel cameras that are extremely compact and have large two-and-a-half-inch LCD screens for viewing (alas, no viewfinder). Both have three-power zoom lenses (meaning the ratio between the “wide" and “tele" settings is 3:1, which is about average). Both are also designed to be rugged and waterproof, not simply water-resistant.

That said, the Olympus comes up a little better in the wet department. It’s waterproof down to ten feet, i.e., you could actually go down that deep and shoot pictures with it. That’s pretty amazing, when you think about it. The Pentax, on the other hand, is good down to five feet, which is still pretty darned good. Any camera that goes deeper than five feet on a whitewater trip probably has bigger problems than whether a little water might leak in.

So it might come down to what feels better to you. Some people have complained that the Olympus can be a little difficult to manage if you have thick fingers. So get both cameras side by side in a camera store and try taking a few pictures with each, run the zoom controls, figure out how easy/hard it is to delete or edit pictures, things like that. I’ve found the software and photo-management features of a digital camera count for more than some traditional camera features, such as zoom length.

Also, I’m not wild about cameras that lack a traditional viewfinder. Running the LCD screen is a big drain on batteries. Plus, I simply don’t think you “see" the picture as well as you do when peering through a viewfinder, which tends to concentrate the mind a little more. Yet one more reason why people are taking more pictures than ever, yet they’re probably lousier than ever. But I digress…

Check out this year’s more than 400 must-have gear items, including a comprehensive camera section, in the 2006 Buyer’s Guide.

Filed To: Digital Cameras

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