Expert Recommendation

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Best Digital Camera for Travel Photos Under $300 with Weatherproof Body
Expert (5 Recommendations and 1 Compliment)
Send a ComplimentComplimented (Change)
September 22, 2008 Updated: October 2, 2008
Overview

Whether this season will take you to a snow topped mountain or somewhere tropical to get away from the cold, this camera will endure the weather conditions you expose it to. With the weatherproof and shock-resistant features of the Pentax Optio W60 it is in a class of it’s own. The W60 is a marriage of technology and convenience in an easy to use compact package.

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My Best In Class Pick
Pentax Optio W60

It is almost that time of year! It’s time to adjust the settings on cameras to accommodate the lowly lit and overcast skies in order to catch the picturesque blanket of snow that defines the season. However, along with the colder months come additional challenges for many photographers in a variety of affected regions. The number one problem in winter months for outdoor photography is avoiding moisture and condensation in and on the camera. Many cameras are simply not designed to sustain the more harsh weather and something as simple as a splash of ocean water, melted snow, or sand can be devastating to a digital camera. In addition, if the camera is still operational these conditions will cause a decline in image quality when trying to take a picture, especially if it’s through a fogged up lens. So what is the suggestion for someone planning to go skiing, snow-boarding, or maybe just residing somewhere rainy? Everyone still wants to be able to document the memories of a cherished excursion but who wants to compromise their camera in the process? These scenarios are the types of situations which necessitated the creation of the Pentax Optio W60. This camera is literally cold proof, waterproof, shock-resistant, and can withstand subzero temperatures. For years Pentax has lead the market in weatherproof point and shoot cameras and this addition only surpasses the previous. The precursor to the W60 was the Pentax Optio W30. Although the W30 was a great weatherproof camera which took a great picture, it had an annoying lag time when the auto focus was adjusting. Even though, the problem is not fully resolved there is a marked improvement in the W60. There is also an improvement in shutter speed from 1/1500 to 1/2000. Just like the earlier model, the camera is capable of being fully submerged in water but the previous limitation of 10 feet is now extended to a depth of 13 feet. This is a great camera for taking pictures in the rain, under water, extreme temperatures or maybe just taking pictures of friends and family. An upgrade has been made to the zoom capacity from 3x to 5x, which certainly makes a big difference in its ability to get a close up picture. The W30 already took a great shot of landscape but now with the wider angle 28mm zoom lens, it pushes the possibilities. The Optio W60 still captures a great image but something to remember is that the very characteristics that allow a camera to take a great underwater picture may not be of much assistance in taking a dry shot. The W60 has increased the resolution to 10 megapixels which is more than sufficient if there is an interest in enlarging a picture. However, with the increased resolution and the wider lens potential there is a bit of barrel distortion and the corners can come out a bit soft. These are not details that are blatantly obvious and the overall appearance the W60 produces is still crisp and clear. The image quality is probably about average to most. By and large, when looking at the features offered by this model it is still an outstanding buy. Moreover, I was a little concerned about the battery life due to the increased zoom function and advances in automatic features, however, Pentax improved the battery as well. It is still the same Li-Ion battery but now has a longer life expectancy before needing a recharge. This is an important aspect to consider if you are going to take the camera on a trip and have nowhere to plug it in. It is just one of many things that Pentax considered when creating this camera for its bold and adventurous consumer. Details such as the anti-reflective coating on the LCD can make a noticeable difference for the user when they are outside and subjected to the elements. Whether you are a surfer snapping shots from your board, or taking pictures of the kids building a snowman this camera is a great all weather selection.

Comparison with Olympus Stylus 1050 SW

The only real competitor Pentax has in the class of weatherproof point-and-shoot cameras is Olympus. Both companies make a great camera that can live through more than most however, looking a little closer the W60 is slightly more advanced then the new Olympus Stylus 1050 SW. Many of the features are the same, both are water-proof, freeze-proof, shock-tolerant, however it is subtle advances such as the improvement in depth of water from 10 to 13 feet. Or the advanced zoom function from 3x to 5x. The Pentax has a faster shutter speed and higher ISO but they have comparable resolution. The overall image quality is somewhat sharper with the Pentax then the Olympus when compared side by side. There are some product specific features that each camera possesses that the other does not therefore it depends on the preference of the user. For example, the Olympus has tap control a newly introduced feature that is intended to allow the user to keep their winter gloves on and just tap the side of the camera for certain functions since it is difficult to manipulate camera buttons with bulky gloves on. However, the Pentax is capable of taking a wider picture with the new lens and will not automatically shut off so there is no wait time for a reboot in the middle of shooting. Although the Olympus is known to be a bit more durable, this comparison still suggests that the Pentax is a superior buy.

Comparison with Canon PowerShot SD850 IS

The Canon Powershot SD850 IS is NOT a weather proof camera however it is close in class and price range to the Pentax Optio W60. Like the Pentax the Canon does have a wide angle lens so it is often used for outdoor/landscape pictures. Though, if there is a comparision between the two cameras with regards to performance outdoors, the Pentax wins hands down due to the all weather options that the Canon does not have. As well, the Powershot has somewhat average ISO and shutter speed but does boast very nice image quality. On the other hand, what good is the picture quality if the camera cannot survive what it’s subjected to? The W60 really outperforms the cannon in most areas, however it ultimately depends on the real needs of the user.

Pros
  • +
    Weather Proof
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    Water Proof up to 13 Feet Depth
  • +
    Improved 5x Zoom
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    Improved Battery Life
  • +
    High ISO
  • +
    Fast Shutter Speed
  • +
    Wide Angle Lens
Cons
  • -
    Slight shutter lag
  • -
    Average Image quality
Pentax Optio W60 is the Best Digital Camera for Travel Photos Under $300 with Weatherproof Body
Where to buy
Pentax Optio W60
Specifications
  • Zoom: 5.0x
  • Resolution: 10.0MP
  • Size: 3.9 x 2.2 x 1.0 in.
  • Battery Life: 205 shots
  • Weatherproof: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (2 reviews)
  • Recommended at DPReview.com
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com

Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices

Product
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Pentax Optio W60
2
Olympus Stylus 1050 SW
3
Canon PowerShot SD850 IS
Customer Rating
Price $449.99 $425.00
Weatherproof Yes Yes No
Shockproof Shock-Resistant Yes No
Waterproof Yes Yes No
Optical Zoom 5x 3x 4.0x
Digital Zoom 5.7x 5x 4.0x
Image Stabilization Type Digital Digital Optical
?
Max Aperture (wide-angle)
f3.5 f3.5 f/2.8
?
Max Aperture (tele-photo)
f5.5 f5.0 f/5.5
Max Shutter Speed 1/2000 1/1000 1/1600 sec
Max ISO Setting 6400 1600 1600
?
Effective Sensor Resolution
10.34 10 8.0 megapixels
Battery Type Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable Proprietary Lithium Ion Rechargeable
Battery Life 205 shots 200 shots 230 shots
2
Olympus Stylus 1050 SW

Olympus is known for making some of the toughest point-and-shoot cameras available. It is apparent that the Olympus Stylus 1050 SW will also live up to the reputation of durability. This model really mirrors the Pentax Optio W30 with its features, however it does have some differences for instance the Olympus now has “Tap Control” and is “shock-proof” rather than the “shock-resistant” (like the W60). The weather proof features are impressive but like the Pentax W30 it has limited zoom ability, mediocre shutter speed, and slightly below average image quality.

Comparison with Canon PowerShot SD850 IS

The Canon Powershot SD850 IS is a close comparison to the Olympus Stlyus 1050 SW. However, the Canon does not measure up to the Olympus in the area of durability. The Canon has a slightly more powerful zoom and faster shutter speed but the high ISO is the same at 1600. The biggest differences would be the weather, shock, and water proof options on the Olympus and the more favorable price of the Canon. Similar to the Pentax it would truly depend on the needs of the consumer to decide which selection is better since there are very similar in performance.

Pros
  • +
    Weather Proof
  • +
    Water Proof up to 10 Feet Depth
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    Shock Proof
  • +
    High Durability
  • +
    Tap Control
Cons
  • -
    Limited Zoom
  • -
    Slower Shutter Speed
  • -
    Slightly Less than Average Image Quality
Olympus Stylus 1050 SW is one of the Best Digital Cameras for Travel Photos Under $300 with Weatherproof Body
Where to buy
Olympus Stylus 1050 SW
Specifications
  • Zoom: 3.0x
  • Resolution: 10.1MP
  • Size: 3.7 x 2.4 x 0.9 in.
  • Battery Life: 200 shots
  • Weatherproof: Yes
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (1 review)
3
Canon PowerShot SD850 IS

As mentioned previously, this camera is not a weather proof selection however the objective was to compare the all weather cameras with the features of another in a similar price class. The Canon PowerShot SD850 IS is a great mid-range selection for a highly automatic camera that blends technology with ease of use. If the user likes to have some manual control this is not the pick for them as it is almost completely based on automatic settings. It has a wide angle lens and is capable of taking some very comprehensive landscape shots. The canon does deliver a nice image and surprisingly doesn’t show much noise disruption until very high ISO is used (around 1600). The zoom is somewhat limited but despite the low number at 4x it does a great job focusing on the subject. However, the design is a little awkward with a tiny on/off button that feels slightly inaccessible. If outdoors it would definitely require the removal of gloves to engage it.

Pros
  • +
    Longer Battery Life
  • +
    Wide Angle Lens
  • +
    Acceptable Shutter Speed
Cons
  • -
    Limited Zoom
  • -
    Not Weather Proof
  • -
    Not Water Proof
  • -
    Limited Durability
Canon PowerShot SD850 IS is one of the Best Digital Cameras for Travel Photos Under $300 with Weatherproof Body
Where to buy
Canon PowerShot SD850 IS
Specifications
  • Zoom: 4.0x
  • Resolution: 8.0MP
  • Size: 3.6 x 2.2 x 1.0 in.
  • Battery Life: 230 shots
More
Want More Opinions? See:
Website Reviews (4 reviews)
  • Dave's Pick at Imaging-Resource.com
  • Rated Excellent by CNET.com

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