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Pentax Optio W90

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3 6,388 Tue January 22, 2013
Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
67% of reviewers $204.67 7.67
Pentax Optio W90

Pentax Optio W90
Pentax Optio W90

The PENTAX Option W90 represents the eleventh generation of waterproof digital cameras built for rugged adventure in every way. The PENTAX Optio W90 offers enhanced waterproof, shockproof, dustproof, and coldproof performance and features an inventive Digital Microscope mode with LED lighting to capture small but intriguing subjects. Designed with the look of mountaineering equipment, the Optio W90 kit includes a woven web fabric strap complete with a carabiner to attach the camera to a backpack and other outdoor gear.

- Waterproof to 20 feet for reliable underwater photography

- Shockproof to 4 feet withstanding the rigors of extreme use

- Coldproof to sub-freezing temperatures for use in wintery, snowy activities

- 12.1 megapixel sensor and wide angle 5X optical zoom (28-140mm equivalent)

- Digital Microscope mode with LED lens lighting perfectly captures the smallest and closest macro subjects as near as 1cm from the camera

- Eye-Fi wireless SD memory card connectivity for built-in Wi-Fi capability to transfer photos and videos from the camera to a computer or an online sharing site such as Picasaweb, Flickr, Facebook and YouTube (Eye-fi cards sold separately.)

- Large 2.7 inch LCD with 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio that is easy to view in strong light or underwater

- Capture movies in widescreen 720p HD video at 30 frames per second

- An HDMI port plays back beautiful high resolution imges and video on HDTVs

- Advanced Pixel Track Shake Reduction captures blur-free images in any lighting

- Fast Face Detection, Smile Capture, Blink Detection, and processing modes specifically designed for portraiture, and new Pet Recognition captures up to 3 pre-programmed pet faces in memory

- Infrared remote control compatibility with new waterproof Remote Control WP, as well as other PENTAX infrared remotes

- Autofocus assist lamp helps to quickly and accurately focus, even in challenging lighting

Initially priced at $329.95 USD, the PENTAX Optio W90 started shipping in April 2010.
Megapixels: 12.1 MP 1/2.3 inch CCD
ISO Range: HD (1280 x 720), VGA (640 x 480), QVGA (320 x 240), all at 15 and 30 fps.
Weight: 161 g with battery
FPS: 5x optical zoom, 5 - 25 mm F3.5 - F5.5 (28 - 140 mm eqv.)
LCD: 2.7 inch, 230,000 dots
In Production: No

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Registered: January, 2013
Location: McMurdo Station, Antarctica
Posts: 17
Review Date: January 22, 2013 I can recommend the Pentax Optio W90: Yes | Price: $184.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Waterproof, Sturdy
Cons: Battery life not great
New or Used: New   

I bought this camera while living/working in Antarctica for that and travel afterwards.

I also bought the Pentax silicone skin to give it additional protection, and although I'm not sure it necessarily needs it, I keep it on there!

This little camera is great for what it is. It IS a small-sensor P&S, but it has a 5x optical zoom (I turn off and never use the additional "digital zoom"), it's waterproof, coldproof, dustproof, shock-/drop-proof. Of course, nothing is truly "proof", but if you pay attention, this little guy will stand up to a lot of rough handling.

I've taken surprising impressive snapshots in all sorts of conditions - best results, NOT surprisingly, are when there's plenty of available light. Even pictures that look so-so while still in the camera or at first glance on the computer can come out considerably better with a little (read amateur/automatic) post-processing. People ask me what kind of camera took the photos I share, and their jaws drop when they see a pocket-sized P&S whose lens doesn't extend from the body when zooming!

If you treat it well and pay attention to the doors/seals/etc and operate them carefully and correctly, it'll behave itself well outside its stated torture-parameters. I had it with me on a SCUBA trip in Australia - forgot it was in the pocket of my shorts, and took it down to almost 80 feet - well below the rated depth. I've dropped it from well over 10 feet (maybe the silicone skin helps with this?), and I regularly use it down to -20F and -40F.

Battery life is not spectacular, but if you get one or two spares, this becomes less of an issue - especially when operating in cold, it can help to keep your spare batteries warm close to your body and switch out. Even a battery that reads dead when cold can have more life if you warm it back up.

I'd recommend this camera - when it had grown legs and I thought it was gone forever, I seriously considered replacing it with the WG-2 - and I was almost bummed when my camera reappeared because I was excited to see a couple generation's worth of improvement!

Registered: April, 2009
Location: Waldorf, MD
Posts: 1,859
Review Date: December 21, 2012 I can recommend the Pentax Optio W90: Yes | Price: $200.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: Toughness, water resistance, macro ring-lights, 1cm macro mode
Cons: Awful noise performance, slow lens

The Optio W90's been my carry-around camera for a few months now, and I love some of its good points, but find its bad points very disappointing.


The W90 won't win any awards for beauty. Though it's at least funky and different, the running-shoe aesthetic is not for everyone. But it's a strictly form-follows-function design and I kind of like it. It's fun.

Weather sealing/toughness

The W90 is a confidence inspring design. The chunky, rather heavy camera is clad in rubber on all the corners, and agressively sealed everywhere. After sending it off for service (mine was broken, bought from a friend) I took it on vacation in a swimming pool. It was dim, but as long as I kept a tight leash on the ISO the underwater performance was very good. The only real problem I had is that it is just too light in some situations. I need to make a sinker to mount to the tripod socket so when I put it in water with self-timer on, it sits on the bottom of the pool instead of rocking around with the wave action.

Zoom, macro, and other features

The W90 has a very useful zoom range from a handy equivalent 28mm wide to a longish 140mm equivalent.

The W90's big party trick is its macro mode. It can do 1cm macro work all day long with outstanding clarity and close focus, and this is aided by the trio of macro LED lights around the lens opening that illumiate the subject, eliminating the camera's own shadow. They are not terribly powerful, and they have a very blue color to the light they give, but they are immensely helpful when shooting very close in darker conditions.

The camera also uses the ring lights in self timer mode, flashing them as it counts down along with the AF assist lamp. it's a nice touch.

The 1CM macro and ring lights combine in the camera's proprietary "Digital microscope" mode, which gets extremely high magnification by using only the center of the 12MP sensor to make a 2 megapixel still. I reccomend using the standard 1CM macro focus mode with Program and turning the lights on instead.

The camera also has some other handy features. Underwater still and video modes, as well as an intervalometer for time lapse photography, and the built-in ability to do AE bracketing, making the W90 a handy camera for HDR work in the field where other cameras are too afraid to go.

One of the other features I found myself using a lot was the ability to natively shoot in 16:9 aspect. Though this is the same as cropping the full image from the sensor, I found it more fun to compose with the 16:9 aspect in mind by turning it on in camera. It shook up my usual compositional routine enough to be interesting!

Image Quality

The W90 is an adventure camera, desinged to go on backpacking, hiking, and camping trips and the like. As such, it works a treat, and the image quality in good light at low ISO is quite good. The f/3.5 lens is fairly well corrected and the sensor at these low sensitivities delivers some very good clarity and punchy, bright colors, making the shots the camera takes look very good indeed. Wonderful for landscapes and for documentation of adventurous shenanigans.

However, this all falls apart at the seams after dusk. When the light goes away, the tiny sensor and slow f/3.5 lens run out of ideas, and the high-iso shots suffer from an extreme amount of noise and graininess, starting at ISO 400, becoming utterly unusable even for vacation snaps at ISO1600, and becoming well and truly pointless by the camera's maximum ISO of 6400. This camera absolutely sucks in low light. In fact, I found myself forcing ISO80 and dealing with the long exposures in order to avoid the high noise of High-ISO shots with this camera. The macro lights help close up, but I found the flash too harsh, as I usually do with compact cameras, to be worth using.


If you don't ever plan to shoot it in the dark, the Optio W90 becomes an affordable, fun camera to stuff in your overnight bag or clip to your belt for outdoor adventures. It's a fearless, faithful companion when the going gets tough. Rugged, dependable and fun to use, the W90's features keep it interesting and give it the ability to get a wide variety of beautiful photos when out in the wild in the day.

If you do shoot at night, or indoors, the W90 is awful. The slow lens, made necessary by having to fit a 5x zoom in a thin pocket camera with no protrusions, conspire with the noisy sensor to make high-iso night shots completely impossible. Above ISO 400 the noise is simply unacceptable.

The W90 is a great camera to go shoot in the DAY. at night, choose something else.
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Registered: June, 2008
Location: Florida Hill Country
Posts: 17,297
Review Date: October 15, 2012 I can recommend the Pentax Optio W90: No | Price: $230.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: Tough
Cons: waterproof sealing unreliable, especially when 1 year old
New or Used: New   

The IQ was average on this camera but sometimes a really nice image can be obtained if the right profile is used. The reason I bought this W90 was its shock proof and water proof characteristics. It was never submerged more than 8 times. I intended to use it in "hostile" environments. When it was 1 month out of warranty, it leaked at 20 feet for 15 minutes in a spring with water temps around 70 F or 20 C. The seals are serviceable but have to be sent to C.R.I.S. That said, I turned off the cam. Once out of the water, I removed the battery and card. The card was fine. I left the door open and put it in a rubber maid bowl with 1 pound of silica gel for about a month. It works fine and I can't even tell it happened even where the water got between the glass and lcd. I won't be submerging it again and will be using it as a WR and shockproof camera since it isn't cost effective to send it for new seals.
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