waterproof cameras, again!

yes i haven’t seen a camera thread in the last couple weeks so here goes. i love my Pentax WR 44 that’s a few years old. now i look at the new cameras and dam! they are smaller, way more pixels and apparently, way more waterproof!

does anyone have any info or opinions on these 2:

Pentax Optio W20

Olympus Stylus 720sw

for a while, it seemed the Pentax was the go to for reliable waterproofness, but this Olympus is right in there.

i find picture quality to be good on my Pentax but some reviewers really knock cameras in this range for quality. is it that these people are used to high end cameras, or is middling quality photos par for the course with digital point and shoot?


I have a Pentax and it has the potential to take good pictures. And some of the pictures I have taken are quite good. But the model I have does not have a viewfinder, only the viewing screen. Using a viewfinder stabilizes the camera and the pictures are sharper because the camera doesn’t shake. It is harder to keep the camera from shaking with a viewing screen. Possibly in response to this, the latest model of the Pentax has built in compensation for vibration. I have no idea how well it works and am not about to invest any more money at this point.

Optio WPi
I have the Pentax Optio WPi and find I still use it a lot even though I now also have a digital SLR.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the paddlers who complain about picture quality are from places with a lot of bad weather. The small size of the sensor in these compact cameras means they don’t perform well in low light so if you mainly take pictures on bright days you will have better results.

Since you are happy with the results from your current camera you would probably be happy with the results from any of the new cameras, but if you are happy with it why not keep it until it dies and you have to upgrade.


I’ve noticed that a lot of the paddlers
I’ve noticed that a lot of the paddlers who complain about picture quality are from places with a lot of bad weather.

that’s pretty funny!

Optio WPi
I also have a Optio WPi and its great. I’m very happy with the pictures that it takes and so far have had no problems even on cloudy days. It’s also much more durable than I would have expected. I’ve done everything from dropping it, to stepping on it while it was on rocks, and leaving it outside for a few days in below freezing weather and besides a few scratches it still works perfectly.

I’ve noticed that a lot of the paddlers
and I’ve noticed that a lot of the paddlers who complain about picture quality are from places where it’s really dark

paddling with a camera
Most pictures in paddling blog are shot with Pentax Optio WP and W10. I wrote a few posts about these cameras, just check photo tips category:


my complaint
with the newest of ‘these’ camers is the lack of optical viewfinder…with my old Optio 43WR I can turn off the screen and use only the optical, the battery life this way is incredibly long.

I have the w10 and I’m more than satisfied. I’ve posted some details at


Ask me if you want more details or full-size images.

I have the Olympus Stylus 720
Had it less than a month and water got in it. They replaced the camera but I’m a bit concerned about taking it out in conditions on the water. Picture quality is OK not great.

Outside on bright sunny days, the Optio takes great pictures - so its a great paddling camera. I find the picture quality to be pretty bad under most other conditions. The W10 also takes surprisingly good quality video. Took some underwater video at our last pool session. Unfortunately, it saves the video files in QuickTime format which I have to convert to edit on my PC. The video quality goes down a lot in the conversion process, but here is the video


I stick this camera in my PFD pocket and never worry about it getting wet all day.

no viewfinder ?
10 Tips on Shooting Pictures without Viewfinder


Odd Man Out
I am so disappointed with the pictures I am able to take with my WP10 that it just stays at home or my 11 year old takes it. It has been explained to me that it is the operator that is at fault not the camera and I am fine with that. So, I am using my DSLR more now and taking a fuji film non waterproof camera out on the water. I seem to have been able to master how to use the last two but not the first.

Happy Paddling,


what don’t you like?

– Last Updated: Feb-13-07 8:37 AM EST –

I'm looking at a newer optio, the w20. What don't you like about the picture quality of your w10?

olympus stylus 720 sw
I’ve been amazed with the quality of this camera. It’s shock-proof as well as water-proof (it really is, trust me!) It took some getting used to the settings in order to get really good photos from, but now I have no problem with it. I wish it had a viewfinder because taking pics in bright light while bobbing up and down on waves is kind of a gamble with the LCD screen. It’s also kind of a pain to adjust the settings. Most of them are buried in menus that can take some time to get to. Overall, It’s been great because it’s small enough to put in my pfd and I don’t have to worry about it getting beat up. I can reach down and pick it up when I want to take a pick with no worries. These pics were taken with that camera. http://www.flickr.com/photos/findkam/sets/72157594311408610/show/

Have the Olympus 720SW
As above, does it all. Fits in a PFD pocket, has a big LCD screen to look thru, and a lot of modes if you have the time to run thru them. We used the underwater mode while snorkeling and got some nice shots - works as it says. The camera was underwater in salt water for well over an hour, came out just fine.

The only downside on this camera is the buttons ae quite small, nearly impossible to feel with thicker gloves. In cold weather or challenging stuff, you’ll be using it mostly on automatic where it chooses the shooting mode etc. But it does the job.

I’ve had the Olympus 720SW since early last summer and it’s been great. There is a new 770SW coming out which has a couple new features, but I’d probably look for a deal on the 720SW than pay extra for the new one.

none pickier than the ones
who dropped theirs in the water…

The new Olympus
is waterproof to I believe 10 meters.

I have been using one (original 720 wp) since last June, and have had excellent results.


Pentax Optio W20 samples
All the paddling photos in these two albums were taken with the Pentax Optio W20.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Lake Superior:


Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin River, first snow of the season:


As a longtime avid amateur photographer, I’m quite happy with the results of this camera, and I haven’t even begun to tinker with the various modes and settings offered; I’m just shooting in straight Auto or one of the basic Programs. I’ve also made some nice 8x10" prints from several of these images.

I found that I quickly adapted to the lack of a viewfinder, and have become quite proficient at shooting from the hip or at arm’s length. By shooting at a higher resolution (quality) setting, one can easily crop the image later for a better composition, thereby making perfect in-camera framing unnecessary.

I briefly played with my friend’s new Olympus SW720 and found it very similar in size and configuration to the Pentax. Both are very compact, with small buttons that can be difficult to operate while wearing neo gloves, but certainly useable. The little flip-up door over the lens on the Olympus seems like a great place to collect dirt, sand, and moisture; the Pentax instead utilizes a thick, permanently-mounted plate of glass or optical plastic, so resists dirt intrusion.

One remaining nit I’d like to pick is that–as with most LCD viewfinders–the screen is sometimes difficult to see when struck by bright sunlight, and is frequently impossible to see while wearing polarized sunglasses. On the drive up to Lake Superior to the Pictured Rocks, I forgot my usual sunglasses so stopped at a K-Mart and bought a pair of clip-on, flip-up, Blue-Blocker, polarized sunglasses. These are great for paddling, and easily flip out of the way for shooting, with no fumbling. These have turned out to be my favorite sunglasses; best four dollars I’ve ever spent.

Get a good lanyard; these cams are waterproof but do not float …