Pentax Optio W60 & Olympus Stylus 1030SW Underwater Cameras Review

Underwater (UW) photography is a complex equipment-heavy photographic genre. UW shooting requires powerful flashes most of the time along with dive equipment and housings that are specifically set up to control the cameras they are holding. Although the Pentax W60 and the Olympus 1030SW reviewed in this article, are technically “underwater” capable, you should not expect them to allow you to make images like David Doublet. In fact, due to the lack of light underwater, in all but the sunniest, shallowest, or clearest water conditions, your underwater photos with any point and shoot camera are likely to be dark, noisy and murky.


Does this mean that these point and shoot underwater cameras are useless? Absolutely not. Far from it in fact. These cameras absolutely excel for general travel and adventure point and shoot photography. From skiing the mountains of Europe to hiking the rainforests of Brazil to snorkeling the reefs of Hawaii, these cameras are wonderfully well suited. They are far tougher than your average point and shoot and will survive where others will not.

Just be aware that you aren’t going to be taking photos of anglerfish with them.

Where to Buy’s partners have both waterproof P&S cameras available. Their prices are fair and you help to support

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For additional tips on P&S photography, take a look at Ten Tips to Improve P&S Travel Photography.

The Cameras

Here is what the manufacturers have to say about each of these cameras:

Pentax Optio W60

PENTAX Imaging Company has announced the PENTAX Optio W60 compact digital camera. Lightweight and fully waterproof, the Optio W60 features 10 megapixels and a 5X zoom lens with 28mm wide-angle capability. The enhanced design of the Optio W60 allows the camera to operate up to 13 feet underwater for two hours and at extreme temperatures well below freezing.

Perfect for photography in adventurous as well as everyday settings, the 5X optical zoom refraction lens never protrudes from the Optio W60, yet it covers focal lengths from 5mm to 25mm (approximately 28mm to 140mm in 35mm format). This range allows the camera to capture a wide variety of scenes including expansive landscapes, architecture, and group photos in confined spaces as well as close-up telephoto shots of subjects. A Digital Wide function merges two shots into one image for ultra-wide-angle image capture (equivalent to a focal length of 21mm in 35mm format).

The Optio W60 also accompanies users to new aquatic depths. With improved design and construction of the shutter button and controls, as well as reinforced, airtight joints, the Optio W60 allows underwater photography up to 30 percent deeper than previous PENTAX waterproof models. In addition to the JIS Class 8 waterproofing standard, the camera is JIS Class 5 dustproof against dirt, sand and dust and operates in extreme temperatures as cold as 14 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 10 degrees Celsius).

Full press-release here.

Olympus Stylus 1030SW

Scuba divers, mountain climbers and adventurers worldwide rejoice today as Olympus unleashes the new 10.1-megapixel Stylus 1030SW, the toughest point-and-shoot camera in the world. This shockproof, waterproof, freezeproof, crushproof and dustproof model builds on the Olympus Stylus SW series’ reputation of delivering amazing images while enduring extreme expeditions and everyday adventures, including life with kids.

The Stylus 1030SW features a 3.6x wide optical zoom (28-102mm equivalent in 35mm photography, f/3.5-5.0) so that even more of the subject makes it into each shot—perfect for underwater photography. The lens does not protrude from its body so it is further protected from harsh conditions.

The Stylus 1030SW performs as well underwater as it does on land because its lightweight, stainless steel and aluminum exterior is matched with interior rubber gaskets and O-rings to seal out the elements. It can be fully submerged to capture beautiful images down to 33 feet (10 meters) underwater, and features a built-in manometer, making it ideal for more serious underwater adventurers who want to know the depth of where their images were taken. The inclusion of four preset underwater scene modes makes the Stylus 1030SW perfect for taking photos while snorkeling or scuba diving. Additionally, movies are simple thanks to an underwater movie mode. The camera also features a water-repellent lens coating to prevent water droplets from forming on the lens to get crystal-clear shots no matter how wet the shooting environment.

Full press-release here.

Quick Feature Comparison Chart


Pentax Optio W60

Olympus Stylus 1030 SW

• 1/2.3 " Type CCD, 10.0 MP

• 1/2.35” CCD, 10.0 MP

Image Size 3,648 × 2,736 3,648 × 2,736
Waterproof Depth 13ft (for 2 hours) 33ft (no time limit)
Zoom Lens (35mm equiv.) 28-140mm, f/3.5-5.5 28-102mm, f/3.5-5.1
ISO Range 50-6400 + Auto and Limit Auto 80-1600 + Auto
Memory Media


xD-PictureCard, microSD (with adapter)
Scene modes Auto Picture (Standard, Landscape, Portrait, Night Scene Portrait, Night Scene, Sport, Flower), Program, Night Scene, Movie, Underwater, Underwater Movie, Landscape, Flower, Portrait, Digital Wide Angle (5M), Surf & Snow, Digital SR (5M), Kids, Pet, Half Length Portrait (3M), Sport, Fireworks, Voice Recording, Night Scene Portrait, Text, Food, Digital Panorama (2M per frame), Frame Composite (3M), & Report (1280×960) Portrait, Landscape, Landscape & Portrait, Night Scene, Night & Portrait, Sports, Indoor, Candle, Self Portrait, Available Light Portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, Behind Glass, Documents, Auction, Shoot & Select 1, Shoot & Select 2, Beach & Snow, Pre-Capture Movie, Underwater Snapshot, Underwater Wide 1, Underwater Wide 2, Underwater Macro
LCD Size 2.5" 2.7"
Physical Dimensions 3.9 × 2.2 × 1.0″ 3.7 × 2.4 × 0.84″
Weight (no batteries) 5.1 oz 6.3 oz
Other Smile capture, blink detection, super macro focus, HD 720p (1280×720) video at 15fps Shooting Guide, Perfect Shot Preview, Digital ESP Metering, High speed continous 5.2 frames per second for 11 frames (3MP)

Appearance and Feel

Pentax Optio W60

The Pentax Optio W60 is a fairly standard shape and design for a point and shoot camera—perhaps slightly thinner and more rectangle shaped than some. But overall, you would be hard pressed to tell it was a waterproof camera if it weren’t for the “waterproof” labeling on the front of the camera. The W60 is mostly silver with black buttons and a black top plate. You do have an option of a buying one with a silver faceplate or an “Ocean Blue” one. As you can see, the images of the camera in this article are the Ocean Blue version. While both look just fine, I suppose if I had to pick, I might say that the silver version looks classier. But that is really a matter of opinion.


The W60’s size is similar to many of today’s point and shoot cameras. It is about the shape of a pack of cigarettes. If you have problems with other similar sized P&S cameras, you might find the W60 tough to deal with as well. But for most people, the camera feels good in the hand and is easy to slip in a pocket or attach to something like a climbing harness or life-vest. It should be noted that like most recent P&S cameras, the W60 does not have an optical viewfinder. While an argument can be made that this is a sad omission on most digital cameras, it makes perfect sense here. After all, it would be impossible to use a tiny optical viewfinder while underwater with goggles on.

Olympus Stylus 1030SW

The Olympus Stylus 1030SW is a very cool looking camera. The version I have is a combination of brushed and polished “chrome” colored metal with a few black trim pieces. It has an industrial design to it that gives it a distinctive look setting it apart from other point and shoot cameras. Personally, I think this is a neat aspect. While looks are a minor point overall in camera design, I have to say that there is something appealing about a camera that has obviously had someone thinking about more than just the images is creates. Like the W60, you can also get the 1030SW with a colored faceplate in place of the silver/chrome one. Green and black appear to be the choices offered. Frankly, I think they detract from the camera’s aesthetic design and I wouldn’t be inclined to buy them.

The 1030SW is more square than the W60 (slightly narrower and taller) and is more along the lines of the shape of some of Canon’s SD point and shoot cameras. It also feels heavier in the hand than the W60—a fact proven by the 1030SW’s 6.3oz weight vs the W60’s 4.4oz (both weights without battery or card). The differences in size and weight aren’t a drawback. In fact, many users may appreciate the solid feel and slightly larger form of the 1030 SW. Like the W60, the 1030SW does not have an optical viewfinder.


One thing to note about the “looks” of the 1030SW is that the buttons are all labeled with a sort of matte laser etching that is VERY hard to see, especially in low light. I really would have preferred to see the buttons labeled in black. After using the camera for a while, I memorized the buttons. This is the sort of thing that could really frustrate someone if they had bad eyesight.


How much do looks and “feel” matter for a point and shoot camera? For most people, very little. For whatever it’s worth, the Olympus is the better looking of the two cameras as far as design goes. But there’s nothing wrong with the Pentax’s looks either, it’s just not as original. And the Olympus’s awful hard-to-see button labeling is a drawback as much as it’s good looks are an advantage. Handling for both cameras is on the same level as most recent P&S cameras. There is no clear winner here and in all honesty, there probably shouldn’t be.

Handling and Use

Pentax Optio W60

The W60 fits the hand very well and is easy to operate. There is a slight raised hand/finger grip on the front of the camera that tucks nicely in the crook of your middle finger and provides a measure of security in your grip. The buttons on the back of the camera are mostly all well labeled and easy to understand. The two exceptions might be the button to turn face detection on and off and the green button that allows you quick access to four of your most used adjustments (ISO, WB, etc). Otherwise everything is pretty self explanatory.

The shutter and on/off buttons are flush with the top-plate of the camera. There is nothing unusual about this—many cameras set up their top buttons this way. For an outdoor/adventure/underwater camera, the flush mounting may cause a bit of fumbling with cold, wet, or gloved hands. I personally did not have any issues, but I can see it being a problem for some users. The zoom in/out button is a rocker-switch of sorts. In feel it operates much like two different buttons that happen to be attached. If I had a choice, I’d like to see the button separated a bit, or have the switch act like a real rocker switch. That is a small annoyance and I have to admit that it’s one of those things I think about when looking at the camera and writing a review, not when I’m out using the camera.


In use, the Optio W60 is a fine camera. Autofocus is on par with other point and shoot cameras—which is to say, not real quick. Focus lock with a half shutter press is always the way to go when using a P&S camera and the W60 is fine in this regard. Even with the flush mount shutter button I was able to easily feel where “halfway” was, though as I said above, I’m not sure how easy that would be if I had cold hands or gloves on. Face detection worked well, sometimes too well with the camera seeing faces in subjects that weren’t alive. That is pretty standard with all face detection systems.

Changing camera settings on point and shoot cameras is always a challenge. There simply isn’t enough space on the camera to have dedicated buttons for ISO, White Balance, etc. Adjusting these settings typically requires various combination of button presses. While not difficult, they aren’t quick either. The Optio W60 is no different in this regard. All the typical adjustments are there, they’re just buried under the “menu” button. To address this issue, Pentax has chosen to create the previously mentioned “green” button. You can assign four of your most commonly changed settings to the green button and access them very quickly. For example, I assigned ISO, White Balance, Exposure Comp, and metering pattern to the green button. Now when I go from outdoors to indoors and need to switch ISO, it just takes five button presses instead of ten (that number includes scrolling). I’d say that is a big improvement.

Olympus Stylus 1030SW

The “squat” rectangle shape of the Olympus Stylus 1030 SW is a little different from most of the P&S cameras out there. It still fits the hand just fine for the most part. Due to the lens location (upper right corner if you are looking at the camera face) some users might have to be more aware about not getting fingers in the shot. The worst aspect of the 1030SW’s handling is that a user is almost sure to cover up the microphone holes with a finger by accident. I understand why it might be better for sound pickup to put the mic on the front of the camera rather than on top like with the W60. But it also makes it a virtual lock that fingers are going to be in the way.

The on/off button is fairly flush to the body like on many P&S cameras, but somehow is easier to feel. Perhaps it isn’t inset quite as much. In any case, it’s easy to use. The shutter button is not inset at all and sticks up a few millimeters from the top of the body. I think this was a very good choice by Olympus. The shutter button is easy enough to feel that one should be able to press it with even frozen or gloved hands. Rather than a “rocker” button, the 1030SW’s zoom is a set of two buttons with a little raised nub in between. Much like the raised shutter button, this makes it easy to feel the buttons in various outdoor situations. One thing that makes the 1030SW stand out from other P&S cameras is the control wheel on the back of the camera that is used to select various shooting and playback modes. The wheel is very easy to use and presents a nice way of avoiding the click-scroll mess to change these camera settings. The drawback is that the wheel is a little too easily moved when taking in and out of a pants pocket for example. You may find yourself on “movie” when you had previously been on “camera dummy mode.”

In use, the Olympus 1030SW is also a fine camera. Using it reminded me a lot of using my Canon SD series P&S. If you like that camera, you will probably like this one. Focus lock with a half shutter press is always the way to go when using a P&S camera and the 1030SW works well in this regard. The raised shutter button make it particularly easy to find that “halfway” point. AF was fine though like most P&S cameras, it was not lightning fast.


As with all P&S cameras, changing settings is a chore involving a number of button presses and toggling. The Olympus 1030SW is no different. The “func” button is serviceable and brings up a menu of standard options down the side and bottom of the screen. This is nice because it means you can still see what you are taking a photo of even if you are changing a setting. The annoying part is that some common settings are still hidden under the “menu” button and take a number of clicks and scrolls to get to. AF mode and panorama being the two most obvious omissions.


The Pentax W60 wins for better button labeling and the well thought out “green” button to access camera functions. The Olympus 1030SW wins for a better shutter button design and a “func” menu that doesn’t block the subject. Overall, again pretty equal. I might give the nod to the Pentax just for the fact that you aren’t likely to cover the mic holes with your fingers and that the buttons’ labels are easier to read.


Pentax Optio W60

The Pentax Optio W60 uses SD cards (both SD and the higher capacity SDHC). This is nice because SD card prices are dropping all the time and capacities are rising. It also follows the recent trend of camera makers adding internal memory and has aprox. 36MB’s of memory available. This is enough for six or so full resolution shots. Not a ton, but it could be a lifesaver if you forget to put your card back in the camera and get a chance to take that one great shot.

Olympus Stylus 1030SW

The Olympus Stylus 1030SW uses Olympus’s xD cards. Capacities are topped out at 2GB currently, though that still gives you 410 images at the 1030SW’s maximum resolution and lowest compression, so that’s not bad. You can also use microSD cards with Olympus’s MASD-1 adapter. Finally, there is aprox. 14MB’s of internal memory, which is good for 3 full size images in a pinch.


I am not a fan of proprietary media storage cards (xD, Sony Memory Stick, etc) as they are almost always more expensive by far that the standard memory forms (compact flash, SD, etc). And this is true for the xD cards. As of this writing (December 2008), a 2GB xD card is around $25 and a 2GB SD card is around $7. That is a 400% difference. While $18 is not a lot of money, the Pentax W60 wins on principal here. Hooray for SD cards, boooo for xD cards. I’d also give the nod to the W60 because, while I’m not a fan of internal memory, six shots is still better than three.


Pentax Optio W60

Battery life was okay, nothing to write home about, but good enough for a day of average P&S shooting. You might have a different opinion if you were on a long snorkeling trip and wanted to shoot hundreds of images in an afternoon, particularly if you were using the flash a lot. The W60’s battery charger is a real letdown. Practically every other P&S camera these day provides a nice compact unit that plugs right into a wall outlet, the W60 has the old “box and cord” style charger. A minor annoyance perhaps. But any useless bulk for a camera that is meant to travel is lame.

Olympus Stylus 1030SW

Again, nothing stellar here in the battery department. So I’m going to say just what I said above: good enough for a day of average P&S shooting. You might have a different opinion if you were on a long snorkeling trip and wanted to shoot hundreds of images in an afternoon, particularly if you were using the flash a lot. They Olympus’s charger is the now-common plug-right-into-wall-outlet style.


Battery life on both these cameras was less that what most P&S camera users have become accustomed to. I’m not sure if there is some common reason that two “underwater” cameras from different manufacturers would suffer from mediocre battery life, or if it is just a coincidence. Either way, it’s something users will just have to live with and carry an extra battery for long days—which is too bad given that the last place you want to be changing a battery is exactly the sort of places that these cameras are designed to go.

Forced to make a choice on this particular issue, I would say that the Olympus 1030SW comes out ahead. If for no other reason than the fact that those old style chargers are bulky, annoying, and the cord is easily lost.

Modes, Metering, and Exposure

Pentax Optio W60

The Pentax W60 has no less than 24 different “scene” modes. Everything from full auto to “half-length portrait” to “surf/snow”. Quite frankly, they are mostly somewhat useless. A few of them can be useful for forcing a long shutter speed (fireworks) or a short one (sports). But in general, all but the most clueless photographers are going to be served just fine by a handful of them. I personally leave the camera set on “P” all the time. This is a mostly full-auto mode that allows the user to still choose ISO and other options.

Setting the mode is a relatively simple affair of pressing the “mode” button and then scrolling to the little cartoon image you want and pressing “ok”. One minor annoyance is that, since the “mode” button is also the “down” button of the 4-way toggle, you can’t just press the “mode” button again to make the mode menu go away if you had brought it up by accident. If you try, you will end up changing the “scene” setting. Allowing the “mode” button to operate like the “menu” button would have required a new button on the camera (or a reassignment of something like the “face detection” button) but would have been a better design.

Metering gives you three choices: matrix (camera looks at the whole image), center-weighted (camera looks at the center area more than the edges/corners), or spot (camera looks at the very center part of the image). All are very simple and all work well for what they are supposed to do.

Overall exposure is very good. The W60 has ISO options of 50/100/200/400/800/1600/3200/6400/Auto (when using 3200 or 6400 recording size is reduced to 5MP) and ISO noise is pretty standard for this class of camera. Which is to say, it’s just “okay”. Anything over ISO 400 is a crapshoot. Quite frankly, having the 3200 and 6400 options are little more than a gimmick. Image quality suffers so much at those high ISOs that it almost isn’t worth taking the photo. Unless, of course, there was no other way you are going to get the image. Something, as they say, is always better than nothing. A nice ISO feature is that you can choose a range for the “Auto” setting. You can choose ISO 50 to 100/200/400/800 which is nice when you want to limit how noisy your images will get. White balance (WB) works well, though the camera had a bit of trouble when set to “auto” with the standard difficult light sources such as indoor fluorescent and incandescent. Switching to the fixed “incandescent” WB setting fixed that issue. And while changing to the “fluorescent” setting helps some, fluorescent bulbs come in so many light temperatures these days that it is virtually impossible for a camera to be perfect with that light source.

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Olympus Stylus 1030SW

The Olympus Stylus 1030SW has a neat way of selecting the “scene” mode. You just spin the dial on the back of the camera to the “SCN” setting and you are presented with your choice of 24 different “scene” modes. Everything from “candlelight” to “sunset” to “auction”. Each option is accompanied by an example photo, just in case you weren’t sure what they meant by “beach and snow”. The camera remembers which scene you were last on, but it does pop the full list back up every time you spin the dial to SCN, though all you have to do is press “ok” and you are back using your prior selection.

In addition to the “scene” modes, Olympus has done something quite interesting for beginner photographers. If you spin the command dial to the “guide” setting, you are presented with a text list of 14 different “problems” that you might be having. For example, number three is “shooting into blacklight” if you choose that option, you are then presented with four different options for fixing the problem: Activate Shadow Adjustment, Set to fill-in flash, set the metering to spot-meter, and increase the exposure compensation. You pick the one you want, and the camera makes the adjustments for you then returns you to the standard picture-taking screen (only with fill-flash turned on or the exposure compensated by one stop). It is a pretty clever way to help out beginning photographers. In fact, a good argument could be made for this sort of thing being more useful than having all those scene modes that nobody ever uses anyway.

You only get two metering modes with the Olympus 1030SW, matrix (called iESP in the camera) and spot. Being someone who learned photography on a manual SLR with a center-weighted meter, it pains me a little to not see that option on the 1030SW. But in reality, it isn’t likely to cause much of a problem for the average user. Having the spot metering option is much more important.

Overall exposure is very good. The 1030SW has ISO options of, 80/100/200/400/800/1600, ISO noise is okay, but probably slightly worse than average for this class of camera. Anything over ISO 400 is a crapshoot. White balance works well, though the camera had a bit of trouble when set to “auto” with the standard difficult light sources such as indoor fluorescent and incandescent. Switching to the fixed “incandescent” WB setting fixed that issue. And while changing to the “fluorescent” setting helps some, fluorescent bulbs come in so many light temperatures these days that it is virtually impossible for a camera to be perfect with that light source.


I don’t like scene modes. I don’t think I’ve ever used more than just a couple of them on any camera I have used and I have a feeling that I’m not alone in that regard. But the camera makers seem to be thinking “Well the consumers aren’t using the scene modes because we aren’t offering them the right options. So let’s make MORE scene mode options!”. Which is how we get up to two dozen different choices in each of these two cameras. If you like scene modes, you have plenty to choose from on both of these models. And to be honest, there isn’t really a difference between their offerings.

The style of presentation between the two cameras is quite different. The Pentax’s menus and choices have a cartoon feel to them, all their icons are cute and happy looking. The Olympus’ menus have a very utilitarian look to them. Their default setting is a monochrome grey/black look and there is nothing even vaguely “cute” about them. To be fair, both styles work just fine. It is just interesting to me that two cameras with essentially the same target buyer would have such different approaches to the same thing.

Image quality is just about the same on both cameras as well. In terms of white balance and exposure, you would be hard pressed to find a winner. On first glance, the Pentax lens seems sharper than the Olympus lens. However, it’s hard to tell if that is truly the case or if the Pentax just applies more in-camera sharpening. That having been said, I did feel that the corners of the Pentax’s lens were sharper than the corners of the Olympus’s lens at full wide angle. This could have been a sample variation, and I don’t know that it is really something to worry about, particularly in a P&S camera. But it was noticeable in some images I compared. ISO performance would seem to favor the Pentax. But again, this may be affected by the possible lack of in camera sharpening done by the Olympus. Bottom line, I liked the W60 better overall when comparing “straight from the camera” images. But the difference wasn’t huge.

As for a winner here, it kind of depends on what you find important. I really like the Olympus’ “guide” concept for a beginning photographer. It seems like a great way to solve some of the more common shooting problems that beginners have. But the sharper lens, ISO “Auto” limit choices, and addition of a center-weighted meter option on the Pentax appeals to me as a more advanced photographer. The fact that the Pentax offers ISO 6400 compared to the Olympus’ ISO 1600 should be mentioned as well. Though as I have already said, those upper ISO settings are pretty crappy for image noise and sharpness.

Underwater and Toughness

Pentax Optio W60


The Pentax W60 does not float, this is very important to remember. Waterproof does not mean the same thing as buoyant. If you drop this camera off the side of a boat, it is going straight to the bottom.

According to Pentax, the W60 is waterproof to a depth of 13 ft and can operate at temperatures “well below” freezing. However, in the fine print you see that the camera is only rated at that depth for “up to two hours” which is a little strange. Does this mean you can use it at a shallower depth for a longer amount of time? What is that time limit then? It’s a little confusing.

Operation and results underwater are predictably like what I stated in my introductory note. If there is sufficient light and water clarity, the pictures are pretty good. If not, the camera has trouble and you aren’t going to be able to overcome it.

One thing to note is that it is easy to get water drops on the lens with any underwater camera. This doesn’t matter when you are underwater, obviously. But if you are underwater and then above water, you are going to get blurry spots on your images if you do not remember to wipe the lens. The W60 has a water-beading coating (similar to rain-x I assume) that helps with this, but it doesn’t totally solve the issue.

Olympus Stylus 1030SW


The Olympus 1030SW does not float, this is very important to remember. Waterproof does not mean the same thing as buoyant. If you drop this camera off the side of a boat, it is going straight to the bottom.

According to Olympus, the 1030SW is waterproof to a depth of 33ft, can operate at temperatures down to -10c/14f, and it’s shockproof design can withstand a 6.6 foot drop. There is no mention of a time limit for the underwater rating.

Operation and results underwater are predictably like what I stated in my introductory note. If there is sufficient light and water clarity, the pictures are pretty good. If not, the camera has trouble and you aren’t going to be able to overcome it.

Due to the fact that the 1030SW has an automated lens cover, it actually handles lens water drops much better than the W60. The sliding cover must have a little squeegee or sponge in there because if you turn the camera on and then off, the water drops are gone. Yes, you have to remember to do it, but it is a lot easier then trying to find something to dry the lens off with when you are treading water int he middle of a lake.


First off, let me repeat this: These cameras do not float.—they are waterproof, but not buoyant. I know of a fisherman who dropped his Olympus in a local river and watched it go straight to the bottom. The story has a happy ending as it was eventually washed downstream to shallower waters and recovered by someone who turned it in to the local fishing shop. But the point is, don’t drop these cameras in water where you can’t dive to the bottom. Or, use one of the dedicated flotation devices that are made by both Olympus and Pentax (see Accessories below).

The Olympus is the clear winner here. 33ft is deeper than 13ft and there is no time limit for underwater usage. Plus, the shockproof aspect is a bonus, though I doubt that the Pentax is really that much more fragile. The fact that the Olympus’ lens cover can also clear off water drops is a neat feature as well. What you have to ask yourself is, “how much time will I be spending underwater with this camera?” If you aren’t planning on doing any snorkeling or diving, you may not care about the 20 extra feet that the Olympus gives you, in that case you should let the other features make your decision for you. As both cameras will take a beating and keep on shooting in tough above-water conditions.


Pentax Optio W60

The W60 comes with ACDSee 3.0 for Pentax, a solid, if uninspiring, limited version of the ACDSee 2008 image editing program. Like most bundled software, it works well enough to organize and do simple editing, but is nothing to go crazy about.


Olympus Stylus 1030SW

The Olympus Master 2 software that is bundled with the camera is a step above the standard “freebie” software that comes with cameras of this class. In addition to organization and viewing you get a pretty wide array of editing options, from standard stuff like contrast to more impressive features like lens distortion correction. Olympus Master 2 also gives you the option to automatically prepare photos for email or for Youtube uploading.


I hate bundled software. There is no photographer who wouldn’t be better server to spend the $80 and get a copy of Photoshop Elements for their editing needs. Yes, the Olympus Master 2 software is a light bit better than the standard bundled software, but it’s still just a basic freebie program. Given that I’ve never installed a single bundled piece of software after owning almost two dozen digital cameras, I’m not going to award a winner here. Go buy adobe_photoshop-elements.


Pentax Optio W60

Pentax offers a silicone “jacket” for the W60 to help soften the blow from bumps and bonks. It comes in a sort of milky translucent color. I’m not sure how well it would protect your camera from serious damage, but it should prevent nicks and scratches. Plus, the grippiness of the material will be a bonus in wet conditions.

Pentax doesn’t offer a “float strap” accessory. But they have partnered with a company called Surf Camera to promote their Surf Camera product. The idea is that you mount this quick-access case on your wetsuit and then you can easily grab the camera for surfing shots or videos. However, the execution leaves something to be desired. To mount the case, you have to poke two holes in your wetsuit for the screws to go through, and then you have this metal plate with screw-heads sticking out in between your wetsuit and your skin. Sometimes I wonder who thinks of this stuff. Now, that having been said, the Surf Camera case has other applications where it works great. I have one mounted onto the nylon waist strap of a fishing backpack I use when on the river. Works perfectly.

Olympus Stylus 1030SW

Like Pentax, Olympus offers a silicone “jacket” for the 1030SW to help soften the blow from bumps and bonks. It comes in a gray or white/clear translucent color. Again, I don’t know how much real protection it offers, but it will help protect from scratches and nicks. Plus, the grippiness of the material will be a bonus in wet conditions.


Olympus has created a floating foam wrist strap for their underwater cameras. The idea is that if you drop your camera overboard, the foam strap will keep it afloat. And the strap’s bright red or orange color helps you spot your camera even in rough seas. Now, I have heard varying reports that this wrist strap doesn’t actually have enough buoyancy to float the 1030SW. However, I have also heard reports that it does. Is this the difference between people using it in freshwater and saltwater? I have no idea. but it’s something you might want to look into before you toss your camera overboard while fishing a 300 foot deep lake.

Finally, and somewhat oddly, Olympus offers the PT-043 underwater housing for the 1030SW. While companies like Canon have been making UW housings for their p&s cameras for years, this is the first I have heard of a company making a UW housing for its UW camera. What does this housing give you that your 1030SW doesn’t already have? It allows you to use the camera at depths up to 40 meters and, perhaps more importantly, is neutrally buoyant. Eliminating concerns about your camera sinking to the bottom of the seas.


I don’t care much for the silicone “jackets” that the two companies offer. While they might offer a bit of protection, their grippy nature makes then almost impossible to get in and out of something like a pants pocket. Now, if you were going to be using the camera predominately in wet or underwater conditions, you might like the extra grip that the jackets provide.

The reports that the Olympus camera strap doesn’t float the 1030SW properly are disturbing. though as they are just anonymous Internet rants, it’s hard to put total faith in them. However, given the Pentax W60’s much lighter weight, I would think that the Olympus strap would be a perfect match for it. Which is good because the Surf Camera product that Pentax is pushing is of dubious value to most users and zero value to surfers who aren’t stupid enough to poke holes in their wetsuits.

The UW housing from Olympus is interesting, but ultimately I don’t think that it will be that useful. The 1030 SW is a fine little camera, but the light available at the depths that the housing allows will be so minimal as to make good photography very difficult, if not impossible. There is a reason that UW photographers have those great big flashes attached to their cameras.


Pentax Optio W60



  • Lightweight
  • 28-140mm lens
  • Better lens resolution
  • Better ISO noise
  • Higher ISO choices
  • ISO limit choices on Auto
  • Dedicated button for most used adjustments
  • Mic holes not likely to be blocked by fingers
  • Center-weighted meter option

Olympus Stylus 1030SW


  • Nice aesthetic design
  • Good “guide” mode for beginners
  • 33ft depth rating
  • No listed time limit for underwater use
  • Lens cover wipes water drops off lens
  • Better than average bundled software

What’s the Bottom Line Josh?

It really depends on what you want to use this camera for. If you are a diver or surfer or snorkeler who is going to be underwater for long stretches of time, the Olympus is the clear choice. If you just want a tough weatherproof camera to use while out on adventures, my personal choice would be to look towards the Pentax for it’s lighter weight and slightly more advanced options.

Both of these cameras would serve the vacation traveler well, both would serve the action sports adventurer well, and both would serve the my-kids-destroy-everything-I-own parent well. Both cameras aren’t quite up to par with the best non-waterproof point and shoot cameras, particularly in the area of battery life. But image results are satisfactory and either of these cameras would do a fine job as your only P&S or as a dedicated has-to-be-tough waterproof camera.

Where to Buy’s partners have both waterproof P&S cameras available. Their prices are fair and you help to support

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Original text ©2008 Josh Root. Photographs ©2008 Josh Root and Ray Kimball.

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    • Olympus 1030SW Underwater Housing The reason to have a dedicated underwater housing for the Olympus 1030SW is so that you can add accessories such as wide angle lens, dome port (from Inon) and underwater strobe (from Ikelite, Inon, or Sea and Sea). Another benefit of the depth rating of the Olympus is that if you flood the housing at 30 or 40 meters, there is a chance that the internal pressure within the housing is less than 2 atmospheres (10 meters), which means that the camera just might survive. One comment on the battery life of the Oly is that it barely lasts for more than 1 scuba dive, so no chimping the monitor to review shots underwater. Bring a spare battery.
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    • Pentax recommends sending the camera in once a year for new seals. This will greatly add to the cost of the camera.
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    • Well I own an older Pentax, their WP, but the new one he writes about has many features in common. I have brought mine from the NE to border town Texas where it spent a month while I did some 'stuff' for Homeland (it got dusty, and I was well off the trail and am pretty sure my Sureshot would have died there), to New Orleans a few days after Katrina for the next two months (I waded through water several times with it and took photographs outdoors during Rita, several 100 degree days too), and to Puerto Rico for several months (including to the beach where it actually went in the water with me adn took pictures in surf), and I still use it at least two times a week as my carry in my pocket camera. I find my Pentax to be a good woods camera when hunting or bird watching, a good in-your-pocket camera for trips around town, and even use the record sounds button at homeowner association meetings (that's legal in this state). The two (Pentax and Olympus) described sound very similar. For me, as a non diver, the Pentax wins for reason of lighter weight (spend three days in the same clothes and you will appreciate every ounce saved). BTW, a mere 1GB card gives you way more recording capability (especially at lower resolutions) than the battery allows. The author is correct about mediocre batteries in both. Plan on not taking much more than a few hundred pictures (or an hour or two of video) per battery charge.
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    • I'd like to ask those in the know. I like to work photographing in and around tide pools at night. What I need is both good macro and a decent flash. I have seen in a local shop the Stylus shooting macro, but that didn't give me a good perspective on how it would work at night in a macro setup. If there is an accessory flash for the Stylus that may well be my determining factor. As the Pentax moderator, however, I'm always looking for a good excuse to purchase Pentax equipment. Thanks for any insights.
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    • I reviewed the manual (available online at for the 1030SW, and the manual does state: Water resistance: The waterproof feature is warranted to operator at depths up to 10 m (32.8 feet) for up to one hour. The waterproof feature may be compromised if the camera is subjected to substantial or excessive impact. This is contained in the Appendix section, specifically page 64.
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    • I own this camera for a couple of months now. The floating strap accessory is a must-have for this camera - I found it to work in both swimming pools and sea water. Other good point is that the 'available light' scene mode is great for low light photos if only for online display. It goes upto ISO 2500, and with a little sharpness, photos look good enough for screen display, like the one below.
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