When we first saw the Pentax
Optio 33WR it was at a photo trade show inside a goldfish bowl...filled
with water. This is not the usual or recommended storage for a digital
camera, especially with all the circuits and batteries etc. inside.
This eye-catching display got our attention, so we thought it might
be worth exploring this 3.2-megapixel digicam. The WR, you see, stands
for Water Resistant and this square, palm-sized camera is rated at Class
7 JIS. This does not mean submersible (despite the display) or that
the camera can be used to capture those curious barracuda on your next
dive. It does mean that this is an ideal camera for hikers, boaters,
and the like, who understand that getting splashed or rained upon need
not evoke a panic attack about getting their 33WR wet. It also means
that the camera can take a brief dunking, although, as they say, it
doesn't float. Note that the interior is not waterproof, and that
any water that gets inside will wreak havoc with batteries and the internal
circuits, but it is better sealed than most.
You can often judge how well a camera's image processor
and sensor work together in scenes that display a range
of highlight to shadow values. This shady area caught some
late day sun and shows how well the 33WR handles a range
of brightness values. There's texture in the tree
bark as well as details in the shadows. Exposure was made
on multi-segment program with no exposure overrides.
Photos © 2003, George Schaub, All Rights Reserved
For The Outdoors
That said, we thought that this camera would be ideal for those who like
their digital outdoors, especially hikers, kayakers, and the like who
previously would hesitate to let their digital camera (or any camera for
that matter) be exposed to the elements. The size, features and options
the 33WR affords are best for the snapshooter; those who like to make
visual diaries of their adventures. It is not a basic digicam, although
it does not allow for much shutter speed or aperture control. Of course,
there are ways around that, such as using the tele setting on the 2.8x
zoom and getting close to soften backgrounds and raising the ISO (from
50 to 400) to get a better shutter speed for low-light, albeit with some
noise coming in at the higher settings.
The camera starts up quickly enough to capture images when needed, an
improvement over previous models and over a number of other digicams we've
used. Hit the On button and you don't even notice a lag. The menus
are straightforward and offer all the options for altering the JPEG only
images you capture. There's autofocus from about a foot to infinity
and a close-up range in macro that will appeal to those who like to get
very close to their subjects (4" at wide zoom setting). You can
choose from three metering modes (spot, center-weighted and multi-segment),
a host of Program Picture modes (including Panorama Assist and optimizing
snow, sunsets, fireworks etc.) and white balance sets. There's also
a Manual focusing mode that enlarges the view on the LCD for precise control.
Shutter speeds range from 4 sec to 1/2000 sec. In short, you have lots
of leeway when you shoot. The Picture Mode selection is quite cute, being
a rotating menu on the LCD that you access by hitting the Mode button
on the back toggle control. The 33WR is eminently portable and while a
bit thicker than some of the slim-jims we've seen of late will not
encumber your pack or deep pocket.
can get quite close with the camera in either normal or
macro mode. The first shot in this series was made on
normal, and then we got even closer using macro mode second
shot. Both images are very sharp..
In The Field
When we worked in the field with it there was nothing that jumped up as
untoward or cumbersome in operation. Moving from option to option through
the body controls or menu was simple enough. Like most digicams the best
bet is to frame your image, press lightly on the shutter release and then
push all the way down to make the image. This locks focus and exposure
and actually displays the effect of exposure on the LCD screen.
For example, say you are photographing a scene with a bright sky and darker
ground. If you perform the above recommended procedure you can see right
away if you are overexposing the sky, thus causing it to be burnt up in
the captured image. Rather, lock onto the sky or in the middle of the
two brightness levels, touch the shutter release lightly and see if the
sky value is better. This is a real bonus in this camera and ensures that
exposures will be more in the ballpark. This is especially valuable if
you are photographing in contrasty light or with a bright subject in a
shadowed scene, although the camera does handle a range of bright to dark
The camera handles most daylight scenes very well, and having
the ability to preview or at least ballpark exposure with
slight pressure on the shutter release is an added bonus.
This backlit scene recorded just as we saw it in nature.
When photographing on auto
white balance pictures have pleasant warmth and rich colors (we prefer
to add image attributes like saturation, sharpness and contrast later
in the digital darkroom). The same cannot be said of flash pictures, which
in our tests came out quite "cool" or with a bluish cast.
There is no "flash" white balance setting per se, and you
would be better off setting white balance at "shade" for flash
shots to get some neutral color cast. Of course, this bluish cast can
be corrected later, but it is a bit of a nuisance, especially when you
use fill flash outdoors on occasion.
All in all the Optio 33WR is a great camera for hiking, camping, kayaking,
boating, and general knocking around in places like Seattle and London,
where it rains more than not. At around $300 it's competitive with
other 3-Mp+ cameras, with the weatherproof feature a decided plus.
Although there are no depth of field or shutter speed settings
per se, you can use Picture modes, ISO settings or zoom
range settings to get pretty much any image effect you desire.
Here, to get a softer background, we stepped back, zoomed
close to our subject on the tele setting and focused on
· Sensor: 3.2 effective megapixels
· Format: JPEG, with 4 compression modes; motion,
(MOV), 2 compression modes
· Memory: SD cards
· ISO: 50, 100, 200, 400
· Lens: 5.7-16mm (37-104mm equivalent), 4x digital
· Exposure: Program, with Picture Modes; 3 Metering
· EV Compensation:
+/- 2EV (exposure lock in shutter release)
· Drives: Single, continuous, self-timer, interval
· Power: CR-v3, 2 AA, optional AC adapter
· Weight: 7.3 oz (fully loaded)
· Size: 3.2x2.9x1.2"
· Price: $300 street price
In general the 33WR delivered images with pleasing warmth
and excellent color rendition. This is very pleasing for
outdoor images as well as for most portraits.
Pentax U.S.A Inc.