As a professional photographer, high quality gear is important to me. However, what works in one situation won't in another, and all the gear in the world is of no help if it's at home when you need it. As I often say in my workshops, the best camera is the one you have with you. For outdoor adventure, especially paddling, key attributes are small, light, and waterproof. For me, I also include a wide angle lens as a high priority.
Thus, my interest in the new Pentax W60. I got one of the first available in the country just before a week long sea kayaking workshop on Lake Champlain, and have used it considerably all summer and fall.
This camera is a real winner. It's easy to use right out of the box; is fully waterproof down to 13' for up to six hours, and has a 28-140mm internally sealed zoom lens. The lens has a glass cover with a coating that sheds water droplets fairly well. The camera has an unbelievable feature set, including movies, filters, image editing, macro settings, panorama stitching, and far more than can be described here.
But the real story... how does it feel, how does it work, and how well does it perform? I'm quite satisfied on all fronts. It starts up quickly, settings are easy to change if desired, and (hooray!) it holds your settings even when off. It's wonderful to have a camera that doesn't keep going back to default settings every time you turn it off. Image quality is quite good, although like most of these types of cameras with very small image sensors, noise creeps in at higher ISO speeds. It's almost inevitable, but not necessarily troublesome; if desired, you can apply noise reduction in Photoshop or other software to lessen the problem.
Battery life is less than I'd like, but again, this is hardly uncommon in such small cameras with these very small batteries. One should always have a spare battery along anyway, and this camera is no exception. I carry it with me almost everywhere. While paddling, I have a long cord attached to the camera that I clip into a carabiner in the pocket of my PFD. The camera's always accessible (and fits!) in the pocket, but I can't lose it over the edge. Another feature that's quite helpful is an "auto off" setting, so the camera isn't sitting in your pocket on all the time, using up the battery.
Almost every piece of gear has some compromises, and this camera's no exception. However, as a small, light, waterproof camera with a good zoom range, good quality lens, and full feature set, I find it wonderful for paddling and outdoor adventure. It also claims to be usable in cold temperatures, and I'm looking forward to testing it this winter. As with any battery powered device, I'm sure I'll have to keep it reasonably warm.
I recommend it highly, and it's certainly less expensive than its only competition in the Olympus product line. The Pentax also uses a standard SD memory card, where the Olympus requires a unique XD card (more expensive, less readily available).
Finally, be sure to try this (as with any camera) at various settings to see what works best for you. 10 megapixels is more than needed in most circumstances, and fills memory cards quickly. I keep mine set at 7mp, and that's plenty. I've made poster size prints from my other cameras at 4 or 5mp, so don't be misled by the race for more pixels; there's more to image quality than that.
For image samples from this camera, please visit my sea kayaking workshop photo gallery at
If you're looking for a phenomenal sea kayaking workshop, search for LCSKI online and sign up for 2009. I've taken the course twice, and had a great learning experience each time!