Thu - December 8, 2005

Pentax Optio WP/WPi - 10 Tips on Paddling and Shooting

sisson nucleus

Pentax Optio WP camera and its newer model WPi are getting popular among paddlers. So far, it has been the only waterproof digital camera on a market.

After using my Pentax for more than 8 months, I am trying to write down some hints and tips on using this tiny camera during paddling. Most of them apply to any small digital point and shoot camera (just don't put them into water).

  1. Don't leave the camera at home.
    It's small enough to carry everywhere. I sacrificed one power bar to take this camera for Texas Water Safari. I am taking it to all my paddling, biking or in-line skating workouts. The camera is weather and waterproof. Remember that a bad weather is often providing interesting photographic opportunities.

  2. Put it on leash.
    It doesn't flow. I tether the camera to my pfd and carry it in a small neoprene pouch also attached to the pfd. I like the tether to be long enough to allow shooting with an extended arm. The camera is small enough to carry it on your neck like a neckless but it is potentially dangerous and I don't recommend it for any paddling.

  3. Stabilize and/or use 2s self timer.
    shooting with Pentax Optio WP The camera is light, tiny and doesn't provide a good grip for your hands. It can be easily shaken when pressing the shutter button. I am trying to stabilize it on my paddle. This approach works pretty well on my tippy Sisson kayak where I prefer to hold my paddle all time ready for a stroke or brace. It may be useful on a regular sea kayak in rough conditions.

    If you are shooting some non action pictures it may be worth to use 2 second self timer to hold camera steady, especially, when only one hand is used. Bjorn Johansen fabricated some sort of a handle made from hard PVC for his Pentax, which makes it a bit easier to hold, and which has sufficient volume to make the whole thing float.

  4. Use exposure compensation.
    Since I am missing the exposure lock feature available in my Canon cameras, I use EV compensation. It is possible to assign different camera functions (settings) to the "green button". Right now, exposure compensation in my Pentax is at the first position available by one click to the green button. I am often underexposing when shooting in the harsh light of the middle of day as well as during sunset or dusk shooting. It is possible to retrieve details from underexposed parts of the frame but not from washout overexposed zones.

    You can display information about over- and underexposed parts of your picture on the LCD display (just click OK button in a shooting mode). You will also see a histogram showing brightness distribution of the image. I always check the histogram when shooting with my digital SLR camera. I don't do it often with the Pentax but it may be worth to check the brightness distribution in more tricky situations.

  5. Buy a big memory card.
    Shooting digital is cheaper than shooting film. You can always erase unsuccessful frames, but you need a storage for your pictures. I am using 1Gb card. For trips longer than a few days I will probably buy additional memory.

  6. Record pictures at the highest available resolution
    to allow cropping. It is quite important in the case of this camera since it is difficult to achieve a perfect framing and composition from the board of a kayak. You will often need to rotate and crop the picture to make a horizon line horizontal.

  7. Don't use any in-camera effects.
    You can always add them later in Photoshop or other editing software.

  8. Don't worry about viewfinder.
    Well, you don't have one in this camera. And, the LCD display is often difficult to read in a bright sun. It shouldn't stop you from shooting. Just shoot some extra frames. Use some creative angles as far as you can extend your arm. Remember, you can put this camera under water next to you kayak. The lack of a viewfinder is perhaps the main reason preventing some photographers from buying this camera. I think that this a reasonable compromise in the camera of this size. Well, I wouldn't like to use viewfinder in my tippy Sisson kayak anyway.

  9. Keep the camera warm?
    I don't have experience with using Pentax Optio WP in winter conditions, but it would be easy to keep the camera warm, e.g., under your pfd, to extend the battery life in low temperature if necessary.

  10. More tips?.
    Do you have more practical tips for using Pentax Optio WP by paddlers?

Shooting Paddlers
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