I am in the market for a new camera. My last one took its last breaths on the shore of the methow before it took an unexpected dip. I have noticed a lot of great underwater pics in some of your albums and would like to get any/every ones two cents. :beer2:
Do you have any problems in bright light conditions w/ seeing stuff through the view finder? I'm not sure if there is a contrast feature or some other feature that I haven't figured out, but I have a heck of a time seeing through the view finder when it's bright.
I have had the Olympus Stylus 4.0 for several years now. I takes prety good pictures but the capture time is slow. It gets a bit confused sometimes under certain light/contrast conditions and won't take the picture. My big issue with this camera is that the lens cover switch that turns the camera on and off broke a week after the warranty expired. I had it fixed for about $150.00 and the switch is failing again! I would have tossed this camera a long time ago but I have a waterproof housing that is specific for this camera and it wasn't cheap. When my Olympus busts again I will likely buy one of the Pentax units.
Bought it for the same reason you're planning on buying one. Great clear pictures and completely waterproof. Cheap too. Buy it from Costco and you will never have problems with warranties ever again. They'll replace it with no questions asked.
I've owned a Pentax Optio W10 since they were introduced a couple of years ago. It takes very nice pictures - but not in the class of some of the larger 'compact' sized cameras (like the Nikon Coolpix line). It renders most types of scenes accurately, with good color saturation. Good sharpness and lack of artifacts. One big positive is that even after 2 years of use, the lens (cover glass) is still scratch free (though I use a fair amount of care in handling the camera). Probably the most pleasant surprise is how the extremely compact size has led to taking the darn thing with me nearly everywhere! I carry it in a little NiteIze pouch (designed for cell phones; you can find them at Lowes stores near the checkouts) clipped on my belt, just like a cell phone. I can pop the thing out and shoot in a couple of seconds! All the utility of a cell phone camera, with a heck of a lot better pics.
Low light shooting is poor though (very small lens just doesn't capture much light). The big issue however is that the LCD ("viewfinder") washes out in even moderately bright light conditions, making it very difficult to frame shots and there is *no* optical viewfinder to use instead of the LCD. To compensate, I generally zoom wide and crop the shots on the PC later.
The new W20 is a different beast however. Obviously a new CCD (the heart of the image capture function), and more pixels may not necessarily be better (it wouldn't be the first time that a model upgraded to better resolution actually took inferior photos). Also, the new, larger LCD may still suffer from washout in sunlight.
I'd definitely recommend buying from a source that allows 30+ days of use w/ a no questions, no restock fee return policy.
I'll add to what Wes has said about the Optio W10. I have found it so small and convenient it is always with me. I actually hav it in my vest pocket on a zinger. If the the LCD viewability is an issue for you there are aftermarket hood that stick on and unfold around the LCD, though I don't think that wouel fare well in a pocket. First time I had it out on a steelhead trip it got dropped into the bait box (yes it was a meat trip) so it was great just to rinse it off. My Nikon coolpix would not have survived that.