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Old Jun 13, 2004, 5:17 AM   #1
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Hello all,

First please forgive my english (I am a Belgian french speaking).

I hesitated a while before to order the 43WR (rather than 33WR) because of the lack of feedback (not still a complete review). I have just received and tested it and despite a big problem with the sound (see lower) I am really very satisfied and even more than I hoped. The reasons to go with the 43WR are multiples. The most important are the little size combined to the WR feature and of course the good echoes about its predecessor.

- The little size

This is my first "new" camera but I own some older (all are second hand) and bulkier ones.
- Canon Pro 70
- Nikon 995
- Ricoh RDC-i500
- Canon Pro 90 IS

The smallest is the Ricoh RDC-i500 (amazing and underestimated although very good) but too big and heavy to put it in a standard pocket. As we often read, the best camera is the one you (can) have almost always with you (it's rather true). Of course there is smaller camera than the Optio 43 but no competitor with the WR feature.

- The WR feature

I am not an adept of water or snow sports but Belgium is not a tropical land (many know that). The weather here is wet almost half of the time and although I like the rain I have often stop to capture or miss shots because of this weather (or more exactly because the lack of WR feature).
Now, my first and humble opinion.

- General

The 43WR looks and feels pretty good. I love its square shape and its mid-grey color with black rubber corners. The manipulation is very intuitive and the buttons are very wel placed with a good response. When I opened the box, I found only a manual in German (I ordered the camera in Germany). As I know German very few, I tried to operate without paper assistance. I just set the menus "in French" and so, I have easily discovered about 90% of the possibilities (later I found and read the manual in English from Pentax USA).

The menus are well organized with a character size rather small but always legible.In addition, all the menus can be reached whatever is the actual mode (capture or playback). Also fine, a lot of personal settings can be memorized. Finally, the "quick and animated" virtual Program mode is a pleasure to play with. Much more readable on the display (bigger icons) than with a roll button. And with the advantage to avoid this additional one (very interesting for a WR camera) and to accidentally turn it.

- Memory and power

Memory used : 256MB and 512MB Sandisk Ultra II SD card.
Power used : two AA 1800 mAh and two 2100 mAh NIMH rechargable GP battery

- Photos

I made all my first tests with the default settings (mode P, AWB, etc ...)
And resolution set to 2288 x 1712 with *** quality.

The first thing to say is that the colors rendering is exceptionnally good (near perfect). And this both with and without the flash (I remember very poor results with the Sony F505V when flash was used). Also really very good are the saturation, contrast and sharpness at default setting (middle position). Trust me, for all that, I have make a lot of direct comparison (stunning results).

Exposition is most of the time OK but, as many others, can be sometimes fail a little in outdoor shots with high contrast (e.g. sky and earth). The result is a too dark image (but often easily fixed with postprocessing). Focusing in normal light is always done and rather quick. Focusing in low light is on the good side (very well for a "without AF assist" system) and almost always done even if sometimes the time to focus can be very long (up to about 3 sec). As said, flash use gives very good results concerning colors and exposition (no washed out or burned subject). But for near subjects (flash can goes on also in macro mode) and in low light, shots with flash show a tendancy to darken the background a little too much (doubtless among others because of the shortest exposure) . Don't expect miracles about the flash power and range. Does however an honest job in wide position up to about 3 meters (and better than others little and sub-camera).

Now the macro mode : absolutely fantastic for a so "little" camera (how they made that !). The "as close as 1 centimeter" is not a joke. Just amazingly near perfect ! Until now, I wanted to keep my Nikon 995 for these situations (995 and others Nikon are well know and suited for).

But as my Ricoh RDC-i500 does also a pretty good job here (really an amazing machine for its age and price), and in first analyze, the 43WR does even probably better than the Nikon (but still to compare further, especially DOF), I don't know anymore...

One more thing : visible (average ?) barrel distorsion at wide angle but very high pincushion at telephoto (however can be fixed at postprocessing).

- Video: the image (or picture) side

Because of the sound problem (see lower) that I discovered obviously at the first sequence, I have not really focused my attention on this side. I can however already say this :

The results seem very good (far better than with my old TV tuner card) with maybe a general slightly darker rendering than in photo mode. And, as of course the flash cannot be used in video, taking in low light situations give a so-so and grainy results. You can zoom before capturing and also use the numeric zoom (not bad at all) in 320 x 240 and 160 x 120 modes.

At 30ips in 320 x 240 resolution the 43WR announces 12:16 min of total possible taking time on a 512MB SD card. At 30ips in 640 x 480 in the same conditions you get 07:41 min. But note that you have in fact only 483 MB free after formatting the SD card in the 43WR.

And more surprising, the total taken video is in fact only 465 MB in 320x240 and 454 MB in 640x480 (I suppose this may vary due to compression algorithm). However, the real video duration corresponds almost exactly to the giving times (respectively 12:15 and 07:40 min). To note here that with the Sandisk Ultra II, I encountered absolutely no problem to get these maximum sequences. The results are really very pleasant and totally smooth ! BRAVO Pentax.

For sound only (dictaphone mode) you get a total of 17:36:23 hours (always for a 512 MB SD card). Quick calculations show that (supposing that I don't have make big errors) :
- the 43WR takes approximately 8Kb to store 1 min of audio (in audio only mode).

Assuming that the audio takes the same amount of memory in video mode than in audio only, it comes :
- that in 320x240 mode, 43WR takes about 648 Kb to store 1 sec of video only
- and that in 640x480 mode it takes about 1010 Kb to store 1 sec of video only

These results are quite surprising. Because of compression algoritm, I did not wait a brutal 0.25 or "1 to 4" ratio (the "pixels" ratio between 320x240 and 640x480). But the calculated ratio (about 0.64 or 1 to 1.56) is rather low and let think that the 320x240 is far less compressed. Attentively analyze same sequences (in both modes) can give "real life" answers.

- Video :the sound side

As already announced, cannot say much more than HORRIBLE. I cannot believe that Pentax (or anybody else) would have dare to let bring out something so bad. I believe rather that I have a defective device on this aspect.
The main phenomena are :
- 1) Big background noise (both in video an audio only mode)

- 2) Very weak restitution of the "external" sounds (with regard to the background noise)

- 3) Very strong restitution of the "internal" noises (the slightest contact with the device is returned in a very exaggerated way)

- 4) Loss of "sound" in every use of the digital zoom (video modes 320X240 and 160X120)
- 5) Continual presence of a noise of "engine" (a sort of sinusoidal signal)

In fact, everything takes place "as if" the microphone had risen back to front. It records very strongly the mechanical and electronic noises of the device and very weakly the "outside" sounds.
- Battery life

Here I get some bizarre results. With my brand new 2100 mAh cells, the lifetime is not what it should be. In addition, the battery indicator plays the yoyo; changing suddenly from good to low or from low to good ? I get far more lifetime and no yoyo with my older 1800 mAh (I suspect thus a bad 2100 mAh cells series). I cannot however give you a precise timing (not calculated due to frequent switching between 2100 and 1800 units). Must be investigate further ...

- Still to discover and to make :

Intervalometer, most of the photos (Program) mode, fast playback in video mode...
Not yet tested : action shots and some others ...
Post some examples, so you can judge by yourself

- First conclusion

I am so happy with this 43WR (except for the sound) that I intend to buy soon a second one. In fact, I can now find it in Belgium. So, assuming that my first one is defective, I could return it for repair and still have one always with me.
I hope that this (too ?) long story will help.

Jackbel - Bxl

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Old Jun 13, 2004, 8:34 AM   #2
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Corrections and additions.

The barrel distorsion at wide angle seems to be above average (for this kind of camera)

I already talked about some failing exposition in outdoor shots with high contrast scene.
I took advantage of this "European election day" to take some more outdoor shots.
Note that here in Brussels it's a rather dark and grey day but with some much clearer zones in the sky.

Naturally, I encountered same failing exposition phenomenon in Multi-segment metering light (not yet tried the Center-weighted and Spot others options).
As said, results are too dark images (can be also partially resolved with EV compensation).
But this time, I also get some pictures with high purple and green fringing artifacts.
These fringing appear here and there classically when a dark forground zone stands out on a piece of much more clear zone (here the sky).
Typically objects are the leaves of trees, fireplaces, electric posts, cables, angles of walls, etc ...
In addition, especially around the rectilinear objects which stand out on the sky, you can get a clearly visible halo all around the concerned object (jpeg artifact or other ?).
This halo (in my shots) has more often a clear greenish or a clear grey colour.

I read that there is some software filters that can limit the purple (or green) fringing.
But I don't know about the halo phenomenon.

These some drawbacks (they don't appear in every day shots) does not modify my general first impression.
I can easily live with, moreover that I use my cameras more for indoor and macro shots (where these drawbacks never appear).

Jackbel - Bxl
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Old Jun 14, 2004, 4:00 AM   #3
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I don't know if your sound is buggy, I just want to say that the sound recording (dictaphone) on S4i is 4-bit resolution: that's why they manage to keep recording for hours! 4-bit creates a lot of quantization noise, an 8-bit option should have been available. Except for the q-noise, I find the sound quality in fact very good. I have not investigated if the video uses same sound system. I have not noticed the noise sources that you describe. You sould compare with other 43WR owners!!
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Old Jun 14, 2004, 7:09 AM   #4
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Thanks for this interesting feedback.

I know that I should compare with other 43WR owners (and 33WR too). It's also why Itake the time to tellthis long story. But at this time, very few usable answersfor this particular aspect.

Jackbel - Bxl
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Old Jul 5, 2004, 8:39 AM   #5
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I have just got a 43WRand onfirst impressionsI agree totally with jackbel. Without repeating everthing he said let me just say that the camera seems well made, well featuredand performs well optically - but the the sound is TERRIBLE! I have compared it to an Optio S4 which has hardly got great sound performance itself andthe 43WRis even worse. I guess I can't expect a tiny camera (especially a waterproof one) to have sound quality comparable to a (tape) video camera but in this day and age of digital sound recording and miniturization one would expect at least telephone quality sound. A 70's cassette recorder would have better sound and for that matter probably even a 1940's wire recorder. Disappointing. But as I didn't get the 43WR to use as a dictaphone and because it is a great machine in other ways I will keep it. The high resolution video is a great improvement over previous Pentax offerings and it's great that it uses AA batteries and that it is an all weather camera. In fact, it's possibly the best outdoors/adventure camera currently available.
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Old Jul 14, 2004, 7:17 AM   #6
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I have the 43WR and agree w/pretty much everything said earlier. While it would be nice if sound quality could be improved that's aminor complaint when compared to all the other features it has. Took mine rafting a couple of weeks ago and the 640x480x30fps movie mode was great for some of the rapids, poor sound notwithstanding.

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Old Jul 14, 2004, 9:33 AM   #7
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I think you'll find theidentical problems with sound, with theoverwhelming majority of Digital Cameras having a movie record function. They all use very tiny omni-directional microphones, and the quality is extremely poor.

I'm now on my 7th Digital Camera (from various manufacturers), and I've never used the movie modes on any of them (other than to test them, just to make sure theyworked). The Quality is just too poor.

I did notice that Olympus put an external microphone jack on one of their new models (I think it's the new C-770 UZ). Hopefully, other manufacturers will follow.

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Old Jul 18, 2004, 10:00 PM   #8
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I'm now on my 7th Digital Camera (from various manufacturers), and I've never used the movie modes on any of them (other than to test them, just to make sure they worked). The Quality is just too poor.
I'm with Tomac on this one: Sound notwithstanding, the 640x480x30fps movie mode is excellent on the 43WR. It's a huge improvement over earlier 320x240x15fps digital video. In fact, as far as I'm aware it is the best video resolution currently available on digital cameras - the same quality as tape video cameras in fact. Peoplemay buy the WR43 mainly for still shots (I know I did) but will find themselves using the movie mode more than they thought they would.
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Old Jul 18, 2004, 10:11 PM   #9
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One other thing I noticed recently about the 43WR: Its finishis very prone to scratches. A bit disappointing - as the camera is supposed to be a tough outdoor camera. My wife carried it in her handbag for a few hours and after rubbing against the other contents of the bag it now looks a bit second-hand. There was nothing particularly sharp in the bag either. No marks on the lens or the LCDfortunately. Whew!

style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: #000000"I should have bought a protective case for it but as it is an unusual shape I haven't been able to find one that fits. It's probably a bit too late now as it's already scratched but I'll keep looking for one.
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Old Sep 30, 2004, 1:41 AM   #10
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I have mentioned this somewhere else on Steve's site (I think) but if you can still find one the case for the apparently discontinued Nikon Coolpix SQ makes a great protective case for the 43WR. The CPSQ was slightly flatter and slightly wider in the vert and horiz directions, but it is still a good fit, made of leather, protects the LCD and lens cover, and costs about $US10. I have been carrying mine inn this case, dropped into backpacks etc., for about 4 months and no scratches etc. so far.
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