Casio Pathfinder PAW1300-3V
October 2007 more Casio reviews.
What? A watch review? What does this have to do with photography? Tough, this is my website, so I can write about whatever I want.
So what does a watch have to do with photography? More than a camera does. Photography is all about finding cool things, and then taking a picture.
Cameras have nothing to do with getting there or seeing a good picture.
This Pathfinder is greatly improved over the model I bought back around 2003. I returned the 2003 model because it grabbed the hairs on my wrist. It lacked many of today's features.
This 2007 Pathfinder works great. It does what it's supposed to do, and adds automatic atomic clock synchronization, solar power and automatic backlighting to the older one. It's also very comfortable.
I'll repeat: this is a solar (or office lighting)-powered watch that automatically synchronizes itself to the master atomic clock time standards of the USA, Europe and Japan, depending on where you are. Don't worry about running the battery down by enjoying al the features; it recharges itself from ambient light.
Not only is it the best timekeeper I've ever tested, but it adds a compass and altimeter for navigation, and a barometer for predicting weather.
It's completely passive. Take it on a three-year humanitarian mission without electricity or contact with anyone to anyplace in the US, Europe or Japan and it recharges and sets itself every day. There aren't any batteries to replace.
Features back to top
Skip to Performance
A watch is supposed to tell time.
People who buy the expensive Swiss mechanical watches advertised in fancy magazines are often horrified when they learn that mechanical watches often need to be set every day. That's why radio stations always played beeps on the hour so you could set your watch before you went off to work. Fancy mechanical watches need to be worn or wound every day, or put on a watch winder. Otherwise they stop. Very few mechanical watches can run for more than a day unworn.
The Casio automatically synchronizes itself every night to the master clock in the USA, Europe or Japan. In the USA, this source, WWV-B, is the legal definition of time for the USA and its possessions.
In the USA it uses WWVB at 60 kHz. In the UK it uses MSF at 60 kHz. In Germany it uses DCF77 at 77.5 kHz, and in Japan it uses JJY40/JJY60 at 40kHz or 60kHz.
When you get this watch, press and hold the LIGHT button on the lower right for a few seconds until the microscopic A.EL appears below the bars on the upper right.
Now the watch lights up when you turn your wrist! I always use this, although Casio cautions not to let it distract you while driving.
Obviously snipers shouldn't use this feature in the field. Imagine having it light up your face as you lift your arm. Whoops!
The backlight is bright enough to light up the ground in pitch black.
Second Time Zone
I set mine to GMT. I have not figured how to have local time read in 12 hours and GMT read in 24 hour time.
Stopwatch reads to 24 hours by 1/100 seconds and resets.
The minutes and seconds are always visible. The hours and hundredths of a second are in tiny digits at the top and not that legible.
When you're in the stopwatch mode, the time is shown in the medium sized digits on the bottom.
Countdown TImer (24 hours max)
It's got a lot of programmable alarms.
Pressure Altimeter in meters or feet.
Recent altitude plot (bar graph over time)
Barometer (weather forecaster)
Barometer (absolute), in inches of mercury or hPa.
Rising pressure usually foretells clear weather. Falling pressure foretells storms. Changing weather is when I make the best nature photos.
100 meter water resistance
This means you're cleared to wash a car or swim in it. 100M is a static pressure rating, so you cannot dive with it. For scuba, you need a Casio rated to 200m.
There are the many more features we expect from Casio, like lots of memories and programmability.
Performance back to top
I've never seen this Pathfinder vary by any perceptible amount from the time ticks from WWV, the legal standard of time in the USA, as received via shortwave radio. This means it agrees to within better than 100 ms (a tenth of a second) at all times. That's the limit of my perception.
My Garmin GPS reads time, but its time display is not as accurate. My Garmin usually varies by a fraction of a second from WWV.
This Pathfinder has never missed its daily calibration. Earlier Casios were less sensitive and I sometimes would miss the daily calibration.
You know it's calibrated by the bars at the top left. You also can read exactly when it last calibrated if you really want to. The bars go away if it didn't calibrate last night.
Since it always calibrated, I've not been able to measure it's free-run rate.
Forget the old days of having to synchronize watches.
These pathfinders automatically synchronize themselves to a master clock, and do it completely passively. Passively means they transmit nothing and are as undetectable as any other digital watch. They can do this even locked in a drawer, but not locked in a metal cabinet.
Deploy a bunch of these to your people, and they can coordinate operations to as closely as they can read a digital watch, which for me, is about a tenth of a second.
They receive VLF (very low frequency) signals at about 70 kHz, depending on location. They do not use satellites, contrary to popular belief and the graphics of other watches.
Therefore the Pathfinder does not need to see the sky to synchronize.
Hand these out to your people, regardless of how stupid they are, and even 2 years from now, they all ought to be on time to within better than 100ms of each other.
Legibility is excellent, even in pitch black with the automatic illuminator. The numbers are big, bold and well formed.
The big four central digits also read the barometric pressure, altitude, heading and other functions.
There's a seconds tick that moves around the outside of the LCD, in addition to the seconds digits at the bottom. These digits are all big enough to see under any conditions.
Some things are indicated on the top dot-matrix. Those can be tiny.
Its a barometric altimeter, which means it reads based on air pressure. Any variation in weather changes its altitude reading.
Of course in a pressurized aircraft it reads the pressure altitude, not the actual altitude. This lets you know the quality of the air on a commercial jetliner. Cheaper airlines let the cabin air pressure drop to a pressure altitude approaching 10,000 feet (3,000 m), while better airlines, like when I flew Air France, keep the cabin at a much more pleasant pressure of only 5,000 feet. This helps eliminate jet lag, which is caused form the effects of altitude and dehydration. This watch will let you keep tabs on your airline. It's completely passive, so doesn't qualify as an electronic device to cause EMI problems like computers and cell phones.
It reads from -2,300 to 32,800 feet in 20 foot intervals (-700 to 10,000m in 5m increments).
As all my Casio altimeter watches have been, it's amazingly accurate when used properly. Even at 5,500 feet it agreed with my GPS and road signs.
Just as other Casio altimeter watches, they vary with temperature. I only read altimeter and barometer after it's been on my wrist. It will read differently when cool (off my wrist).
The update rate of the altimeter is fast at first, and then slows after its been on for a while. Its not usually fast enough to be helpful while biking or driving. It's best for hiking. While bicycling it's usually still reading the last hill.
It can be programmed to update more frequently, but for active sports, get a GPS or aneroid barometer.
The time reads in the medium-sized digits at the bottom in the altimeter mode, and a bar graph of altitude history reads on the top.
The barometer reads from 7.65 to 32.45" Hg in increments of 0.05" Hg, or 260 to 1,100 hPa in increments of 1 hPa.
Like the altimeter, it will read differently when off your wrist.
Look on the right in the barometer mode, and one of the little ticks indicates the trend. There also is a day-long trace record of barometric pressure at the top.
Tap the ADJUST button in the time mode and you can have this trace up all the time. This is a recent improvement; older watches didn't read barometric pressure in other modes.
The temperature on the bottom in barometer mode.
The thermometer always reads about 86F (30C) when on my wrist. Its range is 14F to 140F (-10 to 60C)
Take it off to read temperature. When I do, it usually agrees within a few tenths of a degree with other thermometers. It takes a while to cool from my wrist, so I find if I wear it every day that it's only useful to read the temperature when I awake.
Leave it outside your tent to brag to your pals how cold it was when you awoke. There is no min/max memory.
The thermometer reads in the medium-sized digits at the bottom in the barometer mode. It reads to tenths of a degree. (0.2F or 0.1C).
The magnetic compass can be set for magnetic declination (your location).
Even though it's not supposed to work well near metal, indoors or in a car, it seems to work remarkably well even in the wrong conditions. Be careful.
Little tits move around the perimeter, and the big central digits read degrees.
The top dot-matrix display reads alpha heading, like ENE.
The bottom digits read the time in compass mode.
Recommendations back to top
For outdoorsmen (I don't know of any women's sizes), this latest Pathfinder is a winner. You folks know who you are, and this one is the best I've used so far. I have no complaints with it; it just works within its limitations.
For more active sports, a GPS provides much better and faster position data, but GPS' don't run on solar power and need to see the sky to work well.
Sadly it doesn't know sunrise or sunset times, nor does it predict the position of the sun or moon. Casio may make fisherman watches that do this, and predict the tides, or try the Yes watch. Personally I always know the sunrise, sunset and moonrise and moonset times because I pay attention to them, and use a Sun Card along with a compass to figure out set and rise locations.
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