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Pentax Optio WG-2 GPS Compact Digital Camera Expert Review

Pentax Optio WG-2

Rating: ★★★½☆

Design & Features

The Pentax Optio WG-2 is available in black and bright orange and black and white finishes and has a unique look and feel that stands out from the crowd compared with other rugged cameras.

It measures 2.4 x 4.8 x 1.2 inches (HWD) and weighs in at a mere 7 ounces, making it perfectly small enough to slip into your trouser pocket.

The WG-2 is constructed from reinforced polycarbonate plastic and metal. The plastic look does make it appear cheaply made and could give the impression it’s not built to last. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth! The Pentax is so strong and robust, there’s no doubt in my mind that it can withstand it’s claims to be Waterproof , Shockproof , Coldproof  and Crashproof.

Thanks to the carabiner strap that’s also included in the box, you can quickly and securely attach the camera to a bag or belt loop, so you can climb, swim or carry out any other activity where you need to keep your hands free.

The almost toy-like design offers a 16-megapixel resolution, a 3-inch widescreen LCD screen, and 5x optical zoom. As well as this, the WG2 also offers high-resolution full HD movie recording (1920 x 1080 pixels). The LCD monitor offers clear and bright picture quality, especially when being viewed under bright sunlight.

This model is designed to take submersion to a depth of 12 metres for up to two hours, a drop from 1.5 metres in height, a weight of up to 100kg on top of it, plus operating in minus 10°C. So it really is geared to withstand the most substantial conditions.

Around the WG-2’s lens there are six LED lights for use in macro shooting. In addition, the Macro Lights provide a Self-Portrait Assist mode to check if the subject’s face is safely captured within the picture frame using the blink of an LED lamp.

This model also features built-in GPS, so you can take advantage of various GPS-compatible applications and services that are included within the software as well as using Google Maps. It also corrects the built-in clock automatically to match local time of a particular shooting location. Using the log function, you can track your movement during outdoor shooting and display it later on the computer using web apps such as Google Earth.

User Operation

Controls on the WG-2 are easy to operate and straight forward to use. On the top of the unit, there are the shutter release and power buttons and on the back there is a zoom button, Playback, Menu, and Face Detection buttons; a four-way directional pad (which includes self timer, flash, macro mode and shooting mode) with an OK/Selection button; and Pentax’s Green mode button which doubles as a delete file option.

Menu options are all quite basic and are targeted for easy selection and use. These include such functions as full Auto mode, portrait and landscape mode, panoramic mode, macro, night mode, underwater and Program to name just a few.

The panoramic mode was very simple to operate and provided extremely pleasing results, stitching three consecutive images together on the spot without the need for post editing.

The battery and memory card slots are behind a locking door in the bottom of the camera. The battery life was quite impressive and lasted around 250 shots before it required recharging.  Batteries are charged via a separate unit, so if you are off somewhere without power for a considerable time, you may want to purchase a spare battery or two.

The WG-2 also comes with Micro-HDMI and Micro-USB/AV ports allowing output of Full HD movie clips and sound to external devices.

Overall Quality & Performance

WG-2′s photo quality when used in well-lit conditions was generally pretty good for a compact camera, offering vivid colours and good range of detail. When viewing the photos back on a large screen however, I did notice a lack of clarity and sharpness in the finer details as well as quite a large amount of noise.

This camera falls short when it comes to dimly lit conditions, for instance, when shooting at night. I noticed a considerable increase in noise, a very noticeable amount of softness in finer details, as well as a large amount of colour drop off.  If you are going to be posting the majority of your images on the web, you might be happy with the results from this model. However, if you want to print off and display your images, you might find this particular model unsuitable for your requirements.

  • Pentax Optio WG-2 sample – click image for larger view

When it comes to video quality, the WG-2′s 1080p HD is fairly good.  Image quality was a little soft with some elements of noise in low-light conditions. The zoom function doesn’t operate during recording, which is rather limiting.

If you want to be creative on the go, the WG2 does offer several filters that you can apply to your photos, including Sepia, Toy Camera, Retro, Color Extract, High Contrast, Soft, and Fisheye.

If you are like me, and love taking macro shots, then you will like the WG-2′s macro setting. This enables you to get as close as 0.4 of an inch from the subject you wish to capture and uses six LEDs around the lens to highlight the details. A great feature most of the time unless you are shooting anything reflective, which is when you’ll find the lights appearing in your images.

When it comes to speed, the WG-2 does struggle to perform. It’s rather sluggish between shots and often found it difficult focusing on fast-moving subjects. However, for landscapes and portraits shots, the camera performed well but I’m not sure that portraits and landscapes are what this camera was primarily designed for?

GPS performance was good, picking up a signal very quickly, which is impressive as many cameras take a few minutes to do this.

If a GPS isn’t a requirement, you may wish to consider the Optio WG-2 version which is the same camera, just without the GPS and slightly less expensive.

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Pros

  • Rugged lightweight design
  • Crushproof
  • Waterproof
  • GPS functionality
  • Variety of features

Cons

  • Quality of images in low light
  • Noise issues

Verdict

The Pentax WG-2 is a rugged, unique and lightweight compact camera that is likely to appeal to adventure shooters who are looking for a tough camera. Its built-in GPS ensures that you know where you were when you are shooting and it’s body can handle some seriously hard going situations.

The WG-2 has some impressive features including GPS, 16 megapixels, 5 x optical zoom and Full HD video capturing but it isn’t the best when it comes to picture quality, often struggling with sharpness and noise, particularly in low light.

If you are looking for a camera that can provide top quality images as well as the ability to withstand some tough activities, you may need to look at other rugged cameras currently on the market. But, If you want a unique, stylish camera that offers a good range of features, fairly good overall performance in well lit environments and can take some punishing conditions, this camera is definitely worth a look in.

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