Pentax wg iii. Pentax Optio WG-2 review: Pentax Optio WG-2

Pentax Optio WG-2 review: Pentax Optio WG-2

Managing Editor Josh Goldman is a laptop expert and has been writing about and reviewing them since built-in Wi-Fi was an optional feature. He also covers almost anything connected to a PC, including keyboards, mice, USB-C docks and PC gaming accessories. In addition, he writes about cameras, including action cams and drones. And while he doesn’t consider himself a gamer, he spends entirely too much time playing them.

  • than two decades experience writing about PCs and accessories, and 15 years writing about cameras of all kinds.

One look at the Pentax Optio WG-2 and you know this isn’t your average point-and-shoot. It’s the camera maker’s 13th-generation rugged compact, waterproof down to 40 feet, shockproof to 5 feet, and freezeproof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s also crushproof, able to handle up to 220 pounds of force.

Pentax Optio WG-2

The Good

The Pentax Optio WG-2 is a lightweight, but extremely rugged compact camera with some extra features and functions you won’t find in competing models.

The Bottom Line

Its aggressive design backs up the extreme durability claims, but also helps you grip the camera with wet or gloved hands. There are nice extras like the included carabiner strap and the ring of bright LEDs around the lens that’s for improving close-up macro shots as well as a light source and self-timer indicator. It’s available with or without GPS built in, too; I reviewed the non-GPS model, which cuts the price by about 50 to 300.

When it comes to rugged cameras, though, much of the price you pay goes for the protection and not photo quality or shooting performance. If you’re considering the WG-2 as a primary camera, you may want to consider just how much you need the durable construction.

Overall, the WG-2’s photo quality and performance are good for its class, but a nonrugged model with a shockproof/waterproof case might be a better fit if you infrequently need its enhanced durability. This one is really best suited for adventurers wanting a well-appointed point-and-shoot that they don’t have to worry about knocking around or getting wet.

Again, the WG-2‘s photo quality is generally good for a compact rugged camera. If you look at the photos at full size, you’ll see noise even at ISO 125, and details like hair or fur are smeared. Noise doesn’t really increase as ISO goes up, but the photos get softer, details get more smeared, and color quality drops off. When photos are viewed at small sizes, however, there’s still perceived detail at the highest sensitivities. If your photos are going straight from the camera to the Web and you’re not looking to make poster-size prints, the WG-2 is fine, except at its highest ISOs where, again, color quality isn’t great. Still, this is a camera designed for outdoor use, and the WG-2 does very well when it has a lot of light.

Colors weren’t accurate from the WG-2 in our lab tests with the exception of neutrals. The default color mode is Bright, and it definitely churned out more pleasing results than the Natural option, which tended to look flat. If you want to get more involved with the results, there are settings for sharpness, contrast, and saturation.

Pentax Optio WG-2 sample photos

Much like the photo quality, the WG-2’s 1080p HD video quality is good, but soft with a high level of noise in low-light conditions. It’s on par with an average HD video camera or smartphone, though with this you’ll be able to shoot in inclement weather or underwater without worrying about it. Unfortunately, the zoom doesn’t work while recording, which is odd; most internal-zoom-lens cameras allow that feature. You do get digital image stabilization, though. Other movie options include interval and slow-motion movies as well as 720p HD at 30 or 60fps.

The WG-2’s shooting modes are geared for point-and-shoot users. You will not find any direct control over apertures or shutter speed with the exception of the Night Scene mode that uses up to a 4-second shutter speed. In fact, Pentax doesn’t even bother sectioning off all its scene modes into a separate menu; they’re simply lumped in with Pentax‘s scene-recognition Auto Picture mode and Program Auto. Program Auto gives you the most control over results with settings for white balance, FOCUS, metering, and ISO. You can choose to shoot in three different color modes, but in playback you can apply several filters, including Sepia, Toy Camera, Retro, Color Extract, High Contrast, Soft, and Fisheye.

If you like to take a lot of close-ups, the WG-2‘s macro settings allow you to shoot as near as 0.4 of an inch from the camera and captures plenty of fine detail. One of the hyped features on this model is the Digital Microscope mode, which uses the six LEDs around the lens to brighten tiny subjects for macro shooting. The benefit of this mode over the regular macro options is that you can use the zoom lens to enlarge the subject before you shoot. The downside is the images are only 2 megapixels.

Shooting performance, for me, is the weakest part of the WG-2; it’s just not a very fast camera. From off to first shot takes 1.3 seconds, but after that it slows down to 2.8 seconds from shot to shot; it’s about the same when using the flash, though, which is good. Combine that with its 0.7-second shutter lag (the time it takes from pressing the shutter release to capture without prefocusing) in bright conditions and 0.9 second in dim lighting, and it can be difficult to hit a fast-moving subject. The camera just feels slow, too. Slow-moving or stationary subjects like landscapes and portraits shouldn’t be much of an issue, however, so if that’s what you’ll be shooting, this might not be a deal breaker.

Like its past couple predecessors, the WG-2 is constructed from reinforced polycarbonate plastic with metal accents. The plastic could easily give the impression that it’s a cheaply made camera, and it does make it feel slightly less rugged than the full-metal bodies of other rugged cameras. However, after testing, there is little doubt that the WG-2 can take the abuse Pentax claims, and the plastic keeps it very lightweight compared with metal-body models, so you won’t be adding significant weight to your or pack.

A nice bonus is the included carabiner strap for quickly securing the camera to a bag or belt loop, and if you’re afraid of dropping it while in the water, Pentax makes a floating strap for it as well. As with all rugged and waterproof cameras, there are handling precautions you need to take to keep water and dust out of the camera. These are clearly detailed in the front of the full, printed user manual that comes with the WG-2. (By the way, Pentax is one of the few manufacturers that still includes a full, printed manual with its cameras.)

In front is a 5x f3.5-5.5 28-140mm-equivalent lens protected by glass and surrounded by six LEDs that can be used to help brighten macro photos or as an impromptu flashlight. As with all rugged cameras, the lens is completely internal, but it’s designed differently than typical internal lenses, allowing it to be positioned lower and more centered. This means the chances of getting fingers in your shots is far less likely to happen than on other internal-lens cameras. On back is a reasonably bright 3-inch LCD. It has an antireflective coating, but you’ll probably still struggle to see it in direct light.

Controls are easy to press with bare, gloved, or wet hands. They’re fairly large considering the size of the camera’s control panel. They’re slightly raised from the body and well-spaced, so, again, pressing them isn’t a problem. On top is the shutter release and power button, and the back has a zoom rocker; Play, Menu, and Face Detection buttons; a four-way directional pad with an OK button for selecting things; and Pentax’s Green mode button.

The Face Detection options include a smile-activated shutter release setting, and the OK button doubles as a display button that cycles you through three information options as well as shutting the LCD entirely off, though I’m not sure how much use that is without an optical viewfinder. The directional pad navigates menus and photos and changes settings for the flash, FOCUS, self-timer, and shooting modes. Lastly, the Green mode is Pentax’s fully automatic you’ll-get-no-control-over-anything-and-like-it shooting mode. What’s great is that if you don’t need that mode, Pentax lets you use it as a user-selectable shortcut button for accessing up to four settings such as exposure compensation, white balance, ISO, and metering or as a one-touch movie record button.

The only real feature disappointment is the lack of optical or mechanical image stabilization. The camera instead has two electronic stabilization options. One is the traditional use of high ISOs and reduced resolution to keep shutter speed as fast as possible. It’s effective to a point but really hurts image quality. The other option is Pentax’s Pixel Track SR, which tracks motion blur at the pixel level, determining in real time the amount of blur. Once you’ve taken a shot, it filters the effect motion has on each pixel to sharpen them and remove blur (all of this takes a couple seconds after the photo is captured). In my tests it works better than boosting ISO and shutter speed, as Pixel Track doesn’t introduce more noise. It’s not perfect, but it would be worth turning on if camera shake is unavoidable or if you’re using the zoom lens.

The battery and memory card slots are behind a locking door in the bottom of the camera. The battery life is CIPA-rated for 260 shots, but using the LEDs, the zoom lens, shooting movies, etc., will bring that number down. If you’re planning to take the WG-2 on a trip away from power outlets, you’ll want to consider buying one or two extra batteries. Plus, the batteries aren’t charged in the camera, so you’ll need to take a charger with you, too. Under a locking door on the right side are Micro-HDMI and Micro-USB/AV ports. A 29.95 waterproof infrared remote control is available for those who want to shoot from a distance or reduce camera shake.

Our take For the most part with rugged cameras, photo quality and shooting performance take a back seat to making the camera durable. The Pentax Optio WG-2 offers a lot of protection without having to sacrifice much on either of those things.

Pentax wg iii

The camera is available in black or purple and has an MSRP of 349 (but you can find it for cheaper online). For an extra 50 bucks you can add GPS capability to the WG-1, and the GPS model comes with a black or yellow green paint job.



In the Box

The Pentax WG-1 comes with the following items:

USB cable AV cable rechargeable battery pack (D-LI92) battery charger kit wrist strap carabiner strap macro mount software CD

Of these items, the macro mount and carabiner clip are the two accessories that are most unique, although neither are particularly useful. The caribiner does have advantages if you want to hang the WG-1 from a branch or surface, while the macro mount is meant to reduce shake when shooting close-up photos.


The WG-1’s results in our color accuracy test were shockingly good. At best, the camera managed a color error of 2.42 and a saturation level of 92.16%—both of which are top-notch results. The WG-1’s good score here surprised us because it is so much better than the results we obtained from its predecessor, the Pentax W80. on how we test color.

Of the cameras we compared it to, the Panasonic Lumix TS2 was the next closest in matching the WG-1’s excellent color accuracy scores. The Pentax W80 and Casio EX-G1 were both far behind in this category, although it is difficult to tell from the color crops below. If you look closely at certain color swatches you will see some differences, however, particularly with the foliage color swatch (which the WG-1 captured with good accuracy), the orange yellow patch, and the regular yellow patch.

Color Modes

Unlike many cameras that pass through our labs, the WG-1 is not loaded with color modes or manual color controls. It simply has two color options called Bright and Natural, as well as a monochrome option that takes pictures void of color (black and white). We found both color modes did well in our color accuracy testing, but the Natural mode produced the most accurate colors overall (2.42 color error and 92.16% saturation). The Bright color option wasn’t far behind, producing a 3.14 color error and a 107.6% saturation level, which are strong results as well.


The Pentax WG-1 managed to produce good results in our noise test, with the camera again outperforming its predecessor (the Pentax W80) by a wide margin. We test noise at two different light levels for point-and-shoot cameras, but the WG-1 consistently averaged under 1.6% noise in all of our tests—even at ISO 1600 (the highest ISO that allows for full-resolution photos). on how we test noise.

As is common, the WG-1’s images had less noise in our bright light test than our low light. Shooting under 3000 lux, which is similar to very bright indoor light, the WG-1 averaged just under 1.2% noise in its photos. Strangely, we noticed the noise levels peaking at ISO 200, while the camera was able to bring the noise levels down at ISO 400 and ISO 800. Things went up again a bit at ISO 1600, but the levels weren’t as high as the peak at ISO 200.

In our 60 lux low light test, the noise levels followed a nearly identical pattern. Levels were at the lowest with ISO 80 and ISO 100, and then they rose up to around 1.5% at ISO 200. Noise declined at ISO 400 and ISO 800 (with levels nearly as low as ISO 100), and things went up again at ISO 1600.

In the comparison images above, you can see the WG-1 has a fairly even amount of noise throughout the ISO spectrum. The image is certainly at its cleanest at ISO 80, but there isn’t that much more noise at ISO 1600 (although the difference is noticeable). This is a testament to the WG-1’s solid overall capability at keeping noise levels low.

Just to note, the reason the ISO 80 patch at 60 lux is so dark is because the WG-1 could not properly expose the image at that light level during our test. We bumped the exposure up as much as possible, but the camera still produced an image that was a bit too dark, hence the color patch appears darker than the other patches in the test.


The Pentax WG-1 has a decent set of ISO levels for a camera of its class. ISO options range from a low of ISO 80 to a high of ISO 1600. You can also manually set higher ISO levels of 3200 and 6400, but using either of those will drop the maximum resolution of your photos down to 5 megapixels.

The Pentax WG-1 doesn’t offer more ISO levels than the Pentax W80 did, but from the comparison images below you can see the vast improvement Pentax made in noise performance. With the W80 you can see noise right away at ISO 100, and by the time the camera gets to ISO 800 the image is full of noise and grain. The biggest difference, though, may be with the low-resolution ISO options of 3200 and 6400. While the WG-1 did produce a great image with those high ISOs, its photos are far cleaner than what the Pentax W80 produced.

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.


The overall resolution score for the WG-1 wasn’t as strong as the camera’s color and noise results, but it was still very good for a camera of its class (again showing much improvement over the Pentax W80). The camera was at its best in our distortion test, as our results showed the WG-1’s images produced almost no distortion whatsoever across the focal lengths we tested. Sharpness and chromatic aberration results were less impressive, but were still adequate. on how we test resolution.


The images below tell the story here better than words ever could. With most cameras—even high-end models—we see some distortion at the edges of the frame that cause the image to curl or bend a bit (this is what we call distortion). The Pentax WG-1, however, produced straight, even lines in our testing, and the distortion levels were less than 0.2% at all three focal lengths we tested. This is a shockingly good score for a point-and-shoot camera like the Pentax WG-1.


Sharpness was an area where the Pentax WG-1 didn’t improve much over its predecessor, the Pentax W80. Still, the camera produced decent results for a camera of its class. If you’re looking to capture very sharp images, there are plenty of better cameras on the market, but most of them aren’t waterproof tough-cams like the WG-1. The Panasonic TS2 did produce sharper images than the WG-1, however, so that’s probably your best bet for sharp images on a waterproof model.

We noticed, and you can see for yourself by looking at the example images below, that the WG-1 captured a significantly sharper image at the center of the frame than at the edge. Click on the various blue boxes in the sample image and you can see what we’re talking about.

Chromatic Aberration

Like sharpness, the WG-1 didn’t show much improvement over the Pentax Optio W80 in our chromatic aberration testing. None of the waterproof cameras we used in this comparison set did a spectacular job in this test, though, so the WG-1’s results were actually the best of the bunch (by a slight margin).

As is common, the WG-1’s images showed more discoloration the more we zoomed. Check out the blow-up sample crops below and you’ll notice a slight yellow glow around all of the images shot at 25mm. The effect is less prominent at 11.1mm (mid-zoom) and 5mm (wide angle). The chromatic aberration is also more noticeable at the edge of the frame as compared to the center.

Quality Size Options

In addition to its numerous photo size options, the Pentax Optio WG-1 has three quality options for taking pictures. The quality options are expressed in terms of stars with three stars being the highest quality and one star being lowest. You can check out the various size options by clicking through the aspect ratios below. The WG-1 has most options in a 4:3 ratio, but it does have a few 16:9 (widescreen) options as well as a single 1:1 mode.

Image Stabilization

We were surprised by how well the WG-1 did in our stabilization test, as the camera outperformed the other three models we compared it to in this category. With stabilization turned on, the WG-1 was able to improve sharpness in its still images by around 56%. That is a ton of improvement for a compact camera, so if you’re shooting in shaky environments you might as well turn the feature on. Can’t find stabilization on the camera? That’s because Pentax calls it Pixel Track SR—confusing, right? Anyway, turn the feature on in the menu system and you should get sharper photos with your shaky hands. on how we test image stabilization.

Video Mode

Pentax includes a number of video record modes on the WG-1, but some of the offered frame rates are strange and none of the video modes captured anything close to what we’d label as high-quality video. The clips we recorded with the WG-1 were not sharp, showed significant amounts of noise, and had other interference issues like blurred lines and jagged edges.

The talk of strange frame rates that we mentioned earlier is a reference to the WG-1’s 15p frame rate options, which is available in all record modes (in addition to the more sensible 30p frame rate). Clips shot at 15p looked very choppy and lacked any sense of smoothness—much like a video you’d watch on a slow internet connection. The only thing we really like about the video mode is the fact that Pentax offers two standard definition record modes in addition to the 720p HD option. You can also setup an interval record session for capturing videos and that’s kinda cool too.

Video Color

Compared to the other cameras in this set, the WG-1 actually did an adequate job in our color test. Compared to your average consumer camcorder, however, the WG-1’s colors in video mode weren’t accurate enough to be considered good by our standards. This is disappointing, considering the WG-1 did so well in our color tests in photo mode. The camera did offer a good amount of saturation in its video clips, though, with our testing showing a saturation level of around 90%. on how we test video color.

Video Sharpness

In simplest terms, the Pentax WG-1 is not capable of recording sharp video. In our testing, the camera managed just 350 lw/ph in both our vertical and horizontal sharpness exams—not good scores by any means. Ah, but the WG-1 doesn’t have too much to worry about when you look at the competition. The Pentax W80 did a similarly poor job in our video sharpness test, while the Pentax TS2 did only marginally better. As for the Canon EX-G1, it’s probably not even worth mentioning the awful quality of its video recordings.

Despite the fact that the WG-1 records 720p HD video, you aren’t going to get the crisp, clear HD video you may be used to seeing from consumer camcorders. Even cheap camcorders or ultracompact camcorders will get you far sharper video than the WG-1. on how we test video sharpness.

Playback Mode

Using playback to view your photos is a simple affair on the WG-1, as it should be. Images can be cycled through manually using the d-pad, or you can look at an arrangement of multiple photos in thumbnail form. Clicking the mode button brings up a large set of extra playback features, most of which are too complicated for the average camera user to understand.

pentax, optio, wg-2, review

In-Camera Editing

The Pentax WG-1 has so many in-camera editing features, we almost feel like we should direct you to the instruction manual rather than outlining them here. You can rotate images, shrink faces, create collages, apply filters, add text, add frames, capture stills from videos, remove red-eye, resize images, and crop images. There’s also direct to print options, a setting for recording voice memos, and a strange ink rubbing filter that. well. makes your photos look like ink rubbings.


If you skim the LCD specs for the Pentax WG-1 you may come away rather impressed with its TFT color and anti-reflective coating. In reality, however, the LCD on the WG-1 is rather sedate for a digital camera. Sure, it’s got a widescreen display and those fun-sounding features, but it’s only 2.7-inches in size and its pixel count is a disappointing 230K. Those are pedestrian specs for sure, but we’re not surprised. The WG-1 is a tough-cam at its core and its design reflects that. Pentax wisely chose to make the LCD more basic and functional for underwater recording rather than to implement a high-tech, flashy design. The camera has no viewfinder, though, so make sure you like the LCD enough before you go out and splurge on the WG-1.

but it turns into a nice 3-inch widescreen in playback mode.


The built-in flash on the WG-1 has an effective range of about 8 to 13 feet depending on how much the lens is zoomed in at the time you take your photo. We found this range to be mostly accurate and we were impressed by the recycling time on the flash (there was little delay between shots). The flash has the standard settings of on, off, auto, and red-eye reduction.

The flash emitter pops up from the top of the body via a mechanical release.


The lens on the WG-1 carries a 5x optical zoom (5-25mm) and an apeture of f/3.5 (at its widest) to f/5.5 (when using full 5x zoom). We’d like this lens to be a bit faster for better low light and underwater performance, but Pentax tries to cure this problem by adding a set of 5 led lights around the edge of the lens for illumination purposes.

Like we said above, the Pentax WG-1 has a 5x optical zoom lens. You can crank this zoom up to 33.5x by activating the digital zoom feature, but this will result in some loss of image quality the more zoom you use. Our biggest complaint about the zoom has nothing to do with the WG-1’s magnification, however, and it has to do with the terrible zoom controls instead. The small zoom toggle on the back of the camera doesn’t provide smooth transitions between zoom distances, and this makes it impossible to replicate certain zoom ratios.

This description may be hard for the layman to comprehend, so let’s explain a bit further. When you press the zoom button to zoom in, it will immediately increase the zoom from 1.0x to 1.2x. Another press of the button takes it to 1.5x. Each further click of the zoom toggle will increase the zoom by anywhere in between 0.3x and 0.9x, always hitting the same zoom ratios each time. This makes it impossible to hit specific zoom ratios in between these increases. Basically, it is as if the WG-1 has 9 zoom distance options to choose from, rather than a completely free range of 5x zoom. This is more annoying than it sounds, particularly if you’re trying to get a specific, tight frame around a certain subject.


Pentax attempts to protect the bottom-loading battery compartment on the WG-1 by using a rubber-lined door cover that locks into place. The cover looks fine and feels strong, but our we found a significant amount of water was able to make its way into the battery compartment when the camera was submerged. None of this water got right into the battery slot, but the pools of liquid were close—and they were inside the compartment when we opened the door. This means you need to have a cloth, tissue, or something handy to sop up any liquid if you open the battery compartment door. Otherwise, some of this water could easily drip into the important areas of the camera.

We were also bothered by the lack of instructions on how to load the battery pack into the WG-1. There is a tiny /- sticker inside the battery compartment that shows you how to load the battery, but this sticker is both hard to read and difficult to decipher. This same issue comes up when using the provided battery charger that comes with the WG-1. Here’s a tip for those that are confused: line up the three gold rectangles on the side of the battery pack so they make contact with the metal prongs on either the battery charger or the camera’s battery compartment. This will ensure the battery is inserted properly.


The Pentax WG-1 stores photos to SD or SDHC memory cards, which are best described as those small rectangular cards that are a tad larger than a postage stamp. SD cards are very common and come in sizes up to 32GB. The best deal for your money is to buy a couple of 8GB or 16GB cards and use them with your WG-1. Heck, you may already have a few cards lying around if you have other media devices that use them (cameras, camcorders, audio recorders, etc.).

If, for some reason, you find yourself without a memory card. The WG-1 does have around 100MB of built-in internal memory that can be used to store photos. This isn’t too much space, however, so it is not a good idea to rely on it for more than a few photos or a few seconds of video.

Jacks, Ports Plugs

In addition to the battery compartment and memory card slot, the Pentax WG-1 has two ports located on the left side of the camera. These ports are also protected by a thick door that slides open and locks into place when set. Much like we saw with the battery compartment, this port housing collected a small amount of water after we submerged the WG-1. Again, no water seeped its way into the ports, as they were protected by a rubber lining on the underside of the door protector, but there were droplets of water located right next to the ports when we popped open the door. One slight shake before wiping that water away, and you may end up significantly damaging these terminals.

The ports themselves are an HDMI terminal and a USB/AV-out jack. Both use rather unique connections, with the HDMI terminal fitting only micro-HDMI cables and the USB/AV jack using a proprietary connection that works only with the provided cable from Pentax. This isn’t what we like to see on a consumer camera, as cables that work with these ports can be hard to replace (or find in the first place). We’d much rather have a universal USB port and the far more common mini-HDMI connector.

The DC-input and multi-AV port are located on the right side of the camcorder.

as is the SD/SDHC card slot.

Other Hardware

Macro LEDs

Surrounding the WG-1’s lens are five tiny lights called Macro LEDs. You can turn on these lights in the menu system (under Macro Light), and the five lights will provide illumination for close-up shots in the dark. The lights don’t have the same range as, say, the built-in flash, so they’re only really effective when shooting close-ups. They can be useful underwater as well, as the world tends to be far less bright down there.

Tough-cam Design

If you didn’t know already, the Pentax Optio WG-1 is a camera designed for the adventurous. Its rugged body is waterproof (up to 33 feet), shockproof (which means it can take a fall of around 5 feet), crushproof, coldproof (down to 14 degrees F), and dustproof. We tested the camera’s waterproof capability with mixed results—some water was found to seep into areas where it shouldn’t—but with some of the other proof features we had to take Pentax’s word. We must say, the camera does feel and look strong, and we dropped it a bunch of times without it showing any signs of damage.

Shooting Modes

The Pentax Optio WG-1 has two pages of shooting modes in the camera’s menu, and that translates into 24 mode options overall. The modes range from the very useful—like Night Scene, Movie, Underwater, Portrait—to more confusing options like Frame Composite, Report, and Text. The camera has no mode dial or anything of the such, but all of its shooting modes are located in a mode menu instead (which is accessed by pressing the mode button).

Separate from these shooting modes is the WG-1’s green mode, which is a simplified auto mode. The camera has another auto mode (called auto picture), but the green mode is even more basic. It reverts everything to standard auto controls regardless of how things are set in the menu system (it actually locks you out from adjusting the record menu options). The green mode button is found on the back of the camera (it’s green), and it can be customized to perform different tasks if you want it to. The green button can be set to switch to voice record mode, movie mode, or function settings instead of activating green mode.

The full mode dial is nice, but frequently rotates by accident.

Picture Effects

Buried in the menu system are three manual picture effects controls that allow you to adjust sharpness, saturation, and contrast on the WG-1. Each control has a very limited range of adjustment from.1 to 1, so don’t expect to have lots of room for making changes here. Certain shooting modes also enhance colors and change sharpness or contrast as well, but all do so automatically when the mode is selected.

Manual Controls

While the WG-1 does have plenty of picture modes, the camera is rather light on manual controls. You can’t set aperture or shutter speed manually, but you can select a specific ISO level or use manual FOCUS. Picking ISO manually is easy, but the manual FOCUS option isn’t well-suited with the WG-1’s design. You have to click up and down on the directional pad in an attempt to find the right FOCUS—a method that does not allow for precise or fine control. We doubt many people will use the manual FOCUS on the WG-1 anyway, as the camera’s plentiful autofocus modes should work well enough for most situations.

A dedicated FOCUS-mode switch on the front panel.

The scroll wheel surrounding the d-pad is neither awful nor perfect.

Drive/Burst Mode

The WG-1 has a full-resolution drive mode that works at a modest pace, and there’s also a high-speed burst mode that shoots lower-quality photos at a faster speed. The max resolution for the burst mode is 5-megapixel photos, while the drive mode can take up to 14-megapixel photos (the largest photos the camera allows for regular shooting as well). The drive mode also has a self-timer that can be set to 2 or 10 seconds, an auto exposure bracketing option, and a photo mode that can be initiated with a remote control.

Shot to Shot

The regular drive mode results for the WG-1 weren’t all that impressive. The camera managed to capture just under one photo per second and it could maintain this speed for about 13. 16 shots before the WG-1 had to stop and catch its breath. The high-speed mode worked a lot faster, capturing around 2.3 photos/second and could do around 20 shots in a row before taking a break.

Other Controls

D-Range Setting

There are two features under this menu heading: Highlight Correction and Shadow Correction. Both features are fairly self-explanatory, and neither does anything overly impressive. We noticed shadows looked a bit finer with Shadow Correction turned on and the entire image looked a bit brighter with Highlight Correction engaged. Don’t expect either of these features to completely revamp your photos, as they are just minor enhancements.

Interval Shoot

The interval shot mode on the WG-1 is fairly extensive, although it is also rather confusing. You pick an interval for which the camera will repeatedly take photos, but you can only take up to 15 photos per interval set. The interval range you can select from is 10 seconds to 99 minutes, but if you pick an interval higher than 4 minutes you can no longer pinpoint down to the second (i.e. you can set a 3 minute 54 second interval, but not a 4 minute 23 second interval). You can set the interval shoot to begin at a certain time (there’s a delay timer), and the WG-1 will always turn off automatically when the photo limit set in the interval options is reached.

Face Detection

Pentax includes a dedicated face detection button on the back of the WG-1, and when you press the button you cycle through the camera’s various face detection modes. There’s regular face detection, which most users are probably aware of (hint: it detects people’s faces in the frame), but there’s also smile capture, self-portrait assist, and a combination of the two (self-portrait assist with smile capture). We found the face detection worked reasonably well—as long as your subject wasn’t wearing any kind of glasses. The self-portrait assist feature is kind of cool, as it uses the LED lights on the front of the WG-1 to let you know when faces have been detected (since you can’t look at the LCD if you’re taking a self-portrait). Again, it works well, but not if you or another face in the frame is wearing glasses.

Blink Detection

Blink detection goes hand in hand with face detection on the WG-1, which is to say it won’t work unless you have face detection turned on. If you do have both features on, the WG-1 will let you know if someone blinked or had their eyes closed when you take a photo. It doesn’t work all the time (and it seemed to never work if people are wearing glasses), but we did find the feature detecting a few blinks every now and then. It’s probably a better idea just to scrutinize your photos in playback mode and look for any blinks manually if you’re really concerned.

IQ Enhancer

Pentax doesn’t shed too much light on this mysterious feature other than claiming it improves image quality (that’s what the IQ stands for—it doesn’t improve your intelligence). According to the WG-1’s instruction manual, IQ Enhancer uses digital processing to produce clearer pictures. We don’t exactly like the sound of that because usually anything that uses digital processing is really degrading the picture quality slightly.


If you don’t think the Pentax WG-1 is a durable camera, well, then here’s the proof: the camera is waterproof up to 33 feet, shockproof up to five feet, crushproof up to 100 kilogram-force, and coldproof down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. If that’s still not enough proof for you, Pentax also claims the WG-1 is dustproof, which means it can handle dry or dusty environments with ease (we’re not exactly sure what this entails). In addition, the WG-1 comes with a thick strap with a carabiner clip at one end—a testament to the camera’s adventuresome spirit.

While these loaded statements from Pentax make the WG-1 sound like a strong, solid camera, we were a bit disappointed overall with the body design. Yes, the WG-1 is waterproof, but we found some extensive water seepage that came close to touching the ports and battery terminals when we took the camera out of its bath. We also found the rigid design and tight grooves on the WG-1 weren’t exactly conducive to waterproof photography. After we brought the camera out from the water it took a long time for the WG-1 to dry off. Droplets of water stuck in the grooves and stayed there even after we wiped the camera down with a towel. We’d much prefer a smooth surface that can be dried off with ease—that way you can immediately stop worrying about water getting in places where you don’t want it to go. Of course, this rigid design may make the WG-1 tougher, and we do like that, but we’d rather have a compromise between the two.

We had a number of other problems with the WG-1, but most of them were issues with the camera’s interface. One of the biggest grips, which was a repeated problem during our testing, was the fact that the WG-1 resets many of its controls whenever the camera is turned off. So, if you set the white balance manually, then turn the camera off, the WG-1’s white balance will need to be reset again at that point. This is a pain for people who like using and setting controls manually on their cameras.

We also didn’t like the way Pentax arranged the LCD display on the WG-1. Instead of centering the image within the frame of the screen, the WG-1 displays images indented to the right (with a large black space on the left). This can make it challenging to center your subjects, particularly if you’re shooting them against a black background. It’s a silly design flaw that really makes no sense to us. Why not just take advantage of the whole LCD by filling the entire screen with the image?

These dedicated buttons give you quick access to aperture and shutter speed controls.

Buttons Dials

The buttons on the WG-1 aren’t too bad, but they have some problems. We don’t like that so many features are attached to single buttons, which forces you to cycle through buttons looking for options and settings that you can’t find in the menu system. Overall, though, we like the way Pentax built the actual buttons on the camera. They are easy to press, have good tactile feedback, and work well underwater (that’s something you can’t always say about waterproof cameras).


As we said above, the buttons on the WG-1 have too many options and features attached to them. This makes the menu more difficult to use, as so many features are scattered and hidden all over the camera. The basic menu system isn’t too hard to navigate, and it has options organized fairly well. The WG-1 would really benefit from a help or info box in the menu, though, as many features and options have confusing titles that don’t really explain what they do.

Manual Learning

At 312 pages, the manual for the Pentax Optio WG-1 is very thick for a camera of its class. There’s a lot of detail inside and the index is organized very well, so it is quite easy to find what you’re looking for. It is possible that the manual will look too daunting for some users, but the WG-1 has a lot of features to go over and the manual really is necessary to look up how many of these features work. We’re glad Pentax decided to cover everything in the manual, particularly because some of the camera’s settings are unique and confusing.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2 Comparison

If anything was made clear from our testing, it’s the fact that Pentax made huge improvements to the Optio WG-1 over the company’s previous waterproof camera, the Optio W80. In nearly all of our imaging tests the WG-1 came out on top, and the camera showed tremendous strides in color accuracy, noise, and distortion. The WG-1 didn’t show much improvement in sharpness or video performance, however.

Pentax did add a bit of size and bulk to the WG-1, but, in doing so, the camera was made to be far more durable than the W80. The new camera can go to depths of 33 feet underwater and maintain its composure, while the W80 had a limit of just 16 feet. The WG-1 can also withstand a longer drop (5 feet vs. 3.3 feet), and Pentax added dustproof and crushproof designs. The WG-1 certainly looks more durable than the W80 as well, although this odd, rugged design may put off some users.

The Optio WG-1 is far from perfect and has plenty of flaws, but it is clearly a step forward for Pentax. It is the better camera all-around when compared to the Optio W80, and its 349 price tag is competitive for a waterproof camera.

Casio Exilim EX-G1 Comparison

The Panasonic Lumix TS2 is one of the best waterproof cameras we’ve reviewed and it is the only model in this review that outdid the WG-1 in our performance testing. The two cameras were neck-and-neck in certain tests (like color and noise), but the Panasonic TS2 was able to capture a sharper image than the WG-1, and it managed to record higher-quality videos.

The two models have very similar specs, as both cameras can take up to 14-megapixel photos. Of course, the two models are also both waterproof, shockproof, coldproof, and dustproof, although the TS2 has a slight edge in its shockproof capability (it can handle a 6.6-foot drop instead of a 5-foot one). We found the design of the TS2 to be a bit sleeker, so it may attract those who like the look of a more conventional camera. The WG-1, on the other hand, doesn’t shy from its rugged, adventuresome style (and it may look kinda funny to some people).

Comparing these two models directly, we must say the Pentax WG-1 is the better camera. However, the Panasonic Lumix TS2 is an older model, and the company has made numerous updates to its toughcam line. The current edition of Panasonic’s waterproof camera is the Lumix TS10, and it may be the more apt comparison to the new Pentax WG-1. If Panasonic’s updates did anything to improve image quality, the new TS10 would probably come out on top of the Pentax WG-1. We’ll have to wait and see once we get the Panasonic TS10 into our labs to be sure, though. By the way, we also like the 250 price tag of the Panasonic Lumix TS2 camera (that’s nearly 100 less than the WG-1’s MSRP).


Compared to the Pentax WG-1, the Casio EX-G1 is an awful camera. Sure, it has the same rugged design and it is waterproof, but its image capabilities are not up to par. In all of our tests, the Casio EX-G1 scored significantly lower than the Pentax WG-1, and there’s really nothing so special about the Casio’s design that would be able to redeem these lousy scores.

Before you completely dismiss the Casio Exilim EX-G1, we must remind you that the camera is not a new model (it was released nearly two years ago). Still, it is one of the few waterproof cameras on the market, so it is a model that some may be considering. We wouldn’t recommend it, though, unless you find it at an exceptionally low cost. Both the Pentax WG-1 and Panasonic TS2 are better waterproof cameras by far.


The Pentax Optio WG-1 surprised us in many ways. The camera exceeded our expectations in various imaging tests, particularly color and distortion, while its design and interface occasionally left us shaking our heads. The 349 price tag that Pentax slapped onto the WG-1 is competitive, but there are far cheaper waterproof models on the market as well. You also shouldn’t have a problem finding the WG-1 on sale for under 300 if you shop around.

For a rugged, waterproof camera, the WG-1 is one of the best models we’ve seen overall. At times, however, we were disappointed by how much water was able to seep into important areas of the camera. In our time with the WG-1, water never made it into any important ports or terminals, but we did see pools of liquid inside these compartments when we opened up the camera. This is a model you need to be careful with despite its waterproof frame. As for the other design traits, we like the tough style of the WG-1. The camera can definitely handle a fall, and it should have no problems getting tossed into the bottom of a soiled backpack.

Our main point is this: don’t buy the Pentax WG-1 if you’re looking for top-notch image quality or lots of great controls. The camera has a confusing interface and a number of awkward quirks, and, despite the fact that it exceeded our expectations at times, its image performance wasn’t in the same class as a high-end or even a good mid-range camera. The durable design and waterproof elements are the core traits of the WG-1 and that’s what Pentax put its energy focusing on—with good reason. The Optio WG-1 is currently our highest-rated waterproof camera, so if that’s the kind of product you’re looking for, you should definitely add the WG-1 to your list.

Meet the tester

Jeremy is the video expert of our imaging team and’s head of video production. Originally from Pennsylvania and upstate NY, he graduated from Bard college with a degree in film and electronic media. He has been living and working in New England since 2005.

Checking our work.

Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you’re confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we’ll compare notes.

Review: Pentax WG3 Tough Cam

Ever wanted to just beat the living crap out of your camera sometimes? Me neither! But some cameras are essentially designed for you to do just that. And that is where the Pentax WG3 may mostly appeal to the adventurer type of personality. With an F2 lens at the wide angle, a digital compass, and even a clock on it, it seems like not only a cool camera but also an essential multi-functional device.

But is that enough to make you spend the money?

Pros and Cons


– Clock that can be illuminated on the outside

– Cool Carabiner on the exterior

– High speed movie shooting is pretty awesome


– It’s about time that someone makes a tough compact that shoots RAW photos

– Battery life is a bit weak, but does well in colder weather

– A bottle opener would have been a nice addition

– An HD timelapse feature would be better than the standard definition that they feature

– Loads of compression on the high speed video

pentax, optio, wg-2, review

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the BH Photo listing of the camera

  • 16MP Backlit CMOS Image Sensor
  • 3″ Widescreen TFT LCD with AR Coating
  • 4.5-18mm (35mm Equiv: 25-100mm) f/2 Lens
  • Sensor-Shift/Digital Image Stabilization
  • Waterproof to 45.9′, Shockproof to 6.5′
  • Crushproof against 220 LBF
  • Dustproof, Freezeproof to 14°F
  • Capture Full HD 1080p Video
  • GPS Records Data onto Images
  • ISO 6400


Pentax’s WG3 comes in a whole assortment of colors, and we chose green. The camera’s front is characterized by a lens smack dab in the middle with macro lights around it. To the right of this is a clock, which can be set to glow when the camera is off and the shutter button is pressed. There is also random grippy material all around the front.

The side of the camera also doesn’t have a traditional strap, but instead a small one with a carabiner.

Look at the top of the camera and you’ll spot some interesting ergonomics. First off, the on/off switch will glow a certain color for different reasons. Then next to that is the shutter release. That’s really all there is to the top, except for some extra grippy material–which basically surrounds the entire camera to ensure that you have a good hold on it at all times.

The back of the camera is where all the business gets controlled. Besides the super large LCD screen, you’ve got the zoom functions, playback button, record button, four way control dial with different functions, menu button and the custom function button as well.

And that brings us to the bottom. Besides the tripod socket, you’ve got the battery and SD card ports. This compartment is protected by two latches that need to be unlocked in order to pop it open.

Build Quality

Being marketed as a tough camera, the WG3 is undoubtedly a tough cookie. But we put it through some extra paces during the teting period. The camera is marketed as being:

  • Waterproof to 45.9′, Shockproof to 6.5′
  • Crushproof against 220 LBF
  • Dustproof, Freezeproof to 14°F

Besides the obvious torture test that shocked those around us when we were using the camera, the WG3 overall is built incredibly solidly. It feels excellent in the hand and nothing about it would make you think that this is a cheap point and shoot.


I was able to capture this image–albiet out of FOCUS but it still captures what happened to the camera. The waves of the East River crashed onto the camera and it kept on clicking.


Instead of testing a drop from six feet, we tested a much more practical 4 and a half. The WG3 kept working. In all honesty, we don’t see anyone dropping this camera to the ground from six feet up. It might fall off of a backpack or your hip, and the distance measured is much more practical.


As you can see, we put the camera in the sand and rubbed it all around. We made sure that lots of that sandy stuff got onto the camera. Then when we were done messing around, we put it into the East River to wash it off. The camera kept functioning.


During our testing phase we chose not to put the camera in the freezer for a while. However, we took it out in some extremely cold weather and there was no real effect on the battery life.

Ease of Use

It’s very easy for someone to leave this camera in auto all day (or program) and not explore everything that it can offer. The reason for this is because of the very small mode button on the four way control settings. Perhaps Pentax purposely did this to make it easier for the user, but in a way they’re also hiding the true potential of the camera. And once you decide to get in there and explore, you’ll realize just how sweet the camera really is. Sadly, we’re not sure how many people will do that except for the experienced and advanced user club.

Otherwise, someone is just clicking the shutter away and turning in on and off. However, it can do so much more. When the camera is off and one presses the shutter release, it will illuminate the front clock. Keep pressing te OK button when the camera is on and it will cycle between viewing modes–including the camera’s built in digital compass.


Focusing in good lighting is fast–as it should be for a point and shoot. The higher contrast the subject is, the better the focusing will be. However, it begins to suffer a bit in low light situations.

Image Quality

The sensor of the WG3 is really quite good, but where it could improve is in the optics. When in Macro mode, the user can actually achieve some really beautiful bokeh that can rival that of a DSLR, but the lens suffered from lots of purple and color fringing. This is something that many manufacturers generally neglect while they spend time and marketing dollars promoting the sensor inside of the camera.

As most advanced users know though, it’s nothing without good glass. sample images are later on–but note that the camera can hold its own quite well up to ISO 1600, and from then on it is noisy city.

Video Quality

You could have been a contender, Pentax. You really could have been.

When I started playing with the camera, I purposely asked Pentax for a bit of an extension on the loaner period to see if this camera really had what it takes to be a video contender. Think about it: people use GoPros a lot–so why can’t these tough cams be its competition.

Unfortunately, we found loads of compression in lots of the video footage that we shot as shown in the video above, and some of it is spliced into it particularly in the kite flying scene. Artifacts are everywhere. Then again though, this is a point and shoot–and so DSLR users might be a bit spoiled.

For what it’s worth, the camera also has a timelapse mode that will stitch together a 640×480 standard definition timelapse video. However, we really wish that it did at least 720.


We genuinely enjoyed our time with the Pentax WG3. It’s a neat, feature packed, fun little camera that begged to be taken anywhere. It can take a beating and continue to deliver. However, we really wish that it was able to perform a bit more. Pentax should consider a revamp of the lens elements and also work on the video compression issues.

When it came to taking stills, we generally had nary a complaint. The sensor is really good–but we once again feel that the lens in front of it needs to be better. The levels of color that this point and shoot can capture is really very amazing–it’s bound to outdo your iPhone!

If you’re not looking for the best video quality in a compact, then we totally recommend this camera for you.

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He provides oversight to all of the daily tasks, including editorial, administrative, and advertising work. Chris’s editorial work includes not only editing and scheduling articles but also writing them himself. He’s the author of various product guides, educational pieces, product reviews, and interviews with photographers. He’s fascinated by how photographers create, considering the fact that he’s legally blind./ HIGHLIGHTS: Chris used to work in Men’s lifestyle and tech. He’s a veteran technology writer, editor, and reviewer with more than 15 years experience. He’s also a Photographer that has had his share of bylines and viral projects like Secret Order of the Slice. PAST BYLINES: Gear Patrol, PC Mag,, Digital Photo Pro, Resource Magazine, Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Finance, IGN, PDN, and others. EXPERIENCE: Chris Gampat began working in tech and art journalism both in 2008. He started at PCMag, Magnum Photos, and He founded the Phoblographer in 2009 after working at places like PDN and Photography Bay. He left his day job as the Social Media Content Developer at BH Photo in the early 2010s. Since then, he’s evolved as a publisher using AI ethically, coming up with ethical ways to bring in affiliate income, and preaching the word of diversity in the photo industry. His background and work has spread to non-profits like American Photographic Arts where he’s done work to get photographers various benefits. His skills are in SEO, app development, content planning, ethics management, photography, WordPress, and other things. EDUCATION: Chris graduated Magna Cum Laude from Adelphi University with a degree in Communications in Journalism in 2009. Since then, he’s learned and adapted to various things in the fields of social media, SEO, app development, e-commerce development, HTML, etc. FAVORITE SUBJECT TO PHOTOGRAPH: Chris enjoys creating conceptual work that makes people stare at his photos. But he doesn’t get to do much of this because of the high demand of photography content. / BEST PHOTOGRAPHY TIP: Don’t do it in post-production when you can do it in-camera.

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Ricoh WG-50 Waterproof Camera | Hands-on Review

The Ricoh WG-50 camera is a waterproof compact camera that’s designed to be adventure proof. Here’s my hands-on review after shooting with it for a while.

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Ricoh’s WG-50 is a compact, waterproof camera that’s very competitively priced. It’s one of several waterproof cameras I’ve been trying in recent months of a type I consider amphibious. That is, they’re designed to be as comfortable in the water as above it and are meant to be cameras you can take the places you want to go. GoPro has gotten us accustomed to filming in the thick of the action, and other manufacturers have slowly but surely started building that kind of ruggedness into their more feature-rich and reasonably priced offerings. If GoPros and their alternatives are action cams that have made their name with extreme sports, cameras like the WG-50 and Olympus TG-5 might be called adventure cams and are aiming for versatility for travel and everyday adventure.

That, of course, means that they have to be much more rugged than digital cameras traditionally are. Ricoh rates the WG-50 with several measures of its ruggedness: waterproof down to 45 feet / 14 meters; crushproof up to 220 pounds / 100kg; freezeproof down to 14°F /.10°C; and shockproof if dropped up to 5.2 feet / 1.6 meters. If you look very closely, you can see the tag “adventure proof” inscribed on the top of the camera, and that’s a good summation of what cameras like the WG-50 and Olympus’s TG-5 are aiming for–the kind of camera that can comfortably go where you’re going.

Ricoh is a brand that tries to think outside the box. Their tag, after all, is “imagine. change.” From their GR series, long-time favorites of professional shooters, to their Theta 360° cameras to their WG-M2 action cam, they try to do things a bit differently. Sometimes that results in hits. I’m a big fan of the GR II and Theta S, for instance. But sometimes it can result in misses. Their WG-M2 action cam falls into that miss category for me.

The WG-50 continues that tradition in approaching things a bit differently. While it generally works much like its competitors, it also has a few unusual features that stand out, such as the built-in macro lighting. And as you can see pretty quickly, it tries to set itself apart in its looks. In broad strokes, it hews pretty closely to the conventional compact camera layout, but the design looks like it’s inspired by a Transformers movie, with ostentatious rivets and armor-plating look.

As a package, it’s small enough to fit fairly comfortably in a It’s narrow, and the lens is tucked back into the body and doesn’t stick out.

  • 16 megapixel backlit CMOS sensor offers plenty of image detail. Wide angle 5X internal optical zoom lens.
  • Waterproof to 46 feet perfect for use when submerged


A key feature of this camera, of course, is that it’s waterproof. So it’s worth looking in more detail at what exactly that means.

The WG-50 is rated to be waterproof down to a depth of 45 feet (14 meters). That’s good for water activities near the surface, and even quite a lot of recreational Scuba diving, but there’s also a lot of recreational Scuba diving that can drop below 45 feet, at least temporarily. So if you’re looking to take it to the beach, boating, or snorkeling, there’s no problem. But if you plan on taking it diving, you’ll need to factor in this limit on the camera.

Technically, Ricoh rates the WG-50 as equivalent to JIS Class 8 waterproof and JIS Class 6 dustproof capabilities. Those are Japanese ratings (the letters JIS stand for Japan Industrial Standards) that are less commonly used elsewhere than IP (International Protection) ratings. JIS-8 is for gear that is submersible, with it falling to the manufacturer to specify just how submersible (in this case, 45 feet).

Ricoh WG-50 Review | Shooting Photos

The WG-50 shoots up to 16-megapixel images. You can also choose smaller image sizes if you prefer to maximize storage space. It only shoots JPG–there’s no option for shooting RAW.

There’s a fairly standard array of features, including multiple FOCUS types, face detection, auto ISO and manual ISO settings, and high-speed continuous shooting (up to 8 frames per second for about 10 frames).

There are several shooting modes, from Auto to HDR to macro to underwater. Most of the time I found it easiest to leave it in the Auto mode–it did a reasonably good job of switching between the modes itself as necessary.

I was particularly intrigued by the underwater mode. Basically, it tries to compensate for the reduced red and orange light you get underwater. But it’s something that only works well if you’re going a reasonable distance underwater such as diving or snorkeling, and it’s not something you’ll want to forget to turn off. Here’s a practical example of what it does, with the first in normal shooting mode and the second with the underwater mode switched.

Overall, I’ve found the image quality to be quite good in brightly lit scenes. And that is, after all, the kind of bread and butter shots of a camera like this. The images have that distinctive look you get from many compact cameras from the combination of a small lens and tiny sensor, so you won’t mistake them for images out of a mirrorless camera or DSLR. But under the right light, you can get good results.

Things go rapidly downhill at the higher ISOs. At a first quick glance, the images look surprisingly noise-free even at the highest ISO. But if you look again, you can see why: there’s some very aggressive noise reduction being applied that, in my opinion, can go way too far in creating its own ugly side effects.

You can see some examples of what I mean here. Take a look at the shot below with the elephant as a good example–it looks like there’s Vaseline smeared over the lens.

Below are a few example photos I’ve shot with the WG-50. I’ll post more sample images separately.

Ricoh WG-50 Review | Shooting Videos

The WG-50 also shoots video, although it has a fairly limited range of options for it. You can choose 1080p30 or 720p60 or 720p30. You can choose whether or not to enable shake reduction, and you can enable an option to suppress wind noise. The video quality isn’t bad, but it’s also not great. If you’re shooting primarily video, you’ll probably be better off looking at something like a GoPro. But the WG-50 is quite capable for occasional video shooting.

Ricoh WG-50 Review | Zoom

The WG-50 has two zoom modes. I’m most concerned here with the optical zoom, which to me is by far the most important. The other zoom mode, digital zoom, is just glorified cropping. It provides some impressive numbers for marketing, but it doesn’t add more detail as you zoom in, and it’s all handled by software. You can turn the digital zoom on or off, and the amount of digital zoom that’s available depends on the image size you’ve set it to capture. You might also see mention in the docs about “Intelligent Zoom.” That’s not a separate mode–it’s just combining the optical and digital zoom modes.

So in the examples of the zoom range here, I’m focusing on the optical zoom range.

The optical zoom range is rated at 5x. Converted to 35mm equivalent terms, with the lens that’s on this camera, that’s from 28mm to 140mm.

Here’s a visual example of what that looks like in practice:

Ricoh WG-50 Review | Menu Controls

I’ve tried several Ricoh digital cameras over the years, and I’ve never found their menu systems to be a strength. The menu on the WG-50 just confirms this. You can find the options and settings you need, but it’s not especially intuitive, pretty, or even particularly logical to use. But it gets the job done.

The settings are divided up among three tabs: general settings, movie settings, and photo settings.

An example of one of the areas where I think some of the basic menu functionality could be improved is that to move between the different tabs you have to scroll all the way to the top of that list. While I can see the logic behind it, I find that more cumbersome than it needs to be.

The screen on the back is a 2.7-inch LCD screen. It’s not a touchscreen. The display is quite bright–and you can adjust the brightness if you’re shooting in bright light or, for that matter, dark conditions, but the quality of the display isn’t all that good and doesn’t give an especially accurate idea of the final image quality.

Here are a few screen grabs from the menu system:

Ricoh WG-50 Review | Macro Mode

When taking close-up macros, the WG-50 has a neat trick up its sleeve. Since it has a macro mode, it can, of course, FOCUS close. But if you’ve ever tried to take photos of something up very close, you’ll probably have run into the problem of lighting. The camera casts its own shadow that can prevent you from getting a good picture.

The WG-50 helps with this by having a built-in ring-light around the lens. It’s made up of 6 LED lights that surround the lens (those six white dots you see). If you turn on the macro lighting (back menu Rec. Mode Macro Light), those turn on. They’re constant lights–not flashes–and they don’t provide much light. But it might be enough to improve the image when you’re shooting a macro subject up very close. They don’t emit enough light to work beyond a few inches away; there’s a separate built-in flash for more traditional on-camera flash.

Ricoh WG-50 Review | Input and Output Ports

It has a mini-HDMI and a micro-USB port.

HDMI Output. You can specify the resolution of the HDMI output (under Setting HDMI Out). Available choices are Auto, 1080i, 720p, 576p, or 480p.

USB Output. You can specify whether the USB port is set up for MSC or PTP. In most cases, you probably want MSC.

Accessories for the Ricoh WG-50

Ricoh makes some accessories for the WG-50, and there are also some other things that will come in handy.

  • Ideal for DSLR and interchangeable-lens cameras and high performance camcorders
  • Up to 40MB/s write speeds for faster shot-to-shot performance and up to 90 MB/s read speeds for faster.

Memory Card. First, a memory card. By default, it doesn’t come with one, although there are some bundles that retailers put together that include an SD card. So there’s a good chance you’ll have to pick one up separately. The WG-50 is compatible with SD, SDXC, and SDHC cards, from 4GB up through at least 128GB (and beyond). It’s not especially demanding on the speed of the memory card, so you don’t necessarily need the latest and greatest and fastest card available. Something like the SanDisk Extreme is a good combination of reliability, speed, and value for money.

pentax, optio, wg-2, review

It’s worth noting that if you look at the official specs page it says that the WG-50 takes microSD cards. That’s wrong. It takes the larger SD-sized cards and is compatible with SD, SDXC, and SDXC cards. You can, technically, put a microSD card into an SD-sized adapter, but most of the time that’s not the most logical way to go.

The WG-50 also has a somewhat unusual approach to deleting images and formatting a memory card, so I’ve put together a more detailed guide on that.

  • Battery Type:Li-ion / Voltage:3.7V / Capacity:1200mAh
  • Premium cells, high energy density, memory free, extra long life, more shots for your cameras

Batteries. The standard packaging includes one rechargeable battery. It’s not a huge battery, and you can expect to get somewhere around 300 still photos, give or take, out of a fully charged battery. But there are a bunch of things that impact that battery life, from how much you’re using the back screen, whether you’re mixing in video shooting, and even the outside temperature (lithium batteries perform poorly in very cold temperatures). So a spare battery or two can come in very handy.

For extra batteries, you’re looking for model D-LI92 or equivalent. Pentax/Ricoh makes their own, but you can also pick up aftermarket ones that are priced much more affordably.

  • Fits a compact point shoot camera (such as Canon PowerShot SX700), spare batteries and memory card
  • Zippered front holds a spare memory card and/or batteries

Case. The WG-50 comes with a strap and a carabiner clip, but it doesn’t come with a case. Pentax makes one (model no. O-CC135) for this range of cameras, but there’s nothing especially distinctive about it other than being overpriced. There are many other compact camera cases that will work just as well, or better, and are much cheaper.

Remote Shutter Release. Ricoh has three difference wireless remote shutter releases for this camera. Probably the most useful pairing is their waterproof remote.

Questions, Quirks, and Notes

Macro Mode

When you switch to macro mode, the available resolution drops down to 2MP, and the aspect ratio switches to 16:9.

High ISO Noise Reduction

At high resolutions, an extraordinarily high amount of noise reduction can be applied that can end up being far too aggressive and result in poor-quality images in other ways. Here’s an example (click on it to open a full-size version):

Does it float?

No. If you drop it in the water, it’ll sink quickly. In diving terms, it’s negatively buoyant. You’ll need a separate float for it if you want it to stay on top of the water when you let go.

Screen Blackout

One of my least favorite things about the WG-50 is how slow it is between shots. When you take a photo, the screen blacks out for what seems far too long for an adventure camera. It makes it feel very sluggish. You can minimize it by turning off the Instant Review option (Settings Rec. Mode 3/4 Instant Review), but you can’t eliminate it completely.

Does it have RAW mode?

No. The only image format available is JPG. You can capture in different sizes of JPG up to 16MP, and you can choose from month three JPG quality settings.

Mounting on a tripod

There is a standard 1/4-20 tripod thread socket on the bottom. There are two things to note about it, though. The first is that it’s on the far right (as you’re holding the camera to shoot). The other is that it’s a plastic thread. That’s probably fine for such a light camera in many settings, but it’s not especially strong if you’re using it in difficult conditions, especially with the extra leverage involved with having the socket on one end of the camera.

Using a wrist strap

On the right side is a place to thread a wide strap, but it doesn’t have one of those small attachment points for lightweight wrist straps. You’ll have to thread it through the larger strap attachment instead.

Back Screen

The back screen scratches fairly easily, especially with the kind of uses you’re probably putting a waterproof camera to. A few scratches aren’t going to change the functionality of the camera, but if it’s something that bothers you, you’ll probably want to get a screen protector.

I haven’t tried any specific ones, and I’m not aware of any dedicated covers yet, but you should be able to trim a general one to the right size. In the meantime, the back screen on my camera has gathered some rather prominent scratches on it.

Instruction Manual

You can find a PDF version of the WG-50 instruction manual here.

Wrap Up

The Ricoh WG-50 is an intriguing option for a go-anywhere, highly portable camera to take along on your next travel or vacation adventure. It handles the basics well enough, and it’ll stand up to the kind of treatment you’re likely to dish out while on the go. Its image quality is good in daylight conditions but much less impressive in low-light conditions.

If you take cost out of the calculation, I think the Olympus TG-5 is a better camera, but that camera is also a lot more expensive. And factoring in cost really makes the WG-50 a more competitive option.

In the spectrum of Ricoh’s hits and misses, this one, for me, falls somewhere in the middle. There are certainly some aspects I’d change or improve, but ultimately I’ve been able to get some photos I’m happy with out of it.

Where to Find Them.

The WG-50 is available in a traditional black and coppery orange color (the one pictured above).

I bought mine at BH Photo. You can also find them at Amazon.

  • 16 megapixel backlit CMOS sensor offers plenty of image detail. Wide angle 5X internal optical zoom lens.
  • Waterproof to 46 feet perfect for use when submerged