Rating: ★★★★☆

There is no dearth of cameras out there that are “waterproof to xx feet/meters” – hell, I can look in my camera bag right now and see three others.  What the Optio WG-1 offers though is a lot more than that.  Measuring in at 2.3 inches by 4.5 inches by 1.1 inches and weighing in at a low 5.9 ounces, the Pentax Optio WG-1 claims to be waterproof to 33 feet, dust-proof, cold-proof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit, shock-proof from falls up to 4.9 feet, and crush-proof for up to 220 pounds of pressure – that’s a lot of “proofs” for such a small package to have.  So how well does the Optio WG-1 hold up – does it measure up to the claims it sets forth, or does it get crushed under the weight of it’s own promises?

I did my best to prove the claims that Pentax set forth on this camera – I submerged it in a pool (while only four feet and not the 33 feet it can withstand, I felt it did the trick), and while I was really worried, it held up beautifully.  The only caveat (and really this should be common sense) is that you need to make sure the outside of the camera is dry before you open the battery compartment or the HDMI/PC AV port.  If you don’t, you’ll inevitably get water inside the camera through no fault of the hardware.

The shock-proof claim was easy enough to test – I just dropped it from an average carrying height onto a variety of surfaces.  Wood, carpet, concrete, brick, and blacktop were all used to see if I could get this little guy to show even the smallest hint of damage, but the WG-1 prevailed unscathed.  To test the claim of being crush-proof, I took it to the gym and stacked 220 pounds of weights on it – again the camera handled the weight with no issue at all.  As it’s not winter yet (and I didn’t feel like screwing with my freezer), I surrounded the camera with some ice water to see how cold-proof it was; as expected, the claims made weren’t false.

So this little guy stood up to all my attempts to prove the guarantees set forth by Pentax false, and threw it back into my face.  How then did it’s pictures look?  With the 14 MP it brings to the table, the pictures didn’t look bad at all.  It also has a good 5x zoom (and a typical garbage digital zoom) – even when zoomed all the way on the optical zoom, the pictures still look really good:

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In the pictures above, the first is with no zoom, the second is with the 5x optical, and the third is max digital zoom.  As you can see, the image clarity is pretty good for the no zoom and 5x optical – better than I would normally expect for such a rugged camera.  Since I was sent the model with GPS on it, I could have easily put a geo tag on those pictures showing where I was, but I didn’t have that option set up for that photo trip.  You see, one of the biggest issues with this camera is navigating the menus.  In order to keep everything sealed up, Pentax put minimal buttons on the back, leaving most of the function in menus.  While it’s not hard to work them, it is tedious.  Sometimes something you want is buried, and unless you know right where to look it’s a pain in the ass game of click this, look, back out, and repeat.

If you look at the front of the camera, you’ll notice five little clear circles surrounding the lens – that’s a really neat feature of this camera.  They call it “digital microscope” mode, and all five circles light up in order for you to have perfect illumination on a macro picture.  It’s great for highlighting little details – like a certain part of a flower, or a small insect.  Since this is meant to be an outdoor camera, I imagine that this would really come in handy at certain times.  Another problem though (and since this is an outdoor camera), it that if you want to take a picture, you need to make sure you get it right the first time.  The recycle time on the Optio WG-1 is painfully slow, taking over three and a half seconds for you to take a second picture.

The Optio WG-1 also records video, but the video is only 720p at either 15 or 30 frames per second – it’s not great, but it would be good enough for some underwater videos of fish and what not.  When I tried the video feature, it looked clear enough for a pass, but it’s definitely not HD.  The lens on the WG-1 is better than other cameras of this type, and it shows in the raw data – for instance, you can push the camera to ISO 1600, and have almost no noticeable grain or noise.  The LCD screen (2.7 inches, 230K-dot display) is also well lit, enabling you to use it even in direct sunlight.

All in all, the Pentax Optio WG-1 with GPS is a nice camera if you need one that is super rugged – the price might be a bit high for the performance and features though.  If you do need something that can withstand most of the situations you’ll face in life and price is no option, you really can’t go wrong here.  While other rugged cameras might have a faster recycle speed, or a better zoom – there’s always a tradeoff weather it be even higher cost, less features, or something else.

I give the Pentax Optio WG-1 with GPS a final score of four stars out of five.

Pros:

  • Can easily handle most anything life throws at it and keep snapping pics like nothing happened
  • The LCD screen is great because you can use it in all lighting, even full sun
  • The lens is incredibly good for this type of camera and works great no matter what ISO you use

Cons:

  • The recycle time is extremely slow, which makes taking repeat pictures almost an impossibility
  • Menus are tiresome to deal with
  • The video feature is OK at best – nothing spectacular

You can grab a Pentax Optio WG-1 with GPS of your own from Amazon for $302.67



Staff