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Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS Digital Camera Review

Daniel Bell reviews the Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS, a compact digital camera that is waterproof, shockproof and freezeproof.

| Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS in Compact Cameras

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS Digital Camera Review: Front

Pentax released the WG-1 in February 2011 and there are two versions of this camera, either with or without GPS. On test here is the GPS version, which is currently available for around £228.00, with the non GPS version costing £20.00 less at £208.00.

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS Digital Camera Review: Front angle
Front angle

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS: Features

The WG-1 GPS has a heavy-duty construction and is ideal for active photographers who shoot in tough and demanding conditions. It is waterproof to 10 metres, shockproof to 1.5 metres, freezeproof to -10°C and crushproof to 100kg. The camera even has built-in GPS so you can see where your pictures were taken on websites such as Google Earth and Flickr. Packed with the camera is a Carabiner strap so it can be hooked to a backpack or other outdoor equipment.

The camera has a 14 megapixel sensor and a 5x optical zoom which is a 35mm equivalent of 28 - 140mm. On the rear is a 16:9 ratio 2.7 inch LCD monitor with an anti-reflection coating. To reduce blur there are three methods of anti-shake protection: Pixel Track SR, High-Sensitivity and Movie SR.

A unique feature found on the WG-1 GSP is the Digital Microscope mode, which allows you to shoot from just 1cm with 5 LED macro lights and a macro stand. Other features include Face Detection, Self-portrait Assist, Collage function, Ink Rubbing filter, Auto Picture mode (selecting from 16 shooting modes), 12 digital filters and Digital Wide.

Movies can be recorded at 720p HD and displayed on a HD TV via a micro-HDMI cable.

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS Digital Camera Review: Top

Key Features

  • Geo-tagging function
  • Waterproof to 10m
  • Shockproof to 1.5m
  • Coldproof to -10°C
  • Crushproof to 100kg
  • 14 megapixel sensor
  • 5x wide-angle optical zoom
  • HD movie recording
  • ISO80 - 6400
  • Digital microscope
  • Carabiner strap
  • 1cm minimum focus distance
Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS Digital Camera Review: Rear

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS: Handling

The WG-1 is a unique looking camera, some will love it, some will hate it, but you certainly get the feel it is going to be able to cope with some extreme shooting conditions and no matter how you like to hold a camera, there are plenty of ways to maintain a good grip. The Carabiner strap is a great little extra as you can have your camera clipped to you in the easiest place possible to access it rather than tucked away in your pocket.

We have recently tested the Olympus Tough TG-610 and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT3. These cameras have a very similar build with a metal body, both weighing in around 200g. With the WG-1's plastic and rubber exterior, it weights in at 143g, suiting someone who prefers a lighter camera.

The camera menus are typical of the Pentax Optio range of compact cameras and are simple to navigate. The buttons are easy to press, with a dedicated button which toggles between Face Detection, Smile Capture and Self Portrait Assist as well as a Green button which can be set to the users preference, choosing between a range of camera settings.

The battery has a CIPA rating of 260 shots, which is good and during testing there was no reason to doubt this figure. The camera is incredibly quick at switching both on and off and focusing speed is good as well. Continuous shooting mode is able to shoot at around 0.7fps, and burst shooting allows around 2.3fps. Interval shooting is also available where you can set the camera to delay its start up, or commence immediately, asking it to take a picture at a set interval, up to 99 mins. The camera switches on, refocuses, takes a picture and switches off again.

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS Digital Camera Review: Battery

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS: Performance

The WG-1 consistently takes well exposed images with superb colour reproduction. At both ends of the lens, detail within the images is good, especially when considering it is a compact lens, which are prone to poorer quality. Macro mode is a strong feature of the camera, with a minimum focus distance of just 1cm, and images produced do not disappoint.

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS Lens test images

The ISO range goes from ISO80 to ISO6400, which should help users take blur free pictures in low light. Sadly, at the higher end, noise is really affecting image quality. At ISO80 and ISO100 there is little difference to tell, but noise clearly worsens through ISO200 and ISO400. At ISO800, noise is having a significant impact on image quality with a clear loss in sharpness. Again, at ISO1600, pictures are starting to look more blurry. ISO3200 and ISO6400 produces images which are limited to 5 megapixels, but this setting should be used as a last resort as noise plays a bit part in the image quality at this setting. On a positive note, although noise is significant for a large part of the ISO range, colour reproduction only suffers when using ISO6400.

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS ISO test images

Below are example images using some of the scene modes available. Landscape mode gives a great colour boost to the blues and greens in the image and the camera is great at taking portraits with flash and no red-eye.

For more examples please visit the ePHOTOzine Equipment Database listing for the WG-1.

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS Scene modes

Auto white-balance performance is good, but did struggle under the incandescent lights in the ePHOTOzine studio, with the incandescent preset giving the best result. The AWB setting does perform better than the fluorescent setting under the fluorescent lighting.

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS White-balance test images

The first three images are filters which are applied to images before shooting, with the others being examples of digital filters which can be applied via image editing in playback mode.

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS Digital filters

Video Mode

Movies can be recorded at 1280 x 720 HD, 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 all at 15 or 30 fps with movie shake reduction and interval shooting. Sadly there is no optical zoom available when recording, although digital zoom is possible.

Value For Money

In terms of its waterproof, shockproof and freezeproof resistance, the WG-1 is the cheapest which offers 10m, 1.5m and -10°C respectively at £208.99. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT3 looks the toughest camera available being waterproof to 12m, shockproof to 2m and freezeproof to -10°C and is priced at £298.99. Any cheaper than the WG-1 means you have to look at cameras with less waterproof depth. For an extra £20.00 you can have the WG-1 with GPS.

Waterproof Shockproof Freezeproof Price
Fujifilm FinePix XP10 3m 1m -10°C £108.99
Olympus Tough TG-310 3m 1.5m -10°C £128.99
Fujifilm FinePix XP30 5m 1.5m -10°C £128.99
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT10 3m 1.5m -10°C £149.99
Ricoh PX 3m 1.5m n/a £159.95
Olympus Tough TG-610 5m 1.5m -10°C £188.00
Pentax Optio WG-1 10m 1.5m -10°C £208.99
Canon PowerShot D10 10m 1.2m -10°C £214.99
Olympus Tough TG-810 10m 2m -10°C £224.99
Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS 10m 1.5m -10°C £228.99
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT2 10m 2m -10°C £248.99
Sony Cyber-shot TX10 5m 1.5m -10°C £294.99
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT3 12m 2m -10°C £298.99
Ricoh G700 5m 2m -10°C £449.00
Ricoh G700SE 5m 2m -10°C £649.00

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS: Verdict

The WG-1 combines features which are standard for outdoor cameras with a few unusual features unseen on most compact cameras. The camera is waterproof, freezeproof and shockproof making it great for photographers with an active lifestyle. There is also the digital microscope with a 1cm minimum focus distance, image geo-tagging via GPS and good image quality. Downsides are poor noise performance, notably from ISO400 and the screen is a touch small.

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS Digital Camera Review:
The Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS offers a great set of features, with good performance and value for money.

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS: Pros

Waterproof to 10m
Shockproof to 2m
Freezeproof to -10°C
Good image quality
Excellent colour reproduction
Digital microscope and 1cm minimum focus distance
GPS geo-tagging

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS: Cons

Poor noise performance throughout ISO range
Screen is fairly small at 2.7 inch
High-speed shooting isn't particularly fast
Tripod socket is poorly placed


Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS Specifications

Max Aperturef/3.5 - f/5.5
35mm equivalent24mm - 140mm
Optical Zoom5x
Image Sensor
Pixels14Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4228
Pixels (H)3216
Sensor TypeCCD
Sensor Size1/2.3 inch
Sensor Size (width)6.16mm
Sensor Size (height)4.62mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 4:3
  • 16:9
  • 1:1
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor2.7in
Screen resolution230,000 dots
Touch ScreenNo Data
Min Focus1cm
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Manual
  • Spot
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/1500sec
Shutter speeds longest1/4sec
Bulb modeNo
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Scene modes
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Multi Pattern
  • Spot
ISO sensitivity80 - 6400
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
Exposure Comp+/-2
Shooting Options
Continuous shootingNo Data
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1280x720 HD 720p
  • 640x480 VGA
  • 320x240 QVGA
Video FPS30, 15
Stereo SoundNo Data
Optical Zoom with VideoNo Data
Other Features
Image StabilisationYes
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • SDXC
File Type
  • JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeD-LI92
Battery Life (CIPA rating)No Data
Box Contents
Box ContentsAV cable, USB cable, AC cable, Li-ion battery, Battery charger, Carabiner strap, Strap, Macro stand and Software

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Photographs taken using the Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS

Succulent FormIn Commemoration of Those who Lost their Lives at DardanellesMonkey BusinessNasreddin HodjaThe MaidsThe Old has Gone, the New Stays IntactWaiting to be DemolishedColoured Voile: An AbstractAn Experimental Portrait IIAn Experimental PortraitDouble PortraitLight and Shadeend of winterPut a Smile on Your Silly Sunday FaceShadow of the Head of a Two Faced Cat

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K626 11 United States
2 Aug 2011 3:24PM
I was given this camera as a gift and took it to the beach last month instead of my Canon 5D. At iso 100 i got clean images that clean up well in Photoshop. The lens is well corrected too. I like the way it handles and it focuses quite well for a P&S---and no worries about sand or salt water! The battery could be stronger.

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