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: 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.
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
1cm minimum focus distance
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: 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.
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
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.
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.
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
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