Pentax Optio WG-2 GPS Camera Review

The Pentax Optio WG-2 GPS is a rugged camera that is waterproof (maximum depth: approx. 40 feet) and shockproof. The camera offers a 16MP sensor and a 5x zoom lens with 28mm wide-angle and 140mm tele settings (35mm film equivalent). It is the follower of the WG-1 and shows some improvements in image resolution and configuration. Its unique body design is indicative of the “tough camera” class and is designed for use by photographers who want to dive or use this camera for downhill mountain biking or other “adrenaline sports.”

 

The Pentax Optio WG-2 GPS is a 16MP camera with a unique design and very interesting features. The camera is waterproof (down to about 40 feet) and shockproof. The rugged camera uses additional LEDs near the lens system to illuminate small objects for macro photos.

The Pentax has a small silhouette: the lens system and flash system stay inside the body even when the camera is activated.

The LCD screen (3”) has 460,000 RGB pixels and shows a bright and crisp image. The function elements (zoom switch, four-way cursor field) are very small, which makes them somewhat unwieldy when using gloves.

There are only two function elements on the top, a power switch and the shutter release button. The GPS logo refers to the GPS module, which automatically tags images with geo data.

All gaps of the camera are sealed. The Pentax offers a combo port for USB data transfer and TV connection and an additional HDMI port on the left-hand side of the body.

The camera offers automatic exposure settings only plus many scene modes. To change parameters the photographer has to use a four-way cursor field and some other function elements. All of these elements are sealed to protect them from dust and water. The function elements are very small, which makes them somewhat unwieldy, especially when wearing gloves (for skiing and diving, for example). The camera has two sealed protective covers on the bottom side (which protects the rechargeable battery and the SD card slot) and a cover for the USB/TV combo port and the HDMI interface. The flash and the lens system are totally integrated into the camera and stay within the body, even in activated state. This also helps protect the camera.

The camera offers a standard mini flash system for portrait fill at a distance of up to about 15 feet. In addition, it has six LEDs that encircle the front lens. These LEDs are activated when taking macro shots and allow the user to shoot very tiny objects without shadows.

The Pentax Optio WG-2 GPS offers a large LCD screen on the back, which is used as an electronic viewfinder and control center for all camera settings. It offers 460,000 RGB dots and shows a brilliant, very crisp image.

The WG-2 doesn’t allow the user to set aperture or shutter priority mode or make manual mode settings. In their place it offers numerous scene modes, which cover a lot of sport scenes like underwater photo and underwater video. A special “digital wide angle” mode works like the panorama mode of other digital cameras by combining two shots into a
wide-angle image.

A GPS system is able to record geographical data. This information is integrated into the EXIF data of each image and allows the user to retrace photos of a holiday trip on Google Earth and to use the data in image management software. It is very easy to use the GPS module: the photographer has to activate this function in the setup menu and the camera will then automatically record the GPS signal.

While the shift of neutral and darker gray colors is clearly visible in our shot of the standard test box, the bright background of the portrait shot displays only a slightly cooler touch. Skin tones and differentiation of red nuances is very good. The reproduction of the hair structure shows the combination of intense anti-noise and additional sharpness filtering.

Image Quality
Color:
The automatic white balance system of the Pentax Optio WG-2 GPS showed a shift into cooler colors and a boost for intense blue colors. Skin tones are reproduced very exactly, and most other nuances show only minor color errors. Red nuances are nearly perfect. This is very unusual for compact cameras, which generally boost red colors with higher magenta and yellow rates.

Sharpness: The camera showed a good performance in our resolution test. It reproduced the ISO 12,233 chart with 2883 of its nominal 3456 lines in picture height. However, it uses a fairly intense sharpness filtering to compensate for the anti-noise filtering. This results in a slightly artificial look in the hair structure of the model shot and some small halos on extreme contrast lines, like the Siemens star in our standard test box shot. The differentiation of red nuances is very good. The structure of the fabric (T-shirt) in our model shot is clearly differentiated.

Noise: Noise results stay on an acceptable level in all images taken with speed settings up to ISO 400. Color noise is visible in images taken with ISO 400 and higher. The camera uses an intense anti-noise filtering system, which smooths image details in images taken at ISO 800 and higher in a noticeable way. Especially in the highest ISO settings of 3200 and 6400, an “impressionistic” look caused by the anti-noise system is clearly visible.

The gray background has a bluish touch. Sharpness is high due to an intense sharpness filtering, though differentiation of red colors is very good.

The camera showed an average performance in our dynamic range tests: it achieves a maximum of 9.38 f/stops, but the dynamic range declines to 8.6 or 8.3 f/stops in higher ISO speed settings (more than ISO 400).

The automatic white balance system of the Pentax Optio WG-2 GPS showed a shift into cooler colors and a boost for intense blue colors. Skin tones are reproduced very exactly, and most other nuances show only minor color errors. Red nuances are nearly perfect. This is very unusual for compact cameras, which generally boost red colors with higher magenta and yellow rates.

Scorecard
Pro

• Waterproof without an additional underwater housing to about 40 feet
• Robust body (shockproof: to about 5 feet height)
• Additional LEDs for macro shots
• Full HD videos
• Integrated GPS system

Con
• Missing optical viewfinder

Image Tech
Image Tech is where we publish web-exclusive lab reports on cameras. To read the reports please go to the Shutterbug homepage at www.shutterbug.com and click on the Image Tech tab on the top navigation bar. New reports are published frequently, so check Image Tech for updates.

The Pentax Optio WG-2 GPS has a list price of $349.95. For more information and further tech specs, visit: www.pentaximaging.com.

Lab results and test images by BetterNet, our TIPA-affiliated testing lab. Edited by George Schaub.

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