Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS Camera Review


The Pentax WG-1 GPS is a compact camera with a 5x zoom lens (28-140mm) and a robust body, which is water proved to 33 ft, shock proof (5 ft drop down) and an integrated GPS system. The camera offers 14 MP resolution and some extraordinary features like “Digital Microscope” mode.

The new Pentax WG-1 GPS is a camera made for rough photo conditions. Without an additional UW housing it can be used in 10 meters (approx 33ft) depth, which is enough for water sports like sailing, white water rafting and more. The camera is very stable and has a rubberized body; even a drop from a height of 1.5 meters (approx 5 ft) or pressure up to 100 kg (approx 220 lbs) won’t harm the camera.

All ports, like the interfaces and the card slot are covered by very heavy and massive covers. The camera can use SD, SDHC and SDXC cards.

The camera has numerous scene modes. One mode is very extraordinary: it is called “Digital Microscope”, which is an additional mode to the standard macro setting. In “Digital Microscope” mode the camera will use 5 LEDs, which are located around the lens. This allows illumination of very small objects. Focusing is allowed up to a minimal distance of 1 cm (approx. 0.4 in). The camera can still zoom in and therefore gathers an extremely scaled image of the scene.

The camera uses a 2.7 in sized LCD screen as an electronic viewfinder and for menu navigation. The cursor field has a very clearly noticeable pressure point, making it comfortable even when wearing gloves in winter. The camera is frost proof down to 14 degrees F.

The Pentax uses a 2.7 in LCD screen on the back with 16:9 aspect ratio, which offers only 230.000 RGB pixels. All function elements are sealed to protect the camera from water, dust and snow.

The camera has an integrated GPS system. It records geo data and saves this information in the EXIF data. This data can be used to locate the place of the image in Google Earth or similar software packages. It can also be used to classify these images to a special location in image databases. But the Pentax WG-1 GPS doesn’t offer a “travel guide” like the Panasonic TZ22 for example, which translates the GPS data into clear information (located city or street.)

Comments on Image Quality:

The camera showed very ambivalent behavior in our color tests. The standard test chart was reproduced with a saturation of only 98.34 percent, which is a very low result for a compact camera. While skin tones and most of the red, green and yellow colors hit their given values, some of the blue colors show vast aberrations. The automatic white balance system showed very good performance when shooting the color test chart, the model shot and the standard test box shot. The exposure settings in P mode show some underexposure.

The standard test box shows the shortcomings of the Pentax WG-1 GPS: The camera uses an intense anti-noise filtering (even in low ISO settings) and therefore softens image details.

The resolution results of the Pentax WG-1 GPS are disappointing, caused by very intense anti-noise filtering, which is activated even in images taken with ISO 80 or ISO 100. There were heavy chromatic aberration effects of the lens system. The camera reproduced the ISO12233 chart with 2278 lines per picture height, which is a poor result for a sensor with a nominal resolution of 3216 lines per picture height. The softening effects caused by the anti-noise filtering are clearly noticeable in our test shots. The red spool of yarn, for example, shows nearly no differentiation of the different red nuances.

Although the camera uses an intense anti-noise filtering all images taken even with low ISO speed settings show high luminance and color noise. The luminance noise factor is nearly 1.0 in ISO 100 setting, but will increase insignificantly in higher ISO speed settings. This is based on the anti-noise filtering, which gets more intense with higher ISO settings. Color noise is visible in images taken with ISO 200 or higher and shows annoying color clouds/color smear in images taken with ISO 800 and 1600. The “Noise spectrum” is high and smoothed, which causes the color clouds.

The WG-1 GPS created natural looking skin tone. Fine details like the hairs or eye lashes are smoothed by the anti noise filtering, which causes an “impressionistic” filter effect.

+ waterproof up to 33 ft
+ shock proof (drop test 5 ft)
+ GPS system
+ easy handling, a lot of scene modes
+ innovative “microscope” mode for extreme macro shots

- disappointing results in resolution tests
- LCD screen with low resolution

Test report and measurements supplied by Betternet, testing lab for Shutterbug as part of our TIPA membership.