PENTAX Optio WG-2 Rugged Camera Review

It’s been 2 weeks now since PENTAX sent me their Optio WG-2 and I’ve been able to put it through some pretty demanding situations that I wouldn’t normally put a regular digital camera through. If you haven’t done so already, I suggest you read the first impressions preview post of the WG-2 here which will give you a very good idea of the build quality and what to expect with the look and feel of the camera. Again as with most of the reviews that I’ve done, I’ll be talking less about the detailed specifications of the camera and instead be concentrating on real world usage and my experiences using the camera in a real world setting and not in a studio.

Design of the Body & Features

Again, I encourage that you read the preview post for the PENTAX Option WG-2 here as I go over most of the body features in it. It goes over what to expect from it in terms of build quality and how the camera feels when you first get it. After two weeks of usage however, I do have some comments to make about the body that obviously I couldn’t know about with the initial examination of the WG-2.

First off, from my experiences so far, the camera is tough, or at least as tough as the situations I’ve been able to put it though. It is definitely waterproof and shock proof as one of my main tests for this was to give it to my 1 year old during her bath with video recording enabled. Not only did she submerge it in the bath, she also took the liberty of banging it around the tub and even threw it a few times. The video kept on recording without a hitch and as you know, toddlers can be quite rough with your electronic devices. This is basically what most people will want a camera like this for, it’s waterproof and shockproof features. I didn’t try dropping the camera off a building or anything as that wouldn’t be very realistic and I’m sure most of you wouldn’t be that careless with your cameras anyways, even if they were tough cams.

One thing that I did notice is that the rear viewscreen is not scratch resistant. Within the first couple of days, I had already noticed a couple of scratches on it and I hadn’t even done much with it aside from throwing it into my wife’s purse. They were very small hairline scratches which wouldn’t even be that noticeable except for the fact that I’m very anal like that with my electronics. I was also worried about the front lens seeing as there is traditional lens cover for it except for the mineral crystal cover PENTAX uses. I’ll say that the cover is way stronger and more scratch resistant than the rear viewscreen is and I’m wondering why PENTAX didn’t decide to go with this for the rear viewscreen as well.

Operations (Usage)

Using the camera is as easy as turning it on, pointing the camera, and shooting. The WG-2 includes the usual AUTO scene select mode  in which it’ll try to choose the best scene mode for the situation. From my experience so far, it seems to do a pretty decent job of selecting the proper mode, although like with most auto detect systems, it is off the mark sometimes. You can also manually select a scene mode to shoot with if you don’t trust the AUTO mode or if you know you’ll only be shooting in a specific style. Like most point-and-shoot cameras, there aren’t any settings to adjust aperture or shutter speeds. You can sort of adjust ISO, but its really an adjustment to ISO range than being able to pick a specific ISO level.

One area that may or may not annoy you depending on the type of camera you are used to using is the focusing speed. For me, I found the focusing speed to be a bit slow for my taste. When shooting inanimate objects, the focusing speed didn’t really matter much but when taking pictures of moving objects and people, it prove to be a little problematic at times. However, switching the auto focus point to the center really sped it up and made it much better to use.

The feature that I really liked using was Digital Microscope Mode. I loved how the PENTAX WG-2 has 6-LED lights surrounding the lens which really helps with close up photography. I know that in the past, when I’ve tried this with other cameras, the camera would always cast a huge shadow over whatever it was I was trying to shoot and would make close ups like this near impossible and too dark. With the LED lights, it really illuminates what you’re shooting and completely eliminates a shadow. This is a great feature and actually one of my favorite things the WG-2 does.

There is one thing I should note as I had someone inquiring about this camera and they wanted to know if it would be a good alternative to something like a GoPro. My answer to that is both yes and no. You see, it is rugged like a GoPro and you can really take it into almost every kind of situation but, it has a limitation that is inherent in all digital cameras. It can only take video clips as long as 25 minutes in length. This is some kind of limitation set by the ITA and how digital cameras are classified to avoid high tariffs and duty.

Photo Quality

The PENTAX Optio WG-2 is like any other point-and-shoot camera, you’ll have hits and misses with some of your shots due to the fact that many of the settings are being handled automatically by the camera. My suggestion is to always take multiple shots of your subject as the camera may meter things differently each time yielding different results. Below are some samples taken with the WG-2. All are unedited images taken straight from the camera. The only editing comes from resizing of the images for web use.

This is a digital microscope shot. As you can see, you can get really close up on your subject and it can pick up some rather detailed information. Colors are quite bright and you’ll notice how much the LED lights really seem to help bring the color out.

Here is another shot from the digital microscope. Also notice how there are no shadows obscuring the closeups. This is also because of the LED lights.

This is an unedited shot from inside a car. Colors are decent and good amount of detail present.

Taking pictures of text also yields pretty good results. All text is clear and visible and the WG-2 does a good job of rendering solid blacks.

In bright sunlight, the WG-2 does a very good job of freezing action. Here is a shot of a water explosion in which you’ll notice all the individual drops of water frozen in time.

Outdoor shots however can get a bit bright and the WG-2 does seem to overexpose the images a tiny bit. The details are still there though and stuff like this can be easily adjusted in something like Lightroom or Aperture.

Here is a shot from the exact same location but as you can see here, the exposure is much better and it’s not as bright as the previous image.

Here’s an indoor shot. Shots indoors to me seemed generally warmer in color and softer. As you can see, the details themselves are a bit softer than they are in the outdoor shots.  Please note that this shot was also taken without a flash, that’s my own personal preference. Most of you will probably shoot this with a flash, in which case the image would not be this soft. I generally dislike using a flash with a point-and-shoot because you lose a lot of the detail in the background.

Overall, the images taken with the PENTAX Optio WG-2 are good and what I would expect from a point-and-shoot camera. Images can be a bit overexposed at times, but that’s something I see with a lot of other point-and-shoot cameras and things like that can be fixed in post processing. I am very impressed with the Digital Microscope mode and I would buy the WG-2 just for the purpose of using that if you are into closeup photography.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to point-and-shoot cameras, I never really expect much when it comes to photo quality. I mainly use them to capture quick memories or something that catches my eye that I want to remember. I still use point-and-shoots because generally, the image quality is still much better than on my phone and they are still small enough to carry around with you in your pocket. I don’t expect DSLR-like quality from them, even if they do have a high megapixel count. With this in mind, I am very satisfied with the images I got from the WG-2. I don’t expect images to be perfect straight out of the camera and much of the little things here and there can be fixed in post production.

On the camera itself, I am very impressed with how solid the camera is built. It’s very light but feels really good in your hands and because you know its a rugged camera, you have more confidence holding it knowing that if you do drop it accidentally, it will survive the fall and keep on shooting.

In my opinion, if you’re going to buy a point-and-shoot, why not go straight to a rugged camera? They are way more durable that standard cameras and the image quality is just as good. They might not be as “pretty” as regular cameras, but they’ll survive almost anything. I believe that if you have children or have a very active lifestyle, you really need a rugged camera and they make really great secondary cameras for situations where you don’t want to endanger your expensive DSLR. For this reason, I do recommend picking the PENTAX Optio WG-2 as a good “throwing around” camera for activities that are not very gadget friendly.

Shop Links

PENTAX Optio WG-2 (Vermilion Red or Black) - Pentax Optio WG-2 Kit

PENTAX Optio WG-2 GPS (Orange) - Pentax Optio WG-2 GPS (orange) Kit

PENTAX Optio WG-2 GPS (White) - Pentax Optio WG-2 GPS (white) Kit