Pentax Optio WG-2 review:

Pentax Optio WG-2

Shooting performance, for me, is the weakest part of the WG-2; it's just not a very fast camera. From off to first shot takes 1.3 seconds, but after that it slows down to 2.8 seconds from shot to shot; it's about the same when using the flash, though, which is good. Combine that with its 0.7-second shutter lag (the time it takes from pressing the shutter release to capture without prefocusing) in bright conditions and 0.9 second in dim lighting, and it can be difficult to hit a fast-moving subject. The camera just feels slow, too. Slow-moving or stationary subjects like landscapes and portraits shouldn't be much of an issue, however, so if that's what you'll be shooting, this might not be a deal breaker.

Like its past couple predecessors, the WG-2 is constructed from reinforced polycarbonate plastic with metal accents. The plastic could easily give the impression that it's a cheaply made camera, and it does make it feel slightly less rugged than the full-metal bodies of other rugged cameras. However, after testing, there is little doubt that the WG-2 can take the abuse Pentax claims, and the plastic keeps it very lightweight compared with metal-body models, so you won't be adding significant weight to your pocket or pack.

A nice bonus is the included carabiner strap for quickly securing the camera to a bag or belt loop, and if you're afraid of dropping it while in the water, Pentax makes a floating strap for it as well. As with all rugged and waterproof cameras, there are handling precautions you need to take to keep water and dust out of the camera. These are clearly detailed in the front of the full, printed user manual that comes with the WG-2. (By the way, Pentax is one of the few manufacturers that still includes a full, printed manual with its cameras.)

In front is a 5x f3.5-5.5 28-140mm-equivalent lens protected by glass and surrounded by six LEDs that can be used to help brighten macro photos or as an impromptu flashlight. As with all rugged cameras, the lens is completely internal, but it's designed differently than typical internal lenses, allowing it to be positioned lower and more centered. This means the chances of getting fingers in your shots is far less likely to happen than on other internal-lens cameras. On back is a reasonably bright 3-inch LCD. It has an antireflective coating, but you'll probably still struggle to see it in direct light.

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The WG-2's controls are easy to use in and out of the water. Sarah Tew/CNET

Controls are easy to press with bare, gloved, or wet hands. They're fairly large considering the size of the camera's control panel. They're slightly raised from the body and well-spaced, so, again, pressing them isn't a problem. On top is the shutter release and power button, and the back has a zoom rocker; Play, Menu, and Face Detection buttons; a four-way directional pad with an OK button for selecting things; and Pentax's Green mode button.

The Face Detection options include a smile-activated shutter release setting, and the OK button doubles as a display button that cycles you through three information options as well as shutting the LCD entirely off, though I'm not sure how much use that is without an optical viewfinder. The directional pad navigates menus and photos and changes settings for the flash, focus, self-timer, and shooting modes. Lastly, the Green mode is Pentax's fully automatic you'll-get-no-control-over-anything-and-like-it shooting mode. What's great is that if you don't need that mode, Pentax lets you use it as a user-selectable shortcut button for accessing up to four settings such as exposure compensation, white balance, ISO, and metering or as a one-touch movie record button.

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The seals keeping water out of the battery and port compartments seem good, but I wish the doors had better locks. Sarah Tew/CNET

The only real feature disappointment is the lack of optical or mechanical image stabilization. The camera instead has two electronic stabilization options. One is the traditional use of high ISOs and reduced resolution to keep shutter speed as fast as possible. It's effective to a point but really hurts image quality. The other option is Pentax's Pixel Track SR, which tracks motion blur at the pixel level, determining in real time the amount of blur. Once you've taken a shot, it filters the effect motion has on each pixel to sharpen them and remove blur (all of this takes a couple seconds after the photo is captured). In my tests it works better than boosting ISO and shutter speed, as Pixel Track doesn't introduce more noise. It's not perfect, but it would be worth turning on if camera shake is unavoidable or if you're using the zoom lens.

The battery and memory card slots are behind a locking door in the bottom of the camera. The battery life is CIPA-rated for 260 shots, but using the LEDs, the zoom lens, shooting movies, etc., will bring that number down. If you're planning to take the WG-2 on a trip away from power outlets, you'll want to consider buying one or two extra batteries. Plus, the batteries aren't charged in the camera, so you'll need to take a charger with you, too. Under a locking door on the right side are Micro-HDMI and Micro-USB/AV ports. A $29.95 waterproof infrared remote control is available for those who want to shoot from a distance or reduce camera shake.

Our take
For the most part with rugged cameras, photo quality and shooting performance take a back seat to making the camera durable. The Pentax Optio WG-2 offers a lot of protection without having to sacrifice much on either of those things.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS3
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-TX20
Pentax Optio WG-2

Typical continuous-shooting speed (frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Pentax Optio WG-2

What you'll pay

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