Pentax Optio WG-2 review: Pentax Optio WG-2

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The Good The Pentax Optio WG-2 is a lightweight, but extremely rugged compact camera with some extra features and functions you won't find in competing models.

The Bad The WG-2's shooting performance isn't particularly fast and it only has digital image stabilization.

The Bottom Line The Pentax Optio WG-2 is a very good rugged camera with few trade-offs for its durability.

7.6 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 7
  • Performance 6
  • Image quality 7

One look at the Pentax Optio WG-2 and you know this isn't your average point-and-shoot. It's the camera maker's 13th-generation rugged compact, waterproof down to 40 feet, shockproof to 5 feet, and freezeproof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. It's also crushproof, able to handle up to 220 pounds of force.

Its aggressive design backs up the extreme durability claims, but also helps you grip the camera with wet or gloved hands. There are nice extras like the included carabiner strap and the ring of bright LEDs around the lens that's for improving close-up macro shots as well as a light source and self-timer indicator. It's available with or without GPS built in, too; I reviewed the non-GPS model, which cuts the price by about $50 to $300.

When it comes to rugged cameras, though, much of the price you pay goes for the protection and not photo quality or shooting performance. If you're considering the WG-2 as a primary camera, you may want to consider just how much you need the durable construction.

Overall, the WG-2's photo quality and performance are good for its class, but a nonrugged model with a shockproof/waterproof case might be a better fit if you infrequently need its enhanced durability. This one is really best suited for adventurers wanting a well-appointed point-and-shoot that they don't have to worry about knocking around or getting wet.

Key specs Pentax Optio WG-2
Price (MSRP) $349.95
Dimensions (WHD) 4.8x2.4x1.2 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 7 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch backside-illuminated CMOS
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3-inch LCD, 460K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 5x, f3.5-5.5, 28–140mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 (.MOV)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,608x3,456 pixels/1,920x1,080 at 30fps
Image stabilization type Digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life Li ion rechargeable, 260 shots
Battery charged in camera No; external charger supplied
Storage media SD/SDHC/SDXC
Bundled software ArcSoft MediaImpression 3.5, 2.1 (Windows, Mac)

Again, the WG-2's photo quality is generally good for a compact rugged camera. If you look at the photos at full size, you'll see noise even at ISO 125, and details like hair or fur are smeared. Noise doesn't really increase as ISO goes up, but the photos get softer, details get more smeared, and color quality drops off. When photos are viewed at small sizes, however, there's still perceived detail at the highest sensitivities. If your photos are going straight from the camera to the Web and you're not looking to make poster-size prints, the WG-2 is fine, except at its highest ISOs where, again, color quality isn't great. Still, this is a camera designed for outdoor use, and the WG-2 does very well when it has a lot of light.

Colors weren't accurate from the WG-2 in our lab tests with the exception of neutrals. The default color mode is Bright, and it definitely churned out more pleasing results than the Natural option, which tended to look flat. If you want to get more involved with the results, there are settings for sharpness, contrast, and saturation.

Much like the photo quality, the WG-2's 1080p HD video quality is good, but soft with a high level of noise in low-light conditions. It's on par with an average HD pocket video camera or smartphone, though with this you'll be able to shoot in inclement weather or underwater without worrying about it. Unfortunately, the zoom doesn't work while recording, which is odd; most internal-zoom-lens cameras allow that feature. You do get digital image stabilization, though. Other movie options include interval and slow-motion movies as well as 720p HD at 30 or 60fps.

General shooting options Pentax Optio WG-2
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400
White balance Auto, Daylight, Shade, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Manual
Recording modes Auto Picture, Program, Night Scene, Handheld Night Snap, Movie, Underwater, Underwater movie, Digital Microscope (2 megapixels), Landscape, Flower, Portrait, Interval Shot, Interval Movie, High Speed Movie, Digital SR, Surf & Snow, Kids, Pet, Sport, Candlelight, Fireworks, Night Scene Portrait, Text, Food, Digital Wide, Digital Panorama (2-megapixels per frame), Frame Composite, Report, Green
Focus modes 9-point AF, Spot AF, Auto Tracking AF, Macro, Super Macro, Infinity Landscape, Pan Focus, Manual Focus
Macro 3.9 inches to 2 feet (0.4 inch in Digital Microscope mode)
Metering modes Multi, Center-weighted, Spot
Color effects Bright, Natural, Monochrome; Color and Contrast controls
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) Unlimited continuous

The WG-2's shooting modes are geared for point-and-shoot users. You will not find any direct control over apertures or shutter speed with the exception of the Night Scene mode that uses up to a 4-second shutter speed. In fact, Pentax doesn't even bother sectioning off all its scene modes into a separate menu; they're simply lumped in with Pentax's scene-recognition Auto Picture mode and Program Auto. Program Auto gives you the most control over results with settings for white balance, focus, metering, and ISO. You can choose to shoot in three different color modes, but in playback you can apply several filters, including Sepia, Toy Camera, Retro, Color Extract, High Contrast, Soft, and Fisheye.

If you like to take a lot of close-ups, the WG-2's macro settings allow you to shoot as near as 0.4 of an inch from the camera and captures plenty of fine detail. One of the hyped features on this model is the Digital Microscope mode, which uses the six LEDs around the lens to brighten tiny subjects for macro shooting. The benefit of this mode over the regular macro options is that you can use the zoom lens to enlarge the subject before you shoot. The downside is the images are only 2 megapixels.

Beyond full auto, the WG-2 has some nice extras like interval shooting for photos and video and a digital microscope mode for close-ups. Sarah Tew/CNET

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