Today I feature a guest gear review by Anthony DeLorenzo, a guy from Whitehorse who likes to ride bikes and shoot photos. Not always at the same time, though.
This past summer, Anthony took me for a kick ass mountain bike ride with his mad Yukon trail dog, Starbuck. Look for his photo (second shot below) in the current issue of Dirt Rag magazine.
Camera Review: The Rugged Pentax Optio WG-2, by Anthony DeLorenzo
When I saw Dan’s rugged outdoor camera review, I mentioned that he should include the Pentax Optio WG-2. A few tweets back and forth led to this guest review. Please keep in mind as you read this that I don’t shoot cameras or review them for a living, so bear with me!
By way of introduction I’m an enthusiast photographer. I shoot whatever interests me which ends up being a lot of outdoor activities and landscape type shots. My other cameras are a medium format film SLR and a compact mirrorless digital camera.
In the past I’ve used a pocketable, rugged Olympus Tough camera. They’re great things to have when you don’t want to take a larger camera with you. I was getting ready for an 8-day bike/packraft expedition on the remote Canol Heritage Trail, so I decided to shop for a similar camera and ended up with the Pentax WG-2.
What I Like
Size: The Pentax WG-2 is small, durable and waterproof. I normally just have it in my pocket so it is always ready for quick shots. And of course, as they say the best camera is the one you have with you. It can shoot underwater and, more importantly, I’m not afraid to take it out and shoot while floating down a remote northern river.
Easy to use: I find this camera dead simple. I almost always leave it in P mode, Auto ISO (max 800), infinity focus (the small chip and aperture don’t give you much depth of field anyways) and auto white balance. I shoot just about everything fuly wide although occasionally use the zoom or myabe some focus tracking. It is a true point and shoot, I just grab it from my pocket, hit the power button on the way up, frame, shoot, and back into the pocket.
That isn’t to say that you can’t take your time and compose your image. I feel like I got one of my best shots this year so far by having this along on a ride when the light was right.
Decent image quality: Sure it’s not as good as an SLR or even a high-end point and shoot but you can get some good shots with this camera. The image above was printed as a double-page spread in the current issue of Dirt Rag magazine.
What I Don’t Like
No manual control: Lacking A, S, M modes means no way of controling your shutter speed or aperture. Ansel Adams would hate this camera. Now granted, the lens only stops down from F3.5-5.5 which really doesn’t give you much to work with. But it would be nice to be able to set, say, a 1/60 shutter for a panning motion shot. I’m not sure if any of the competitors have those modes or not.
Noisy: Even at ISO 100 there is a fair bit of noise in the images. I use Lightroom and almost always need to add at least 20-30 points of luminance reduction. Then of course you lose some sharpness and the images can come out looking a little like a painting.
Slow burst mode: Unless you want to shoot tiny .jpeg images, the burst mode is really slow. Like 2 frames per second slow which means that for shooting fast action, for example a mountian biker, you basically have one shot to get it.
No lens cover: There is no sliding lens cover so your lens is always exposed. I believe it is some sort of mineral crystal which has been resistant to scratches so far. The bigger problem is just getting water/dust on it all the time. I find myself trying to wipe in on my shirt which is probably already wet and/or dirty.
Other stuff you should know
Shooting modes: This camera has a whole pile of modes that I never use. I use P mode 95% of the time and have used landscape, sports and underwater modes a few times. There are modes that will recognize faces, recognize your pet, shoot a picture when someone smiles, shoot at night, etc. It also has a ring of LED lights around the lens for super close-up macro shots and comes with a little tiny stand for ‘microscope’ shots like if you wanted to shoot grains of sand or something. One pretty cool feature for people who like to shoot outdoor selfies, the camera can use the LED lights on the front to tell you where you are located in the frame.
Video: There are video modes including 1080p and it also has an intervalometer setting for time lapse shots which is pretty cool. I don’t do a lot of video so haven’t used these at all.
Remote: Mine came with a little waterproof remote but it needs line of sight and the range seems really limited. I tried to shoot a group photo with the camera about 10 m away and it wasn’t close enough. Thankfully it has the usual self-timer option.
Batteries: The battery life isn’t great but it is good enough. Between two batteries my camera lasted for the twelve days of our trip. I got about 300 shots on the first one before it died and took about 500 total.
The Pentax Optio WG-2 is a true point and shoot camera. If you want something you can climb mountains and wade through rivers with, then pull out, shoot and stuff back in your pocket, this is the camera for you. You sacrifice some control and image quality but in the end you get the shots you might not have gotten otherwise.
Thanks for reading! Happy to answer any questions here in the comments or on Twitter. You can see some of my photos at blog.delorenzo.ca.
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Nice review. As you pointed out, the lack of a lens cover seems like a major over site. To bad it does not have a sliding lens cover like some of the Olympus tough cameras do. Are you happier with the images off this camera vs the Olympus camera you used in the past?
I think there are definitely pros and cons to not having a lens cover. A lens cover could jam up or collect dirt and, like I said, whatever material Pentax used hasn’t been scratched so far and I take absolutely no care to protect it. The real problem is just keeping the lens clean and free of water, sometimes when I pull the camera out in bad conditions I tend to get a smeary photo.
The Pentax images are way better than my old Olympus cameras, we have a Stylus 770 and 790 kicking around. I’ve gotten some great photos with them, but they’re both pretty much wrecked (my wife and I are hard on stuff) and I decided I really wanted a new camera for my big trip. Although, I am sure any of the newer tough cameras would be quite a bit better than ones that are 4-5 years old so not sure it is a fair comparison.
nice review, This is a very informative and interesting post to read. Thank you for posting this!