There are just some activities where a normal point and shoot camera just wouldn’t stand up to the abuse someone with an active lifestyle would demand of it. These are also the type of activities you wouldn’t really want to take an expensive DSLR to and risk having them get damaged from accidental drops or from the elements. It’s because of this that camera manufacturers produce what they call tough cams or rugged cams that can withstand being submerged in water, drops, freezing temperatures, and crushing. Now, I’ve never used these type of cameras before and have never even really handled or seen one up close until now. PENTAX sent me their new Optio WG-2 rugged camera and it’s their 13th generation model in this series. That means that PENTAX has a lot of experience in this area, right? I’ll find out later after I complete a long term round of tests but in the mean time, lets take a look at the body of the camera and what I thought about it when initially handling it. Note that this is the model without GPS, which helps keep the price down a bit and not everyone needs GPS anyways. This also means that the battery lasts longer without having to power a GPS chip.
First off, I’m going to talk about the packaging first. Most of you might not really care how the camera comes packaged since you’re going to just open it up and get straight to the camera but I thought I’d mention how much I really like how the Optio WG-2 comes boxed up. While most camera boxes I’ve seen so far come with full colored graphics and glossy coatings, the PENTAX box is the complete opposite. It’s comes in an eco friendly package that is basically brown cardboard with all the graphics, text, and logos printed on it in black. The only bit of color that appears on the box is the sticker used to tell you what color Optio WG-2 you are getting. I find it refreshing that PENTAX decided to go this route and it makes sense to use eco friendly packaging considering the outdoorsy nature of the Optio WG-2. Inside the box, we find the usual array of accessories – USB cable, battery, battery charger, installation cd, and manual. You also get a carabiner strap and macro stand.
Now let’s move on to the camera. PENTAX sent me the vermillion red model of the Optio WG-2 which also comes in black. I’m usually not a fan of colored cameras, but I will say that the vermillion red on this is really eye catching and does give the WG-2 a really sporty, edgy look to it. The color also helps accentuate a lot of the design details that PENTAX gave to the Optio WG-2. As you can see from the images, the WG-2 is not your run of the mill, boring camera box that you usually see. Instead, this thing looks like some sort of top secret military gadget and it’s something I’d expect to see attached to Iron Man’s armor. It’s very angular, has lots of grooves and cut lines, and has a very futuristic industrial type design to it. It’s very different from anything I’ve seen thus far with point and shoots but you know what, I think it looks really cool and it’s definitely one of those things that makes you do a double take.
The front of the camera is highly detailed and heavily decorated for a camera. No other camera in my opinion even comes close to how technical the WG-2 looks. There are lots of angles and straight lines and no curves anywhere, except around the lens. Most of the camera is made from reinforced polycarbonate plastic which you see a lot of on the front but it’s also accented with some bits of aluminum to add some “toughness” to its look. The red paint on some of the plastic pieces also adds a metallic armor look too the camera. I also like the fact that the plastic used have different textures to them which adds a lot of dimension to the Option WG-2 and actually makes the camera look less plasticy then it really is. You’ll notice that the lens has no cover on it, but in fact, it is being protected by a tough mineral crystal, scratch proof lens cover. Surrounding the lens are 6 LED lights that are used for microscope mode.In this configuration, it sort of also looks like a watch face. This was one of the main features that caught my eye when originally looking at the WG-2. To the right of the lens, you’ll find a built in flash as well as an autofocus assist light and an infrared sensor for the optional remote. There is also the microphone located to the right, though you’ll be hard pressed to find it you don’t know where it’s located.
Turning the camera clockwise to the side, you’ll find the HDMI & PC/AV ports. These are being covered by a heavy duty plastic door that is reinforced with metal on the inside. It’s also has a locking mechanism to keep it from opening accidentally and has a rubber pad up top to help with bumps. The inside of the door has a seal around it too to keep water out of those ports. Very strong design and one that I would actually like to see on regular cameras.
Moving to the back of the camera, again like I’ve stated in previous posts, this is where you’ll spend most of your time looking at when using the camera so button placement here is key as well as ease of use. Unlike the front, the back is much more traditionally designed. There is a rather large widescreen display with a host of buttons to the right. Above the dispaly is a plastic hump where the GPS antenna would be on the GPS equipped model. I like how it is etched with the phrase “adventure proof” further assuring you that this camera can withstand some serious abuse.
If you take a look at the display, it is covered by what looks like a pretty thick piece of protective acrylic. At each corner of the display, there are even little risers so that when the camera is placed down on the screen, it does not come into contact with the surface. Very nice touch there.
The buttons are placed in a pretty standard configuration on the right. It is possible to use the the camera with one hand, but only for pressing the shutter release button and the zoom buttons. Other than that, you’ll need to hold the camera with both hands to use the other buttons. There are a pretty good selection of buttons for a point and shoot and just by pressing them down a bit, you need a bit of force to get them to click. This might be standard for rugged cams, but I really have nothing else to compare that too at the moment.
Turning the camera again clockwise, you can see that the Optio WG’2 does not have a standard camera strap eyelet. Instead it has a rather long, solid metal bar that takes up most of this side. The bar is used to attach the included carabiner strap so you can clip this to your clothing, harness, or backpack. Again, this adds to the ruggedness feel of the whole camera. This is the only thing you’ll find on this side of the camera but seeing as this is the side that gets covered by the palms of your hands anyways, that’s okay.
The top of the camera is fairly sparse as well. There are again some decorative cut lines but this is to help make the whole front and rear of the camera flow together. I do however like how the shutter release button is a bit raised compared to the on/off button This seems to keep you from accidentally pressing the power button too. Judging by feel, I’d say that the shutter release button is located in a very comfortable spot where my finger naturally rests on it when holding the camera.
Now taking a look at the bottom of the camera, there is a rather large battery/memory card door located on the right. This too has a locking mechanism to keep it from accidentally opening. If you open it up, you’ll see that it is also reinforced with metal on the inside and has a rubber seal on it to keep the battery and memory card dry if submerged in water. Again, I’d like to see something like this used on all cameras, not just rigged ones. To the far left is the tripod mount socket. I have never seen one placed so far out to the edge like so not sure how that would be, balance wise on a tripod. Also you’ll notice that the socket is not made out of metal. I’m not really sure what it’s made of but it seems pretty hard. I’m also not sure how it will hold up over time however.
Overall, I really like how different the PENTAX Optio WG-2 looks and feels compared to regular point and shoots. It’s actually really light weight thanks in part to the materials used in its construction but it doesn’t feel cheap at all. In fact it feels quite solid and very sturdy. I do have some reservations however on how well that huge screen on the back will hold up to rugged use and how scratched up it might get over time but I think in most cases, the screen will eventually get some kind of scratch on it, it’s just a matter of when.
Be on the lookout for a few posts between now and the final review in which I test out some of the rugged capabilities of the PENTAX Optio WG-2. Hopefully it’ll survive all my tests in the process and live up to its “adventure proof” claims.
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
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