Equipment Review: Pentax WG-3

During some training sessions I conducted there are participants who asked me if there’s a camera where they can allow their kids to take shots with and yet won’t worry. So my first advice is to give them a ultra cheapo camera so that even if it is spoiled, it is at most SGD200 out of the pocket.  The other more practical solution is to give them an adventure proof camera.

It is very easy to see why one should have an indestructible camera in your arsenal of cameras. Most cameras, save for the more expensive DSLRs, are not weather sealed. Even so, particles will still enter the camera much to the chagrin of photographers who attended the mass color run at Sentosa.  And with a simple camera that can stand up to anything you can throw at would mean you will not be worried if the camera is mishandled, raped or mutilated. You can even use it as a weapon of individual destruction to throw at imagined assassins and the camera will come out non the worse.

There are definitely lots to choose from in this category of camera such as Olympus Tough, Fujifilm XP, Nikon Coolpix and of course the GoPro HERO and the subject of  this article the PENTAX WG-3.

The Pentax WG-3 Specifications:

  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 4.9″ x 2.5″ x 1.3″
  • Reinforced polycarbonate plastic body
  • 16.0 effective megapixel BSI-CMOS sensor
  • F2.0-4.9, 4.5-18mm (25-100mm equivalent 4x zoom lens, crop factor x5.5)
  • Sensor-shift image stabilization
  • TTL Contrast Detection AF
  • Waterproof to 14m, shockproof from 2m, crushproof to 100 kg, cold proof to -10C, dust proof (JIS6)
  • 3-inch, widescreen LCD with 460,000 dots
  • Built-in GPS with compass, manometer, and tracking (GPS model only)
  • Backlit clock and altitude/pressure indicator on front of camera (GPS model only)
  • LED macro ring light
  • 1080/30p movie mode with stereo sound
WG3
Colourful! I will choose the orange and purple as I can easily find it if I dropped it in the jungle. Army boys should choose the green and black *cough cough*. GPS is only enabled in green and purple versions.

Handling

The simplest way to talk about this camera is to put a compact camera and give it Iron Man Armour. So in terms of photography output the simple compact camera image quality do apply. That said, it did churn out really nice pictures in both artificial and natural lighting.  And to help things along, there is a small flash and there is even 6 LED small lamps to do macro shots and the occasional need of  illumination to find stuff in the dark – helpful when you are out camping.

If you are expecting PASM control mechanism then this camera do not have such functions. What it do have is a huge list of Scene Modes to choose from. There is even a digital microscope for those out hunting bugs in the jungle.  I still find it amusing that there is still the Pet and Kids mode which ‘sports’ mode would be sufficient to cover these two genre. At least Pentax did not group Pets and Kids together in one mode! What I really like is how much the buttons protrude out so that one can still operate the camera in dark or semi dark environments.

The WG-3 is powered by a very small battery pack and can take in SD cards. My first thoughts was how long can this small battery last? With GPS logging the battery can’t last half a day definitely but once you switched it off and use it as per normal camera, it can easily click pictures throughout the day of about 200+ shots. Still it is a bit too little for some people and I would say the battery should have a bit more juice especially when one is travelling.

Handling the camera is also very easy. It is shaped in such a way that it can be securely held in the palm of the hands. The camera also comes with caribena so you can hook it anywhere on the body so long there’s a hole or ring to latch on to.

The big issue I have with the camera is that my right hand middle finger do cover the right side of frame when I want to spread out my fingers a bit to get a firmer grip. There should be more space allocated to allow some gripping space for bigger hands.

This is what I see when the green button is pressed. Once in P mode, I would like to have the EV easily accessible and followed by White Balance settings in case the colour really gone bad – a bane of compact cameras.

Shooting With the WG-3

As mentioned, it is basically a compact camera in an Iron Man suit so the settings and menu are typical of any compact camera out there. My pet peeve with some compact camera is the absence of the Exposure Value (EV) button when the ‘P’ / Program Mode is used. Whenever I use P mode, the next important setting I would want to use is the EV so that I can correct the exposure whenever there is a complex lighting situation. So to get to the EV, it requires one to go into the camera’s menu and set it from there.

I would humbly suggest that the ‘MODE’ button is to be replaced by EV instead if there’s design revision for the camera. The work around is to hit the green button on the button right corner that would access to the secondary settings on the 4 way button and assign one of the buttons to be EV instead.

Image Quality

I certainly do not expect fantastic Image Quality from a compact camera sensor even if it is Back Side Illuminated since the pixel pitch and photo diode sites are very much smaller as compared to other DSLRs sensors light capturing capabilities. That said, the WG-3 didn’t skimp in this department which is a pleasant surprise.  I will instead allow the pictures do the talking.

Super close macro shot and can even go closer up to 1cm but in some cases it would mean light blockage and shadow intrusion. The roe eggs are rendered beautifully. Preset WB used.
Delicious Details! The Sushi taste great too.
Details do pop out. AWB and the yellow cast is much stronger here. Compact Camera AWB somehow is less accurate than DSLRs which I find weird after all these years.
Mixture of artificial and natural light. Details are very good I must say. AWB.
Pretty colourful. Skin tone tend towards a tad yellow but is acceptable. A tad over sharpened.
Night shot test ISO1600. Surprised with the noise? Nope. It is a small sensor afterall.
ISO 400 and noise artifacts are evident throughout the frame. In the end, compact camera and tripods are still a potent pair when it comes to night shooting.
Colour is beautiful if the set up is right. There is however shutter lag caused by an insensitve shutter and a slow AF. The protective cover over the shutter button is kind of tough and it took some effort to press down and that makes the button insensitive. Secondly, when it comes to close distance focusing, it took quite some time even when the Macro button is pressed. 
Underwater shot of the G-Shock. Am testing macro, colour and sharpness. For colour, as one goes deeper into the water, the colour WB will also change. Near the surface the color of the watch is very vivid and true to life.
Another shot with the attempt to focus on the reflection on the water surface. Held my breath really long for this.
A close up with an  attempt to light up the watch face with the 6 LED lights (see the reflection). The shadow is lighted up a bit but I was wondering if I can boost the power of the LEDs.
My attempt with the Panorama feature. In the age of the sweep/motion panorama, the one in the Pentax feels archaic with no visual prompts on where to merge the photos. I put it as lack of experience here and definitely a bit of laziness on my part (no tripod!!). From the picture one can see that using the widest focal length caused the distortion and merging the pictures together is thus next to impossible.

More sample shots: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wilzworkz/sets/72157635262449915/

Conclusion

The Pentax WG-3 is certainly a asthetically pleasing adventure camera and it does look very rugged with the caribena attached. What’s obvious is that it is first and foremost, a compact camera and so the expectation of Image Quality shouldn’t be that high. With the right settings, the camera can and do shoot decent enough photos. The food photos and the Iron Man toy picture can attest to that.

There are still something to look into though.

  • Shutter lag because the shutter button is a bit too hard and took a bit too much effort to press the button thus street photography type of shots is really a hit and miss affair.
  • Focusing a bit slow and compounded by the shutter button issue
  • The grip is really small for some hands
  • 6 LEDs seems more like for beautification rather than for practical purposes as it is not bright enough. If there’s a way to control the intensity of the LEDs, I certainly have missed it because the menu is quite extensive
  • Lack of a dedicated EV/WB button.
  • battery power will be sucked dry very fast if one forgets to off the GPS feature. Sometimes I also do not know if I have switched on the GPS and have no coordinates in the end. No indication if the GPS is working or not.
  • The Panoramic feature has to be a bit more user friendly. More so when there is now motion panoramic functions in the competitors’ cameras.

Many thanks to Shutter Journey Singapore for the review of the Pentax GW-3.

About Pentax Ricoh Imaging Company, Ltd
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PENTAX RICOH IMAGING CORPORATION was originally founded in 1919 under the name Asahi Optical Joint Stock Co. In the 1950s, launched the first SLR camera, the Asahiflex I, and the company haven’t stopped since. From the Asahi PENTAX single-lens reflex camera to the Spotmatic and to our most recent K-5II and incredibly tiny Q10, Pentax empowers and inspired photographers around the world.

About APDS

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Audio & Photo Distributor (Far East) Pte. Ltd. formerly known as MHE Consumer (S) Pte. Ltd was founded in 1973.

Since its inception Audio & Photo has had been the distributor of many well-known international consumer brands such as Konica cameras from Japan, Kenwood and Nakamachi hi-fi products from Japan, and Metz flash and accessories, Rollei cameras and Jos Schneider enlarging/professional lenses from Germany, to name a few.

Currently Audio & Photo Distributor is the sole distributor of Pentax & Ricoh cameras from Japan . With over 35 years of marketing experience and history, Audio & Photo has developed a strong network of dealers located islandwide in Singapore with whom it enjoys close rapport and support.

Audio & Photo Distributor (FE) Pte Ltd bides by its belief that it exists because of the customer, and therefore it will always strive to serve the needs of its customers with full dedication and commitment.

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