Ricoh WG-4 GPS (con't)

Image quality

The WG-4 has the best image quality of the bunch, just edging out the Canon PowerShot D30. As with the D30, Ricoh is relatively conservative when applying noise reduction, instead leaving some grain behind. This also gives photos are sharper look than the Nikon and Olympus, which are more aggressive with noise reduction. Corner blurring isn't a major issue, and the lens stays sharp at its telephoto end.

While there are still mushy details in the WG-4's photos, it's not as bad as on some of the other cameras in the group. ISO 125, 1/1000 sec, f/3.1, 31mm equiv.

The WG-4's strong chromatic aberration (also known as purple fringing) at times. The WG-4 and Olympus TG-3 use the same lens, but the fringing is worse on the Ricoh, leading one to believe that there isn't a whole lot of software correction going on.

At high ISOs (by compact cameras), the WG-4 still does well enough to allow for downsizing and medium-size prints.

The WG-4's underwater photo quality was disappointing due to uneven exposure. ISO 125, 1/250 sec, f/4.2, 47mm equiv.

We weren't thrilled with the WG-4 underwater photos, due mainly to its poor metering. More often that not, the camera would clip the highlights on coral and sand, making the background of the scene looking drab. The fish, on the other hand, look fine, and really stand out in the scene. While there's a slightly blue color cast in the WG-4's underwater photos, it's not as noticeable as on some of the other cameras in the group.

Video quality

The WG-4 can record video at 1080/30p with stereo sound, which is standard by compact camera standards.  As with the other cameras in the group, movie recording is a point-and-shoot affair, with no manual control available. 

Sample 1- underwater

While this video is all over the place and short on fish, it does show that you get acceptable video quality. Unlike with most stills, there is a blue color cast in this particular sample.

Download original: 1920 x 1080, 30p, 16Mbps, 12 secs, 23.3MB

Sample 2 - on the beach

We had to use a different beach for this sample video, because something went horribly wrong with the audio in the tropical version. In this sample (and all the others we took), the audio is just fine, as is the video quality.

Download original: 1920 x 1080, 30p, 16Mbps, 11 secs, 21.3MB

Conclusion

The Ricoh WG-4 (which is available with and without a GPS) may look like a high tech dog bone, but it's actually a very capable rugged camera. It's very well built and resistant to everything, including being stepped on. The WG-4 shares the same fast lens as the Olympus TG-3, though Ricoh doesn't handle chromatic aberrations nearly as well. Photo quality is the best in the group outdoors, though it was disappointing underwater due to poor metering.

In addition to the image quality issues raised above, there's the WG-4's LCD, which has good enough visibility, but uses a 16:9 aspect ratio, which leaves black borders on the sides of the image you're composing. The camera lacks Wi-Fi, which has become a very common feature in 2014, and the WG-4 eats through its battery very quickly.

As with the Canon PowerShot D30, the Ricoh WG-4 is a perfectly good camera that's overshadowed by the similarly priced Olympus TG-3.

ProsCons
  • Very good outdoor photo quality
  • Bright lens at wide-angle
  • Shutter priority mode
  • GPS offers compass, pressure, altitude/depth
  • Handy LCD info display on front of camera (GPS model only)
  • Built-in ring light
  • Mediocre underwater photos
  • Chromatic aberrations can be a problem
  • Widescreen LCD reduces usable area for still shooting
  • Lacks built-in Wi-Fi
  • Poor battery life

Scoring

Ricoh WG-4 GPS
Category: Waterproof / Rugged Compact Camera
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Exposure and focus accuracy
Image quality (jpeg)
Flash performance
Low light / high ISO performance
Optics
Performance (speed)
Movie / video mode
Value
PoorExcellent
Good for
Those seeking a rugged camera where underwater photos aren't the highest priority. GPS data enthusiasts.
Not so good for
Serious underwater shooters, connected photographers, and those who need the battery to last a full day.
Overall score
73%
Adventurous photographers who want a camera that can survive the elements AND be stepped on will like what the WG-4 has to offer. Image quality is among the best in the rugged camera class and GPS system works well. The WG-4 is marred by mediocre underwater photo quality, lousy battery life, and the lack of Wi-Fi.

Sample Photos