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Pentax WG-3 GPS

16MP | 25-100mm (4X) Zoom | $347/£264/€311
Prices above are for the WG-3 GPS camera. The non-GPS model is priced at $297/£234/€267.
>> Click here to read full review

Pentax has a long history of making rugged cameras. Its WG-3 series - which comes in standard and GPS flavors - is Pentax's fifteenth generation waterproof model. The WG-3 may have a unusual, almost playful design, but there's no doubt that it's as rugged as anything else on the market.

The WG-3 and WG-3 GPS are almost identical cameras, with three major differences. As you might have guessed, one has a GPS and the other doesn't, but the more expensive of the two also supports wireless battery charging. The GPS and non-GPS models both come in their own color schemes - purple or green for the GPS model, and orange or black for the standard WG-3. In this review we're looking at the WG-3 GPS, but obviously, comments on everything bar GPS and wireless charging refer equally to both models. Except where explicitly noted, we'll refer to both cameras as 'WG-3' throughout this review.

Specification Highlights

  • 16.0 effective megapixel BSI-CMOS sensor
  • F2.0-4.9, 25-100mm equivalent zoom lens (4X)
  • Sensor-shift image stabilization
  • Waterproof to 14m, shockproof from 2m, crushproof to 100 kgf, freezeproof to -10C
  • 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
  • Wireless battery charging (GPS model only)

The WG-3 GPS doesn't have quite as many headline features as some of its rugged peers - such as maps, a database of landmarks, or 60p video recording, but it's no slouch, either.

If this lens looks familiar, it should. This F2.0-4.9, 25-100mm equivalent lens is the same one that you'll find on the Olympus TG-2. The F2.0 maximum aperture at wide-angle is a full stop 'faster' than what you'll find on other rugged cameras (save for the TG-2).

At the telephoto end of the lens, the maximum aperture rises to a more conventional F4.9.

If the 25mm starting point on the WG-3's lens isn't wide enough for you, then you can attach the optional DW-5 wide conversion lens. This 0.8x converter brings the wide end of the lens down to just 20mm.

if there's one truth about the Pentax WG-3's design, it's that it will stick out in a crowd. Its curvy shape is the polar opposite of the rectangular design of most of its peers. Pentax also has a knack for using some very bold colors, such as the purple model used in this review. Something else that separates the WG-3 from its peers is its use of composite materials, rather than metal. The vast majority of the body is plastic (of high quality), with only the front plate being metal.

The WG-3 doesn't have a right hand grip, but rather small ridges that makes the camera less slippery.

The LCD on the WG-3 sports 460k dots and has a 16:9 aspect ratio. The downside is this aspect ratio is that there will be a black border around the still image you're composing (unless you're using the 16:9 aspect ratio, of course). The LCD is about average when it comes to outdoor visibility. It's not as bad as some of its rugged camera peers, but we've seen better, especially on the Panasonic DMC-TS5. Low light visibility is respectable.

The built-in flash has a maximum range of 10.4m at wide-angle and 4.2m at telephoto, though that's calculated with Auto ISO.

To the left of the flash is the AF-assist lamp which, as its name implies, helps the camera focus in low light.

While the WG-3's flash numbers sound impressive, they don't reflect real-world usage, as they're calculated with the ISO sensitivity set to Auto. The maximum sensitivity in that mode is 1600, which will result in noisy photos. If you reduce the sensitivity to a more reasonable ISO 400, the flash range drops to 2.6m at wide-angle and 1.1m at telephoto. While that sounds bad, it's actually better than most of its peers.

As with all weatherproof cameras, there's a rubber gasket that keeps water from getting inside the camera.

The WG-3 covers all the bases when it comes to protection. It's waterproof to 14 meters (46 feet), shockproof from 2 meters (6.6 feet), crushproof to 100 kgf (220 lbf), freezeproof to -10C (+14F), and dustproof.

One of the unique features on the Pentax WG-series cameras is a built-in ring light, which is made up of six LEDs. Read the full review of the WG-3 to find out what you can do with it.

Two other unique features on the WG-3 GPS model are a front-mounted LCD screen, which displays the time and altitude (even when the camera is off), and support for wireless charging (using Qi-compatible charging pads). You can read a bit more about both of those in the full WG-3 review.

Shooting Modes

As with most compact cameras, the shooting experience on the Pentax WG-3 is largely point-and-shoot. Most folks will do just fine with the Auto Picture Mode, which selects the correct scene mode for the situation. If you want to try something else, press down on the four-way controller to open the Mode Menu, pictured below.

Pressing down on the four-way controller brings up the Mode Menu shown at left. There are numerous shooting modes, but not as many scene and special effects modes as we're used to seeing on most compact cameras. In the case of the WG-3, the special effects are available in playback mode.

The Mode Menu contains a lot of shooting and scene modes, but is surprisingly light on special effects for a compact camera in 2013. Some of the notable features found here include HDR (which didn't seem to have much of an effect in our tests), Handheld Night Snap (illustrated in our full review), time-lapse (for stills and movies), and the aforementioned digital microscope mode.

By default, the 'Green Button' on the back of the WG-3 puts the camera into an 'easy mode'. However, it can also be set up to display a customizable shortcut menu, as shown above. The WG-3's menus aren't pretty by any stretch of the imagination, but they're responsive and get the job done.

There are just a few manual controls on the WG-3. They include exposure compensation, custom white balance, and the always-helpful exposure bracketing.

The only two underwater-related modes on the camera are scene modes for both stills and movies, which are designed to 'capture the blue colors of the sea'.

You'll find two Dynamic Range correction tools on the Pentax WG-3: one for shadows and the other for highlights. You can find examples - guess where - in our full review of the WG-3.

GPS

The GPS system on the Pentax WG-3 GPS not only displays longitude and latitude, but also provides your altitude/depth, barometric pressure, and direction. What you won't find are maps and a database of landmarks. And for most people, that's probably okay.

In playback mode you can see the altitude, barometric pressure, direction, and longitude/latitude for each picture. Pressing the display button a few times in playback mode brings up the screen shown above, which shows all relevant GPS info.

The WG-3's GPS can also track the path you're taking, saving the data into a KML file. This file can be imported into Google Earth (among other places). Do note that this feature will put an extra strain on the battery.

The WG-3 won't win any awards for how quickly the GPS can locate enough satellites to figure out where you are. On the relatively unobstructed terrace at DPReview headquarters, it took the camera around eighty seconds to acquire a GPS signal. Unlike many of its peers, there's no way to download Assisted GPS data onto the camera, which would greatly speed up this process.

Movies

The movie mode on the Pentax WG-3 is pretty standard for a compact camera, with one exception. You can record video at 1080/30p with stereo sound for up to twenty-five minutes. If you'd like a faster frame rate, a 720/60p mode is also available.

You can use the optical zoom to your heart's content while recording movies (though you need to turn on this capability in the menu first). Continuous autofocus is also available. Something that you can't use in movie mode is the sensor-shift image stabilizer - you're stuck with electronic shake reduction.

The only manual control in movie mode is a wind cut filter. Movies can be 'divided' in playback mode, which allows you to remove unwanted footage. It's also worth mentioning that GPS data can be embedded in a movie. The WG-3 also has the ability to record high speed movies at 720/60p. When played back at 30 frames per second, everything appears to move in slow motion. There's also a 1cm macro movie mode, for when you need to take close-up videos of ants.

You'll find a few sample videos on the following page.

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Comments

Total comments: 123
12
CameraLabTester

From this lineup, Lumix and Nikon are about the only ones you would not be ashamed of being seen as a user.

There rest are just Comedy Central.

.

1 upvote
Timmbits

not even...
Nikon: Not good for: Frequent shooting in bright light, pixel peepers, or those who want long battery life
Panasonic Lumix: "Photo quality is typical for this class. Fine details are often smudged and chromatic aberrations can be strong at times." Not good for: Low light

0 upvotes
tommy leong

does GoPro and Astac 7200 fit into this category ?

0 upvotes
Rod McD

Hi DPR, thanks for your review.

People buy these things because there's no alternative other than a bigger camera and a housing. I'd like to see a manufacturer opt for a new approach. Year after year your reviews (and others) comment on their small sensors and poor IQ. The internet is also littered with leak complaints and poor company response on guarantees.

There seems to be a view that wilderness/outdoor/water sport followers don't value better IQ, which is absolutely untrue. And that serious photographers should have a D4 in a housing. Try stuffing one of those in your life jacket. The middle ground - the old Nikonos - is gone.

We need a manufacturer to make a robust, WR, direct light path camera with an APSC sensor, a fixed 24-85eq zoom (or primes) and real "O" rings. One 25mm "O" ring cover could give access to an SD card, a shaped battery and USB plug. Add a decent grip. And useable with gloves please.

Yes it would be bigger and cost more. But worth every cent.

Comment edited 46 seconds after posting
6 upvotes
Treeshade

Most of these cameras are not only water-proof but also shock-proof - they are not just for diving, but also for skiing, skating, mountain-biking, etc.. It would be really difficult to shock-proof an APSC standard zoom.

Imagine the thickness of a 58mm fliter that would not break when dropped to the ground with a 1kg body crushing it.

But I agree that it would be fantastic be have, for example, a weatherproof tough X100s.

1 upvote
breth

Agree with Rod. I can't be completely sure, but I believe there is a good market out there for a WR aps-c sensor serious compact. Not only would it be the backpacker's ultimate camera for convenience, I think that perhaps it would also interest streetshooters who like to get photos in the rain, or other less than perfect conditions.
If Ricoh-Pentax would use their expertise in designing cameras like this, I see no reason why a serious WR compact would not be a hit. A WR Ricoh GR would perhaps not have to be much bigger than it already is - and even if it would be, it still would be very attractive to a lot of backpackers.

1 upvote
Timmbits

I'd settle for a waterproof RX100.

it would seem like a reasonable compromise.

2 upvotes
KonstantinosK

I'd even be happy with a waterproof DMC LX7. But even this seems highly unlikely to happen...

2 upvotes
monkeybrain

I completely agree with all these comments. A waterproof and ruggedized Ricoh GR or Nikon Coolpix A would be a great outdoor sport camera. Also, Nikon wants to revitalise the Nikon 1? Bring out a fully waterproof and shockproof model with a couple similarly toughened primes to match. It's already got the great autofocus that would be good for skiing etc. Nikonos reborn!

2 upvotes
LaFonte

It is extremely expensive to make waterproof "real" camera that would withstand more than a year of use. On all professional equipment you have to regularly change the o-rings and take pretty good care of the housing. A grain of sand can make waterproof camera no longer waterproof.
All of those small wp cameras are basically with planned 1 year obsolescence. They are cheap inside so if they start leaking, then you throw it away and get new one. Many of those would leak after some time, some even after first dip :-)
You definitely don't want a wp expensive camera like rx100 or x100 and nobody will make it. If you need wp you will buy a marina case that is probably more expensive than the camera itself, but it will protect your equipment.

0 upvotes
PicOne

Sony rx100 option here below.
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/909217-REG/Ikelite_6116_10_Housing_For_Sony.html

0 upvotes
tiberius_dinu

I have bought the Lumix TS5 and I'm very pleased with it. The image quality is as good as it can be in this class but would not care more about. I do shoot Canon 6D but I can not take in the water or running or snorkeling. The video is as advertised and it looks awesome and that was one of te reasons I opted for TS5. I had no issues with the wifi and it connects smoothly to my ipad, iPhone and the LG android I'm using. Neat to be able to control the zoom and the settings in the camera remotely.

Thanks for the reviews I did follow them and it did help me.

Cheers

T

2 upvotes
PicOne

Would have liked to have seen some mention/discussion of options out there using dedicated or aftermarket housings in conjunction with standard compact cameras. Ie. Can u get a better performing camera + housing for not much price difference?

1 upvote
Mikhail Tal

This is the review you should have made to begin with instead of giving every single rugged camera its own review. Why do you assign these cameras for review rather than the many mirrorless cameras you have skipped or may be about to skip over like the GF5, G5, GF6, G6, E-PL5, NEX-5R, NEX-3N, just off the top of my head. Not a single one of your six individual rugged reviews got even 100 comments. I guarantee you that any one of the cameras I mentioned would get more than 100 comments if it was still the current model.

5 upvotes
Barney Britton

We don't judge success by comments - if we did, every other news story would be about Adobe Creative Cloud.

16 upvotes
Mikhail Tal

Simon Joinson himself said that you judge success by traffic and I'm sure there's a strong correlation between number of comments and number of page views.

Comment edited 19 seconds after posting
5 upvotes
Timmbits

bah! come on!
no harm was done.

0 upvotes
Mikhail Tal

We're talking about cameras that should have been reviewed and weren't, not whatever your definition of "harm" is.

0 upvotes
monkeybrain

I doubt there is a correlation between comments and page views. Most page views surely come from people who are not registered members of the site. DPReview reviews cameras that will generate more page hits, so why budget DSLRs are reviewed in a timely fashion and also consumer friendly cams like these rugged cameras (summer's almost over though, these are a bit late I'd say).

0 upvotes
Mikhail Tal

If you honestly think that a review with 50 comments and a preview with 700 comments are equally likely to have the most page views between the two, you are completely delusional. More likely is that you just don't understand correlation very well.

2 upvotes
AbrasiveReducer

Barney makes a good point. A doorstop from Nikon will generate 10 times more comments than an unusual or outstanding camera from a small fry like Ricoh.

0 upvotes
Mikhail Tal

Nikon Coolpix AW110 Review: 77 comments
Ricoh GR Review: 214 comments
Panasonic GX7 First Impressions Review: 702 comments (and counting)

Want to try again?

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 29 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
Barney Britton

Mikhail - please stop it.

0 upvotes
Mikhail Tal

Can you be more specific? What I've done here is to refute people's factually inaccurate statements, is that not allowed? Or if I have myself said anything inaccurate in this chain of replies, please explain that as well. Thank you.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Total comments: 123
12