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Performance (speed)

The Pentax WG-3 gets a mixed review in the performance department. It starts up in 1.1 seconds, which is slightly longer than most of its peers. Autofocus speed is definitely not its forte. In good lighting, it'll lock focus in roughly 0.5 seconds at wide-angle, and over a second at full telephoto. Things are even worse in low light, where 2 second focus times are not uncommon.

Shot-to-shot delays range from 1.4 seconds with the flash on, to over 5 seconds with it. In case you're wondering, that's a slower-than-average flash recharge time.

The WG-3 has a pair of burst modes (accessible by pressing 'up' on the four-way controller), though only one is full resolution. In that continuous mode, you can keep taking photos at 1.5 fps until the memory card fills up. If you don't mind reducing the resolution to 5 megapixel and getting not-so-great-looking photos, then you can take thirty photos at a speedy 12.2 fps.

The WG-3 is powered by a 3.5Wh lithium-ion battery known as the D-LI92. The camera can take 240 shots per charge using the CIPA standard, which is below average for this class. The battery is charged internally (which some people don't care for) in about three hours. If you'd prefer an external charger, Pentax is happy to sell you one (the K-BC92), and you can also use the Qi wireless charging system that was covered earlier in the review (GPS model only).

Image Quality

One thing to point out right away is that the default image size setting on the camera is 12 megapixel, which has a 16:9 aspect ratio that will fill the LCD. If you want full resolution, 4:3 photos, be sure to change that manually in the record menu.

With that out of the way, we can tell you that the Pentax WG-3 produces photos with vivid color, accurate exposure, and less highlight clipping that your typical compact (especially with the highlight correction featured turned on). You'll find crisp edges on high contrast subjects and little corner blurring, but the WG-3 suffers from the same ailment as most compacts: detail smudging in areas of low contrast. Fringing can be strong at times, as well.

As we've been saying for some time, for the vast majority of uses, these issues will not be visible. If you are making large prints or viewing photos at 100% on a computer screen, then you may be bothered by it.

Bright Light, Low ISO
Colors are vivid and exposure is fairly good in this photo.

ISO 125, 1/500 sec, f/7.9
On closer inspection, you'll find that low contrast areas are soft and the sky is mottled.

While details on are the mushy side, the 16 megapixel sensor on the WG-3 is good enough to produce high ISO photos that you can share on social networking sites, or print at smaller sizes. As long as you're not expecting miracles at 100%, you can get away with using sensitivities as high as ISO 1600.

Low Light, High ISO
While you can't read the titles on all of the books in this scene, it's still good enough to be used for web sharing and smaller-sized prints. You'll find the ISO 1600 version of this photo in the WG-3 review samples gallery.

ISO 800, 1/30 sec, f/2.0

In our testing with the WG-3 we've found that underwater photos look pretty good, though they had the same bluish color cast that we've on nearly all of the waterproof cameras we've tested. The WG-3 has an underwater scene mode, which tended to use smaller apertures than we would've liked. According to Pentax, it also preserves the 'natural color' of the sea, which in practice leads to greenish-looking fish and coral.

We were able to catch this yellow tang in the act (presumably snacking) in Maui. Unfortunately, he's a little too blue-green.

ISO 125, 1/160 sec, f/6.0

By using one of the digital filters in playback mode (described below), we were able to get somewhat better color, though it still has a green tint to it.

For those who don't want to tinker with color in photo editing software, you can try this in-camera solution to reducing the greenish cast in underwater photos. Head to playback mode, select the photo you want, and then press 'down' on the four-way controller to open the playback menu. Choose 'Digital Filter' and scroll down to the 'Color' option. We used the red filter in our example above, though it's worth experimenting with the other options.

Video Quality

As we described on the previous page, the WG-3 can record up to 25 minutes of 1080/30p video, with stereo sound. The main drawback of its movie mode is that image stabilization is digital only. Here are two samples that show off what the camera can do.

Sample Video 1

This sample video illustrates a rather undesirable effect. As the seaplane turns and starts its takeoff run, you'll notice it start to get shaky. It's likely that this is caused by a mixture of the well-known 'jello effect' and the camera's digital shake reduction system.

1920 x 1080, 30p, 17.3 Mbps, 47.7 MB, 22 secs  Click here to download original video

Sample Video 2

The final video isn't a great example of underwater videography, as there was a shortage of fish at the time. It's a bit shaky (again, due to the lack of true image stabilization) and has the same blue cast found in still images.

1920 x 1080, 30p, 16.1 Mbps, 26.3 MB, 7 secs  Click here to download original video

Overall, the WG-3's video is good, but not great. It would earn a few more points if it let you use the sensor-shift image stabilizer, rather than digital IS.

Final Thoughts

The Pentax WG-3 is a camera that will certainly get noticed when it enters the room (or swimming pool). But don't let its unusual design fool you: it can take a beating, and Pentax has been in the rugged camera business for a long time.

The highlight of the WG-3 is its F2.0-4.9 lens, which it shares with the Olympus TG-2. This lens allows more light to hit the sensor at wide-angle, which means that you won't have to increase the sensitivity as often as on cameras with 'slower' lenses. Around the lens are six LED lamps, which you can use for brightening close-up subjects. On the GPS model, you'll also find a backlit LCD that displays the time and air pressure. The higher end WG-3 features a decent GPS implementation, with a compass and pressure meter to record altitude or depth. Like most of its rugged peers, photo quality isn't wondrous, though it's good enough for everyday use.

So what makes the WG-3 not-so-hot? For one, fine details and low contrast areas of a photo are smudged or mottled, and underwater photos have a green/blue cast to them (all of this is common to underwater cameras). Low light focusing is very slow, and the built-in flash is very weak. The lens is easy to block with your fingers, and is also a magnet for fingerprints. To top it off, battery life is poor.

While there's a lot to like about the Pentax WG-3, its shortcomings keep it from rising to the top of the rugged camera pack.

Click here to read the full conclusion from our Pentax WG-3 review

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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