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).
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.
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.
As is the case with all compact cameras, you'd be able to get better results from the WG-3 if Raw mode was available, but that's not a feature you'll find in the rugged/waterproof class.
|This outdoor portrait has accurate exposure and skin tones. If you look closely you will see a loss of detail in our subject's hair due to noise reduction.
There's not much background blurring due to the relatively small aperture chosen by the WG-3.
ISO 125, 1/400 sec, f/6.5
|Our flash test photo is also well exposed, though the WG-3 had to crank the ISO up to 800 in order to obtain proper exposure.
There is some redeye here, though we were able to remove it using the tool in playback mode (click to see results).
ISO 800, 1/125 sec, f/4.9
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.
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.
Since the WG-3's lens is 'fast' at the wide-angle, it's best to keep the zoom toward that end. This brings in more light - of which you need all that you can get when underwater - and also allows for more flexible cropping options.
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 three samples that show off what the camera can do.
Sample Video 1
The first sample, of a torturous carnival ride, is nice and smooth. We did notice a slight crackling sound in the audio track, though.
|1920 x 1080, 30p, 16 Mbps, 46.4 MB, 23 secs Click here to download original video|
Sample Video 2
We're including this next video because it illustrates an 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 3
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.