Pentax describe their new Optio WG-1 GPS camera as 'adventure proof' and trumpet its resistance to water, dust and impacts. Never ones to back down from a challenge, we decided to put this to the test, throwing it to the ground, submerging it and generally treating it pretty shoddily.
It survived our three-week test period without so much as a scratch, so it could be a good option for regular crashers and those living in wet climes. While it's said to be waterproof to 10 metres, it's only shockproof to 1.5m though, so don't get carried away and start hurling it around.
The other selling point is the built-in GPS receiver, which 'geo-tags' your images so you can see where they were taken when you download them to your home computer. Some users may find this useful; we'd rather ditch this feature to conserve battery life. Thankfully, a GPS-free standard Optio WG-1 is available, which is £50 cheaper.
Quality of the 14-megapixel images is good, although we found colours on photos taken in low light tended to look a bit washed-out, and the "triple anti-shake protection" works well. There's a wide selection of preset modes to choose from, ranging from standard offerings like macro and landscape settings to setups for photographing food, candlelight and even underwater scenes.
When you use the camera on auto, it automatically selects one of these modes, generally with surprising accuracy. The 1cm macro mode for extreme close-ups is particularly effective, using five LEDs on the front of the camera to illuminate the subject. We also found the panoramic mode to work well, allowing you to stitch together three images into a single picture, and the 'face detection' feature is good for portraits.
The 5x optical zoom (equivalent to 28-140mm on a 35mm film camera) is very useful, and the 1280x720-pixel movie mode is a handy extra, although it can't compete with the latest generation of HD helmet cams for image quality. Battery life is reasonable – Pentax say it'll last for 260 shots and we reckon that's not far off the mark.
Our only major complaint with the WG-1 GPS concerns action photography. An 'adventure' camera is likely to be used for action shots, yet the Pentax's sports mode isn't very effective. On most cameras, this setting increases the shutter speed, making it easier to capture sharp images of moving objects. On the WG-1, if you engage the sports mode the camera also tries to track the subject – tries being the operative word.
In practice, we found it couldn't keep up with fast moving objects like bikes and there was a significant lag between pressing the shutter button and the picture being taken. A compact camera like this is never going to be ideal for sports photography, but we'd expect more from one specifically targeted at adventurous people, especially at this price.