Pentax Optio WG1 hands-on

The Pentax Optio WG1 is the latest tough camera to hit the market and Pocket-lint climbed a mountain, waded across a river, and camped in a forest for 3 days to get our hands on the new camera, following the announcement.

Okay, so while we would love you to believe that was true, Pentax or Pocket-lint’s budget doesn’t stretch that far, so we actually just jumped in a car and headed to Pentax UK headquarters’ to see what the new model was all about.

The spec sheet will tell you that there are in fact two models in the range - one with GPS and one with out - and that on the camera side you’ll get a 14 megapixel sensor and 5x optical zoom.

In the hand however, and we’ve found out a number of cool features that we weren’t aware of from the press release and images released on Monday.

The coolest of the bunch is what Pentax are internally calling “bug mode”. No the camera doesn’t turn into a robot, Transformer style, at the press of a button, but instead comes with a 1cm macro mode that we’ve not seen on a camera (to our knowledge) before.

Selecting the macro mode from the menu automatically turns on five LED lights that circle the lens on the front. This says Pentax provides additional light for when you’re up close to the subject.

So you know just how close you can get, the camera comes with a detachable lens clip that means you can place the camera virtually flat on any surface and still shoot fauna or flora, and of course bugs.

As you can imagine this lets you get incredibly close to the subject and will be a really cool feature for those that like to snap ladybirds (sorry ladybugs for our American readers) amongst other things out in the field.

If that’s not enough to get you grabbing your tent right now, the camera sports a 2.7-inch widescreen LCD screen with a 230,000 dots resolution and a 16/9 format HD video recording function (1280 x 720 pixels) at 30 frames per second; an “enhanced microscope” function, allowing you to enlarge pictures by up to 6 times; and face priority, smile detection and a blinking alert function.

With a real tough feel (we constantly had the urge to throw it across the room during our briefing) the camera is tough, very tough. The Optio WG1 will be able to withstand a freefall from 1.5 meters high and the pressure of a weight of up to 100Kg. If that’s not enough to save it from your flabby friend who likes to fall over, the Optio WG1 can also endure extreme temperatures, as it is cold proof down to -10 degrees centigrade. And for those who like to go in the water, the Optio WG1 is also waterproof up to 10 metres.

Those opting for the GPS version will get the same case, same shell, and same strength with the only difference being the ability to geotag images when you're out - or underwater, our man at Pentax explains.

As for a compass, like the Panasonic DMC-FT3, the Pentax Optio WG1 doesn’t have one, but those who opt for the GPS model will get an old school compass built into the strap allowing you to fulfil your orienteering urges.

Unfortunately we weren’t able to take any photos with the new camera as it was clearly a prototype model. We will be putting the Optio WG1 through its paces in a proper review when we get one in to test.

The Optio WG1 comes in black/blue and purple, and the Optio WG1-GPS comes in green and grey/black. They will cost £269 and £299 respectively when they come out in March.