Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS: Build and Design

May 20, 2011 by Jim Keenan Reads (4,806)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 6
    • Features
    • 8
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 7
    • Performance
    • 8
    • Total Score:
    • 7.25
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

The WG-1 is a bit more elongated than the typical compact digital, with a contoured body sculpted out of rubberized composite material with a bit of metal thrown in. The gray color scheme was attractive and overall the camera’s materials and construction seem in keeping with the price point.

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS

Ergonomics and Controls
The first thing that jumps out at you with the WG-1 is there’s no place for the thumb of the right hand on the camera back – where the LCD monitor leaves off, controls start up and the thumb has no place to go but over the controls. Even so, I didn’t have any problems with inadvertent activations. The tripod socket is offset to the extreme right edge of the camera bottom and is made of composite material. The shutter button is likewise located fairly close to the right edge of the body, and I had to hold my index finger a bit away from the body in order to get the tip on the shutter.

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS

Controls are simple and for the most part confined to the camera back – only the shutter and power switch can be found on the top of the body.

Menus and Modes
That simple control layout hints at things to come – menus are brief and quite intuitive, consisting of four pages of choices in a record menu and four pages in a setup menu. A two page “editing images” menu can be accessed when in playback mode to modify existing shots in the camera. Actual menu options will vary based shooting mode, with the single manual mode, Program Auto, offering the most user inputs to an otherwise largely automatic camera. Largely automatic, yes, but with the unusual feature of allowing user input for ISO sensitivity in many shooting modes.

Now that the cat’s out of the bag on shooting modes, here they are:

  • Auto: A fully auto mode that automatically selects the best capture mode from 15 camera shooting modes.
  • Green mode: A pre-set automatic mode that is enabled by pressing the camera’s green button – the camera defaults to these settings no matter what shooting mode or settings the user has established in record mode menus. 
  • Scene modes: The WG-1 presents all shooting options, both still and video, in a single large menu accessed on the monitor via the mode portion of the four way controller – there is no scene “master menu” as such. Scene modes include night scene, underwater, digital microscope, landscape, flower, portrait, digital wide (stitches two pictures together), digital SR (expands ISO range to include 3200 and 6400 at greatly reduced resolution), surf & snow, kids, pet, sport, fireworks, candlelight, night scene portrait, text, food, digital panorama (stitches three captures together), frame composite (captures images with a frame) and report (captures images at fixed 180 x 960 pixels for reports).
  • Program Auto: Automatic mode with camera setting shutter speed and aperture, but user has widest variety of input, including sharpening, contrast and saturation, white balance, ISO sensitivity and focus and exposure choices.
  • Movie/Underwater Movie: Capture motion JPEG in 1280 x 720, 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 pixel resolution, all at either 15 or 30 frames per second. Clip length is limited to memory card or internal memory capacity, or 2GB. If memory card capacity permits, clips may recorded continuously in 2GB increments.

The WG-1’s 2.7-inch LCD monitor has a 230,000 dot composition and is adjustable for 7 levels of brightness. The monitor measured a peak brightness of 397 nits with a contrast ratio of 536:1. That peak brightness is fairly low, the contrast ratio falls on the low end of the desirable range and the WG-1 monitor proved difficult to use in bright outdoor conditions.

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS

Viewing for composition or capture was difficult if the monitor was anything less than pristinely clean – fingerprints or smudges really took a toll on performance in the bright outdoor Florida sun. Coverage is not specified but appears close to 100%.

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