Whether or not you're the outdoorsy type, a rugged point-and-shoot is worth considering. Would you be more likely to bring a dedicated camera if you knew it would probably survive a fall or an unplanned dip in a swimming pool? A traditional point-and-shoot or your iPhone would be less likely to survive the kind of damage a rugged camera can take on. Families might also consider the rugged option - it's more likely to survive the hazards that a child might subject it to than a traditional point-and-shoot.
Whatever your motivation for considering a rugged camera, the Optio WG-2 is certainly a worthy candidate. It records full 1080 HD video and offers a 5x optical zoom as well as some of the toughest rugged features currently available. How tough is it? It's shockproof to a 5 foot fall, waterproof to a depth of 40 feet, crushproof to a force of up to 220 pounds and coldproof down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. It's sealed against dust and a coating on the lens aims to keep it free of water droplets.
The styling of the camera keeps with the rugged feature set. Our model has a bright orange front panel, and we wouldn't have it any other way. When it's a possibility that you'll be looking for your dropped camera on the bottom of a shallow pool or lake, wouldn't you like to be searching for something brightly colored? A nifty carabiner and strap are packaged with the camera.
On a quick spin around the block, I got a chance to form some initial impressions about the WG-2, good and bad. First, the good. I love the ruggedness of the camera. On a Midwestern afternoon filled with pop-up rainstorms, the WG-2 stands a great chance against a sudden storm. The Program auto mode offers the most user input. In this mode you can set ISO Auto parameters, limiting how high the camera will take ISO in auto mode. If you want, you can keep the camera in between ISO 125 and ISO 200 in auto mode. That's pretty cool. There are also a few image processing parameters that can be tweaked pre-capture, includng sharpness, saturation and contrast.
On the flip side, there's no optical image stabilization offered. Pixel-track SR (Shake Reduction), a more aggressive form of digital image stabilization, is available. This method seems to require a few seconds of post-processing by the camera immediately after capture. For most images in this round I used ISO 125, the lowest setting. They look relatively clean, but stepping just above to ISO 200 produced an image with a lot of evidence of noise suppression.
For the most part, shooting with the WG-2 so far has yielded some good impressions and some potential issues that we'll be exploring. Stay tuned!