Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS Review

August 4, 2011 | Matt Grayson | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


It's a hard world that we live in with problems at every turn, so we need a camera that can withstand the hardships that get thrown at us in day to day life. Pentax have released the Optio WG-1 GPS, a robust compact camera which sports 14 megapixels, a 5x optical zoom offering a focal range of 28-140mm, 720p HD video, 2.7 inch LCD screen and is water-, shock-, cold- and crush proof. If all this is enough to endure the rigours of being outdoors, the WG-1 will also remember where you were when you took the picture thanks to its built-in GPS system. Available in green, orange or black, the Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS costs £299.99 / $329.95.

Ease of Use

There are a few design elements to the WG-1 that appear to have no immediate valid reason other than for it to look chunky. We can see the logic: the camera is supposed to be robust and if it looks slim and slinky, people may think it won't cope with the dropping and the crushing. Because of this design approach, we think the camera will only really appeal to a select few. Sure, the adventurous types that like extreme sports or holidaying in the cold will be interested but will they like the design? It's a critical point because with some people looks can be everything.

It's an unusual design and maybe that's why we're giving it a hard time. One side fans out like a bow tie while the other curves around. On the front of the Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS, the lens sits in the centre with a large protective bezel around its circumference. Dashes have been painted on to represent either a watch or a compass but they don't seem to have any particular function other than to remind us of a Casio G-Shock watch.

Interestingly, there are 5 small LED lights built into this bezel which are used for the camera's digital microscope mode. This mode gives the camera a 1cm close focusing mode and once you've fixed the unique macro stand to the Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS, you can enjoy evenly lit close ups of insects. The stand is certainly unique, if nothing else. It appears similar to a lens adapter that simply clips onto the front of the camera and then to get close to your subject, you lean the camera forward and the "stand" supports it at an angle. Keeping this on doesn't detract from normal picture taking and in fact, may help reduce some lens flare.

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS
Front Rear

Let's take a look at the proofing of the Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS. It's waterproof up to 10m which is around 32ft. It should be enough for basic scuba diving but it's still best to use a proper underwater camera if you're unsure. We're happy with the specification of the shock proofing. It can cope with drops from a height of up to 1.5m which is around 4ft, 9inch. This is around the arm height of an adult so will certainly cope with accidental dropping or banging against a cliff face as it hangs from your belt.

One of the newer additions to the proofing system is that it's crush proof. According to the Pentax specification, the WG-1 can cope with having a weight of up to 100kg on it. In imperial measurements, this equates to just over 15 stones so it can cope with all but the portly. The area that we find the most dubious - and this is with any camera of this kind, not just the Pentax - is the cold proofing. It's cold proof down to -10 celcius which should be ok for skiing holidays in the Alps but not so good for trips to either of the Poles.

Small screws are inserted into the front of the body at strategic points and all access points to the internal areas of the Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS such as the battery door and HDMI port have locks on them to place pressure on the rubber seals that keep out water. However, in our test, we found a small amount of play in the battery door. Once the locking switch has been pulled down, the door slides across slightly and this is where the play is. We contacted Pentax to check it and they said: "There is a degree of play in the battery door and this is normal. The movement should be no more than 1mm." So if you're looking at this camera and notice very slight movement on the battery door, you know it's ok.

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS
Front Front

The buttons on the Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS are quite small which is unusual for an underwater camera. They may be difficult to use in snowy conditions where you may prefer to wear gloves. The power button on the top of the camera is flush to the body which looks nice. On the back, it looks quite busy with several buttons all vying for space. Because there's so many, they're compacted quite small and bunched up. At the top is a small zoom rocker with the playback button beneath. The main menu and face detection buttons are located above the navigation pad while the ever present green button sits at the bottom doubling up as the delete button when in playback. Given the amount of space available on top, the power button could've been moved to make space for the zoom switch and the face detection could be placed in the menu. This would create more space and obviate the current issues.

Of course all this painting your lips white and wearing tennis racquets on your feet will amount to nothing if you can't back up your pictures of your extreme trip with some proper geographical support. Thankfully the Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS has a GPS system built-in to it. If you've been living under a rock and don't know what GPS is, it stands for Global Positioning System and it uses satellites (we'll assume you know what satellites are) to track your movements anywhere on the globe. When you're ready to upload the information, the camera gets the GPS records then marries them up with the pictures using the time & date information in the EXIF data of the photograph.

Normally it means you have to ensure you have the correct time & date but the WG-1 will use the time information from the satellites to adjust its own time setting which is a really cool idea. GPS systems in cameras can be sensitive and the Pentax one is too. It may have trouble locating a satellite  if you're under water or under ground, in tunnels, among high-rise buildings, near power lines, in woods or near a mobile phone using a band of 1.5Ghz. At least it's not stopped by clouds and it's likely that you'll be outdoors because this is an outdoors camera after all.

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS
Battery Compartment Memory Card Slot

The Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS's main menu is a superimposed type so you can still see the frame behind it. It's well spaced and clearly signed. There are two tabs for shooting and for adjusting settings. Pressing the ok button will execute commands and while not in the menu will scroll through display options, which isn't clearly marked. In playback, pressing the menu button will bring up the previous version which doesn't have a playback tab. If you want to do anything to the pictures in camera, you have to press down on the navigation pad which is listed on the screen, it's just an unusual way of doing things.

In the box there's what we can only describe as "a big bunch of stuff". Along with the usual suspects of the driver CD, battery charger and USB cable, there's also a thick canvas strap with a carabiner attached for using on rucksacks or when climbing which could come in useful. The most unusual item is the HDMI cable for watching HD video on television. The opposite end of the cable has analogue connections; the yellow video  and white audio plugs. That's right, it only has mono sound which is a bit weird because it completely ruins the entire idea of high definition.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 14 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 4.5Mb.

The pictures from the Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS are actually pretty good. We found some flaws in the occasional mode such as the panoramic mode where we got a definite "crease" in the middle of the shot because it wasn't aligned properly and we simply couldn't sort it out. We also kept getting annoyed at the fact that the ISO would reset back to auto whenever the camera was switched off.

At low ISO image quality on the Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS is nice. It has decent enough colours and and the picture is sharp enough but does benefit from a little help in Photoshop. Pentax digital compact cameras always suffer from noise, though, and the WG1 has the same problem. Colour fringing isn't much of an issue although we found that it did appear in some instances where we wouldn't expect it.

We love the close focusing of the WG-1 and the addition of the macro lights is a great idea to bring light to photos that would otherwise be lost. It looks as though Pentax are hitting the nail on the head in terms of image quality. However other manufacturers are controlling digital noise a lot more effectively and Pentax could take a leaf out of their books and look at trying to get rid of it too. After all, it can ruin a picture.


If you were to zoom into the picture at ISO 80, you may be a little disappointed to see a very small amount of image breakdown. However, we're probably being overly critical because viewing the pictures at normal viewing size doesn't show the problems.

Noise control does its job adequately because the same image quality seen at ISO 80 remains through to ISO 400 which is pretty good. There's a definite colour shift at ISO 800 and edge definition starts to decline. Salt & pepper noise starts to appear more noticeably at ISO 1600 with green colouring in shadow areas. At ISO 3200, the Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS knocks the resolution down to 5 megapixels in a bid to combat invasive noise. Fine detail still suffers though with small lettering taking a beating in the definition stakes. ISO 6400 really needs to be used as a last resort. The reason being that blue and green blobs of colour take over low and mid range levels giving pictures a cast that looks unappealing.

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)


ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)


ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)


ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

Focal Range

The Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS' 5x zoom lens provides a focal length of 28-140mm in 35mm terms, as demonstrated below.




For day to day shooting and looking at the pictures on a computer screen or as small to medium sized photograph, they look good enough. When the picture is enlarged or if if you were to zoom in on a certain part of the picture it does look a bit soft and certainly benefits from a standard boost of sharpening in Photoshop.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations

The most unusual thing about the chromatic aberration (CA) that the Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS suffers from is that in our tests, we found it in the weirdest places. CA appears in shots where there's high contrast and if you're shooting in the snow, that's where it's going to occur.

Example 1 (100% Crop)


There are 6 options to focus with, they range from the usual autofocus, macro and infinity through to more unusual ones such as panning focus, manual focus and super macro. The super macro mode can get in as close as 1cm which is great for shooting high resolution fine detail pictures of small items or creatures. The problem with that is the lack of light available once the lens starts to get in really close. This is where the digital microscope comes in. However, the downside is that the camera drops the resolution to 2 megapixels. That sounds pretty rubbish but there is a way round it. Instead of putting the camera in digital microscope mode, keep it in program mode and switch on super macro. Then go into the menu and scroll to the fourth page of the recording tab. At the bottom is an option to switch on the macro light. Doing this gives you the best of both worlds.


100% Crop


The Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS has 5 flash modes, two of which are for red-eye functions but the camera doesn't leave any red-eye even when it's switched off. There's also two options to over-ride the flash to turn it on or off permanently along with the usual auto flash. At wide-angle the flash gives mild vignetting at the corners of the frame which remains but softer when the camera is zoomed out.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (28mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (28mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (140mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (140mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Flash On or the Red-eye-Reduction settings caused any red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

Red-eye Reduction

Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)


The Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS has a night shot facility that is accessed and enabled by pressing the mode button. It uses a longer shutter speed to bring out detail in dark areas and the great thing is that even though it's a pre-set mode, the ISO can be adjusted to increase the shutter speed and reduce the chance of noise.


Night (100% Crop)

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS camera, which were all taken using the 14 megapixel High JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1280x720 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 34 second movie is 102Mb in size.

Product Images

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS

Front of the Camera

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS

Front of the Camera / Turned On

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS

Isometric View

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS

Isometric View

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS

Rear of the Camera / Record Menu

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS

Rear of the Camera / Setting Menu

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS

Rear of the Camera / Scene Modes


Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS

Top of the Camera

Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS
Side of the Camera
Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS
Side of the Camera
Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS
Front of the Camera
Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS
Front of the Camera
Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS
Front of the Camera
Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS
Memory Card Slot
Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS
Battery Compartment


There are quite a few tough cameras out there with water, dust and ice proofing. The way they look differs immensely. If the other tough cameras are the Starship Enterprise with it's flush seams and silky smooth hull, then the Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS is the Millenium Falcon with it's bumps and lumps or (as the workers at Industrial Light and Magic called it) "guts on the outside".

Of all these tougher cameras, the Pentax can actually hold it head up high satisfied that it's part of the crowd. Picture quality is good with nice colours and a sharp image. The only area that it really needs work on is reducing the amount of digital noise present - either by using a larger sensor, less pixels or investing in back illuminated sensors.

The inclusion of GPS shows that Pentax are thinking about features related to who the camera is aimed at which is great. It would be great if a better GPS system was used that could be used in less than perfect conditions. We know that there are hand held GPS loggers out there around the size of a matchbox that can get a reading while it's in a pocket in your bag. So the technology is small, but maybe not yet small enough?

The Pentax WG-1 GPS is a nice little camera that has quirky looks and a few innovative features. We really like the idea of the digital microscope and it shows Pentax are going the right way in giving consumers something new to play with. However, we feel they need to address fundamental areas such as the aforementioned noise issue and the layout of the buttons on the back. It looks quite cramped and could benefit from some features being placed on the menu system instead of having a dedicated button.

Essentially, the Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS is well thought out with a bunch of stuff for the user to do and bring some fun into photography. It will cope with most areas of the world as long as you don't go too high or deep. So if you're looking for a tough camera to take on a special trip around the world and you want to document where you were as well as what happened, then the WG-1 GPS will do all that for you.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 3.5
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 3.5
Value for money 4

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Pentax Optio WG-1 GPS from around the web. »

The Pentax WG-1 offers the summer vacationer plenty of rugged options along with benefits of a built-in GPS. Otherwise, it's a pretty average compact point-and-shoot.
Read the full review »


Camera Type Water and shock proof digital zoom compact
Type 1/2.3" CCD
Total Pixels approx. 14.48 megapixels
Effective Pixels approx. 14 megapixels

14M (4228x3216)
10M (1:1) (3216x3216)
10M (16:9) (4224x2376)
7M (3072x2304)
5M (16:9) (3072x1728)
5M (2592x1944)
4M (16:9) (2592x1464)
3M (2048x1536)
2M (16:9) (1920x1080)
1024 (1024x768)
640 (640x480)

3 quality levels of JPEG (good, better, best)

Movie HDTV 720p (1280x720) @ approx. 30 or 15fps
VGA (640x480) @ approx. 30 or 15fps
QVGA (320x240) @ approx. 30 or 15fps
Colour Depth 12 bits x 3 colours
Sensitivity Auto, Fixed (ISO 80 - 6400)
Shake Reduction Pixel Track Shake Reduction
Hi-sensitivity anti-shake mode (Digital SR)
Movie shake reduction mode (Movie SR)
Focal Length PENTAX 5-25mm f/3.5(W) - f/5.5(T), equ. to 28?140mm in 35mm
Digital Zoom Optical zoom: 5x
Digital zoom: approx. 6.7x
Intelligent zoom: approx. 7x at 7M, approx. 33.5x at 640 (including optical zoom)
Construction PENTAX zoom lens, 11 elements in 9 groups (5 aspherical elements)
Focusing System
Type TTL contrast detection auto focus system
Functions Infinity-landscape, Pan Focus, Manual Focus: available
9-point AF, Spot AF, Auto tracking AF
Focus Range (automatic) Normal : 0.5m ? infinity (whole zoom area)
Macro : 0.1m ? 0.6m (whole zoom area)
1cm Macro : 0.01m ? 0.30m (middle zoom position)?
AF assist AF assist lamp
Special Macrolight (5 LED at front)?
Type 2.7’’ (6.86mm) colour 16:9 LCD, extra wide angle viewing with Anti-Reflective Coating
Resolution approx. 230k dots
Playback One Shot, Index (4  thumb nails, 9 thumb nails), Enlargement (up to 10X, scroll available), Movie Playback, Sound Playback, Histogram, Folder display, Select&Delete, Calendar?
Speed 1/1500  - 1/4sec.
4 sec at most. (Night Scene mode setting)
Exposure system
Metering Multi-segment metering, Centre-weighted metering, Spot metering
Exposure Modes Auto Picture, Program, Night Scene, Movie, Underwater, Underwater Movie, Digital Microscope, Landscape, Flower, Portrait, Digital Wide, Digital Shake Reduction, Surf&Snow, Kids, Pet, Sport, Fireworks, Candlelight, Night Scene Portrait, Text, Food, Digital Panorama, Frame Composite, Report, Green? ?
Compensation ±2EV (1/3EV steps)
Auto Bracketing Available
Type Integrated auto flash contro?l
Modes Flash-on and Flash-off modes
"Red-eye" reduction function employs a pre-discharge
Soft Flash
Effective Range Wide:approx. 0.2 - 3.9 m (ISO Auto)
Tele:approx. 0.2 - 2.5 m (ISO Auto)
Exposure Parameters
Modes One shot, Self-timer (2 or 10 sec), Continuous shooting (0.68 fps), Burst shooting, IR Remote Control, Interval shooting, Auto Bracket
Face Recognition Face recognition AF&AE is available for all modes up to 32 faces
Smile Capture
Self-portrait Assist
Blink Detection?
Pet Detection up to 3 faces?
White Balance Auto, Daylight, Shade, Tungsten light, Fluorescent light, Manual setting
Digital Filter B&W, Sepia, Toy Camera, Retro, Colour, Extract colour, Colour emphasis, High Contrast, Starburst, Soft, Fish-Eye, Brightness, Miniature
Recording Sound : Yes
Movie "Shake reduction" ? stabilized video
Duration : Depends on memory card capacity
Resolution : HDTV (1280x720) at 30 or 15fps ; VGA (640x480) at 30 or 15fps ; QVGA (320x240) at 30 or 15fps
Editing Save as still image, Dividing Movies
Digital Filter B&W, Sepia, Toy Camera, Retro, Colour, Extract Colour, Colour Emphasis, High Contrast, Starburst, Soft, Brightness, Minature Filters
Options Slideshow, Image Rotation, Small Face Filter, Ink Rubbing Filter, Collage, Original Frame, Frame Composite, Movie Edit, Red-eye Compensation,  Resize, Cropping, Image/Sound Copy, Voice Memo, Protect, DPOF, Startup Screen, Face close up playback, Eye-Fi compatible

Geo-tagging function: particularly useful when going on vacation and when travelling. This function allows you to show on your photo galleries where your pictures were taken
Internal approx 97 MB
External SD, SDHC and SDXC memory cards
Compatible with Eye-Fi wireless memory cards
File Format JPEG (conforms to Exif 2.3), conforms to DCF 2.0, DPOF, PRINT Image Matching III
AVI (Motion JPEG)
WAV(PCM), mono?
Special Features
Features World time: 75 cities, 28 time zones

Built-in GPS tracker, allowing geo-tagging
Others: Noise reduction if shutter speed exceeds 0.25 sec.
Motion Blur reduction
Digital Shake Reduction system
Eye-Fi cards compatible ??
Language English, French, Germany, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Japanese, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Turkish, Greek, Russian, Thai, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese
Delay Start-up time: approx. 1.3 sec
Shutter Release Delay Approx. 0.037 sec
Interface Micro HDMI output, USB 2.0 (Hi-Speed), PC/AV terminal (NTSC/PAL, mono) and AC power input
Source Rechargeable D-LI92 Lithium-Ion ?battery
Optional AC adapter kit
Performance Still*: Approx. 260 shots
Playback**: Approx. 280 min

* Recording capacity shows approximate number of shots recorded during CIPA-compliant testing.  Actual performance may vary depending on operating conditions
**According to the results of PENTAX in-house testing ?
Height 58.5 mm
Width 115.5mm
Depth 28.5 mm
Weight 147 g (without battery and memory card)
167 g (loaded and ready)
PC Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista and 7
Mac Mac OS X 10.3.9 or above
Included Software For Windows: Arcsoft Media Impression v3.0 for PENTAX
For Mac: Arcsoft Media Impression v2.1 for PENTAX
Kit Content AV cable, USB cable, AC cable, Li-ion battery, Battery charger, Carabiner strap, Strap, Macro stand and Software
Optional Neoprene pouches, Weatherproof remote control O-RC1, Sport strap O-ST81, Floating strap, AC adapter kit K-AC117E, Battery charger kit K-BC92E

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