The WG-1’s zoom is controlled by a rocker switch on the rear shoulder of the camera. While the zoom does extend through its range fairly quickly and smoothly when held constantly, feathering the rocker to try and make small individual corrections proves difficult as the individual jumps are quite large. This does make precise framing of subjects with the WG-1 quite fiddly.
We found the WG-1’s autofocus to be perfectly fast for general photography needs. There’s even a Manual focus option, which is somewhat unusual for a camera of this type, although it can be a bit fiddly in practice and really requires that the camera be used on a tripod to be in any way effective.
Start-up time is fairly standard for a compact of this type and price, with the WG-1 taking a fraction under two seconds from being first switched on to being ready to shoot. Processing times between individual images varies depending on how many of the WG-1’s post-processing settings have been switched on, but generally takes between a second and two seconds.
In terms of image quality, the WG-1 is able to produce pleasing results, especially when used in good, even light conditions. While we generally prefer shooting in Program mode so that we can retain some degree of control, we did find that the WG- generally produced better results while used in Auto Picture mode.
While the camera claims to offer three different types of anti-shake protection, none of them are of the superior sensor-shift type, with the camera either processing the blurred areas of images after the image has been captured – a process Pentax calls ‘Pixel Track Shake Reduction’ – or by raising the sensitivity.
As is usually the case with compacts fitted with small, high pixel-count sensors, raising the sensitivity does lead to some problems with image noise, and with the WG-1 the threshold whereby this becomes especially noticeable is at IS0 800. While sensitivity settings of ISO 400 and below do deliver fairly good results, going above ISO 800 images soon become very noisy indeed, with the top settings really for emergency use only.
Metering proves quite accurate in most flat-light situations, although the WG-1 generally opts to retain mid-tone and shadow detail at the expense of highlights when faced with a high-contrast scene beyond its dynamic range. The WG-1 does offer a couple of D-Range options that can be called upon to automatically apply Highlight or Shadow Correction, but some care needs to be taken, otherwise images can all too easily take on an unnatural or washed-out appearance.
Colour varies quite a bit between the various shooting modes, with images shot in Program mode often coming out a little flat compared to Auto Picture mode or, for example, the Landscape scene mode option. We also found the Auto Picture and individual scene modes to deliver images with more contrast than Program mode. The only real issue we did find with Auto Picture was that it occasionally chose to apply an inaccurate (overly warm) white balance setting, thereby throwing any kind of colour accuracy out of the window.
Edge sharpness and detail are two areas where the Pentax scores quite highly, with the folded-lens and processing engine able to deliver sharp edges and good detail.
With its moulded facia and in-your-face extreme sports styling, the WG-1 certainly manages to stand out from the tough compact crowd. Image quality isn’t bad either, especially when used on Auto Picture mode. And while the zoom control can prove a bit fiddly and imprecise, it remains a fairly simple camera to operate overall. Perhaps most importantly, in terms of overall build quality, the WB-1 is one of the toughest ‘tough’ cameras currently on the market. If that’s your primary consideration then the WG-1 deserves to be at, or at least near, the top of your short-list.