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My 11 year old son has been interested in photography for some time now and when he knew I was planning a trip to Australia he was really keen to save for a decent camera. The trip involved diving on the Great Barrier Reef so an underwater function was important. I promised to match any money he saved so that he could buy something decent that would advance his skills. After a lot of research we opted for the Pentax optio WG-1, as this camera had good reviews and most importantly could take underwater stills and video to a depth of 10 metres. The camera was purchased from Amazon and cost £199. It is still on sale at this price. The model he has is predominately black with blue accents and this was the only option from Amazon although I think other retailers offer other colour combinations.
What's in the box?
The box contained -
The 14 MP camera.
Wrist strap and additional carabiner strap for use underwater.
A/v and USB cables.
Comprehensive instruction booklet.
What can it do?
I really don't want to regurgitate the instruction booklet here! The first thing to note is the cameras unique *butterfly* shape. It looks and feels really sturdy and my son loved it! The camera is indeed very robust and can withstand a free fall of up to 1.5 metres and is crush proof up to 100KG, so if you accidentally sit on it no harm will be done. The camera is designed for use it extreme temperatures down to -10c. The most important element for my son was that it can be used underwater to 10 metres. The battery and memory card are enclosed in a sealed, waterproof compartment at the base of the camera.
The butterfly shape may look a little odd, but both my son and I find it makes holding the camera comfortable. To the side of the camera is a silver eyelet to fix the wrist strap. The strap is not adjustable. The second strap is thicker with a clasp designed to clip onto a rucksack or belt. Although my son tried to use the strap when he was underwater he found it didn't work well and preferred to use the wrist strap.
The on/off button is located at the top of the camera next to the shutter button. The camera has a large 2.7 inch LCD screen that makes viewing your pictures clear and bright. To the right of the screen is a slider to zoom. The camera is capable of up to x5 wide angle optical zoom. The menu button displays the menu on the screen. Here you can set the time, date and language for example. You can also adjust the sharpness, saturation and contrast of your image.
Underneath the menu button is a small square with timer, flash, macro and mode options. The macro function on this camera is excellent allowing you to focus down to 1cm. When this function is selected the 5 small LED lights around the lens light up illuminating your subject to give a good, clear image.
This camera has numerous modes to chose from including--auto, programme, night scene, movie, movie underwater, microscope, landscape,flower,portrait,digital SR ( higher sensitivity reduces blur),surf and snow,kids,pet.sport,fireworks,candlelight,night scene portrait,text,food,digital panorama(stitches images together), frame composite and report. When you select a mode a really helpful explanation of when to use the mode appears on the screen.
Taking shots underwater is great fun. You will need to ensure you select the underwater function before you dive as this *locks* the battery cover and ensures no water gets into the camera. After you have finished you will need to rinse the camera is clean water to get rid of any salt or chlorine. This does take some getting used to!
Viewing your images is easy using the playback button. There is the usual delete function conveniently located at the bottom of the camera. Before an image is video is permanently deleted you will have to click *ok* to ensure you don't delete anything my accident.
As this is my son's camera I think it's important that he gives his input. In short; he loves this camera! The images he has taken are clear and sharp especially the underwater ones. He really enjoys making short videos and is becoming quite artistic in this area. The downside of using the video function is that it quickly drains the battery. However in normal shooting modes the battery lasts well and when it does need charging I tend to leave it on charge overnight to ensure a full charge. The manufacturers claim that each full charge will give you around 350 shots.
The camera is compact and weights just 145 grams and measures 2.8 x 11.4 x 5.8 cm, so can be carried in a pocket. He has managed to drop the camera a few times and it came to no harm. My son says that he finds many of the mode options fun to use and he is now very competent at knowing which mode to use in different situations.
I have a canon SLR with a large telephoto lens. I love the camera but it is cumbersome. When we were on holiday I tended to rely on my sons camera as it was so much easier to carry. I also used it underwater on the Great Barrier Reef and really enjoyed doing so. My results were no where near as good as my sons however!
I think this is an excellent camera for a keen older child or anyone looking for a point and shoot camera with a bit extra. However it does have its limitations and if you like to get creative then this may frustrate you as you will not be able to adjust the aperture or shutter speed.
Although there is a night mode this does not give good images even with a steady hand. There is a tripod mount underneath the camera body and I would recommend you get one if you want clear images.
The camera does not come with a memory card and I suggest you buy a large capacity, high speed card if you intend to take videos. I bought a 32 GB sandisk ultra from Amazon for around £20. I also highly recommend you buy a case to protect the camera, I bought a case specially made for this model for under a tenner from Amazon and it is excellent! I also bought a spare battery for £8.99.
On the downside I find the rubberised on/off button fiddly to operate, although my son seems to have no problem. There is no designated video button and you will need to chance the setting to video via the menu. This is not a huge issue but it does take a bit more time to activate.
The supplied wrist strap cannot be adjusted and this would have been useful when securing the camera during diving.
Overall we both love this camera and think it is well worth the £199 we paid for it. It is easy to use, gives excellent images and will hopefully last.
I bought this camera before a recent trip to Egypt in June specifically for the purposes of underwater photography for my first time in the red sea - and I am so glad that I did!
I already have an excellent Samsung digital camera, and bought a protective underwater case for it on ebay - waste of money, I couldn't get at the buttons properly and the plastic over the lens wasn't clear enough for good quality shots, so I decided to invest in a camera that could be completely submersed without the need for a protective case so all of the buttons were accessible.
There aren't really that many on the market, and after much deliberation and searching on the net the Pentax appeared the most capable without being too expensive (some of the professional ones are hundreds and hundreds of pounds)
First impressions out of the box were very good - very robust camera, small enough to fit in your pocket, comes with a useful clip and as I bought mine from pixmania they included a really useful lanyard in the box, which was very useful underwater (I tied it securely round my wrist while snorkelling, as the camera will sink underwater if you drop it)
It's very easy to use and the menus on the camera are very simple, I was impressed with the wide range of settings it has, to name a few, sport mode for fast moving action (used this at the olympic football and it's fab), pet mode which captures great shots of your pets and has a kind of motion sensor and produces great quality shots of those hard to capture pesky critters, and it has specific underwater settings for still shots and video which compensates for the different light under water. It also has settings for very dark and very bright settings - all you'll ever need really.
Underwater I was extremely happy with the pentax - the battery and memory card slot is securely sealed from moisture getting in with rubber seals and I have had no problems with the display or lens misting up as I have read in previous reviews for this product. I was very careful to not open any compartments without being sure the camera was completely dry.
The shots of the tropical fish in the red sea we took with this camera were phenomenal, I didn't expect it to be so good - the face recognition worked in the same way underwater to focus on the fish, picked up on all of the amazing colours of the fish and coral and the deep blue of the sea. The ease of use was a blessing, as the last thing you need when you are underwater near coral is to be stressing about making your camera work and faffing with buttons - it was as simple point and shoot. We even used it in the swimming pool. The underwater video even picks up audio really well.
We took this camera everywhere with us on holiday, we weren't scared of getting it wet by the pool or the beach, there are no moving parts so sand can't get into it.
It's really been the best purchase I've made in a long while, so much fun to be able to capture images underwater, we also take it on days out, camping etc, as it's perfect if its rainy as it won't get damaged.
Apparently it's crush-proof as well but I have no intention of standing on it anytime soon :)