If a compact camera could wear a raincoat, thermal wear, bullet proof vest and a full plate mail all at the same time, the result should be something like the Pentax WG-1. With its water-, shock-, cold-, crush- and dustproof built and design, it claims to be the perfect companion for any adventurer seeking thrill high up in the mountains or deep under the sea. You can check out its specs here. (specs link here)

But really. Screw the specs. We believe what we see. And so, we put the Pentax WG-1 to the test.

We went to Camarines Norte in the Bicol Region to try kayak surfing. For those who are not familiar with this sport, it’s just like surfing. Only, you’ll be riding the waves using paddles and a two-seater boat called a kayak instead of a surfboard. (kayak surfing article link here) A GoPro camera may be the most popular and logical choice for an extreme sports coverage like this, but we already have the Pentax WG-1. All we needed was a stable and secure mount. These were all that we had that time:

Clothes hanger

Packaging and duct tape

Rubber bands

Buttload of creativity

And here’s what we’ve come up with:

An inconvenient limitation here is that Pentax WG-1 can only record up to 10 minutes of video per clip.

Here’s a sample of what we recorded.

 

 

Notice that it got a lot of beating as the kayak was going against the waves. The strong current even had us biting our nails after it tipped the boat over the first time. When the surfers went back to shore, we were relieved to see that the ocean hadn’t claimed our camera, and that the rig was, surprisingly, sturdy enough for a few more rides and tip-overs. Our improvised hanger mount was a little bent, though. But the real highlight of the event was that our little trooper went on recording during the entire whitewater whacking. And what’s more, Pentax WG-1’s video output did not show any signs of distortion due to impact.

Next, we thought it would be fun to see the kayak surfer’s point of view. So, we attached the camera to a helmet using the same materials, only this time, we added a small piece of styrofoam to serve as cushion/stabilizer.

This is how it looks like when worn:

And here’s a sample of the video it took.

 

Then, we were off to Nasugbu, Batangas to try the Pentax WG-1 on a sumo surfing ride. It’s a relatively new extreme water sport in the country. Like wakeboarding, you’ll be dragged across the water by a jetski. However, instead of standing up on a board, you’ll be surfing face down in a Superman fashion.

Here’s how sumo surfing looks like from the shore and from the boat.

 

And here’s how it looks like from the sumo surfer’s point of view.

 

This was a tough one because we couldn’t find anything stable to attach the camera to. For lack of better options, we just decided to strap it on the sumo surfer’s wrist and asked him to aim the camera forward during the ride. But bad framing aside, the point of the entire exercise was to see how Pentax WG-1 will fare when it’s hit by water at this speed.

Next, we went helmet diving in Boracay Island, Aklan and took our Pentax WG-1, 20 feet under the sea.

 

Video quality was decent thanks to the sufficient light coming from the water surface. But what’s really important here was that Pentax WG-1 was fully functional at 20 feet.

Now, if only Boracay’s coral reef was 13 feet deeper…

After putting it through these tests, we can say that Pentax WG-1’s performance was well within our expectations. Video-wise, its output was decent considering its price. We were also amazed [and relieved] to see that this camera hasn’t shown any signs of corrosion even without us giving it proper care after using it in saltwater. However, there are a few concerns we’d like to point out:

First, the camera is hard to clean. It has several grooves where dust and sand can get stuck into. We were rather dismayed to find out that most of the sand that we had trouble taking out were found near the opening of the battery/memory card compartment which is basically the entry point to the camera’s internal parts.

Second, and this one is slightly related to the first one, we noticed that the lid of the compartment itself is not perfectly sealed in place, allowing a little water and dust inside the camera. This is a major concern because water and dust inside the camera means farewell to summer vacation memories or even the camera itself. We had to bring it to the service center to have it checked. We don’t know if we’re speaking in behalf of all the people who have bought the same Pentax model when it comes to this problem, but you may want to take this into account when you’re buying an underwater camera.

Finally, throughout the test, the videos have this noticeable discoloration. This is called a vertical smear. It usually happens when the lens is exposed to harsh light and is quite common among digital cameras using a CCD sensor just like Pentax WG-1. Well, each type of sensor has its own pros and cons, so what we’re really trying to say here is that there won’t be any point in getting pissed off at vertical smears simply because… they happen.

To learn more about vertical smear, click here.

Word is out that Pentax WG-2 is has been released on March 2012 this year in the Philippines. It will be interesting to find out if Pentax can deliver what we all want to see in new versions of any gadget: all the good stuff from the older model, all the improvements from the previous version and a few but useful additional features for us to explore.