The future is here: Three rugged Pentax cameras, and one needs no cables—not even for charging


posted Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 8:03 PM EDT

There are a lot of rugged, weather-sealed digital cameras to choose from these days, but to date they've pretty-much all shared an Achilles heel. To charge them, you've had to open the camera up, adding a little wear and tear to the weather-sealing and perhaps introducing some dirt or debris in the process. The Pentax WG-3 GPS is, we believe, a first for the rugged camera market: a camera that you can load up once, and (within reason) never crack the case again. That's thanks to the addition of magnetic inductive charging hardware meeting the Wireless Power Consortium's Qi  (pronounced "Chee") standard. Whenever the camera is within around an inch or so of a compatible charging pad, it's recharging automatically: no fumbling with cables or chargers needed. Add in the WG-3 GPS's support for Wi-Fi capable Eye-Fi memory cards, and you can not only get power into the camera without cables, but also get your images back out in the same manner.

Pentax's WG-3 GPS can recharge without cables, thanks to inductive charging circuitry.

The Pentax WG-3 GPS is also even more durable than past efforts from the company, besting its predecessors' waterproofing by some five feet. You can now shoot with the WG-3 GPS at depths of up to 45 feet (13.7m), and the camera should be able to survive a 6.6 foot (2m) drop. It's also crushproof to 220 pounds (100kgf), freezeproof to 14F (-10C), and dustproof (to IPX6 / JIS 6 standards.) And a built-in GPS receiver, digital compass, and pressure sensor are used to tag your images with their capture details. Inside, there's a 16 megapixel BSI CMOS image sensor, and this sits behind a 4x optical zoom lens with a bright f/2.0 maximum aperture at wide angle.

Available from March 2013, the Pentax WG-3 GPS is priced at around US$350. Available body colors include purple and green. More details in our Pentax WG-3 GPS preview.

The standard Pentax WG-3 lacks the GPS hardware and inductive charging of its sibling.

And what if you don't like to be quite so far on the bleeding edge of technology? If you're the kind of person who prefers to stay inside your comfort zone with standard charging, the Pentax WG-3 (non-GPS version) is made for you. You'll save a little money, save a bit of battery life by removing the GPS and altimeter functionality, and your battery will probably recharge faster too, once you're done fiddling with the charger.

As an added bonus, your camera will be a third of an ounce lighter. That might not sound like much, but for some sports, every little counts. If you aren't planning on using those features, why carry them around with you?

Available from March 2013, the Pentax WG-3 is priced at around US$300. Available body colors include black and orange. More details in our Pentax WG-3 preview.

The CCD-based Pentax WG-10 aims for affordability, first and foremost.

And of course, some of us prefer to save as much money as possible rather than to get the most feature-rich design. The brand-new Pentax WG-10 is significantly more affordable than the company's new flagship rugged models, yet it boasts a more far-reaching 5x optical zoom lens.

Have some other features been pared off to achieve the price? Sure, but there's a good chance you don't actually need them all. Compared to its simultaneously-announced siblings, the WG-10 isn't waterproofed and shockproofed to quite the same degree, offers rather slower performance, has a less-bright lens, lacks mechanical stabilization, and has a slightly smaller LCD monitor. It's also CCD-based, rather than CMOS-based. And of course, it lacks the inductive charging and location-awareness features of the more expensive models. But that's hardly surprising -- the Pentax WG-10 costs barely half as much as those cameras.

Available from mid-April 2013, the Pentax WG-10 is affordably priced at around US$180. The only available body color in the US market is red. Find out more in our Pentax WG-10 preview.

The upcoming AF360FGZ II flash strobe now has a bounce/swivel head.

Rounding out the company's announcements for the CP+ show in its home market of Japan, Pentax is also showing two reference products -- essentially, designs it is planning to release later this year, but for which it hasn't finalized its plans for naming, pricing, and perhaps feature set.

The tentatively-named Pentax AF360FGZ II flash strobe was also shown at CES, although the new Pentax MX-1 premium compact grabbed most of the headlines. Now, we're able to provide the product photo above. It's a restyled update to the existing AF360FGZ, and most significantly now has a bounce / swivel head, where its predecessor had only a bounce head. It's slated for launch in summer 2013, and has similar output to the flash it's destined to replace.

The Q-mount body cap lens is expected to ship this summer.

The other reference product is a mount cap lens for the tiny Pentax Q mount. It's development was revealed a year ago, and it seems it's getting closer to market now. The goal is for the lens to be as small as possible -- in fitting with the Q ethos, and just as if it was really a simple cap -- while providing the ability to grab the camera out of your bag and snap an immediate shot. Pentax says the lens will have a "toy-camera like visual effect". Again, it's scheduled for launch this summer.