Words and Images from Ed Felker

Waterproof Pentax WG-2. Don’t Get it Wet!

I fish. I kayak. I hike. I romp with the dogs in the river. I enjoy the beauty of a summer thunderstorm, a fresh winter snowfall, and all kinds of weather in between. And I take photographs. A lot of photographs.

So when my old Olympus waterproof camera, which performed flawlessly for over five years, started to show its age, I started researching my next camera. Reviews pointed me toward the Pentax Optio WG-2. When I decided this was the camera I wanted, I called around and found that Ace Photo in Ashburn, VA was the only shop near me that had it. I bought the WG-2, and in the following weeks added the waterproof remote control and a decent tripod.

I read the manual, charged it up and immediately started using and enjoying the camera. I used it in a heavy rainstorm, and then down at the river where I took the photo at the top of this post. But later that same evening I took it out to set up a time lapse shot of an approaching thunderstorm (it does have a cool feature where you can take photos a minute apart and save them as a movie, as well as a high speed video function that plays back in super cool smooth slow motion), I noticed the display screen was fogged from the inside. And when I turned it on, the screen flickered like it was shorting out.

I brought it back to Ace Photo, they opened the “waterproof” doors and the inside of the camera was completely flooded. I told them I wanted a different type of camera, that I would have trouble trusting this one again, and I wondered why I didn’t continue with the Olympus brand that had treated me so well. It would be disastrous, I said, to go to a once in a lifetime place like Yellowstone later this year, and hike to a remote spot and catch a special Yellowstone Cutthroat and have my camera fail on me. But the people at Ace told me they’ve sold dozens of these cameras and never had a problem. So I let myself get talked into taking an exchange for another WG-2.

The second camera worked well for almost a month, before while using it on a special fishing occasion I’ll be talking about more in a future post, it began to leak. Condensation formed on the inside of the lens, rendering the camera useless. The next day, after it air dried, I opened the two doors to the battery/card and the plug ports and while it wasn’t completely soaked like the first one, there was moisture inside those doors.

When I called Ace, the owner there, who I had dealt with before, told me he can’t take a second camera back from me. So, six weeks and two cameras later, I’m stuck sending it back to Pentax, who can only repair or replace it. Any refund or credit could only be done by the retailer, they said. But since the retailer doesn’t want to have to deal with Pentax, their approach was to tell me that I must be doing something wrong.

So I’m sending it back to Pentax, and I hope that they will at least send me a replacement, which I can then unload on eBay and try to get some of my money back. If they “repair” it, I can not in good conscience sell it to anyone else. I will either have a clunky point and shoot camera I can’t get wet, or I will resort to Plan B, which is to use the high speed video function and the remote control to film a .45 hollow point slug putting an end to this camera and my stint as a Pentax camera owner. I’ll have to check the weather forecast before I do, though.

To sum up, I think probably most people don’t have any problem with the Pentax WG-2. I guess I’m unlucky in that regard. But the most disturbing aspect of the whole thing is that Ace Photo refuses to get behind their sale. I told them if they gave me store credit I would buy the more expensive Olympus waterproof, and then Pentax can replace this damaged one and they’ll have a new one to put back on the shelf. So while I know many who read this are not local here in Virginia, I would strongly advise anyone looking for a camera shop around here to look elsewhere.


18 responses

  1. This post is an awesome demonstration of the principle of “do not screw the customer, you never know when he’s a very charming and articulate guy who will cheerfully knife you in the chest to his large public following.”

    June 7, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    • Well, thanks. I do want to be clear that I am actually someone who will take the time to praise a company who does something good, because I know most people only speak up when they’re mad. But I just can’t figure out why they wouldn’t take it back, get the replacement from Pentax for their shelves, and give me the store credit to buy an even more expensive alternative. Makes no sense to me, so it pisses me off.

      June 7, 2012 at 12:43 pm

  2. That’s an unfortunate story on several levels. I like to support the local camera shops, but hearing this certainly doesn’t endear me to stopping by there on my next shopping trip.

    In addition, I was just this morning checking out the new Pentax cameras in my search for a new point-and-shoot after drowning my old one in a canoe tipping accident last month. Lots to think about now! Thank you for the post, and I hope this works out for you through Pentax. But, I have to admit, I’d love to see the images you’d get from your Plan B!

    June 7, 2012 at 12:12 pm

  3. Bella Remy Photography

    Great review! Saved me from purchasing the pentax.

    June 7, 2012 at 10:03 pm

  4. It’s a real shame, too, because that original photo at the top with the dogs? Great! I can’t imagine the lack of business sense in not standing behind the product, even if it is a manufacturing issue. But that seems to be the norm these days. I hope you get it all resolved without much delay. No one needs the frustration! Have a good (dry) weekend! Debra

    June 8, 2012 at 2:50 am

  5. Sorry to hear Ace won’t take the second one back when it’s pretty clear it’s a defect with the camera. If our area brick and mortar stores want us to choose them over Amazon, for example, they need to do better. The one way Ace could differentiate itself (and do the right thing) — especially since they’ve dealt with you personally about this already — would be to take it back, give you a credit and get on their Pentax rep’s case since this seems to be a real issue with this model.

    June 8, 2012 at 10:36 am

    • I obviously couldn’t agree with you more! Well said, Dave. I don’t get it, but I’m just done. Could end up being a $300+ mistake, but unfortunately it wouldn’t be my first. I am already looking forward to reuniting with Olympus, hopefully to never turn back.

      June 9, 2012 at 9:05 pm

  6. Ken

    I have this camera and about 6 weeks after purchase I had a problem with the shutter button. It got stuck in the half way down position, which meant I couldn’t access the menu, zoom, modes… it became essentially useless. The retailer I bought it from replaced the camera. Other than that I have been quite satisfied with this camera. I use it for making videos and timelapses.

    I will consider your article using it around water, thanks for the warning.

    June 23, 2012 at 8:33 pm

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  8. Mark

    This camera does not perfom as advertised. When I bought it earlier this year the salesperson told me that though it is advertised to be waterproof to 40 feet, I should never take it below 30 as they has several customers who had issues. Not a problem for me as I was not intending to take it anywhere close to that. It survived on a beach vacation this summer, but when I opened the battery compartment, the seal was contaminated with small sand granules. Supposed to be dustproof. Knowing that anything on a seal can be problematic, I cleaned any particles off before closing the compartment. Quite a tedious procedure. Last week I encountered the same water problem as described above, with fog on lens and display screen. Camera was at a max of 3 feet (maybe less) in a pool. The “waterproof” compartments were not flooded, but there was evidence of water inside the seal of both. Tried to use a hair dryer to heat the glass and evaporate the condensation. Worked on lens but not on display. Camera still funtioned but with obvious shorts for a few hours. Seems to be dry now, but camera is now dead. I will be contacting Pentax this week. Image quality has been quite good for a point and shoot, but since I bought it to take into wet situations, its turned out to be very disapointing.

    September 9, 2012 at 11:54 am

    • I’m sorry this has happened to you too! Be prepared to have Pentax only offer you a ‘repair or replace.’ If you want your money back, you have to get it from your retailer. And mine, Ace Camera in Ashburn, Virginia, despite promising if I had any problems they would take care of it, threw me under the bus. Anyway, it pleases me to see Google searches every day resulting in people finding my review of this camera. I hope it sways a few people away from Pentax and toward the Olympus TG-1, which functions exactly as promised.

      September 9, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    • Mark

      Update on Dead WG-2: I got lazy and only got around to sending my camera to the Pentax service center in Ontario a month ago. They sent me a brand new one last week, but they did not extend the warranty past the date for the original camera. I have not tried it out yet other than to charge the battery and turn it on, however the battery door seems a bit loose. I’m not going to bother to send this one back to get the door checked. I’m not sure if I will try some white grease on the gaskets and take it back into the water or if I will give it to my mother-in-law and tell her not to get it wet (probably the latter). I have a feeling that the plastic components, rubber gasket and perhaps the metal sleeve in the battery compartment expand and contract differently enough to break the seal in changing environmental conditions. Bottom line is that although I did get a new camera from Pentax I’m hesitant to use it under the conditions which I had intended (underwater) and since I don’t want to fork out big bucks for a waterproof DSLR housing I guess its time to check out the Olympus.

      February 19, 2013 at 9:36 pm

  9. Can dice

    Reading your experience the same thing happened to me with my so-called adventure proof camera. Only thing is I purchased mine at Henry’s in Brampton, Ontario, Canada. They told me it was my fault that water got into my battery because I left it open. It wasn’t. I had to walk up and down a hill with children. My camera was set before I left my beach house. Now I have the replacement. This replacement I took on my recient trip the display screen was foggy. Thing is, it wasn’t raining. It was just a foggy day in the mountains. I have yet to return it. My Olympus lasted me 5 years and MANY adventures before I started to have problems. Pentax is a joke in comparison. I will never purchase this camera again. Exactly with the staff at ace said to you when you returned he camera he first time they told me. I have no respect for that. Some people probably do not pay for the warranty because they advertise its everything proof so auviously they will not have anyone returning the cameras on e a problem arises.

    Not a satisfied customer from neither Henry’s camera store nor Pentax because of there lies.

    September 26, 2012 at 2:43 am

  10. Anthony Liss

    Same issue with us on our trip of a lifetime. Very disappointed in the camera. We did everything right and it leaked from simply wading in water. Hope they stand behind this product. Time for a redesign.

    November 15, 2012 at 5:24 pm

  11. Tom

    My WG-2 died from just a trip to the ski slopes. It was a very snowy day and my friend attached the camera to her jacket while snow boarding to take the time lapse shots. The camera just stopped working. It will not power on. The battery says that it is charged 100% when you put it in the charger. I tried removing the SD card, there is no sign of water in the compartments, but I am sure that water had to be the issue.

    February 16, 2013 at 7:17 pm

    • I’m sorry this happened to you! This post probably gets more consistent traffic than any post I’ve written, mostly from Google searches about this camera. I hope plenty of people read it and these comments and steer clear of this camera, it simply does not perform as promised. I’m very happy with my Olympus TG-1 and recommend that camera highly. It’s too bad, because I love the time lapse and high speed video options on the Pentax, but it’s got to be tough and waterproof first, and it is neither.

      February 16, 2013 at 7:21 pm

  12. Mark

    To those people like Matt who make assumptions, assuming makes an ASS out of U and ME. This camera has an obvious design flaw or quality control issue. Some work fine, others leak (far too many). Mine leaked. I am well trained in the use of seals and gaskets under pressure. Pentax replaced it. The new one has a noticeably loose battery door. I haven’t tried it underwater yet, maybe I never will. In the grand scheme of things, the target market for this camera is not the professional or prosumer, its the general consumer looking for a camera that can go anywhere with them on vacation. This segment of the market MAY in general not be as well versed in the necessity of maintaining a good seal on any openings (a good number of my relatives would fall into this category) and so even if the cause of leakage was an improperly closed battery or connector cable door (which doesn’t seem to be the case based on the experiences described in various forums), in my business the inability of my target market to use an instrument correctly would be a design flaw. The image quality and high speed video are actually pretty good for a point and shoot. Its too bad that it seems to be luck of the draw whether or not you get one that is well sealed.

    June 10, 2013 at 9:27 am

  13. Michelle

    My family and I just returned from our vacation in Mexico. I bought this camera about 5 months ago specifically for it’s waterproof ability, so that we could use it on our snorkeling adventure in Mexico. We used it underwater in a couple of pools when we first got it, and it took great photos. When we took our kids on their first snorkeling experience in Mexico, it was a different story. It was working great at first; I kept coming up above water and checking the pics to make sure I was getting what I wanted. Then all of a sudden, the next pics were completely white, and finally, the camera wouldn’t even turn on. When we got back to the beach, I looked at the camera more thoroughly and could see that there was water behind the LCD screen and when I checked the battery compartment, it had moisture in it as well. I tried drying everything out and still cannot get it to turn back on. I am so completely disappointed as capturing this first snorkeling experience with our kids, was a once in a lifetime. I did a tremendous amount of research before buying this camera, and decided on it because it was rated #2, only coming in under the Olympus, and since the price range was considerably different, I thought I could settle for a #2 rated camera. I’m pretty sure Target is going to tell me it is too late to return it, and having not bought the extra insurance, because I figured being that highly rated must mean it is pretty durable, then I guess my only option is to get in contact with Pentax. I wish I would have found this page before buying the camera and trusting that it would capture the incredible moments that we experienced while snorkeling with the sea turtles.

    July 29, 2013 at 2:52 am

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