Friday, May 20, 2011

Pentax Optio WG-1 vs Olympus Tough TG-610

This blog post is meant to work in addition to the head to head review published in the Summer 2011 issue of California Kayaker Magazine. The magazine can be read online at, with the review starting on page 26. Specifications for each camera and details of what we found good and bad about each can be found in the article.

Below are the files as produced by the camera, with no editing. I placed them here so you can download them and then compare the two side by side and get a feel for what the camera would produce. You can click on the thumbnail or the photo name to download the full resolution version. Unless otherwise noted, the Pentax images are generally 4-5 megabytes in size, and the Olympus images are 5-6 megabytes in size.

I made up a simple bracket to hold the cameras side-by-side, which used for most of these photos (unless otherwise noted) and videos to try to get the same scenes and time with both cameras. Bracket with cameras mounted on it is shown below.

On to the photos...
Olympus Tough TG-610Pentax Optio WG-1


This is a basic photo with the sun behind the photographer, which lights up the subject (Lisa Ouellette paddling on the Napa River) and should be easiest for the camera.


A bit more challenging for the camera is when the sun is behind the subject, as their face and features are now in a shadow (made even harder if the person is wearing a hat).


I had Lisa Ouellette (the photographer who provided the cover photos which the magazine used used for both the Spring 2011 and Fall 2010 issues, but also the subject in these photos) run the photos through some basic editing software. She said "I took them both, and applied a little color correction and noise reduction - the same levels applied to each. I could go farther with adjustments, but only used the adjustments you would find in very basic photo editing software." Above are the results she came up with.


These are pictures of Lucy O'Brien running a large pour over on the Sonoma Coast, and close ups of each were run in the print version of the magazine. It shows how the Pentax was a little quicker to take a picture, as it caught Lucy earlier on the wave. Cameras were both in P mode, and flash was turned off. Ignore the finger in the top of the Olympus picture - I was not using the bracket but instead trying to hold them side-by-side. Accidentally got my finger in the way. This is not something that would be an issue if I was only holding one camera (and this was why I made the bracket).

HighSpeedSequantial-Olympus (3 mb)

HighSpeedSequantial-Pentax (2 mb)
Camera in high speed sequential modes. Both cameras take about 14 pictures over 5 seconds. The Olympus saved the files in 14 megapixel form, where the Pentax dropped to 5. Bracket was not used, but instead cameras were held side by side.


Camera set to underwater photo mode - these pictures of Gregg Helton setting up for a roll were also run in the print version of the magazine. Interesting that the Olympus chose to use a flash, where the Pentax did not. Came out with much different photos, as the flash made things closer light up, but lost anything farther away. And another problem with flashes and kayakers is that the flash lights up all those reflective safety strips we have on our gear.

PoolVid2-Olympus.MP4 (21 mb)

PoolVid2-Pentax.AVI (65 mb)
Video clip of Gregg Helton doing a pair of rolls in the pool, including both above water and below water scenes. The Pentax files are about 3 time as large per minute, so has better resolution (but you can get longer videos with the Olympus, both because of the lower resolution and also because it allows a file up to 4 gigabytes in size, versus Pentax's 2 gigabyte max). Youtube is a common repository for videos like these, so I have also uploaded the videos there so you can see how well they work for that.


For example of general use (not kayaking specific), here is a picture of Napa Valley landscape.


Same picture as landscape above, but with cameras set to their maximum optical telephoto (but no digital telephoto). The cameras were taken off the bracket and placed one at a time in the tripod, so that any flex or rocking that the bracket may allow wouldn't affect these photos (and also set to 2 second delay, so that any motion from me pressing the shutter would also not affect the photo).

Below are links to's pages for these cameras, so you can get a feel for what prices they are going for at discounters.
MSRP: $349
MSRP: $299


  1. Great blog post, thanks! I am buying the Pentax in a few days when I get home to Hawaii. I am most interested in exploring the underwater features. I have been able to take great pictures with most of my digital cameras by editing and mastering the settings. It takes a lot of time and a lot of practice! I am excited to take pictures of my boyfriend surfing and of the amazing wildlife in Oahu! Thanks for the information, it was really helpful!

  2. wow cool camera, underwater and strong.. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)