Way back in 2011, I reviewed a fun little waterproof toughcam that wasn’t afraid to embrace its adventuresome side. The camera was the Pentax WG-1, and in the four years since, a lot has changed. The New England Patriots went from Superbowl duds to Superbowl champs, the Catholic Church elected a new pope, and Latvia officially became the 18th member of the Eurozone.
Meanwhile, Ricoh purchased Pentax and rebranded its point-and-shoot cameras under the Ricoh name. Hence, a mere four years later, I find myself at CP+ in Japan checking out the Ricoh WG-5 GPS (MSRP $379)—the fourth successor to the original WG-1 that I reviewed so long ago.
Unlike the rest of the world, not much has changed with Ricoh’s “adventure proof” line. The WG-5 has the same guts as the WG-3 that came out in 2013, and it’s nearly identical to the WG-4 from last year. That includes perennial favorite "Mermaid" mode, which is disappointingly termed "Underwater" mode in the U.S.
The only updates Ricoh has made since last year’s version are that it comes in different colors (orange and gray), it has a couple new picture effects (vibrant and film reversal), and it has a new flash mode that takes two shots—one with a flash and one without—that’s supposed to help with underwater photography (but it’ll probably still scare the fish away). Oh, and the camera is “shockproof” down to 2.2 meters on the WG-5—an increase of 0.2-meters over the WG-4.
Ricoh does claim the white balance has been improved on the new camera, but that’s something we’ll have to test before we can say for certain. Also, the WG-5 is only available with GPS, whereas previous editions offered versions without GPS at a lower cost.
This isn’t to say we expect the WG-5 to be an awful camera. The last couple Ricoh toughcams that came before it were all serviceable point-and-shoots with decent performance and a few unique features we enjoyed. The WG-5 continues to have these features, like the macro LED lights around the lens, durable construction, and the inclusion of a clock and altimeter on the camera’s tiny secondary screen.
But for our money, it’s hard to find any compelling reason to go with a WG-5 over a WG-4. The sparse new additions don’t warrant paying the full $379 MSRP that Ricoh has planned for the WG-5 when it hits stores this March. Instead, shop around for a WG-4 GPS before they’re all gone. You should be able to find one for under $250 online, which is a much better deal than a brand new WG-5.