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updated 6/15/2012 1:49:39 PM ET 2012-06-15T17:49:39

Summer vacation is a great time to take pictures, but getting your fancy camera splashed at the beach or dropped on a mountain trail could be the end of it.

With the rough-and-ready 16-megapixel Pentax Optio WG-2 ($350), though, there’s no reason to stress out. This tough compact camera is waterproof, dustproof, cold-proof, crush-proof and shock-resistant. It also takes great pictures and shoots sweet HD video.

Why we like it

The Pentax Optio WG-2 is one of the best-looking rugged, waterproof cameras around. Available in black or a snazzy red, the WG-2’s jagged, modern design actually serves a purpose: making it easy to grip and carry.

Along with looking great, the WG-2 is tough as nails. It’s rated as waterproof to 40 feet below the surface (good for shallow scuba diving); shock-resistant to survive drops of up to 5 feet; crush-proof to withstand up to 220 pounds of force; cold-proof down to 14 degrees F; and dustproof to protect against sand and other debris. 

 

We didn’t push the WG-2 to those limits but we did put it through some real-life wear and tear that would have destroyed a regular digital camera, including dropping it several times on one of the toughest things around: hard New York City pavement. We also stepped on the camera and ground it into the dirt. Aside from a few small nicks, it survived unscathed.

We dunked the camera in a sink full of water, and later stashed it in the freezer atop a tray of ice cubes for 10 minutes. After both tests, the WG-2 started up immediately.

 

Unlike some other waterproof cameras, which sacrifice photo quality for durability, the WG-2 captures very nice images both outdoors and underwater. With a 5x zoom lens — which stays inside the camera — the WG-2 captured wide shots of the entire George Washington Bridge, which spans the Hudson River, and then zoomed all the way in to an American flag flying on the far end. You can set the six LED lights around the lens to turn on when you need them to brighten a close-up object. [ What Makes a High-Quality Camera? ]

The $50 SportsMount Chest Harness lets you shoot HD video hands-free — great for capturing your point of view as you ski down a mountain or ride your bike over a bumpy trail.

Keep in mind

If you want to add GPS coordinates to your photos so you can place them later on a digital map — such as in Apple iPhoto — you’ll need to buy the more expensive model, the Pentax Optio WG-2 GPS (which is otherwise identical), for $400. [ What Are the Best Online Photo Sites? ]

Bottom Line

Bringing a camera on a vacation is a no-brainer. While a high-end model like a DSLR takes superb pictures, it likely won’t survive adventure trips such as shooting the rapids in Colorado or riding a zip line above the trees in Costa Rica — or for that matter, following screaming kids around the swimming pool and other demanding daily life photography. The Pentax WG-2 can take a beating and capture very good photos and HD video anywhere from under the water to high on a mountaintop.

Pentax Optio WG-2 key specs

  • 16 megapixel photos
  • 1080p HD video
  • Waterproof to 40 feet, dustproof, cold-proof to 14 degrees F
  • Shock-resistant to a 5-foot drop, crush-proof to 220 lbs.
  • 5x zoom lens
  • 3-inch, high-resolution LCD
  • 6.8 ounces
  • $350

© 2012 TechNewsDaily

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