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The Ricoh WG-4 powers up and is ready to shoot in a whisker over one second; it goes on to autofocus almost instantly in bright conditions. There's a brief pause of up to a second whilst the camera focuses in darker surroundings, but it's still a nippy performance.
The camera's exposure metering system is also impressive, producing accurate exposures that capture reasonable highlight and shadow detail. Colour reproduction is very good as well, with vibrant yet realistic tones that give images plenty of visual impact. Occasionally auto white balance spoils things by adding a warm colour cast to some shots taken indoors or under fluorescent lighting, but it's an rare issue.
At low sensitivity settings up to ISO400, the 16MP sensor is capable of resolving good detail from close to medium-range subjects. Shooting landscapes reveals some smoothing of fine detail, though the results are still sharp enough to avoid looking painterly. Push on to ISO800 and noise levels noticeably increase with more grain and some colour speckling being visible. At ISO1600 grain isn't too intrusive, but colour speckling is obvious in shadow areas, even when viewing at 50% image size. Consequently the noise levels at ISO3200 and above mean such sensitivity settings are best avoided.
Fortunately the relatively wide-aperture f/2.0 lens (at maximum wide-angle) means plenty of light can reach the sensor so higher ISO sensitivities aren't required as often. With only a 4x optical zoom range, distortion isn't an issue, though the lens does produce noticeable chromatic aberration (purple fringing) on high-contrast boundaries. Corner sharpness is also slightly lower than the centre of frame, but you'll need to be a serious pixel-peeper to notice that.
The WG-4 GPS' features are a bit of a mixed bag too. Its GPS system is easy to set up and use, though it won't do the 240-shot battery life any favours, especially as it continues to stay active even when the camera is switched off. Maintaining a stable satellite link in a built-up area can also be tricky.
Although the camera does have some Digital Filer special effects, they can only be applied once the image has been captured. The resulting retro, colour and contrast enhancement looks aren't terribly eye-catching either. HDR mode is more useful though, allowing you to capture noticeably increased shadow and highlight detail than in standard Auto Picture mode.
It's a pity there's isn't an automatic panorama mode, however, given the low-resolution panoramas generated from other cameras in the class, this omission is hardly a deal-breaker.
If you're after a tough and dependable waterproof camera, the Ricoh WG-4 GPS makes a good case for itself. Its build quality is up there with the best cameras in the class and consequently it feels like it will survive plenty of abuse.
Action-orientated features and GPS give the WG-4 GPS additional appeal as a sporting companion, especially as a range of optional accessories are available to mount the camera to a bike or kayak.
Image quality is nothing special, but it's easily a match for any rival camera at ISO400 and below. Colour speckling at higher sensitivities and above-average chromatic aberration just prevent the WG-4 from producing the highest overall image quality of the current crop of tough compact cameras.
Great build quality and useful features make the WG-4 GPS a capable action camera that also performs well and usually produces attractive images.
The wide-format screen with its small image preview trails the competition, as does the relatively modest waterproof depth rating and Digital Filter effects which can't be applied as you shoot. Better hand grips would also be welcome.
The Ricoh WG-4 GPS is a very good toughened and waterproof camera that's well built and produces respectable image quality in good light.
It's a pity the camera is actually little more than a rebranded Pentax WG-3 GPS though. Trading that camera's wireless Qi charging capability for a new shutter priority mode is the only change, and it's arguably not a particularly appealing one.
Given the Canon D30 and Olympus TG-3 both offer significant improvements over their predecessors, we'd have liked the Ricoh WG-4 GPS bring more to the table. However, it has enough going for it to still make a decent all-rounder.
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