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A smartphone camera competitor that falls short


The Ricoh WG series has been around for a while now, and it has always found favor with creators who like to live life on the wild side of things. However, times have changed. Smartphones are more durable than ever, and they’re encroaching on the adventure camera space. Does the Ricoh WG-80 still offer enough to tempt adventuring creators to splash their cash? Find out in our full review.

Pros

  • Built tough
  • Waterproof
  • Fun macro mode
  • Slide Film and Monochrome profiles are great
  • Improved macro ring light
  • Surprisingly good ergonomics
  • Great optical zoom range
  • Affordable

Cons

  • The LCD
  • Image quality
  • JPEG only
  • Hardly any manual controls
  • Slow autofocus
  • No Wi-Fi, no Bluetooth, no USB-C
  • Battery life

Ricoh WG-80 — Technical specifications

All specifications for the Ricoh WG-80 are from Ricoh’s official website:

  • RICOH lens, 11 elements in 9 groups (5 aspherical elements), f/3.5-5.5
  • Five times optical zoom focal length 5 – 25 mm (35mm equivalent to 28mm–140mm)
  • Pixel Track stabilization
  • Nine-point autofocus system
  • Min focus distance: 1.64ft. – infinity (entire zoom range),
  • Macro min focus distance: 0.33 – 1.97ft. (entire zoom range),
  • 1cm Macro min focus distance: 0.03 – 0.98ft
  • 16-megapixel 1/2.3″ CMOS sensor
  • 2.7″ Wide LCD, approx. 230K dots, AR coating
  • Storage: Built-in Memory (approx. 68MB), 1x SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card
  • Battery life: Approx. 300 shots
  • Equivalent to JIS Class 8 waterproof and JIS Class 6 dustproof capabilities
  • Dimensions: Approx 4.8 (W) x 2.4 (H) x 1.2 (D) inches
  • Weight (with battery and SD card: 194g, 0.42lbs

Ricoh WG-80 — Ergonomics

The Ricoh WG-80 is gaudy and in your face, but this point-and-shoot camera pulls it off. The sharp lines, the very 1980s font on the front, and the overall shape of the camera won’t appeal to everyone, and I wouldn’t say it screams adventure camera. But throughout the review period, the design has grown on me. However, the design is very much like it or love it. There is no in-between. I was sent the orange version of the camera, but it also comes in plain black.

With dimensions of 4.8 inches (W) x 2.4 inches (H) x 1.2 inches (D), this camera can easily slip into pockets or small camera bags like the Hex Ranger Crossbody (read our review here).

Ergonomically, the Ricoh WG-80 surprised me. I have large hands, and I had no problem holding this tiny camera. There are no controls on the camera’s front. However, front and center is the lens surrounded by six powerful lights, which are used in the camera’s macro modes. There are only power and shutter buttons on the top panel.

The camera’s rear is home to the fixed 2.7-inch LCD, zoom controls, a playback button, the main directional/function pad, menu, record, and a digital zoom button. All of the buttons can be accessed with your right thumb. Behind a thick panel on the right, you’ll see the microUSB and mini HDMI ports. The battery and SD card are housed behind another chunky door on the bottom. The left side is home to a camera strap holder. I’ve given my thoughts on the design of the camera. I’ll let the product images speak for themselves, and then you can decide if you love or hate it.

Ricoh WG-80 — Build quality

The Ricoh WG-80 is one rugged camera. If you’re hard on your gear and would like a camera that can go with you to extreme locations, the Ricoh WG-80 will likely be for you. Whether hiking through forests, traversing mountains, swimming at the pool or beach, or working, the Ricoh WG-80 will be up to the task.

The Ricoh WG-80 is waterproof down to 45.9ft / 14 meters. The camera will survive drops from a height of 5 feet. I may have accidentally come close to that, but the camera just bounced and still looks and works like new (phew).

The WG-80 is also crush-proof to 220lbs. Regarding water and dust dealing, the camera is rated for JIS Class 8 waterproofing and JIS Class 6 dust proofing. I haven’t been easy on this camera since it has been in my possession — although the drop was accidental — and it has held up to everything I have thrown at it. It’s impressive.

Ricoh WG-80 — In the field

Unfortunately, the Ricoh WG-80 is a mixed bag when it comes to performance. The camera does, however, feel nice in hand, and I love that you can easily slip it into a pocket. The Ricoh WG-80 is also easy to use, thanks to the control layout.

However, the menu system is old, and the cartoon icons don’t match the rugged design philosophy of the camera. Still, you can quickly find what you’re looking for. In addition, there are many shooting modes to choose from, making this camera great for beginners.

The modes are as follows: Auto, Program, HDR, Handheld Night Snap, Movie, High-Speed Movie, Digital Microscope, Landscape, Flower, Portrait, Underwater, Underwater Movie, Interval shot, Surf and Snow, Kids, Pet, Sport, Night Scene, Night Scene Portrait, Fireworks, Food, Digital SR and Report.

Give us control

Ricoh WG-80
The built-in flash is OK, but not great.

The main directional pad on the back has four quick access buttons that let you access the most controlled features in a fuss-free manner. The zoom controls are nicely placed too. You can quickly go from the widest focal length of 28mm to 140mm. You can also control the built-in flash, which has a redeye-reduction mode. The flash is OK in a pinch. Still, I wouldn’t rely on it.

While I like the optical zoom, I wish there was an option to control the aperture too. I know this camera is aimed at those who want a fuss-free shooting experience, but a little more control over the camera would be nice.

The only parameters you can control are burst modes (high-speed burst drops the image quality down to 4 or 5 megapixels), ISO (100-1600), flash, and exposure compensation. Nowadays, most smartphones allow you to shoot in full manual mode. So, why the option has been excluded in the Ricoh WG-80 is beyond me.

Jack of all trades …

Ricoh WG-80

Then there’s the LCD. It isn’t very good. The LCD panel only has a resolution of 230k dots. When reviewing your images, it’s almost impossible to tell if your photo is in focus. The viewing angles are horrendous too. Look at the screen from above or below, and it washes out. This makes it hard to compose your shot if you’re shooting down low.

The problem is that the WG-80 tries to wear too many hats and doesn’t master anything. From a usability standpoint, this camera’s only saving graces over a smartphone are its ability to shoot underwater for extended periods, its ruggedness and the optical zoom. The small old-school cellphone battery is rated for 300 shots, but I got less than that. The lack of wireless connectivity in 2022 is also inexcusable.

It’s clear that Ricoh hasn’t put much effort into this camera. It’s basically the same as the WG-70. I know it’s a $330 camera, but Ricoh could have done a little more to make this camera more enticing to those who want a modern point-and-shoot camera.

Focus performance

The Ricoh WG-80 features an autofocus system with nine focal points. This wouldn’t be much of an issue if you could choose which focal point you wanted to use. Unfortunately, you can’t. When you half-press the shutter in wide mode, you’re at the mercy of whatever the camera thinks you want to focus on. It’s often unreliable and not the fastest to find focus. This should be the most reliable feature in a point-and-shoot camera, and it’s not.

The center point is better. You can easily quickly and recompose thanks to the improved speed. There is also a tracking mode, but it’s not worth writing home about. The camera often loses focus quickly and struggles to get your subject back in focus. The camera can detect faces and pets, which is a nice feature.

You can bring up a focus mode quick panel by pressing the right arrow on the directional pad. Here, you can choose from Autofocus, Macro, Macro 1cm, Pan Focus, Infinity only, and manual focus. The close focusing distances of this camera are impressive, though.

Macro mode

Ricoh WG-80

The Macro mode is good. You can create some decent macro images when you choose the Macro 1cm mode and use it in conjunction with the ring lights around the lens. It’s an entertaining way to use the camera. However, focusing is slow. So it’s best to use the manual focus feature here.

The manual focus system is excellent. You can easily set the lens to zone focus if you wish, and you can use it like a limited version of the Ricoh GR IIIs Snap Focus. The focusing system in the WG-80 is not the worst I have ever used, but it could be a lot better.

Ricoh WG-80 — Image quality

The Ricoh WG-80 doesn’t inspire when it comes to image quality. The 1/2.3-inch sensor cannot keep up with the sensors found in modern phones. As a result, images are smudgy, muddy and lack detail. The fact that you cannot shoot in RAW doesn’t help. That’s right. This camera is JPEG only.

With the WG-80, you get what you get, and there’s not much you can do about it. You’ll find this is the case whether you shoot at the wide or long end and in macro modes. In addition, the various picture modes usually generate overly processed images, especially the HDR mode.

A three-bracket image from the Ricoh WG-80.

Again, you can bracket, but again, it’s not great. On the other hand, the colors when you use Program mode can be quite pleasing, which is what I expect from Ricoh. High ISO images are not great at all. Once you leave the safety of ISO 200, you’ll find that noise comes on very fast. At 1600, it’s bad. The extended ISO 6400, just forget about it.

Lens character

The lens the Ricoh WG-80 uses is not bad, certainly not great, but not bad. As you can see, it suffers from some extreme ghosting when you shoot into light sources. There is also a fair amount of green and purple fringing present in the images. You’ll also lose a lot of contrast when shooting into light sources.

Color rendering

The colors rendered by the camera and lens can be nice if you use program mode. In program mode, you can choose between Bright, Natural, Vibrant, Slide Film, Monochrome and Cross Processing. I have to say that I am quite impressed with the Natural, Monochrome and Slide Film presets. If I owned this camera, I would leave it in program mode and use these presets exclusively. Slide Film and Monochrome are beautiful.



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Rafael Jones

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