When you think of action cams, you can think of any number of brands. Ricoh might not be one of them, but on paper the Ricoh WG-M2 has the perfect combination of features if you like your adventures on the wet and rough end of the spectrum.
The camera is pretty simple and straightforward: six buttons, WiFi, and a couple of lenses, and that’s all that comes with it. The camera’s party trick – and why I noticed it in the first place – is that it immediately has really good waterproof properties. Ricoh claims that you can bring his little fist-sized wonder beneath Big Blue’s surface to 20m without the need for a separate enclosure.
Not deep enough for diving
For a scuba fanatic like me, the 65 feet / 20 m limit is a bit annoying – it’s not enough to be useful. Sure, with a basic open water certification, you can dive up to 18 meters (60 feet), which is within reach of the camera, but few divers worth their salt would be without an advanced course. Then you can start up to 30 m. The annoying part is that without special lighting equipment you can’t get good shots below 15m anyway (so I’d be almost ready to admit Ricoh’s argument that what they have is enough), but most dives start out a bit deeper with that. Simply put, you don’t want to fish your camera out of your pocket to find that it has been crushed by the pressure before it’s time to take some pictures.
Other than this problem, I found myself at a height of 25m and found that I still had the camera in my pocket. It was fine, but I probably wouldn’t push my luck a second time; I’m sure there is a good reason Ricoh put the numbers they made on the side of the camera.
Not good for stills, pretty good for videos
The camera itself is pretty good on paper. It records up to 4k video at 30 frames per second and a range of video speeds with lower resolution and higher frame rate. The camera also has a time-lapse mode, an “advanced movie mode” (which, as far as I can tell, keeps recording the same 10-minute block until you stop the video), and some still video modes. The 1.5-inch LCD display is a very nice touch and should be enough to make GoPro ask what the product development team is taking this long.
With the dome lens, the WG-M2 has an extremely wide 204-degree field of view (roughly the equivalent of a 16mm lens on a full-frame SLR), which is dramatic, but mostly high-speed action camera -Reach, it’s essentially useless for anything else – it certainly can’t be used for taking vacation photos.
If you put the camera in underwater mode, you will need to switch the front dome lens to a flat glass lens instead. A smart move from Ricoh dome lenses doesn’t look good on these types of cameras, as evidenced by the huge home industry making flat lenses for underwater housing for other action cameras.
The quality of the lenses is such that the camera is probably best avoided for still images. the chromatic aberration is absolutely terrible; Little did I know they still have cameras that are so affected.
However, in video mode you will notice the problem much less, and since the pages are likely to be blurry if you parachute to earth anyway, it is unlikely anyone will notice. In other words, if you’re a video fanatic, don’t write this camera off just yet …
Deeply flawed WiFi
As mentioned earlier, Ricoh’s new waterproof Wünderkind has built-in WiFi, which is exciting for someone like me who is mobile first most of the time, and double that when traveling. Unfortunately, the Wi-Fi functionality is almost unusable. The Ricoh Image Sync App is almost impossible to figure out and damn flawed.
For example, imagine trying to select 19 of the 20 photos you took that day. You’d have to tap the screen 19 times, but even with the slightest side swipe, the app will switch to another mode and lose your progress. If you tap 19 different places on a screen without swiping a fraction of an inch, you’ll see why this is absolutely idiotic.
Realistically, you’ll be wrestling with Wi-Fi exactly once before you give up and instead insert the micro SD card into your computer to edit files. Pooh.
I would hesitate to say that the WG-M2 is a bad camera; It’s just not the camera I hoped it would be. Given my mostly positive experience with a few other Ricoh cameras – especially the Theta S camera – I was deeply disappointed with the WG-M2 WiFi functionality and overall image quality. In a world where smartphone cameras are so good, action camera manufacturers need to accelerate the pace to stay relevant.
The camera is good enough to record a video or two. Use it underwater on a well-lit reef, or attach it to the front of your snowboard for some off-piste fun. However, the lasting impression I made is that I just wished I had a waterproof case to keep my iPhone safe.
The result is that the WG-M2 is a great toy for casual use, but a retail price of $ 299.95 means few people will use it as such. I suspect the camera will struggle to find a user base of people who will prefer it to the better-featured GoPro series of cameras or cheaper cameras from other manufacturers.