Ricoh WG–M1: A Usurper Emerges

 
Ricoh WG–M1

Ricoh WG–M1

 

With the WG-M1, Ricoh attempts to dethrone GoPro’s dominance in the action camera market. Aditya Nair wonders if it will succeed.

With all the action cameras and action-adjacent cams (here’s looking at you, HTC RE) introduced recently, the Ricoh WG-M1 looks like a most serious competitor to the GoPro in India. To differentiate it slightly from the rest, Ricoh is positioning it as a video-centric action camera that just happens to make pictures. I was curious to see if it would inspire the same awe that the Hero4 did.

Photograph/Aditya Nair

Photograph/Aditya Nair

Features
The first thing I realised when I got this camera was that I have really well-defined molars. While the camera fit snugly in my mouth, the minimum focusing distance of 0.6m meant that my images were out of focus. And thus ended my dreams of making dental selfies.

Moving to features that actually matter… the camera has a 1/2.3-inch 14MP CMOS sensor and a 16.8mm (160° field of view) f/2.8 lens for stills. With video the FOV is 137°. Since it is being branded as a video camera, I was disappointed that it topped out at 1080p30.

The camera does have Motion Blur Reduction (electronic stabilisation) in the Video mode. As a result, the WG-M1 can produce video that is smoother than the GoPro, straight out of the camera. Anyone who doesn’t want to be bothered with serious video editing will welcome this. I wish there was a Timelapse mode for photos and more control with the Burst mode, which shoots at 10fps and then takes quite a bit of time to write the files. The camera is waterproof (up to 10m), shockproof (up to 2m), freezeproof (-10°C).

Being waterproof up to 10m means that the camera is good enough for novices. The GoPro housing, however, lets you go up to 40m, which is the limit for recreational diving as specified by Recreational Scuba Training Council.

RIMG0663

Handling
I absolute love the look of this camera. It reminds me of single-person submersible vehicles. Adding to this look is the 1.5-inch LCD, on the top of the camera, which is a welcome addition in the action camera segment. Looks aside, I would have preferred to have the LCD on the back panel though, like in the GoPro Hero4 Silver. This would have been more functional.

The buttons, which sit on top of the waterproof body, are much easier to press than with the Hero4s. The camera’s startup time is also much faster. Additionally, it lets you shoot while it is charging. Sadly, once switched on, the camera is in video mode by default and there is no way to change the default to Photo or Burst.

The WG-M1 uses a tripod mount and has a fairly decent lineup of accessories. The advantage is that these accessories will probably be useable with other lightweight cameras as well, if you invest in them.

Photograph/Aditya Nair

Photograph/Aditya Nair

Performance
Action camera quality has now reached a point where it lags behind smartphones. While this holds true for the WG-M1, it is as good as it gets considering the competition. The GoPro tends to be conservative when it comes to selecting the ISO. Often, in low light, it will opt for ISO 400 and result in blurred images. In the same situation, the Ricoh would choose ISO 800. Additionally, the noise performance is about half a stop better than the GoPro.

In mixed lighting, the Ricoh tends to overexpose slightly, giving better colours and more detail in the shadows, while the highlights can get blown out. Conversely, the GoPro tends to underexpose and therefore the reverse is true.

There were times when the camera would overheat and switch off. It takes some time to start up again after that. We have been informed that a firmware upgrade, which will be released soon, should fix this issue and will be updating our review once we test it.

Although the JPEGs allow you to recover a fair bit of detail, I wish the camera included a flat profile as well, for better editing. Exposure: 1/30sec at f/2.8, ISO 400)

Although the JPEGs allow you to recover a fair bit of detail, I wish the camera included a flat profile as well, for better editing. Exposure: 1/30sec at f/2.8, ISO 400) Photograph/ Aditya Nair

Conclusion
As a stills only camera, the WG-M1 (Rs. 29,315) is a good, despite missing a few key features like Timelapse and a Night mode. For someone interested in video capabilities, the GoPro offers better frame rates, higher resolution (it can shoot 2.7K video at 30fps), a flat colour profile and has some fun modes like SuperView. Therefore, I would recommend the more expensive GoPro Hero4 Silver (Rs. 36,000) for someone looking for a video camera or a photo-video combo.

If you do go for the Ricoh, you can choose between black and orange. And if I may be so bold as to give you a fashion tip, “orange is the new black.”

FINAL RATINGS
Features
Needs better video features, lacks exposure compensation, has Motion Blur Reduction
25/30
Performance
Overheats, good image quality and ISO performance, control over WB
24/30
Build Quality
Less than expected for an action camera, waterproof up to 10m, shockproof
17/20
Ergonomics
Bulky but lightweight, complex menu system, buttons are easy to press
12/15
Warranty & Support
Good service network              
3/5

 

MRP Rs. 29,315
OVERALL 80%
VALUE FOR MONEY 3/5
Who should buy it? Adventure enthusiasts looking for an action camera for photography.
Why? It is cheaper than the reigning king and delivers better image quality.

 

Tags: action cameras, Aditya Nair, Adventure, April 2015, Garmin, GoPro, Hero 4, HTC RE, Pentax, Ricoh WG-M1