Shifting Gear

Gulf of Papua

A processed seascape taken with a Pentax WG -3 GPS

For quite a long while now,  I have been a DSLR-toting traveller, dragging heavy photography gear in my trips to often harsh and unfriendly environments and for assignments often unrelated to photography.

Pangalay Dance

Practice Shot: The “Pangalay Dance” of the Tausug Tribe of Mindanao shot and processed using an iPhone.

My regular work does not require serious photography.  In fact, carrying a professional photography gear in my travels creates security issues and inconveniences at the very least.  For example, I couldn’t walk around downtown Port Moresby with my  Nikon DSLR dangling from my body unless I am ready to expose my own neck to robbers for it.  I couldn’t bring out my Nikon and its long lens from the car in conflict-affected zones of Mindanao unless I’m pretty sure that the rebels who mix with the ordinary folks won’t shoot me or suspect me for a spy.  I have to make sure I have weather-proofing accessories when travelling in extremely cold provinces of Mongolia or through the rain or water spray while cruising on dinghies and dugout canoes in rivers and seas of Asia and the Pacific.   And that’s not all. The total weight of a DSLR and its basic accessories is not light.  Combine that with the weight of the laptop, tablet, mobile phones and their individual accessories which are all necessary for the travel and I could say that the gadgetry I’ve been constantly carrying around were just shy of the metal weights body builders lift for just a few hours in a day.


The Pentax WG- 3 GPS (Photo from Digital Photography Review)

I have always known the pain and have endured these difficulties not only because I wanted to take great photos but also because I take pride in being recognized as a photographer.  But I have recently decided this has to change and the final straw that convinced me to do it was a recent issue of the National Geographic which featured great images taken in similarly treacherous environments with an iPhone (In fact, the National Geographic has published an article that gives tips for better iPhone photography).  Yes, an iPhone, when I’ve been snubbing even the relatively small high resolution point-and-shoot cameras and have been torturing my aging shoulders with a heavy DSLR  all these years.  If iPhone photography meets the standards of National Geographic — the usual benchmark of photographers worldwide — what the heck am I doing dragging these heavy gear around?!  But drastically shifting from a heavy DSLR to a teeny-weeny, ultra-light iPhone is not easy.  I needed something else in between.  A camera that can deliver reasonable quality and is discrete enough in size but can withstand the torturous lifestyle and environment in which I often operate.


A processed photo taken with a Pentax WG -3 GPS

Enter the Pentax WG-3 GPS.  The product description in DP Review reads:  “The Pentax WG-3 GPS features built-in GPS (obviously), an image-stabilized 16MP CMOS sensor, and an F2.0-4.9 lens with 25-100mm equivalent zoom. It is waterproof down to 45 feet, drop-resistant from heights of 6.6 feet, dust-resistant, and can handle temperatures down to 14F. Finally, it’s back-pocket-safe, meaning you can sit on it and it’s still likely to work (the WG-3 can handle up to 220 pounds of pressure).  New to the GPS model is a built-in clock that can also report the pressure, altitude, depth, and compass direction. This model also charges wirelessly.”   Hmm, sounds exactly what I need.


A processed underwater shot taken with a Pentax WG -3 GPS

To cut the story short, I got myself a Pentax WG – 3 in April and have been trying to get used to it since then.  I have tried it in portraits, underwater shots, and landscapes but can’t get myself to try sitting on it or dropping it from a certain height to test its pressure resistance — I think I’ll take Pentax’s word for it.   On my recent trip to Papua New Guinea,  I hesitantly, and quite sadly,  left my Nikon DSLR in my cabinet and only brought my iPhone and the WG – 3 for any photo opportunity I’d encounter.  For the first time,  I travelled without a heavy DSLR in my luggage but still the landscapes and panoramic images (see camera review here) I brought home looked great to me (first photo)  and I’ll be featuring them in the succeeding posts.  I’ll also have a chance to test it against the harsh weather conditions of Mongolia in the coming months and I’m excited.  Of course, the Nikon DSLR will remain as my trusted companion during serious photography projects.  As for the iPhone, I think I’ll confine it to its phone call, texting and wifi functions for now until it is needed by my WG – 3 to provide back-up.