It's only January, but this will likely be the most disappointing camera of the year

Pentax WG-90
(Image credit: Ricoh)

Late last year Ricoh announced the first new Pentax-branded compact camera since 2014: the rugged and waterproof WG-90. Today you're now able to pre-order the camera from B&H or Amazon.com, priced at $329.95/£379.99/AU$629, with a release date scheduled for January 31. Quite why there's been such a delay between last year's announcement and retail availability is a mystery, as so far as I can tell, the Pentax WG-90 is outwardly and functionally identical to the Ricoh WG-80 it replaces.

(Image credit: Ricoh | Pentax)

This means you get the same 16MP, 1/2.3-inch image sensor with an ISO 125-6400 sensitivity range, fronted by a 5x zoom lens capable of a 28-140mm full-frame-equivalent focal range. Toughness credentials include being waterproof to a depth of 14 meters, shockproof from a height up to 1.6m, and crushproof to 100kg of force. The WG-90 is also freezeproof to -10 degrees Celsius. As with the WG-80, the 'new' WG-90 gets extra features like a 1cm 'digital microscope' macro mode, illuminated by the camera's ring of six LED lights encircling the lens.

(Image credit: Ricoh | Pentax)

On the rear is a 2.7" anti-glare LCD screen with a resolution of 230,000 dots - low by 2024 standards, but indicative of the WG-90's true age. At least it is said to be usable under direct sunlight. Another give-away that the WG-90 is far from a genuinely new camera is its video recording capability, which tops out at only Full HD (1080p) resolution.

Even in 2022 when the preceding Ricoh WG-80 was launched, these specs would have been pretty dated, but that's because the WG-90 isn't the first time Ricoh/Pentax has re-released an old camera and just slapped a new model number on it.

The WG-90 isn't just a re-heat of the WG-80 - it can trace its sensor, lens, toughness specs and core features right back to the WG-50 - a camera launched in 2017! It'd therefore be safe to assume that, save for maybe some subtle image processing enhancements, the 'new for 2024' Pentax WG-90 will produce images with all the quality of a 7-year-old compact camera, which even back then was likely no star performer in this respect.

The Ricoh WG-50 from 2017 - essentially the same camera as the 'new' Pentax WG-90 (Image credit: Ricoh)

But should we really be surprised that Ricoh is recycling the same waterproof camera year in, year out? On the one hand it has to keep things fresh for marketing reasons, but on the other; the best camera phones have decimated the traditional compact camera segment, so there's little incentive to invest huge sums of money in developing an all-new rugged camera for what's now such a niche market. Hence we end up with this annual 'name-change-only' situation.

We could forgive Ricoh for this financially prudent (lazy) business model, if only prices of these successive camera models gradually reduced to reflect their aging technology, or at least remained constant. But in the UK at least, the Pentax WG-90 has a launch price of £379.99 - a whopping £100 more than the identical WG-80 it replaces. Nice try, Ricoh, but no deal.

For more information on adventure-type cameras, see our guides on the best action cameras, the best underwater fishing camera, the best hard cases for cameras, and the best binoculars with cameras

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Ben Andrews

Ben is the Imaging Labs manager, responsible for all the testing on Digital Camera World and across the entire photography portfolio at Future. Whether he's in the lab testing the sharpness of new lenses, the resolution of the latest image sensors, the zoom range of monster bridge cameras or even the latest camera phones, Ben is our go-to guy for technical insight. He's also the team's man-at-arms when it comes to camera bags, filters, memory cards, and all manner of camera accessories – his lab is a bit like the Batcave of photography! With years of experience trialling and testing kit, he's a human encyclopedia of benchmarks when it comes to recommending the best buys.