Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Ricoh WG-5: A Mixed Review: Part I

[UPDATE: This camera was defective. I am returning it to Beach Camera for a refund, after Ricoh customer service suggested it is defective. I have elected not to exchange it. The quality issue is serious enough to scare me away. I may change my mind. For less money, I might go for a clip-on macro lens for the iPhone 6S+, except it's already been rendered obsolete by the iPhone 7---and how would you clip a supplementary lense on a dual camera phone?]
I've gotten ahold of a Ricoh WG-5 GPS camera, with Digital Microscope Mode that I have salivated over for some long time.  I was mightily disappointed at first, and, to be sure, the quality of the images has not much improved with experimentation.  However, I have had some limited success with Microscope Mode that suggests this camera, in some way, will be a boon.   If nothing more---and there is, fortunately, quite a bit more---this camera proves that manufacturers could be making much more useful instruments for macro photography---especially in focusing super close without attachments, and designing lighting to the task.  Let us hope that in the future, some manufacturers will perfect this approach.

It's somewhat mysterious what this microscope mode is, and what it can and cannot do, which led to my vacilation about taking this seriously.  Perhaps I can clear the air a little if I can start to post some notes and photos.

The manual helps only a little with Microscope Mode, although for this camera, I actually have found it helpful to read the manual.  This camera has many features that are not intuitively obvious. 

I have had my eye on the tough cameras for a long time, and finally got ahold of one.  Here's the first hard-learned bit: the models of two years ago (WG-3) are almost identical in terms of functionality, so one can save some money.

The Macro Stand.

Together with the camera is a microscope stand ring that snaps to the front of the lens. 

 This fragile little ring is a clue to a certain goodness of this camera: the ability to take a photograph of an object flush on the table top.  Here are three full-frame shots taken using the Macro Stand, with the ring of LEDs around the perimeter of the lens. 

 These are Millimeters on a small machined rule.

It is helpful to hold the object steady.

Case in Point:  Cataloging Microscope Slides

Here is a something more useful.

Full View (Macro Mode)
 Full view taken with Macro Mode

Notice the six LEDs reflected from the glass slide in this view, taken with the camera elevated.

Resting on the Macro Stand.  A reflective white table top was fortuitous.  I used "Vivid" mode to enhance the colors.

Closer up still, zooming in:


 Bottom line: Not publishable, but very useful.   Truly a legitimate use.



I haven't yet mastered the use of the macro modes or the macro LED light ring.  They can be set up to be on for macro focusing.  Nice for night shooting outside.  They seemingly brighten for a flash of time during exposure. The strobe flash is separate. The ring lights are the obvious Coup of this camera.  The Olympus TG-4 has gotten better reviews, but uses a snap on ring light guide.  One thought: what if this could be made much stronger, or use UV or IR LEDs?  



Some Pros and Cons


I.  Cons

  1. Microscope mode achieves its magnfication by digitalliy zooming.  The final resolution is a mere Megapixel shots.  This is scarcely usable.  This may be on a par for early selfie cameras on Cell Phones. 

II.  Pros

  1. The Remarkable LED Ring is an amazing feature that allows one to frame macro shots, even in darkness and it acts as a "flash"
  2. The macro stand allows one to shoot on a flat surface.  


Nifty ringlight on Thingaverse (for 3D printing):


Here is A useful Review