Cameras

Pentax Optio W80 Digital Camera Review

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Introduction

The Optio W80 is a well priced, tough camera that can take a beating but still keep working. However, the images it takes are merely average.

Front

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Back

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Sides

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Top

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Bottom

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In the Box

Box Photo
  • The camera
  • Wrist strap
  • D-BC78 battery charger
  • D-LI78 battery
  • Power cable
  • Operation manual & quick start guide
  • Software CD
  • Carrying pouch
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable

Color

In our tests for the accuracy of the colors captured by the W80, we found middling results: the colors that it captured were a little inaccurate, but not hideously so. As you can see from the samples below, the W80 seemed to have a particular issue with oranges and some reds, but other colors were well captured. Skin tones and blues were mostly accurate, though. More on how we test color.

The W80 offers three different color modes (the setting is called Image Tone); Natural, Bright and Monochrome. We found that the Natural setting provided the most accurate color.

Color Modes

The W80 offers three color modes through a setting called Image Tone: Bright, Natural, and Monochrome. These pretty much do what you would expect: Bright boosts the saturation of colors, while Monochrome shoots in black and white. Natural is the one that gets the most accurate color, so most users will stick it on this setting and forget about it.

Noise

The W80 was not a great performer in our noise tests: we found that images quickly became noisy as the ISO increased, meaning that shots taken indoors or underwater look rather grainy. The camera does try and correct for this by removing the noise, but it only does a moderate job of this; fine details in images shot under low light get quickly lost in the grain. More on how we test noise.

We examined how the noise increases as the ISO goes up in two different lighting conditions: 60 lux (equivalent to indoor lighting) and 3000 lux (about the same as sunny day). The amount of noise at the lower light level is lower, presumably because the camera is using more aggressive noise reduction to try and compensate for the longer shutter speeds that are required to capture images at these levels.

If we compare the noise of the W80 to other cameras, we find that it is noisier than most of them, even at low ISO levels. For examples of the noise in images, see the table below.

ISO

The ISO range of the W80 goes from a minimum of 100 up to a maximum of 1600 at full resolution. Two additional levels of 3200 and 6400 are available if you don't mind losing a lot of resolution: these settings are restricted to capturing images at 5 megapixel resolutions. As you can see from the samples below, the image quality is somewhat lacking, though; the images are very grainy and blurry looking.

NOTE: The images above are not used in our testing or scoring, but are included here to show real-world examples of the differences between cameras at the various ISO settings.

Resolution

Much like color and nose, we found that the W80 had acceptable but not spectacular results in our tests on the resolution of the images it captures. We found that the images got somewhat distorted at both ends of the zoom range, and that the images got rather soft at the edges as well. More on how we test resolution.

Distortion ()

One of the things we test for here is distortion; do straight lines become curved in the images the camera captures? The answer for the W80 is yes: we found that the images had significant pincushion distortion at the wide end of the zoom range, and barrel distortion at the mid and telelphoto points. This means that straight lines will be curved inwards on wide angle shots, and outwards on others: see the examples below.

Sharpness ()

The W80 is capable of capturing a good level of detail in images, but it is not consistent: at both the mid and telephoto ends of the zoom range, we found that the images became rather soft at the edges, with fine details becoming lost in a blurry haze. To be fair, we did find that this was much less of an issue with the camera at the widest zoom setting: here, the images were pretty sharp across the frame.

Chromatic Aberration ()

We also found a problem with chromatic aberration (CA) at the mid and telephoto ends of the zoom range: here, there was significant CA at the edges of the frame, as shown by a distinct color fringe on sharp edges. You can see examples of this and the lack of sharpness in the examples below.

Quality & Size Options

The W80 offers a lot of control over the size and quality of the captured images, with 9 different size options and three quality settings. The 3 quality options are described as three stars, two stars and one star. The size options are detailed below.

Image Stabilization

The W80 uses an image stabilization system called Pixel Track SR, which works differently to most others. Most image stabilization (IS) systems work by either shifting an element of the lens to compensate for shake (called optical IS) or by decreasing the shutter speed to make the shake less obvious (called electronic IS), but the W80 takes a different approach. After the image is captured, the camera analyzes it and processes it to reduce shake (Pentax does not explain how this processing works). We found the results to be significantly sharper than most; the images were much sharper with this turned on than with it turned off.

However, this extra sharpness comes at a price: the processing takes time. After you shoot an image with it enabled, you have to wait about 2 to 3 seconds for the camera to process the image before you can take another. This means that you can't use the Pixel Track SR feature with the camera in continuous shooting mode, while shooting video or with a number of scene modes. This is a serious limitation that makes the Pixel Track SR feature a lot less attractive than it first appears. For modes where the Pixel Track SR feature can't be used, a conventional electronic IS mode is available. More on how we test image stabilization.

Video Mode

The W80 can capture movies at a maximum resolution of 1280 by 720 pixels, which is equivalent to the 720p mode of a HDTV. These movies are captured at either 30 or 15 frames per second, and are saved out as standard AVI files that can be imported into most video editing programs. The sound that the camera captures alongside the video is mono, and the sound quality is rather poor. The maximum length of a single video is 11 minutes.

The 5x optical zoom of the W80 cannot be used while recording, but you do get access to a 6.3x digital zoom. You can also set the optical zoom before you start recording, so you can combine the two to get a total zoom of 31x. However, we would not recommend this, as the video gets extremely grainy from the digital zoom, and the camera shake is exaggerated by the optical zoom.

Video Color

The W80 did a lackluster job of capturing color in our test videos: we found that the colors looked overly bright and garish. This is not uncommon with cameras like this, but it can make videos look rather cartoonish. More on how we test video color.

Video Sharpness

The videos that the W80 captured were also not particularly sharp: the compression used by the camera meant that fine details got lost, and fast moving objects quickly turned into blurry messes. More on how we test video sharpness.

Playback Mode

The W80 has a wide selection of playback features, including the ability to create slideshows and to zoom in up to 10x on captured images. There are three different levels of information you can display on these captured photos: none, a bit and a lot. The slideshow feature is well implemented; it takes just a few clicks to create a simple slideshow of photos.

In-Camera Editing

A good selection of image editing tools are also available: images can be cropped, resized or have red-eye removed. There are also a number of digital filters that add effects to the image (such as black and white, sepia, color correction, etc) that add some of the features that other cameras offer while shooting. These filter also include the ability to add a fish-eye distortion effect or overlay a photo frame to the photo.

Direct Print Options

Support is offered for DPOF and PictBridge printing, which allow you to flag images for printing and to connect to a printer directly.

Viewfinder

There is no viewfinder on the W80; everything is done through the LCD screen.

EVF Photo
EVF Photo 2

... and it has a diopter adjustment ring.

Display

The screen on the back of the W80 is a 2.5-inch LCD with a resolution of 230k pixels. That's a little on the low end, so you have to zoom in to get a real feel for when images are sharp. But it's adequate for general use, and the screen is clear and bright. The screen also feels tough, which is important for an underwater camera that could end up being banged about by angry fish.

LCD Photo
LCD Photo 2

...but it turns into a nice 3-inch widescreen in playback mode.

Flash

The small flash is located just above and to the right of the lens. This is not particularly powerful: we found it only penetrated out to a few feet in complete darkness.The close proximity to the lens also means that it is rather prone to creating red-eye.

Flash Photo

The flash emitter pops up from the top of the body via a mechanical release.

Lens

The W80 includes a 5x zoom lens, which is impressive considering that the lens is completely within the camera body: the front of the lens is flush with the front of the camera body. This has a focal length of 5mm to 25mm, which is equivalent to a 28mm to 140mm zoom on a 35mm film camera. That's a good range for a compact camera, especially with the wider end of the zoom range giving a wider view for shooting landscapes or group shots.

Lens Photo

The aperture range of this zoom lens is limited, though: the widest aperture is f/3.5 at the wide zoom setting and f/5.5 at the telephoto end.

Battery

The power source of the W80 is a small Lithium-ion battery. This holds a rather small 680mAh of charge, which means that this camera does not last long; Pentax quotes the battery life as 170 shots, which seems a little optimistic to us.

Battery Photo

Memory

Images and video taken by the W80 are stored on an SDHC or SD Card that fits into a slot above the battery. A 4 GB SDHC card (which costs about $25) will hold over 8000 images or about 11 minutes of video at the highest resolution and quality setting.

Media Photo

Jacks, Ports & Plugs

The W80 connects to the outside world through a single proprietary port on the bottom of the camera body under the battery and memory card port cover. Two cables that fit into this are included: a USB one and an A/V out cable that provides a single composite analog video and audio output. There is no option for a HDMI connection here, so you will only get a standard definition preview of the images or videos that this camera captures if you connect this to a HDTV.

Ports Photo 1
Ports Photo 2
Ports Photo 3

The DC-input and multi-AV port are located on the right side of the camcorder.

Ports Photo 4

... as is the SD/SDHC card slot.

Other Hardware

Waterproof

The W80 is waterproof to a depth of 16 feet, which means it can be used for snorkel diving or other shallow dives. Pentax claims that it is waterproof at this depth for dives of up to 2 hours.

Other Hardware Photo

The new GPS module.

Drop-proof

The W80 is designed to withstand being dropped onto hard surfaces from heights of up to 3.3 feet.

Cold-proof

The W80 can keep taking photographs in temperatures of down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit (around -10 degrees Celsius).

Shooting Modes

The W80 has a wide selection of shooting modes, including two automatic modes and 23 scene modes. The two auto modes are the Auto Pict mode (where the camera selects the best scene mode to use) and the green button mode, which puts the camera into a fully automatic mode. In addition, there is a standard Program mode that allows the user to shoot automatically, but to tweak many of the settings.

Missing from this list is a full manual mode: there is no way to directly set the aperture or shutter speed on the W80.

Auto Mode Features

Focus - The auto focus of the W80 was fairly speedy, but not always successful. In low light, it sometimes failed to find a focus point, even with the help of the AF illuminator. Most of the time, though, it performed adequately, and we found that the facial recognition feature worked well enough.

One feature that we did like was the 1cm macro mode of this camera, which allows it to focus down to a distance of 1cm for getting up close and personal with small objects.

Exposure - The W80 allows you to tweak the exposure settings in program mode; you can add or take away up to 2 stops of exposure. In addition, the camera can automatically take 3 bracketed exposures at the right level, minus one stop and plus one stop. You cannot, however, widen the bracketing range or take more than three shots.The W80 also includes a D-range setting, which tries to expand the dynamic range of the camera by bringing in more shadow and highlight detail.

Metering - The usual options of evaluative, center weighted and spot metering are available in the program shooting mode.

Aperture - The W80 has a very limited aperture range: at both the wide and telephoto ends of the range it has a range of just f/3.5 to f/5.5. There is also no manual aperture control.

Shutter Speed - The W80 has a reasonably wide shutter speed range, though; from 1/1500 of a second down to 1 second. In the night scene mode, This can be expanded to 4 seconds.

Self-Timer - As well as the usual 10 and 2-second self timer delays, the W80 also offers an interval timer mode that can take between 1 and 412 shots at intervals of between 10 seconds and 99 minutes apart. That means you could take a series of time-lapse photos over up to 28 days.

In addition, a smile detect shutter option is included, which only takes the photo when it detects the subject smiling.

Modes Photo

The full mode dial is nice, but frequently rotates by accident.

Scene Modes

As well as the automatic modes, there are 23 scene modes available. These include the usual modes (portrait, landscape, etc) as well as a few more unusual ones, such as half-length portrait and digital wide, which composites two photos together to create a short panorama.

Picture Effects

A selection of picture effects are on offer in the W80. Some of these are shown below. These effects can be applied after the image is captured, and the image is saved as a new file. That means that you aren't stuck with the effect if you don't like it.

Manual Controls

Options are available for auto, daylight, shade, tungsten, fluorescent and a custom white balance setting. The custom setting measures the white point of a white object in the frame.

Manual Controls Photo 1

A dedicated focus-mode switch on the front panel.

Manual Controls Photo 2

The scroll wheel surrounding the d-pad is neither awful nor perfect.

Drive/Burst Mode

The W80 includes two burst modes: a continuous mode that can shoot to the capacity of the card at the maximum resolution, and a high speed mode that takes up to 8 shots at a lower resolution (5 megapixels) at a speed of about 2.9 frames a second.

Shot to Shot ()

We found that in the continuous shooting mode, the W80 was able to shoot about 1.2 frames a second. That's a little slow, but we don't typically see high speed from compact cameras.

Handling

The W80 is a small camera, but it fits well into the hand, with a small ridge on the front providing something for the fingertips to grab onto. We would recommend the use of the wrist strap, though, as the metallic case of the camera can get slippery with sweaty hands. This wrist strap can only be attached to one side of the camera, which could be a problem if you are left handed or want to attach it elsewhere.

Handling Photo 1
Handling Photo 2
Handling Photo 3
Handling Photo 4

These dedicated buttons give you quick access
to aperture and shutter speed controls.

Buttons & Dials

The shutter and zoom controls on this camera are well placed, with the index finger naturally falling onto the shutter and the thumb onto the zoom controls. Both can be comfortably used while holding the camera in one hand, but the other controls require two hands to use.

Buttons Photo 1

The other controls are also well placed and well labeled: it is easy to figure out how to do things such as delete a photo and engage the smile shutter.

Buttons Photo 2

The on-screen menu of the W80 is easy to access (just press the menu button) and is reasonably well laid out; we had no problem in accessing the most commonly used settings. We did, however, find the some options are poorly placed: the ISO setting requires scrolling down to reach, while the Image Tone setting is first on the list. Most users are more likely to want to access the ISO setting more frequently than the image tone.

Manual & Learning

The manual that comes with the W80 is comprehensive and pretty well written, describing the features of the camera in a good level of detail, with a decent index and table of contents.

Canon PowerShot D10 Comparison

Both cameras are well priced: the Fuji Z33WP will cost you about $140, while the Pentax W80 will cost about $200. You do get a wider set of features with the W80, though: a 5x zoom (against the 3X of the Z33WP), the ability to capture high definition video at 1280 by 720 pixel resolution and a wider zoom (28mm, while the Fuji has a widest zoom of 35mm). The W80 also has a rather nice super macro mode that can focus down to 1cm away, while the Fuji has a minimum focus distance of 8cm.

The W80 is also a tougher camera: Pentax claims that it can go down to 16 feet underwater, be dropped from 3.3 feet and can stand temperatures of 14 degrees Fahrenheit. The Fuji can go down to 10 feet, and the company makes no claims for shock and cold-proofing. So, while the Fuji would be fine for a beach vacation and taking photos of some skinny dipping, the W80 would be a better pick if you plan on doing any snorkeling or climbing up the local mountains.


/r:render

Olympus Stylus TOUGH-8000 Comparison

The Pentax W80 is the cheaper camera by a significant amount; $200 against the $270 of the Canon. But it also did not perform as well as the Canon; we found that the Canon was a superior camera in our tests on color, noise and resolution. Both shoot images at the same resolution, but the images from the Canon are sharper, with less distortion and more accurate color. The Pentax has a more effective image stabilization system, but it is also much harder to use, as it requires a couple of seconds processing after shooting each image. The Canon's IS mode does not affect the shooting speed at all.

The Canon is also the tougher camera, with waterproofing down to 33 feet (the Pentax goes to 16 feet) and shock proofing for drops of up to 6.6 feet (the Pentax is only specified to withstand drops from 3.3 feet. Both cameras are proofed against the same level of cold, though; they can both handle temperatures down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 Celsius).

In the end, the choice comes down to to cost and how rough you want to play. The Canon is tougher, but it is also more expensive. If you prefer the beach to the blasted dunes of the Kalahari or amusement park water slides to the waters off Cape Horn, the Pentax may be all you need.


/r:render

COMP 3

The Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 is the more expensive camera by a significant amount. But it's also tougher, putting up with deeper drives (33 feet). Neither camera had a huge advantage in performance: we found that both had only lackluster performance that didn't measure up to some of the other waterproof cameras that we have tested.


/r:render

Conclusion

The W80 is a decent camera, with a good set of features. But it's not a great camera: we found that the images were somewhat distorted, and had only moderate sharpness. The colors of the captured images were decent, but the images had a significant amount of noise as the ISO was increased above

There are some good features about it, though; the Pixel Tracking SR works well (albeit at the cost of quick shooting; the 2-second delay is frustrating) and the video it captures looks good. And it's a tough camera that can stand up to some punishment and keep shooting, so it might be a good pick if you are looking for a cheap camera for roughing it and don't mind some compromises in image quality.

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