Pentax Optio P80 review
Review Date : Wed, 9 Dec 2009
Author : Cliff Smith
The Pentax Optio P80 proves that even budget compacts can now have HD video too. See how the P80 fares in the What Digital Camera Optio P80 review...
Pros: Style, build quality, features Cons: Performance, image quality
The new Pentax Optio P80 is a 12-megapixel ultra compact with a 4x zoom wide-angle lens, virtually identical to the Optio P70 launched earlier this year. The only upgrades are the video recording mode, increasing the frame rate of the 1280 x 720 mode to 30fps, and an improvement to the face detection/recognition function, which can now detect up to 32 faces, and do so more quickly.
Other features remain unchanged, including the 12.1-megapixel sensor, the 4x zoom wide-angle lens, the 2.7-inch 230k monitor, and indeed the camera's slim and lightweight body, which is available in either silver, metallic green or the gloss black finish shown here.
The control layout is simple and easy to use, however for more experienced users it offers more manual control than is often the case with point-and-shoot compacts. Saturation, sharpness and contrast are all adjustable, and the highlight and shadow correction can be selected independently. However the ‘Triple Anti-shake Protection' is just digital image stabilisation plus a high-ISO setting to boost shutter speed. It is nowhere near as effective as the sensor-shift image stabilisation that Pentax uses in its DSLRs and more expensive compacts.
The improved video recording mode is reasonably good in decent light, but image quality drops in dim light. It has only digital zoom and mono audio, and clips are limited to 11 minutes in HD mode. The P80 does have some fun features but sadly the colour filters and digital effects found on some previous models have been omitted. There are several useful features in playback mode, including automatic cropping for portrait shots, and basic video editing.
The P80 does have better overall performance than the P70. Start-up time is approximately 2.5 seconds, which is a big improvement. In single-shot mode the shot-to-shot time is approximately 3.5 seconds, which is pretty slow but a faster than the previous model. In continuous shooting mode it can take three pictures in a little under three seconds, but after that it takes around six seconds to empty the buffer before shooting another three shots. There is a high-speed burst mode that can take six shots in approximately three seconds, but it's limited to 5MP.
The autofocus system works quickly and accurately in good light, although it does slow down in lower light. There is no AF assist lamp so it doesn't focus in the dark.
Image quality isn't bad for a snapshot compact. Dynamic range is slightly improved by the shadow correction and highlight correction features, and the lens is also good, with excellent centre sharpness capturing plenty of detail. Wide-angle distortion is corrected electronically, which does produce some corner blurring, and there is also a little blue-green chromatic aberration at the edges of the frame, but it's not too horrible, and I've seen a lot worse from more expensive cameras.
Image noise is a problem however, with visible noise even at minimum sensitivity. The P80 has a maximum sensitivity of an impressive ISO 6400, but this and ISO 3200 are only available at 5MP image size, and the quality is poor.
The P80 is a very slim and stylish ultra-compact camera that is easy to use, well made and equipped with a decent list of features including HD video recording and a good wide-angle lens. However its performance is quite slow, and image quality leaves something to be desired.