Pentax's previous waterproof camera, the Optio W60, has been updated. The new Optio W80 has 12 megapixels instead of 10, it's waterproof to 5m rather than 4m, and it's been toughened up to be shockproof as well, from a height of 1m. The upgrade doesn't come cheap, though -- the W80 wades in at around £270.
Versatile and tough
The W80 feels more substantial and better made than the W60, although its shape and layout are more or less unchanged. It's a versatile little beast, because it packs in a 5x wideangle zoom, a high-definition movie mode and a sensitivity range that goes all the way up to ISO 6,400. You can focus right down to 10mm in macro mode, too. The lens doesn't extend during shooting, so the W80 retains its slim profile even at maximum zoom. Round the back, you get a decent LCD that, although not particularly big by compact standards, is bright, saturated and sharp, even in dim lighting.
The toughening process this camera has gone through makes it a good deal more competitive than the W60. The Olympus mju Tough-8000 goes deeper (10m), but the W80's 5m dive depth will be good enough for most people, although Pentax only guarantees continuous operation at this depth for 2 hours. The shockproofing brings the W80 back on a par with the 8000, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT1 and Canon PowerShot D10 and, like these, it will function down to a temperature of -10°C. It's dust-proof too, so it covers all the bases. On top of all that, it's not a bad-looking camera, either.
Our W80 review sample had a pretty minging lens, though. It was sharp enough in the centre, but lost focus quite badly at the edges, and it was worse on the left side than the right. A quick check of some old W60 shots (it uses the same 5x zoom lens) suggested that there might be a specific fault with our model, so it might be wise not to set too much store by the results we got. But, besides the lens issue, images had a distinctly gritty, soft look even at the lowest ISO settings.
There are more general issues, though. The control layout's pretty basic, which means you have to use the main menus to change even routine settings like the ISO and white balance, and the buttons feel quite tacky, too. The autofocus isn't that fast, and the face detection occasionally went overboard, targeting an espresso cup on our desk at one point. There's no optical image-stabilisation system either -- you only get digital shake reduction, which isn't in the same league. And, while it's good to have a 1,280x720-pixel resolution HD movie mode, you can't zoom while filming, and the W80 has no HDMI output, so you have to put up with standard PAL definition for TV playback.
Putting aside the lens issue, the Pentax Optio W80's picture quality is still pretty average, and its over-reliance on its menu system makes it a drag to use. Enhancements to the design mean the W80 can now tough it out with the best of its rivals, like the 8000, D10 and FT1, but the build and finish still don't quite feel in the same league.
Edited by Charles Kloet