The P831's controls consist of four buttons, a D-pad, a rocker-switch zoom control and the usual power switch and shutter button on the top panel. They do feel a bit cheap, especially the D-pad, which is loose and wobbly, and the zoom control is also rather poor. The zoom action is stepped, with only five increments between the wide and telephoto ends. The power button is also slightly annoying, in that you have to press and hold it for a couple of seconds to switch the camera on. The position of the buttons doesn't leave a lot of room to hold the camera, but there is a small textured thumbgrip area on the back and the wedge-shaped body does provide a certain level of grip.
Naturally you can't expect a lot of features on a camera costing under £70, and the P831 lacks a lot of things that would be standard features on a more expensive camera. Unsurprisingly it doesn't have any sort of anti-shake system apart from high ISO setting, and while it does boast face detection, it is a pretty crude system and only works with any reliability on well-lit clean-shaven Caucasian faces that are looking directly at the camera. It also has a smile detection shutter system, but even grinning as hard as I could I was unable to get this to work.
The P831 does offer a good selection of standard features including centre-weighted, multi-zone or spot metering, exposure metering, adjustable sharpness and a small selection of colour settings (B&W, sepia, negative and red filter). It also has a ‘Highlight' feature, which I presume is supposed to enhance portrait shots, but I was unable to get this option to work. The drive mode options include two-second, ten-second and double shot self timers, and a burst mode.
Nonetheless despite its apparent crudity the P831does have a couple of surprises, including limited manual exposure control. In manual mode you can select either minimum or maximum aperture and choose a shutter speed from eight seconds to 1/2000th of a second. As well as this it offers ISO settings from 50 to 1600, a selection of common scene mode programs, and a video recoding function that can shoot at 720 x 400 resolution at 30fps.