Pentax has been making ultra-compact cameras longer than most, and that experience shows in the P80’s simple but effective control layout. The rear panel has a D-pad and four buttons which, despite the camera’s dimensions, are relatively large and easy to use. Like most other Pentax cameras the P80 has a “Green Button” mode, an instant idiot-proof auto-everything setting suitable for quick snapshots. However for more experienced users the green button can be re-assigned to something more useful, such as ISO setting, white balance or metering mode. The P80 also incorporates 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.
One feature that isn’t quite so impressive is the “Triple Anti-shake Protection”. Although this sounds impressive, it’s just another name for digital image stabilisation, plus a high-ISO setting to boost shutter speed. It does offer some advantage, but the results are nowhere near as sharp as the sensor-shift image stabilisation that Pentax uses in its DSLRs and more expensive compacts.
Like most of the budget compacts jumping on the HD video bandwagon, the actual video recording mode is nothing too special. The picture quality is reasonably good in decent light, but drops off quickly as the light dims. It is is restricted to digital zoom (up to 6.3x) and mono PCM audio through a non-directional internal microphone which picks up sound behind the camera just as loudly as from in front. Clips are limited to 11 minutes in HD mode, or just under four gigabytes using the bulky rather bulky file format.
Like most Pentax compacts the P80 does have some fun features, such as the half-length portrait mode with automatic zooming to frame the shot, or a large selection of wonderfully tacky frame composites., 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 movie editing. The menu system is simple and easy to understand, and there are notes explaining what each scene mode does.