The P80 does have noticeably better overall performance than the P70, but unfortunately that’s not saying very much. Start-up time is fast enough at approximately 2.5 seconds, and it shuts down again in about 1.5 seconds, which is a big improvement. In single-shot mode the shot-to-shot time is now approximately 3.5 seconds, which is pretty slow but a whole second 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 appears to be unchanged from the P70. It works quickly and accurately in good light, and while it does slow down in lower light it still copes well with pub/club light levels. There is still no AF assist lamp though, so it will only go so far.
Image quality is quite acceptable for a snapshot compact, with accurate light metering and colour reproduction. Dynamic range is slightly improved by the shadow correction and highlight correction features, but it’s still pretty limited, with murky shadows and burned-out highlights in very high contrast shots. The lens is also pretty good, with decent overall sharpness, but it seems to lack contrast. 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 not so well controlled however, with visible noise even at the minimum 125 ISO sensitivity. The P80 has a maximum sensitivity of an impressive 6400 ISO, but this and 3200 ISO are only available at 5MP image size, and the quality is pretty grim.
For under £140 the Pentax Optio 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 overall performance is quite slow, and overall image quality leaves something to be desired.
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