The WS80 performs well for what is essentially a budget compact, as long as you don’t expect too much. It starts up in less than two and a half seconds, which is reasonably quick, and switched off again almost instantly, since there’s no lens to retract. In single shot mode the shot-to-shot time is approximately three seconds, which is a bit slow by recent standards but at least it’s consistent. In continuous shooting mode it can manage a burst of three shots in just under three seconds at full resolution. There is a faster high speed continuous mode, but it is restricted to five megapixels.
Pentax has made some big improvements to its compact camera autofocus system across the range, and the WS80 is one of the models to see the benefit. The AF is fast and accurate in good light, and although it does slow down a little in dimmer light it will still focus reliably in typical club lighting, or outdoors at night. It has no AF assist lamp though, so it doesn’t work in total darkness. In single-shot mode it can take a picture approximately once every three seconds, while
Image quality is, unfortunately, average at best. The lens simply doesn’t produce enough contrast or sharp detail for real clarity, and it is also prone to picture-ruining glare if there is any trace of dirt on the glass lens cover, which due to its position is all too likely. Like several other recent compact cameras the WS80 has automatic correction of wide-angle distortion, but in this case it doesn’t really work. For a start it actually goes too far, introducing slight pincushion distortion at wide angle, and it also does nothing to prevent significant corner blurring and chromatic aberration.
Image noise is also visible even at ISO settings as low as 200, and gets progressively worse. 400 and 800 ISO are at least usable, but 1600 ISO looks like it was shot on a cellphone. 3200 and 6400 ISO are also available, but only at 5MP and with greatly reduced image quality.
The WS80 is a relatively low cost camera that is built to survive an active lifestyle. It is easy to use, extremely light and compact, and the excellent AF system works well in low light. Image quality could be better, but at least it will survive to take a photo in situations where other similarly-priced cameras cannot.
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