Pentax Optio WS80 Review

November 20, 2009 | Mark Goldstein | Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


The Pentax Optio WS80 is a new water- and dust -proof compact camera that can be submerged in up to 1.5 meters of water and be rinsed clean if it becomes covered with dirt or sand. As well as being a rugged performer, the 10 megapixel WS80 also impresses on the camera side, with a 5x zoom lens offering a focal range of 35-175mm, HD movie shooting at 1280x720 pixels at 30 frames per second, a 2.7 inch LCD screen with anti-reflective coating, and triple anti-shake protection to help avoid unwanted camera shake. Available in black with orange accents, white with purple accents, white with black accents, and yellow with green accents, the Pentax Optio WS80 costs $249.95 / £229.99.

Ease of Use

The Pentax Optio WS80 is a well-made, compact digital camera, with a youthful two-tone black and bright orange grey plastic body and good overall finish. Thankfully the orange accents are fairly understated, only found on the front of the camera, with the word "Waterproof" highlighted just to remind you why you bought the camera. It's easily small enough to fit into the palm of your hand, measuring just 91.5(W) x 55.5(H) x 22(D) mm.

The Pentax Optio WS80 features an internal non-extending 5x optical zoom lens that's equivalent to a focal length of 35-175mm in 35mm terms, offering a long telephoto length that makes it ideal for candid head and shoulder portraits. The 35mm wide-angle setting isn't that wide by modern standards though , often making me wish for a 28mm or even wider setting. The maximum aperture is a fairly quick f/3.8 at the wide end and a respectable f/4.8 at the other extreme of the zoom range. The WS80 is slim for this class of camera, making it well suited to either a trouser or shirt pocket or handbag, and it weighs just 105g without the battery or memory card fitted.

Despite its all-plastic construction, the WS80 is one of the better models around in terms of build quality. The overall finish is good, looking and feeling more expensive than its price-tag might suggest. The only minor criticisms are the lack of a handgrip on the front, making the camera more difficult to hold than it really should be, and the cheap grey plastic tripod mount and battery compartment latch, which are strangely out of keeping with the rest of the camera.

Although we can't entirely vouch for the WS80's ability to survive extreme depths, it did handle our rather rudimentary tests with aplomb. Submerging it in a sink full of cold water and burying it in a pile of sand didn't cause any harm. We also didn't notice any unwanted dust in our pictures, not that this is usually a problem for compact cameras with non-interchangeable lenses. All in all we're confident that the Pentax WS80 would handle most things that you throw at it, although the W80 is a better bet if you require a level of resistance to the cold or being dropped from a height.

Pentax Optio WS80 Pentax Optio WS80
Front Rear

The Pentax Optio WS80 has relatively few external controls, just 9 in total, which reflects the fact that this is a simple camera in functionality terms, with very limited photographic control on offer. All the controls are clearly labeled using industry-standard symbols and terminology, with just a couple of Pentax-specific buttons that require a quick read of the manual. Located on top of the WS80 are the On / Off button and the Shutter button. On the bottom are the plastic tripod mount, helpfully located in the centre, and the battery compartment, which also houses the SD memory card slot and the PC / AV Out port. The latter accepts both the USB interface cable required to connect the camera to a printer or computer and the AV cable.

On the rear of the WS80 is the 2.7 inch LCD screen, with a number of controls to the right, including a traditional navigation pad. You can directly access the various flash options by clicking left on the navigation pad, the Drive modes via up, the focus modes via right, and the scene modes via down. The OK button in the middle performs two main tasks - it selects menu options, and also toggles between the three Display modes for the LCD screen. The WS80 uses a thumb-operated rocker switch for zooming in and out, a sensible choice given the intended use of the camera, although it's a little on the slim side and also a bit "spongy" in feel.

Directly above the navigation pad are the self-explanatory Face Detection, Menu and Playback buttons, and below is the Green mode button, which also doubles up as the Delete button in playback. The menu system on the Pentax Optio WS80 is perfectly straight-forward to use. A lot of the camera's main settings, such as white balance, exposure compensation and ISO speed, are accessed here. A row of 2 icons along the top of the LCD screen represent the Record and Setting sub-menus, with most of the options being the kind that you set once and then forget about. Due to the large and bright LCD screen, the various options are easy to access and use, especially as only 6 are shown onscreen at one time.

The Green Mode is targeted at beginners, effectively setting all of the camera options apart from the flash, self-timer, focus mode and face priority setting. It's perfect for the less experienced members of the family who literally want to just point the camera and press the shutter button. Accessed via the Mode button, the Pentax Optio WS80 also offers Auto Pict, which automatically selects from 8 shooting modes, and a comprehensive range of 23 different scene modes, making this camera particularly well-suited to the beginner.

The WS80 can record HD quality movies at at 1280x720 pixels and standard quality movies at 640x480 pixels or 320x240 pixels, all at either 30fps or 15fps and recorded in the AVI format. During movie recording, the Optio WS80 can prevent unwanted camera shake via the Movie SR option. Unfortunately this is a software based solution that considerably narrows the angle of view compared to normal shooting. The Underwater Movie mode is more useful, automatically optimizing all camera settings for successful underwater movie shooting.

Pentax Optio WS80 Pentax Optio WS80
Front Front

There are some other limitations to the WS80's movie mode too. The AVI format choice results in some massive file sizes that quickly fill up your memory cards. The sound quality is not that great, with the usual background noise that accompanies movies shot with cameras that only have mono sound. Even worse, you can't use the optical zoom at all during movie recording (although there is a 6.3x digital zoom setting available).

There are no controls on the left or right sides of the WS80, except for a chunky strap eyelet. Overall the camera body feels well-designed and not at all cluttered, despite the presence of the large 2.7 inch LCD in such a small body, which has a wide viewing angle from left to right, average resolution of 230,000 dots, and is visible in most conditions thanks to its anti-reflective coating. There is no optical viewfinder on this model.

The WS80 doesn't have a mechanical image stabilisation system, but it does combat camera-shake for still images in two different software-based ways. The Digital SR (Shake Reduction) mode, called Pixel Track SR in the menu, compensates for camera shake by processing affected images with Pentax exclusive software. Although quite effective, the resulting images contain more unwanted artifacts than a lens- or body-based mechanical anti-shake system, and it also slows the image processing time down considerably to over 5 seconds, which will put most users off from using it. The High-Sensitivity SR mode automatically raises the sensitivity to as high as ISO 6400 to allow for a higher shutter speed. The downsides are the greater levels of noise and reduction in image size to 5 megapixels. You also can't use both modes at the same time.

With Face Priority turned on, the WS80 automatically recognizes and captures up to 32 faces in just 0.03 seconds. In addition the Smile Capture function automatically releases the shutter when it detects the main subject's smile, and the Blink Detection option warns the photographer if the subject's eyes were closed when the picture was taken. 

The Digital Wide function is quite effective, creating an extra-wide-angle image that's equivalent to an image taken with a 21mm lens in 35mm format from two images. If you want to to go wider still, the Digital Panorama mode creates a single panoramic picture from up to three images. The D-Range setting helps to prevent whitewashed over- and under- exposed areas in an image - you can see some examples on the Image Quality page.

Pentax Optio WS80 Pentax Optio WS80
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

If you have never used a digital camera before, or you're upgrading from a more basic model, reading the comprehensive but relatively easy-to-follow manual before you start is a good idea. Thankfully Pentax have chosen to supply it in printed format, rather than as a PDF on a CD, so you can also carry it with you for easy reference.

The start-up time from turning the Pentax Optio WS80 on to being ready to take a photo is quite quick at around 3 seconds, and it takes about the same time to zoom from the widest focal length to the longest. Focusing is quick in good light and the camera happily achieves focus indoors or in low-light situations, and there's also a focus-assist lamp to help out in low-light. With Pixel Track SR turned off, it takes an acceptable 1 second to store an image. If you turn on the Pixel Track SR option, things get a lot slower as noted above. This feature may help to remove camera shake, but it pushes the image processing time to over an unreasonable 5 seconds.

In Continuous mode the camera takes just 1.2 frames per second at the highest image quality, which is slow for this class of camera, although the shooting rate is at least maintained until your memory card is full. There is a much faster high-speed continuous shooting mode, providing 2.9fps for up to 8 frames, but the image size is drastically reduced to 5 megapixels and you can only take 8 images before the camera locks-up.

Once you have captured a photo, the Pentax Optio WS80 has an above average range of options when it comes to playing, reviewing and managing your images. You can instantly scroll through the images that you have taken, view up to 9 thumbnails onscreen at once, and slowly zoom in and out up to 10x magnification. You can view slideshows with different effects and interval settings and set the print order and the transfer order.

You can also protect, rotate, resize, crop, and copy an image, plus choose your favourites. A range of 10 digital filters can be applied to a specific image, you can add one of the rather cheesy frames, and red-eye compensation reduces the effects of red-eye. The Image Recovery option recovers images and sound files that have been accidentally deleted, providing you don't turn off the camera. A movie frame can be saved as a still image and movies can be divided.

In summary the Pentax Optio WS80 is a water and dust proof point-and-shoot digital camera that's simple to use for all the family.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 10 megapixel High JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 3Mb.

The Pentax Optio WS80 produced images of average quality during the review period. The Pentax Optio WS80's main drawback in terms of image quality is noise, with the relatively slow speed of ISO 100 suffering from easily visible noise. The noise and loss of detail get progressively worse as you go from ISO 100 to 800, with the faster settings of 1600, 3200 and 6400 all proving virtually unusable.

The Pentax Optio WS80 handled chromatic aberrations well with limited purple fringing effects appearing in high contrast situations. The 10 megapixel images were just a little soft straight out of the camera at the default sharpen setting and either require some further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, or you should increase the in-camera sharpening level.

The night photograph was poor, with the maximum shutter speed of 4 seconds not capturing enough light for most situations. Macro performance is below par too, only allowing you to focus as close as 10cms away from the subject. The built-in flash worked well enough indoors, with no red-eye and adequate overall exposure. The does preserve detail in the shadow and highlight regions, albeit at the expense of some colour saturation and increased noise.


There are 8 ISO settings available on the Pentax Optio WS80. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.

ISO 64 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)


ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)


ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)


ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

Focal Range

The Pentax Optio WS80's 5x zoom lens offers a versatile focal range, as illustrated by these examples:




Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft at the default sharpening setting. You can change the in-camera sharpening level if you don't like the default look.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


File Quality

The Pentax Optio WS80 has 3 different image quality settings available, with Fine being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

10M High (3.56Mb) (100% Crop) 10M Normal (1.76Mb) (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations

The Pentax Optio WS80 handled chromatic aberrations well during the review, with limited purple fringing present around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations, as shown in the example below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)


The Pentax Optio WS80 allows you to focus on a subject that is 10cms away from the camera. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.


100% Crop


The flash settings on the Pentax Optio WS80 are Auto, Flash On, Flash Off, Auto + Red-eye reduction, Flash On + Red-eye and Soft Flash. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (35mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (35mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (175mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (175mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Flash On or the Red-eye-Reduction settings caused any red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

Red-eye Reduction

Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)


The Pentax Optio WS80's maximum shutter speed is 4 seconds, which is not very good news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 1.3 second at ISO 800. I've included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like.


Night (100% Crop)


The Pentax Optio WS80 has a D-Range setting that helps to prevent whitewashed over- and under- exposed areas in an image. Here's an example with both settings turned on:


Highlight and Shadow Correction On

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Pentax Optio WS80 camera, which were all taken using the 10 megapixel High JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1280x720 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 16 second movie is 49.1Mb in size.

Product Images

Pentax Optio WS80

Front of the Camera

Pentax Optio WS80

Isometric View

Pentax Optio WS80

Isometric View

Pentax Optio WS80

Rear of the Camera

Pentax Optio WS80

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Pentax Optio WS80

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

Pentax Optio WS80

Rear of the Camera / Main Menu

Pentax Optio WS80

Top of the Camera

Pentax Optio WS80

Bottom of the Camera


Pentax Optio WS80

Side of the Camera

Pentax Optio WS80
Sider of the Camera
Pentax Optio WS80
Front of the Camera
Pentax Optio WS80
Front of the Camera
Pentax Optio WS80
Memory Card Slot
Pentax Optio WS80
Battery Compartment


The Pentax Optio WS80 is essentially a cut-down version of the more expensive W80 model, losing the freeze and drop proof capabilities of the latter and also its wide-angle lens in order to hit a more aggressive price-point.

The WS80's 5x zoom with a maximum reach of 175mm is a real bonus in such a small camera, but the 35mm wide-angle setting literally restricts what the camera can achieve. The wealth of beginner-friendly options make the WS80 a great choice for use by every family member, and the HD movie mode is a real bonus, but it does quickly eat up memory card space and the inability to use the zoom whilst recording is very frustrating. The triple anti-shake system sounds good on paper, but in practice the Pixel SR mode just slows the camera down, and the Movie SR mode actually physically narrows the angle of view

As with the W80, the Pentax WS80's achilles heel is average image quality. Noise in particular is a real problem, with the relatively slow speed of ISO 100 suffering from easily visible noise. It gets progressively worse as you make your way up the ISO range, with the 1600-6400 settings proving wildly optimistic. The camera did handle chromatic aberrations well, but otherwise there's nothing to write home about in terms of this camera's photos.

The prime reason that you should consider the WS80 is its budget price - £230 / $250 is not too much to ask for an easy-to-use camera that should survive most family holidays, with even cheaper online bargains sweetening the deal. Image quality may not be that great, but the ability to use the Pentax Optio W80 in a range of different environments with the minimum of fuss make it worth considering none-the-less.

3.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 3.5
Features 3.5
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 3
Value for money 4

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Pentax Optio WS80 from around the web. »

For most the past four years, if you wanted to buy a waterproof compact camera, you had a choice of either a Pentax Optio W series, or something from the Olympus mju SW range but the recent growth in popularity of outdoor adventure sports and activity holidays has opened up the market for cameras that are waterproof, and in some cases shockproof and freeze-proof. Most of the main manufacturers have recently launched new cameras in this category, but they're mostly expensive luxury items. These newcomers must be cutting into the sales of excellent but pricey Optio W80, because Pentax's response has been to add a second lower-priced waterproof model to its range, the Optio WS80.
Read the full review »


Camera Type Waterproof digital zoom compact
Type 1/2.3" CCD
Effective Pixels approx. 10.0 megapixels
Still 10M, 7M, 5M, 3M, 2.1M, 1024, 640
Movie 1280, 640, 320
Sensitivity Auto, Fixed (ISO 64 - 6400)
Shake Reduction Pixel Track SR Hi-sensitivity anti-shake mode (Digital SR) Movie shake reduction mode (Movie SR)
Focal Length 6.2 - 31mm f/3.8(W) - F4.7(T) Equivalent to approx. 35 - 175mm in 35mm format
Digital Zoom Digital zoom: approx. 5.7x
Intelligent zoom: approx. 5.9X at 7M,  approx. 28.5X at 640 (including optical zoom)
Construction PENTAX zoom lens, 10 elements in 8 groups (4 aspherical elements)
Focusing System
Functions 9-point AF, Spot AF, Auto Tracking AF
Focus Range (automatic) Standard: 0.4m - infinity (whole zoom area) Macro: 0.1 - 0.5m (from wide to the middle zoom position) Infinity-landscape, Pan Focus, Manual Focus: available
Type 2.7"LCD,  approx. 230K dots
Speed 1/1500  - 1/4sec.  4sec at most. (Night Scene mode setting)
Exposure system
Metering Multi-segment metering, Center-weighted metering, Spot metering
Exposure Modes Auto Picture, Program, Night Scene, Movie, Underwater, Underwater Movie,
Landscape, Flower, Portrait, Digital Wide, Surf & Snow, Digital SR, Kids, Pet,
Half-length Portrait, Sport, Fireworks, Candlelight, Night Scene Portrait,
Natural Skin Tone, Food, Digital Panorama, Frame Composite, Party, Green
Compensation ±2EV(1/3EV steps)
Modes Flash-on and Flash-off modes. 
"Red-eye" reduction function employs a pre-discharge.  Soft Flash
Effective Range Wide: approx. 0.4 - 3.4m (ISO Auto) Tele: approx. 0.4 - 2.8m (ISO Auto)
Exposure Parameters
Modes One shot, Self-timer, Continuous Shooting,
High Speed Continuous Shooting,  Interval Shooting
Face Recognition Face recognition AF&AE is available for all modes up to 32 faces.
Smile Capture. Blink Detection.
White Balance Auto, Daylight, Shade, Tungsten light, Fluorescent light, Manual setting
Options Small Face Filter, Slideshow,  Resize, Cropping, Image/Sound Copy,
Image Rotation, Digital Filter( Color Filter(15 kinds), Toy Camera Filter,
Retro Filter, Soft Filter,  Brightness Filter), Movie Edit, Frame Composite,
Red-eye Compensation, Voice Memo, Protect, DPOF,  Image Recovery,
Start-up Screen, Face close-up playback
Internal Built-in Memory (approx. 33.6MB)
External SD/SDHC Memory Card
Interface USB2.0 (Hi-Speed)NTSC/PAL
Source Rechargeable D-LI88 lithium-ion battery, Optional AC adapter kit is also available
Performance Still*: approx. 200 shots (Rechargeable Lithium-ion battery) Playback**: approx. 240 min.  (Rechargeable Lithium-ion battery) * Recording capacity shows approximate number of shots recorded during CIPA-compliant testing.  Actual performance may vary depending on operating conditions. ** According to the result of PENTAX in-house testing.
Height 55.5mm
Width 91.5mm
Depth 22mm
Weight approx. 105g (without battery and SD memory card) approx. 125g (loaded and ready)

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