Whether you're the rugged outdoor type or just accident prone, Pentax is aiming to make your life a little easier with the release of the Optio W80 compact digital camera. The Optio W80 is dustproof, waterproof to 16 feet, has an operational temperature range starting at a chilly -10 degrees Celsius and can withstand a drop from 3.3 feet.

It's not just a tough cookie though, starting from cold in only a second, you get 12.1 effective megapixels (4000by3000), a 5x optical zoom (plus a 6.25x digital zoom for a total of 31.3x), the 35mm equivalent of a 28mm wide angle to 140mm telephoto lens.The lens also has a special coating to help repel water, grime and finger marks.

Up close and personal

Not only is there a macro mode (0.33ft/100.6mm to 1.97ft/600.5mm) but a super macro mode (0.03ft/9.1mm to 0.98ft/298.7mm) for those really, really close close-ups. If the camera detects poor lighting conditions it has an AF assist lamp to help with focus and will automatically raise the ISO sensitivity up to 6400 to reduce camera shake and blur (for those who like to be in control, the manual ISO sensitivity range is 64-6400). Or you can opt to use the inbuilt flash.

Image stabilization comes in the form of Pixel Track (which adjusts the amount of blur at pixel level without adding high ISO noise) and something called D-Range which is designed to help reduce both over and under exposure. Automatic blink detection, smile capture and face detection (which can recognize up to 32 different faces in 0.03 seconds) all make taking the perfect photo that much easier. The shutter speed range of 1/1500 to 1/4 seconds (or up to 4 seconds in night scene mode) coupled with a claimed shutter lag of just 0.03 seconds mean that you should never miss a shot.

The camera benefits from a feature which will automatically pick from 8 different shooting modes - including landscape, portrait, night scene, sport, flower and candlelight - to give the user what it has determined to be the best possible picture. Of course there are more than enough manual selections to keep even the most image adventurous of us happy, of those on offer underwater, surf & snow, kids, pet, fireworks and digital panorama sound like they're worth investigating.

Rear view

On the back of the unit is a bright 2.5inch (63.5mm) LCD screen with an anti-reflective coating for optimum playback and viewing in various lighting conditions. As well as looking at individual snaps, you can also choose either 4 or 9 thumbnail view. In-camera photo editing options such as histrogram, cropping, resizing, redeye edit and voice memo should keep on-the-fly creative types happy and there's lots of fun to be had with digital filters, which include the familiar sepia and black & white offerings along with toy camera, retro and fisheye.

As you would expect these days, the compact allows for video capture too - even under water. You can record full HD (16:9) movie capture to 1280x720 at 30fps with all the benefits of image stabilization too. Simple edits can also be performed using the camera itself.

Pentax has managed to squeeze all that processing power into a tiny 3.9x2.2x1 inch (99x55x25mm) reinforced polycarbonate plastic case with aluminum plating which helps make the camera waterproof to 16ft (5m), dustproof and shockproof (to 3.3ft/1m). It has an operating range of -10C to 40C (14F to 104F) and weighs just over 5oz when the battery and SD or SDHC card are loaded. The internal camera is a 33.7Mb.

Pricing and availability information

The fashion conscious might also like to note that the W80 is available in 3 colors (gunmetal gray, azure blue and cardinal red) and that an external protective skin is available as an optional extra.

As well as your new camera, in your box you should find an AV cable, a USB cable, a CD containing editing and viewing software, the rechargeable Li-ion D-LI78 battery bits and pieces and a camera strap. It'll be available shortly with a list price of $299.95 - more information at the store and the website.

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