Pentax has always made good cameras, but has long suffered an incomprehensible predilection to create the most awkward-looking boxes. It doesn't change much with the Pentax Optio W80, a rugged, everything-proof point-and-shoot, with a design that's somewhat painfully lifted from the 80s. How many ways can you say "brick"?
Here's the thing, though: I'm enamored with its looks. Yes, the form-factor is decidedly old fashioned, looking nothing more like a slab of brick with buttons and lens. Yet, it's oddly attractive with those protective rubberized corners and the well-placed patch of color right in the center. Even better, it's slim, which means you can slot it right into a pocket unlike the bulbous Powershot D10, which pretty much rules the roost in the current swath of rugged point-and-shoots.
The 12-megapixel W80 is cold-proof (up to 14-degrees Fahrenheit), waterproof (up to 16 feet) and shock-proof (up to three feet of drops). Designed for outdoor use, it packs features to help make the most of shots under those conditions, including auto-macro and auto-ISO shift (which are great for underwater shots), along with processor-based shake reduction to stabilize your action snaps. It also fits in a 2.5-inch LCD with SuperProtect coating (we all know it's powerful with a "super" in the name), AF assist lamps and 720p widescreen video capture at 30 fps.
It may not be cool to rock a Pentax nowadays, but this thing should slip by unscathed when it rolls out next month for $299. In case someone makes fun of your Pentax compact, just bear in mind, every Canon-toting clod and their mothers has made fun of the brand for a long time so I'm pretty sure it can survive lame insults too. It's everything-proof.