The Pentax Espio 80V compact camera is an “everywhere camera”. Reasoning behind that label is that everywhere I look, whether online, camera fairs or just charity shops, they are there. Expanding out to the wider Espio range and you start to realise that Pentax must have been selling these by the tonne.
In the hey-day of the plastic compact cameras, people were spoilt for choice, and everyone bought a compact camera for day to day use. There were ranges of low cost through to top end exclusive models. The Espio 80V falls into the lower end of that scale, but that did not stop Pentax from packing in a decent number of features.
Ricoh, the owner of Pentax, has the Espio 80V as “A great companion to take along on every outing” on its website. That is a very apt description as it is light, small and just takes photos.
I bought mine through the sheer fact that I kept seeing them listed. In the end I chose based on lowest postage as they were selling then for $10-$15 AUD and there was quite a few in good condition. Interestingly now I regularly see them going for $40-$60 AUD.
I have used a number of compact cameras before and some I love, some I like and some I do not like. Examples like the Nikon Lite.Touch 140 Zoom, Canon Sure Shot Zoom 70, Nikon RD2, Canon Sure Shot A1, and the fantastic Nikon L35AF.
Is this a compact that I like or one that does not fit into my camera bag? Read on and we can see.
Pentax was started in 1919 initially as Asahi Kōgaku Kōgyō G.K. or 旭光学工業㈾ in Japanese. As per a lot of the older camera companies, it originally focused on producing glasses. As of 1930 it started to produce lenses for other camera manufacturers including Molta, then Chiyoda Kōgaku Seikō which were predecessors of Minolta.
In 1938 the company name changed to Asahi Kōgaku Kōgyō K.K. (旭光学工業㈱) or Asahi Optical Co. From its base in Tokyo it took it another 14 years before it started to manufacture cameras starting with the Asahiflex SLR in 1952.
Asahi was very innovative and the Asahiflex IIb was the first ever SLR to have a returning mirror. This changed the game for SLRs. Over the years the company created some very highly regarded SLRs and some legendary lenses, though it was never considered manufacturer for the professional photography industry.
The Pentax name was originally not owned by Asahi. It was owned by Zeiss Ikon and it was a combination of the pentaprism of a camera and made to sound like the ending of the word Contax. It was used as the name of a camera.
Asahi purchased the Pentax name in the mid 1950s and applied it to their successor of the Asahiflex in 1957. Under this brand some very well known cameras have been produced, including the Spotmatic, K-1000 and the medium format icon, the Pentax 67.
Interestingly the company remained as the Asahi Optical Co. until 2002 when it officially changed name to Pentax Corporation (ペンタックス㈱).
2007 brought a merger with the Hoya Corporation and then later in 2011 Ricoh initiated the purchase of Pentax where it has remained until now.
Coinciding with the change in name to Pentax in 2002 the Espio 80V was released. Pentax had been producing point and shoot compact cameras since the 1980s. The 80V was the last of the Espio range. It had been an evolution and they jumped into the mass consumer market with both feet. In 2002 it was the dawn of the digital age, but the Espio 80V was quite well thought of even though it was a budget model.
The Pentax Espio 80V is a 35mm plastic point and shoot compact camera. It was released in 2002. It has an autofocus zoom lens with a focal range of 38-80mm and a maximum aperture range of f/6.3-12.5. Lens design is of 5 elements in 5 groups. The infrared autofocus is activated when the shutter release is depressed and has only a single point in the centre.
When the camera is off, the lens retracts, and the inbuilt lens covers close up over the outer element. Turning it on, sends the lens out and the covers retracted. Zooming is controlled by a round rocker switch in the back. Minimum focus distance is 80cm (31.5in).
The shutter has a fastest shutter speed of 1/300thsecond and slowest of 2 seconds. A self-timer of 10 seconds is available. Film speed is read automatically from the DX codes with a range of ISO 25-3200. For film with no DX code this DX hack linked here, can be used rather than settling with the default 100 ISO.
The top of the camera is where most of the controls sit including an LCD information screen. The LCD displays information on battery charge, flash mode, frame number, red-eye reduction status and the self-timer mode. Three buttons are behind the LCD. They are the flash control, the self-timer/infinity focus button and the mid-roll rewind button. Further to the right is the shutter release button and the on/off switch.
A built-in flash is on the camera. It is activated automatically, unless it is manually switched off. It resets the flash back on when the camera is turned off. When fired the flash takes seven seconds to recycle.
Power for the camera is via a single CR123A battery, which covers the shutter, flash and the automatic film advancing. The camera has an internal battery which keeps the counter information when the main battery is drained.
The viewfinder shows 83% of the frame throughout the zoom range. It has the focus spot in the centre. It also has marks adjusting for closer shots.
LED indicators are also in the viewfinder confirming both focus and flash readiness.
My little Pentax Espio 80V came to me as a complete kit. For the pricey sum of $15, I got the camera, a pouch, the original box, a small tripod and a couple of rolls of film.
Considering I have used this camera around family and about town it is not a bad deal. It has even accompanied me on some travel, both a family trip to Port Macquarie on the eastern side of Australia and to a business trip to Auckland in New Zealand.
This camera is very convenient, which is exactly what it was aimed to be. Put it up to your eye, zoom and then release the shutter. It then makes some noise and the frame is captured. From an easy use point of view, it does not get any easier.
Even the flash works itself out. The only control I really thought about using was the infinity focus, and being honest, unless you are shooting through reflective glass, it is not really needed.
I did hit a snag though. Pretty much all photos came out well focused and exposed, but for some reason this particular copy of the camera refuses to focus correctly on road signs. Even if I made sure I positioned the focus point correctly. That has to be a weird thing to happen, maybe an old sign haunts it, but have a look at the examples below.
Unfocused signs aside, it has been mostly an enjoyable experience using the Espio 80V. It can get a little frustrating when I don’t want to use flash, having to manually turn it off. Especially as it does have small maximum apertures the more you zoom out.
Speaking of the zoom, I did find the wide end focal length to be a little too long for this kind of camera. I’m used to using 35mm lenses but using this camera inside, say at a party, 38mm is a little too long. Sometimes you just don’t have enough room to move back and 28mm might have been handy.
The results are ok and meet the expectations for such a camera. Not the sharpest photos, but definitely not terrible. A point and shoot compact is aimed at being a snapshot camera, and in that respect the results are quite respectable.
There is a definite vignetting in the frames, especially when the camera has been zoomed out. It is more pronounced when taking sunset photos.
There is also quite a bit of distortion, but again for everyday life that is not an issue. I have run a few different films though the camera, mostly colour negative like Kodak Ultramax 400 and Portra 400.
When I ran some black and white through it, I took a punt on Oriental Seagull 100. Not a film I use much, as it is not widely available beyond Japan. I’ve also had some good results from the 400 ISO variant of the film but had previously not been impressed with the 100.
In the Espio 80V I was nicely surprised. It came out nice and contrasty with quite a good range of tones. It accentuated the sharpness too, I was very pleased with the results.
The Pentax Espio 80V is a handy everywhere to use camera. It produces competent results, which while they wont win awards, are just right for snapshots and recording family, life and travel. For someone that has not had much experience in film photography, it would be a nice way to get into it. Based on the availability and lower price, it is worth a try.