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Pentax Optio V20

Despite its recent merger with (and disappearance of the company name into) the Hoya Corporation, and rumours that it will soon discontinue compact camera production in favour of its more profitable digital SLRs, Pentax continues to launch new models in its long-running Optio ultra-compact range. One of the latest is today's review camera, the Optio V20, an 8.0-megapixel model with a 5x zoom lens and a 3.0-inch wide-view monitor.

It will be a great pity if the Optio range does disappear, because the V20 is rather a nice little camera. Announced towards the end of last month, the V20 is an update of the 8-megapixel, 3x zoom V10 launched in October last year. It has a half-metal, half-plastic body with excellent build quality and a functional but attractive design, and is available in silver or matt black.

Although not the smallest camera in the Optio range, it is nonetheless a very slim and compact camera, measuring 97.5 x 56.5 x 23.5mm and weighing just 145g including battery and memory card. Pentax has been designing ultra-compact cameras for a long time, and the V20 has the kind of comfortable handling that comes from a multi-generation pedigree.

Despite its small size and the huge 3.0-inch monitor screen dominating the rear panel, the simple control layout and rotary-bezel zoom control leaves plenty of room to grip the camera, while the raised detail on the front provides a secure finger grip.

As I mentioned in my review of the Nikon CoolPix S550 last week, longer zoon ranges are becoming more popular on ultra-compact cameras, and the 5x zoom V20 has quite a bit of competition. Rivals include the S550, as well as the new Casio Exilim EX-Z100 (£150), the Olympus FE-340 (£122) and the Fujifilm FinePix J50 (£90). The V20 is currently available for around £160, but it is so new it hasn't found its way into many stores yet, so I'd expect that price to fall rapidly over the next few weeks. The V10 is currently selling for around £110, so I wouldn't be too surprised if the V20 settles out at about the same price.

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