Pentax Optio V20 - Pentax Optio V20


The V20 is a simple point-and-shoot camera designed for easy use, so it isn’t exactly overwhelmed with features. The main selling points are of course its flush-folding 5x zoom lens, which has a focal length range equivalent to 36-180mm. Having strained my shoulders many times lugging around heavy bags full of massive SLR zoom lenses it never ceases to amaze me that a relatively powerful zoom lens can be made to fold up into a space less than an inch thick, but Pentax has manages to do so whilst, as we’ll see later, maintaining a high standard of optical quality.

The other main feature is the monitor, which is huge for a camera of this size and covers almost the entire back of the body. With a diagonal size of three inches (6.1 x 4.5cm) and a resolution of 230,000 dots it is nice and sharp, and it also has a very wide viewing angle of approximately 170 degrees both horizontally and vertically, making it easy to see even when the camera is held above head height. It is also nice and bright, and I had no real problem using it in bright sunlight.

The V20 lacks any sort of mechanical image stabilisation, relying instead on “digital shake reduction”. This is far from being a satisfactory solution however, since it reduces image size to five megapixels and increases sensitivity to the maximum setting of 6400 ISO. Yes, it does produce faster shutter speeds and therefore less chance of movement blur, but the resulting loss of image quality is a high price to pay.

There is also an option to apply movement blur reduction in playback mode, but as one might expect this is not particularly successful either. It just applies a sharpening algorithm to the image, which in some cases actually makes the image worse. There is simply no way to “un-blur” a movement-blurred picture with current commercially available technology.

Apart from those headline features the V20 has much the same list of options as any other recent compact snapshot camera. It has a small but useful selection of scene modes, automatic face detection with a smile-detection shutter release option, a reasonably well implemented manual focus option, and of course Pentax’s wonderful frame composite mode, which just never gets old. Menu options include three focus area modes including tracking focus, the usual three metering modes (matrix, c/w and spot) and limited adjustments for contrast, saturation and sharpness.

The only other unusual feature is the Digital Wide mode. This is a variation on panorama stitching mode, but operates with the camera in vertical (portrait) position, and simulates the effect of an ultra-wide lens by stitching two photos together. The edge-detection isn’t particularly good, so you have to line the two photos up very carefully to produce an acceptable result, but it could prove useful for some scenes.