If there's one area where Pentax can claim a market lead, it's in ultracompacts. The Pentax Optio S12 is a new nugget of metallic cool aiming to out-IXUS Canon with a headline-grabbing 12-megapixel spec squeezed into a beautiful, 21mm thin frame. It's available for around £150.
Pentax made tiny compacts popular with its original, all-metal, 3-megapixel Optio S camera back in 2003. Five years later, the resolution has quadrupled and the screen size has more than doubled at the cost of just 1mm extra on its waistline. Available in pink, silver, turquoise and black, the metal-clad S12 still looks great and fits snugly and solidly in the hand or pocket. The 64mm (2.5-inch) screen isn't huge but it's extremely crisp.
One of the real joys of the S range is the interface. All key buttons are clearly marked, easy to reach and quite responsive. Cartoonish menu options make it simple to select the dozens of pre-programmed modes, which are particularly strong on portraits, kids and pets.
A customisable, green button gives one-touch access to your favourite functions -- a really smart and useful feature for experienced photographers. Even the four-way pad is clever: a push on the macro button instantly brings up a sub-menu of focus choices including presets, super macro and manual.