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Hands-on with the Pentax Optio V20: Fluorescent adolescent

The design of the 8-megapixel Pentax Optio V20 is a little more grown-up than previous entries in the Optio range -- but not much. Is this a terrible teen or a growing snapper?

Kids: they grow up so fast these days. Yet we were still weren't prepared for this morning, when the Pentax Optio V20 slouched into Crave, took one sulky look around and planted itself into a seat in the corner, dirty trainers on the table. When asked if it would like a Panda Cola, this 8-megapixel compact camera replied with a petulant "whatever", and busied itself with a PSP while blaring unintelligible crunk gibberish from its mobile. Yes, the Optio range design has hit the terrible teens.

Pentax's compacts have always had a certain childlike quality to their design. Friendly round buttons, big text and cute menu icons have added up to give cameras such as the E40 and M30 a certain breezy naivete. They miaow, for Ceiling Cat's sake. It seemed rather disingenuous on higher-specced snappers like the A40; so the V20's design goes some way to addressing this, with slicker buttons, sleek silver accents and a businesslike matte-black finish in a solid metal frame. Not to mention a decidedly grown-up 76mm (3-inch) LCD screen and 5x zoom.

So why have we overextended this particular metaphor to adolescence rather than adulthood? Well, the adorable icons are still there -- the smiley snowman for snow mode is our favourite of the ten scene modes available. Face detection is joined by the resolutely childish smile capture, as well as the slightly more useful blink detection. Face detection gets its own button, featuring the happiest little icon chap we've ever seen. We're rather worried that a hormonal mood swing is just around the corner, however -- and we're really not looking forward to explaining the facts of life.

You also get tracking auto focus, to focus on and follow a moving subject. ISO sensitivity goes up to a whopping 6,400, although we really wouldn't bother. We'll be testing these features in our in-depth review, which we're cramming for with the speed and urgency of a forthcoming mock exam.

The Pentax Optio V20 is available now for £169, so start saving your pocket money. Or just blow it on ringtones -- now go to your room! -Rich Trenholm