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Pentax 8MP V20 zooms ahead

Pentax has announced the Optio V20--an 8MP compact camera with a 3-inch LCD, 5X optical zoom lens, and some nifty face-detection features.

Pentax's new 8MP V20 includes a 5X optical zoom lens.
Pentax's new 8MP V20 includes a 5X optical zoom lens. Pentax

Pentax has just announced a new addition to the company's V-series of compact cameras. The Optio V20 includes an 8-megapixel CCD sensor and 3-inch LCD screen, much as last year's V10 did. However, the V20 sports a 5X optical, 36-180mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens--a major step up in zoom from the V10's 3X lens.

The V20 also has a robust face detection system--Pentax calls it Face Recognition--which can find faces when they're in frame and use them to focus and set exposure. Like some other cameras on the market, it has a Smile Capture face detection mode, which captures an image when it sees someone smile, and it also has a Blink Detection mode that informs you when one of your subjects has blinked, so you can shoot another picture. The camera also has an Auto-Macro mode, to make the ultra-close-ups a bit less complicated.

Sensitivity ranges from ISO 80 up to ISO 6,400, and can be limited to a range of your choice when you have the camera in its Digital Shake Reduction mode, which automatically raises the ISO to allow for faster shutter speeds to freeze the action in your photos, while compensating for hand shake. While this isn't quite as appealing as optical or mechanical image stabilization, it's better than nothing. The camera's movie mode does have more-effective stabilization--it's still digital, but since the camera doesn't need to use the entire sensor to capture videos--it can do up to 640x480-pixels at 30 frames per second (fps)--it can use some of the sensor's remaining pixels to provide effective digital stabilization. Just in case shooting that video uses up space on your memory card, the V200 includes 51MB of internal memory.

Pentax says that the Optio V20 will be available this May for about $280.