Despite looking enticingly flashy in the press shots with its broader than average zoom lens extended, when placed before you the Pentax Optio VS20 is a bit of a lump compared with travel zooms costing a little more, such as the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ20 and other Panasonic TZ series cameras.

Odd white balance issues and occasionally struggling focus are perhaps more serious, since they lead to a hit and miss performance that lessens the camera's reliability.

We liked

The broad zoom range on offer here is always going to come in handy, enabling a wide range of framing options without the photographer having to step forward or back. Given this the pricing also seems very fair, since it's no costlier than your basic 5x zoom compact.

We disliked

The Pentax Optio VS20's picture performance is hit and miss, with occasional white balance issues, an inability to determine what it should be focusing on, and familiar compact camera bugbears including burnt out highlight detail and purple pixel fringing between areas of high contrast.

Final verdict

With this sort of model, you really do just want to point and shoot and come away with usable results most (if not all) of the time. And in that respect the Olympus SZ-14 - costing £199/$305 - is a better bet, if not perfect.

The Pentax Optio VS20's unique selling point of the twin sets of controls and tripod thread also for us fell rather flat. A pity, since on the face of it and in return for that extended zoom reach the Pentax Optio VS20 suggests very good value indeed.