Most compact digital cameras are depressingly identikit, so our spirits lift when a manufacturer attempts a different approach. But is the 16 megapixel Pentax Optio VS20 trading on gimmicks?

In a first of its kind for a compact camera, it offers two shutter release buttons, zoom levers and tripod attachment screws. One set is on the top and bottom plates - as normal - while the second set is on the left and right flanks.

The theory is that the essential controls are readily to hand, whether shooting with the camera held vertically or horizontally.

Pentax Optio VS20 review

Less eccentric is the fact that the camera packs in a 20x optical zoom - thereby propelling the Pentax Optio VS20 into the ever-burgeoning travel zoom category - even if the body that surrounds it is thicker in depth than most competing models with as big a lens.

Supported by sensor-shift anti-shake, this provides a very useful focal range equivalent to a wide-angle 28mm to 560mm in 35mm terms.

We're also offered a macro mode that can achieve sharp results as close as 1cm - again helpful in broadening the camera's application - plus 1280 x 720 pixels HD video.

Pentax Optio VS20 review

Both stills and movies are framed via the anti-reflective 3-inch, 460k dot resolution back screen.

Of course all this needs setting in context, and that context is a snapshot camera priced at a very reasonable £199.99 in the UK, or $249.95 in the US.

This puts it in direct competition with the Olympus SZ-14 boasting 14MP and a 24x optical zoom.