A press of the top plate power switch and the Pentax Optio VS20 readies itself for the first shot or video in just over two seconds, lens shooting out from flush to the body with a mechanical buzz, while the rear LCD blinks into life to compose the shot.

A half-press of the shutter release button results in focus and exposure noticeably adjusting, making the photographer almost blind for a second before the view clears and snaps back into focus.

Pentax Optio VS20 review

Squeeze down fully to take the shot and with little in the way of shutter delay, there's a wait of four seconds while a 16MP JPEG is committed to memory - the screen briefly displaying the captured still before going blank and then refreshing itself.

While the VS20 is capable of recording a lot of detail at its lowest sensitivity settings, the results at its highest settings are terrible. At ISO 3200 or above, resolution automatically drops to 5MP, providing a result that resembles a softened image crop.

What was most annoying on our review sample, though, was that auto white balance was a tad unreliable, introducing some odd colour casts.

Pentax Optio VS20 review

With Landscape mode chosen and a green foreground taking up two thirds of the frame, for example, the blue sky behind was given a green tint, providing a result that looked like a processing mistake.

Pentax Optio VS20 review

Using the Miniature mode also delivers results in which so much of the image is blurred, it looks like a fault rather than a filter. And when shooting at the telephoto end of the zoom, the camera sometimes struggles to decide what it was supposed to be focusing on.

More positively, the self-stitching Panorama mode can produce respectable results after a few dry runs, and the pencil sketch option has better contrast and better definition than the identical mode on Olympus snapshot cameras.