Give the top plate power button of the Sony Cyber-shot HX20V a press and within two seconds the lens barrel has extended from flush with the body to its maximum wide-angle setting, soundtracked by the buzz of lens mechanics.

The display settings here are interesting, in that with subsequent presses of the rear dial the user can call up a live histogram displaying brightness levels across the image or an on-screen spirit level, thereby enabling straight horizons even when shooting handheld.

Sony Cyber Shot DSC HX20V review

Hold a finger down on the zoom lever and the camera zips through its focal range from extreme wide angle to maximum telephoto in all of three seconds, although once again there's that low waspish buzz.

To compensate for this, the zoom is much slower - and a good deal quieter - when used after the movie record button has been pressed, taking seven to eight seconds to travel the same distance. This isn't altogether a bad thing, as transitions are much smoother on the resulting footage.

Half squeeze the shutter release button in stills mode and there's the briefest of adjustments before the shot snaps into focus and a cluster of AF points appear highlighted on screen.

Squeeze the button fully and the shutter fires nigh instantly, the captured full resolution frame remaining on screen for a second or two, while it's being written to card.

Sony Cyber Shot DSC HX20V review

In terms of image quality, this being a Sony camera and with default settings in place, colours really pop when downloaded to your desktop computer, with vibrant reds and lush greens being particularly striking. Shots straight from the camera display a good amount of contrast and deep blacks too, subtly adding depth and dimension to its frames.

Sony Cyber Shot DSC HX20V review

In terms of low light performance, you'll probably want to stick to ISO 3200 and below, or at ISO 1600 if you want to avoid having any grain at all. Shots taken at ISO 6400 and ISO 12800 have an artificial look - the result of software trickery to boost the sensor performance while limiting noise.

At maximum setting there is a watercolour look for sure, but it's far from a deal breaker.