Can the Pentax Optio VS20's innovative dual shutter release elevate it above a normal compact?

Product Overview

Overall rating:


Pentax Optio VS20

Overall score:77%
Image Quality:75%


  • Clever dual shutter release, decent sharpness at wide angle


  • Unpredictable image quality, chunky body


Pentax Optio VS20 Review


Price as reviewed:


The Pentax Optio VS20 is a 20x optical zoom, 16MP compact with the ability to shoot 720p video. The most impressive feature of this model, or at least the one which makes it stand out from the crowd, is the dual shutter releases and zoom controls.

Pentax Optio VS20 Review – Features

This means, rather simply, that the camera can be used in both portrait and landscape mode without having to perform any hand gymnastics to access the shutter release. To add to the portraiture functionality a second tripod thread is also included. Although this feature doesn’t add a huge amount to the overall functionality of the camera, it’s a thoughtful extra to include. The lens is an equivalent 28-560mm option,  with Shake Reduction sensor-based stabilization included. The sensor itself is a 16MP CCD, although only 720p video can be outputted rather than full resolution 1080p. Similarly the LCD screen is only 460k dots, rather than the more detailed 920k that appears on a number of the Optio VS20’s rivals.

Pentax Optio VS20 Review – Design

In terms of design, and perhaps unsurprisingly due to the second shutter release, the VS20 is quite chunky. With a depth of 34mm only a few compact cameras can boast more width, and even fewer once bridge cameras are taken out of the equation. For anyone with larger hands the difference isn’t a massive issue, but those with more petit digits may find it difficult. Otherwise the body is relatively sparse, with only a few buttons on the rear to speak of. A dedicated movie record button is present above the multi-use D-pad, although either a few more controls or larger buttons could have quite easily been used. The looks are fairly dated, and even in the white body there’s no getting round the bulky frame. With touchscreen technology at a state where the likes of Panasonic and Canon employ a touch shutter function it seems odd a secondary shutter release would be used, especially if it has impacted the shell of the Pentax VS20 so significantly.

Pentax Optio VS20 Review – Image Quality

Image quality is something of a letdown, even though there are a few positives to be taken. At the wide angle overall sharpness is relatively decent, although the top end of the zoom rarely achieved focus accurately or quickly. The white balance is extremely unpredictable, which doesn’t help matters, making the colours wildly different from one frame to the next. Purple fringing appeared on a number of images, and was very obvious when it did.


In essence the VS20 commits a few crimes against photography, the worse of which being unpredictability. Neither the lens nor white balance can be depended on from one shot to the next, making the VS20 an unknown quantity in most situations.


White Balance:Auto, 4 Presets, Manual
Memory Card:SD/SDHC
LCD:3” 460k dots
Sensor:16MP, ½”
Metering System:Multi-pattern
Exposure Modes:Auto, P, Scene Scene (24 Scene Modes)
Flash Modes:Auto, on, off, Redeye reduction
ISO Range:80-6400
Lens:28-560mm, F3.1-4.8
Dimensions:60 x 108 x 34mm
Shutter Speeds:4-1/2500 sec
File Formats:JPEG, AVI M-JPEG