Pentax Optio VS20 Review

January 24, 2013 | Gavin Stoker |

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 16 megapixel Best JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 4.5Mb.

Can we really achieve the best of both worlds and have a broad focal range within a still relatively small chassis that produces sharp results at either end – and all for a pocket money price? Occasionally, when using the Pentax Optio VS20, the answer is yes.  We say occasionally, because unfortunately results are hit and miss. Yes, you can achieve sharp, well exposed results shooting handheld at maximum telephoto from 100 yards away, but you’ll need four or five attempts to get that winning shot. On the rest the focus or exposure will have wandered, although, to be more positive, when shooting in daylight we didn’t suffer unduly from the blurring effects of camera shake at the extremities of the zoom. Sensor shift image stabilization aside, this is partly because of the chunky depth of the camera helping to provide just that little more weight and support than your usual slender pocket snapper. For the most part the Pentax maintains detail into the corners of the shot at maximum wideangle, with minimal if any barrel distortion too. Brighter conditions do inevitably result in over exposed highlight detail plus perhaps inevitably pixel fringing between areas of high contrast, but the latter only becomes an issue on close inspection.

In terms of low light performance, predictably we’re getting serviceable results up to and including ISO800. At ISO1600 – the highest setting we can shoot at and still maintain full resolution, we’ve got an odd daylight colour cast to our sample image, and at ISO3200 and particularly ISO6400 we’re noticing the dropping of resolution and evaporation of detail. Having said that, switch to the night scene mode and, as long as you have a steady surface at your disposal it’s possible to achieve some really quite acceptable results. Pity then that there’s a question mark over the camera’s reliability on a day-to-day basis, which at the end of the day means we wouldn’t want to be spending more than the budget price being asked here.


There are 7 ISO settings available on the Pentax Optio VS20. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)


ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)


ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)


ISO 6400 (100% Crop)


Focal Range

The Pentax Optio VS20's 20x zoom lens provides a focal length of 22.3-580mm in 35mm terms, as demonstrated below.




Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are just a little soft at the default sharpening setting. You can change the in-camera sharpening level if you don't like the default look.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


Chromatic Aberrations

The Pentax Optio VS20 handled chromatic aberrations fairly well during the review, with purple fringing present around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations, as shown in the examples below.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)


The Pentax Optio VS20 allows you to focus on a subject that is just 1cm away from the camera. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.


Macro (100% Crop)


The flash settings on the Pentax Optio VS20 are Flash-on, Flash-off, Red-eye reduction, Low-speed synchro, and Low-speed synchro + Red-eye. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (28mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (28mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (560mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (560mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Flash On or the Red-eye-Reduction settings caused any red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

Red-eye Reduction

Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)


The Pentax Optio VS20 is not very well suited to night photography, as you cannot use truly slow shutter speeds. The photo below was taken in the Night Scene mode at a shutter speed of 1.3 seconds, sensitivity setting of ISO 800 and aperture of f/3.1, all chosen by the camera. The 100% crop demonstrates the quality you can expect.


Night (100% Crop)