- Great image quality
- Good at higher ISO
- Competitive price
- Drains AA batteries
- Some noise in HD video
- Slow AF in Live View
With its bearing in the upper entry-level market, the new Pentax K-x DSLR borrows its compact build from the K2000 (a.k.a. K-m) while sharing some of the features of their pro K-7. There are some unique functionalities behind the Pentax K-x, like HDR in-camera processing, a fast continuous shutter of 4.7 frames per second, and some great in-camera processing features. We’ll discuss all this and more further on down.
The K-x also has some pretty standard features that are quickly becoming mainstays in the DSLR market, like a 12.4 megapixel APS-C sized CMOS image sensor, 11-point auto focus, 1280×720 HD video capture (at 24 fps, which is the standard speed for cinema motion picture capture), live view and an image stabilization system.
Another feature unique to the K-x is that it comes in four different colors, including black (our unit), white, and the harder to find navy and red. It certainly seems to have all the ingredients for a great camera. Its street price of $650 (body with 18-55mm kit lens) will get you some unique processing options, decent continuous shooting speed, HD video, 1/6000th sec. shutter speed max, and expandable ISO up to 12800. We took it through the paces, with the good folks at Digital Camera Review testing it in the lab and me in the field, and we have a comprehensive look at the Pentax K-x for you.
BUILD AND DESIGN
The design of the K-x is almost exactly identical to their entry-level K2000. The two cameras share the same dimensions of (WxHxD) 4.8×3.6×2.7 inches with only a minute difference in weight – the K-x weighs in at 18.2 oz. and the K2000 at 18.5 oz. With the same steel skeleton, rubber exterior, and similar button layout, there isn’t much difference between these two siblings physically.
Ergonomics and Controls
The control layout of Pentax’s K-x is nearly a spitting image of the K2000, minus a Live View button on the back of the camera. The DSLR body is very similar to all other Pentax creations, who have been known for creating sturdy DSLR bodies that don’t feel chintzy, even with an affordable price tag on them. Often, cameras will suffer poor build quality when price is low, but not in the case of the K-x. It’s a solid camera with a nice metallic/silver trim wrapping around the front of the camera and an excellent feel in the hand. The K-x doesn’t have the ruggedized and weather-conscious build that the K-7 and K20D have, but it is created equally in terms of look and feel.
The K-x, as mentioned above, has the same exact layout at the K2000, minus the Live View button on the back, with an e-dial that lets you change shutter, aperture, EV and ISO when shooting. In image playback, the same control initiates image zoom. The shutter and power switch reside on the top panel, and other buttons include the Mode Dial, Exposure Compensation to change the exposure steps (or in Manual it sets the aperture), a customizable green button, a four way controller that helps you navigate the menu system, and an Info button that takes you to all the advanced features of the K-x without having to navigate menus to find things like metering and HDR.
The K-x also has an AF/AE-L button that either locks exposure or autofocus, an Up button that deletes during playback or pops up the flash, and a focus mode lever to choose between AF or manual focusing. The K-x has a 2.7 inch LCD with a 230,000 dot resolution.. The K-x isn’t much different from most other Pentax DSLRs, making it a small camera that is easily portable and feels substantially well crafted.
Menus and Modes
The Pentax menu systems haven’t changed much at all, retaining a common looking layout that is layered with sub-menus. This is great if you are a Pentaxian – you’ll find shooting with the K-x basically the same as all of their DSLRs, but from an outsiders’ view, it may look a bit dated. However, there is a new user interface that I was completely pleased with.
As I mentioned just above, with the Info button you can quickly access important camera functions without having to rely on the sub-menu system, making it dramatically faster to get the settings you want without having to fuss with it. I’ve seen this in a few DSLRs over the years, including the Olympus E-3 that had a similar button that gave you access without menu diving. This is a welcome feature for a working photographer that wants pro access to their most used functions, but for the beginner to intermediate shooters out there, it gives you more control and easy usability when you’re learning how to best optimize your camera use.
The Mode Dial offers your typical manual shooting options, including Pentax’s proprietary Sv mode, as well as different Scene modes and Picture modes. Here’s a run down of what you get on the K-x, starting with a total of seven different picture modes:
- Auto Picture: Automatically chooses the right capture mode for any given scene.
- Portrait: For portraits, automatically enhances for a bright skin tone.
- Landscape: Extends depth of field, and produces more saturated hues.
- Macro: Take pictures of small objects like flowers from close distances.
- Moving Object: Changes the drive mode from single shot to continuous shooting so you can capture all the action.
- Nice Scene Portrait: Take a low-light shot while the camera chooses the best settings.
- Flash Off: Forces the flash off.
There are ten different scene modes:
- Night Scene: Takes low-light shots while you’re using a tripod for stability.
- Surf & Snow: Chooses the correct exposure for low-contrast images.
- Food: Saturates the images more to make food pop out.
- Sunset: For taking picturesque sunset images.
- Stage Lighting: For taking indoor images in a theater or concert.
- Kids: Set to continuous shooting for moving kids.
- Pet: Drive mode is also set to continuous to get a moving pet.
- Candlelight: For low-lit candle shots.
- Museum: Shoot in museums where flash is not allowed.
- Night Snap: Shooting without a tripod, but in a dark scene.
Movie recording mode captures wide-screen 16:9 aspect ratio 1280×720 HD video at 24 fps. Rounding out the mode dial are five more exposure modes.
- Manual: Allows you to choose shutter speed, aperture value, and many other parameters.
- Aperture Priority: Control aperture, while the camera chooses the best shutter speed.
- Shutter Priority: Choose shutter speed, while the camera choose the best aperture speed.
- Sensitivity Priority: Sets the shutter speed and aperture automatically, while you choose ISO sensitivity.
- Program: Sets both aperture and shutter speed, similar to automatic.
Where the K-x differs from the K2000 is that it employs Live View, allowing the user to bypass the viewfinder and compose shots on the LCD. The K-x has a 2.7 inch 230,000 dot wide-angle view LCD that is pretty much a basic size and resolution as far as DSLRs go. It also has a mirror-box pentamirror viewfinder with a 96% area of coverage, which is pretty nice for this class of camera. The viewfinder has a diopter adjuster for people who need to make adjustments for their vision.
Although the K-x has Live View functionality, there are a couple of things that make it somewhat difficult to work with. First, it is extremely hard to get the camera to focus on objects quickly when using Live View, especially in low light, and the second is that it drains the battery almost completely when in use. As Pentax’s Live View comes with a price, it also helps photographers to compose shots are strange angles, and with patience, you can get the shot, but I have certainly seen better renditions of Live View with Olympus, Nikon and Canon branded DSLRs.
The comparatively low resolution of the LCD can be somewhat misleading in the field, making you think you’ve captured a great shot when you are in image playback, but when you zoom in with the e-dial, or put it on your computer, there is somewhat of a disparity between playback and what is actually captured. This was especially true with video capture, which I will discuss later on. With all things considered, it’s an okay LCD monitor, and the viewfinder is accurate.