Pentax X90: Build and Design

July 23, 2010 by Jim Keenan Reads (7,127)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Image/Video Quality
    • 7
    • Features
    • 7
    • Design / Ease of Use
    • 7
    • Performance
    • 6
    • Total Score:
    • 6.75
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10

As mentioned earlier, the X90 is virtually identical to the X70, featuring the mini DSLR look that characterizes practically every entrant in the superzoom category. The new camera is a tiny bit deeper to accommodate the longer lens, weighs a fraction of an ounce more and carries “X90” and “26x” badging in addition to a diopter wheel for the EVF. That’s about it for the external differences. The body is composite with some rubberized non-slip material in the handgrip and thumb rest areas, and appears well built.

Pentax X90

Ergonomics and Controls
The deep handgrip provides a secure hold on the body for one or two handed shooting and the index finger of the right hand falls naturally across the shutter button – in my case the middle joint. The thumb falls naturally onto the thumb rest on the camera back. There was ample clearance between the lens barrel and the fingers of my right hand when gripping the camera. Folks with large hands may want to check and see if the camera is just a bit small for shooting comfort, both in the shutter and lens barrel areas.

Pentax X90

Controls are arranged in a simple, logical manner. The shutter button/lens zoom lever, exposure compensation button, power switch and shooting mode dial all sit atop the camera body. At the rear, the EVF/LCD and display buttons are arranged horizontally on either side of the EVF. The e-dial, face recognition, replay, green and menu buttons vertically sandwich the four way controller and its OK button along the right side of the monitor. The flash is deployed manually via the flash button located on the left side of the body just below the flash housing.

Pentax X90

The green button allows you to instantly revert to a default set of camera settings (“green mode”) for still shooting, or, in the alternative, to bring up a function menu of specific settings that you have assigned to the each of the four points of the controller.

Menus and Modes
There are two primary menus in the X90, each comprising four pages: recording mode and setting. Recording mode offers inputs to shooting settings such as image size and quality, ISO, white balance, etc. The range of settings varies with the particular shooting mode chosen: manual controls such as aperture or shutter priority and full manual offer the most settings while automatic shooting modes provide fewer choices, and these may also vary from mode to mode.

When an image is displayed in playback, an editing menu may be accessed via the “mode” section of the four way controller and offers options such as resizing, cropping, etc. The “digital filter” option provides some color creativity over and above the “natural”, “bright” or “monochrome” initial shooting settings found in the recording mode menu. Overall, menus are quite simple and intuitive in the X90. Here’s a page from each of these three menus:

Pentax X90 Test Image
Pentax X90 Test Image
Pentax X90 Test Image

While the X90 has the usual range of automatic shooting modes found in cameras of this class, it also offers a fairly broad assortment of inputs, even in the full auto mode. This can be a big plus, particularly when it comes to being able to designate a low ISO sensitivity for the automatic modes where the camera might have raised ISO into the objectionable noise range given free reign over all the decisions on settings.

  • Auto picture: The camera selects the “optimal” capture mode for the subject and handles most settings. However, the user may adjust image size and quality, ISO sensitivity and flash exposure compensation.
  • Sport: Auto mode with similar user inputs as found in auto picture. Designed for fast moving subjects.
  • Digital SR: Shake reduction auto mode with no user control over ISO sensitivity and reduced resolution (5 megapixels). Camera is free to establish ISO between 80 and 6400 as a means to keep shutter speed up to help with image sharpness.
  • Scene: Auto mode that offers 20 specific scene shooting modes, including two and three image wide and panorama stitching modes. User inputs vary with each mode.
  • Program (P): Auto mode where camera sets aperture and shutter; user has wide array of inputs available.
  • Shutter priority (Tv): User sets shutter speed, camera sets aperture, wide array of user inputs.
  • Aperture priority (Av): User sets aperture, camera sets shutter, wide array of user inputs.
  • Manual (M): User sets aperture and shutter speed, wide variety of inputs.
  • User: Lets you save settings for the P, Tv, Av and M modes in advance for later use.
  • Movie: Captures 1280×720, 640×480 or 320×240 resolution movies at 15 or 30 fps and good, better or best quality levels.

The 2.7-inch LCD monitor has an anti-reflective coating and 230,000 dot composition. It is adjustable for 7 levels of brightness, but none of these can defeat bright outdoor light in some instances and the monitor can be difficult to use in these conditions. Area of coverage is not specified but appears to be about 100%.

The electronic view finder retains the 200,000 dot composition of the X70 and adds a diopter adjustment missing from the earlier camera. Area of coverage is also not specified but appears to be about 100%.



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