Pentax X90: Video and Image Quality

by Jim Keenan Reads (1,054)
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

Video Quality
Video quality of the X90 is average. Clip length is 2GB and the optical zoom is unavailable during recording – but digital zoom is. The microphone can be sensitive to wind noise but there is no “wind cut” feature available. I tried video capture with and without the movie shake reduction enabled and image quality did not seem to be impacted either way; enabling movie shake reduction is a good idea if you’re hand holding.

Image Quality
Default images out of the X90 were generally pleasing as to color rendition and sharpness. Here’s a shot of the default sharpness and the same shot with sharpening maxed out in the camera. Sharpening, saturation and contrast adjustments are available with the manual modes and some scene modes.

Pentax X90 Test Image
Default Sharpness

Pentax X90 Test Image
Maximum Sharpness

Somewhat surprisingly, the manual shooting modes all had “bright” as the default color mode; auto modes used the “natural” setting in most cases, but “bright” was the default for some of the scene modes as well. In many cases, the alternate image tones (natural or bright and monochrome) were available in auto modes. Here’s a look at the three basic image tones:

Pentax X90 Test Image
Bright
Pentax X90 Test Image
Natural
Pentax X90 Test Image
Monochrome

Here’s the natural and bright tones again on a rose – the natural tone is the more accurate of the two, which is why I was surprised to find “bright” the default for so many shooting modes.

Pentax X90 Test Image
Natural

Pentax X90 Test Image
Bright

The X90’s edit menu gives you a number of ways to modify images in camera once they’ve been captured: image rotation, digital filter, frame composite, movie edit, red-eye compensation, resize and crop options, among others. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is virtually every effect for each image has to be done individually so if you come up with an effect you really like and have a bunch of shots to work, the time involved can get lengthy. But the good news is if the effect you like is “frame composite,” that option is available as one of the shooting modes in the scene menu (at reduced resolution) and you can capture away to your heart’s content.

Here’s an original shot with “frame composite” and “fisheye” effects applied after capture (there are 90 frames available – you’re not stuck with Christmas) and another shot done with the scene menu.

Pentax X90 Test Image
Original
Pentax X90 Test Image
Frame Composite
Pentax X90 Test Image
Fisheye
Pentax X90 Test Image
Frame Composite Scene

Here’s the “natural” color shot again with red, blue and green color filters, as well as “toy camera” and “retro.”

Pentax X90 Test Image
Red
Pentax X90 Test Image
Blue
Pentax X90 Test Image
Green
Pentax X90 Test Image
Toy Camera
Pentax X90 Test Image
Retro

As with most digital cameras these days, the X90 has settings to expand the apparent dynamic range of the camera, aptly named D-Range Setting on page two of the record menu. There are highlight and shadow correction options (both are off by default) and you can apply both simultaneously. Here’s a default shot in aperture priority, one each with highlight and shadow correction only, and finally both enabled.

Pentax X90 Test Image
Aperture Priority
Pentax X90 Test Image
Highlight Correction
Pentax X90 Test Image
Shadow Correction
Pentax X90 Test Image
Both Shadow and Highlight Correction

Close examination of the histograms for each shot discloses that the camera loses highlights in the AP shot, but with highlight control enabled the loss is much less. Shadow control brings out more detail in the dark areas, and with both enabled you have gains on both ends of the histogram. In short, the D-Range settings work. When you enable any of the D-Range corrections the 80 and 100 ISO sensitivities can no longer be manually set – you’re limited to 160 ISO as the starting point. If you have no need for the lower sensitivities I’d be very tempted to shoot the camera with both highlight and shadow enabled most of the time.Processing of images takes longer with any D-Range enabled.

Auto white balance was used for the images in this review and did a good job overall with light ranging from cloudy to sunny daylight and fluorescent. The X90 shot warm under incandescent light in our studio, however. There are daylight, shade, tungsten, three fluorescent and manual white balance options.

Pentax X90 Test Image
Auto White Balance, 3200k incandescent light

Multi segment metering was used for images in this review and did a good job on scenes with average light distribution. Scenes with contrast frequently displayed some lost highlights when shot with the D-Range corrections disabled, and in this regard the X90 was perhaps a bit worse than average for cameras in this class that I’ve reviewed. It’s a candidate for using the D-Range options or some exposure compensation for any high contrast situations. There are center-weighted and spot options as well.

ISO noise performance in the X90 is about average overall and perhaps a little above average from 400 to 800. ISO 80 and 100 are hard to tell apart and 200 shows just the slightest increase in noise under close scrutiny. ISO 400 is a bit worse and overall image crispness falls off a tiny bit.

Pentax X90 Test Image
ISO 80
Pentax X90 Test Image
ISO 80, 100% crop
Pentax X90 Test Image
ISO 100
Pentax X90 Test Image
ISO 100, 100% crop
Pentax X90 Test Image
ISO 200
Pentax X90 Test Image
ISO 200, 100% crop
Pentax X90 Test Image
ISO 400
Pentax X90 Test Image
ISO 400, 100% crop
Pentax X90 Test Image
ISO 800
Pentax X90 Test Image
ISO 800, 100% crop
Pentax X90 Test Image
ISO 1600

ISO 1600, 100% crop

ISO 800 is decidedly worse than 400 but usable for small images and 1600 really looks like the only ISO of last resort in the full resolution range. The X90 will shoot 3200 and 6400 sensitivities at reduced resolution (5 megapixels), and while we didn’t shoot them in the studio here’s what they look like on our garage wall dartboard. For comparison purposes I’m including 800 and 1600 as well so you can see things continue downhill above 1600, even with the reduced resolution.

Pentax X90 Test Image
ISO 800
Pentax X90 Test Image
ISO 1600
Pentax X90 Test Image
ISO 3200
Pentax X90 Test Image
ISO 6400

Usable for small images if nothing else will do, but best kept out of your ISO shooting quiver otherwise.

Additional Sample Images

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


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