Pentax made their first foray into the superzoom compact digital class with last year's X70, an effort that got generally decent reviews for still image quality but took some hits over speed of operation, HD video capability and battery life. This year finds a successor camera, the Pentax X90, which at first blush looks like a re-badged X70. That means it follows the typical superzoom template and resembles a mini DSLR with a large handgrip at the right front of the body, promoting a firm grip.
The 12 megapixel resolution CCD sensor, electronic view finder (which gains a diopter adjustment in the new camera) and 2.7-inch LCD monitor are carryovers (at least in dimensions) and control placement is identical. The 24x optical zoom has made way for a 26x version, spanning the 26 to 676mm focal range (35mm equivalent). The X90 is a bit deeper (to accommodate that longer lens, I'd guess) and a tiny bit heavier but X70 owners will be hard pressed to tell one from the other on looks alone.
Looks can be deceiving, however. The X90 boasts about 50% more battery capacity than the X70, and the 720p HD video that only shot at 15 frames per second (and provoked many of the video gripes) is now up to 30 fps. However, while AF acquisition time at wide angle is fairly quick, the camera slows noticeably at telephoto, even in good light.
AF times look to be fairly slow across the entire focal range as light conditions dim, even with a focus-assist lamp. Shutter lag seems quick, but the half push detent is a bit light and I found myself going right through halfway and taking a shot without acquiring focus a few times until I got used to the shutter.
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