The Pentax MX-1, while classified as a compact digital camera, is a fairly large and heavy compact which doesn't offer the shirt pocket portability which tends to define the classic definition of a "compact" digital. However, I wandered around Disneyland and the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park for two days with the MX-1 draped around my neck and am none the worse for wear as a result. The camera fits easily into a jacket pocket if your neck isn't a viable alternative.
This camera's feature set makes it a viable tool for a wide variety of users, ranging from a first-time compact digital owner who wishes only to put the camera in auto mode and fire away to more experienced individuals who can, and will, make use of an almost DSLR-like variety of available settings to accomplish their particular photographic goals. But whether you're experienced or neophyte the MX-1 is an equal opportunity provider: good image quality, good ISO performance, good video quality, good shutter lag and autofocus performance.
In a perfect world, I wish Pentax had included a hot shoe or at least an accessory shoe that could accommodate an optional viewfinder. As good as the MX-1 monitor is, my day at Disneyland under cloudy/bright and then sunny conditions presented more than its share of hard to see for composition moments. If you're the sort who tends to shoot in bursts, the camera takes a break and won't allow additional captures until the writing process is complete--between 6.5 and 13 seconds depending on the file format and a full burst. Single 20 second night sky exposures required about 17 seconds to process and write. With a $500 MSRP the MX-1 hasn't reached the DSLR price floor, but it can certainly see it from there. In short, there's a lot to like about this camera and not much to dislike.
Pentax isn't alone in offering a compact digital with an oversized sensor--Sony, Canon, and Olympus all offer compacts with large sensors that I've reviewed for this site; Samsung offers one that I haven't and this list of manufacturers is by no means all-inclusive. If you're looking for a compact to take the place of that DSLR on casual shooting trips, seek to upgrade from an entry-level compact, or are looking for your first digital camera and want something you can grow into as your photographic skills mature, you owe to yourself to include the MX-1 in your search.
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