Tonight, Pentax showed off the newest member of their digital camera lineup, the Pentax K-x. A sort of hybrid of their K2000/K-m and K-7 models, the small but sturdy camera brings HD video-capable SLRs to a lower price than ever before. We even got to spend a couple of minutes with one; read on for our impressions.
The new K-x felt sturdy. That's no real surprise to anyone familiar with Pentax's cameras; they have their faults, to be certain, but poor construction certainly isn't one of them. It's comfortably weighty -- not too heavy, but not so light that it feels cheap. It feels strikingly similar to the diminutive K2000/K-m, which is no surprise considering they share a common design heritage.
The new K-x comes in a kit with the same lens as the K2000. In fact, the only real difference between the two cameras seems to be a sensor upgrade, which brings video and live view along for the ride. There are also a few minor updates, like a faster shutter speed (up to 1/6000, now).
Since the K-x is so similar to the K2000, owners of the latter would feel right at home with the updated model. All of the buttons are in almost the same places. The one exception is that since Pentax had to add a live view button, the info and menu buttons on the back get pushed down, and the delete key now resides as a secondary function on the flash pop-up. It's a pretty minor change, all things considered. There's also a video icon added to the selection wheel at the top of the camera.
The various buttons, toggles and switches are all within easy reach of the thumbs and fingers holding the camera. I like Pentax's control layout, since it feels very intuitive, and the K-x does little to change this fact. The shutter was responsive when snapping pictures, but it's hard to get any better of a feel for the camera's capabilities without getting a chance to analyze the pictures that the camera takes.
The camera is much less pink in person than it appears in the pictures, but even then it isn't a vibrant, garish red. The only red lens available will be the kit's stock 18-55. No blue lenses will be made available for the blue model, since only the top fourth of the camera is colored blue, while most of the body actually remains black, and white versions will be available for the 18-55 and the 55-200 lenses. While the black and white K-x cameras will be available starting in October, the red and blue iterations won't come to market until thirty days after the others.
Pentax made a note of pointing out that their entire camera lineup, from compact point and shoots straight up through digital SLRs, now supports the recording of HD video. That means that the K2000 is going to be phased out, an unfortunate occurrence since it has become so very inexpensive, lately. The K-x is therefore replacing the market left by the absence of the K2000 and, with its higher resolution and featureset, dipping its toes into the arena where the K200 used to be. It'll be interesting to see if Pentax does replace the K200 with a middle-of-the-road camera, but if they do, it won't be for some time; Pentax's President of US Operations Ned Bunnell said that the next camera to be released by Pentax will be the 645D in early 2010.
For now, though, the K-x is definitely shaping up to be both a worthy successor to the Pentax line as well as a strong competitor in the larger camera market. 12.4MP, 720p video recording, live view, great build quality and access to some great fast primes, all for under $650? Not bad. While we don't yet know if the image quality is equally as hype-worthy, there's no real reason to believe it won't be. As it stands, the K-x is an exciting new camera that anyone new to DSLRs, or experienced photographers looking for something smaller should consider.
Stay tuned for our full review of this new camera.