Pentax dSLR takes video to a new low price

Pentax continues its aggressive pricing strategy with the K-x budget SLR, the cheapest video-capable SLR on the market--for now.

Here it is folks, the first red dSLR Pentax USA

Continuing its tradition of aggressively priced dSLRs, Pentax's K-x model breaks the low ground by offering video capture support in a kit that costs less than $650: the body alone for Nikon's D5000 runs about $700, Canon's EOS Rebel T1i a bit more and Sony and Olympus don't even offer video yet. And for good or ill, Pentax will also be offering navy and red versions a month after launch, as well as its Stormtrooper white and traditional black models. According to Pentax, women traditionally constitute 20 percent of its dSLR sales, but that increased to 50 percent for the white K2000/K-m model. As such, I wanted to thank Pentax for not offering a pink version, as well as for using a single naming convention for the US and the rest of the world.

Now that the K200D has been disoncontinued, the K-x sidles up next to the dirt-cheap K2000 in Pentax's product line; unlike many crowded competing dSLR lineups, the K-x it differs enough from its line mates that Pentax shouldn't bewilder its own customers.

Like the cheaper models, the K-x runs off 4 AA batteries--some people think that's a plus, others not so much--has the same superior-for-its class viewfinder as on the K2000, and looks like it uses a similarly austere design, color choices notwithstanding. It introduces a 3-shot High Dynamic Range capture feature which debuted in the K-7 and sounds like the one in Sony's recently announced (and more expensive than the K-x) Alpha DSLR-A500 and A550 and creative filter modes à la the K-7 and Olympus.

Here's where it fits in Pentax's current lineup:

 K2000K200DK-xK-7
Sensor (effective resolution)10.2-megapixel CCD10.2-megapixel CCD12.4-megapixel CMOS14.6-megapixel CMOS
23.5 mm x 15.7mm23.5 mm x 15.7mm23.6mm x 15.8mm23.4mm x 15.6mm
Sensitivity rangeISO 100 - ISO 3200ISO 100 - ISO 1600ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 6400/12,800 (expanded)ISO 100 - ISO 3200/ISO 6400 (expanded)
Continuous shooting3.5 fps
4 raw/5 JPEG
2.8 fps
4 raw/4 JPEG
4.7 fps
5 raw/17 JPEG
5.2fps
15 raw/40 JPEG
Viewfinder
magnification/effective magnification
96% coverage
0.85x/0.57x
96% coverage
0.85x/0.57x
96% coverage
0.85x/0.57x
100% coverage
0.92x/0.61x
Autofocus5-pt AF
all cross-type
11-pt AF
9 cross-type
11-pt AF
9 cross-type
11-pt AF
9 cross-type
Shutter speed1/4000 to 30 sec; bulb1/4000 to 30 sec; bulb 1/6000 to 30 sec; bulb 1/8000 to 30 sec; bulb
Metering16 segment
EV 0-21
16 segment
EV 0-21
16 segment
EV 1-21.5
77 segment
EV 0-21
Flash sync1/180 sec1/180 sec1/180 sec1/180 sec
Live ViewNoNoYesYes
VideoNoNo720p at 24fps Motion JPEG AVI720p at 24fps Motion JPEG AVI
LCD size2.7 inches fixed
230,000 dots
2.7 inches fixed
230,000 dots
2.7 inches fixed
230,000 dots
3.0 inches
921,000 dots
Battery life (CIPA rating)n/an/a1100 shots (lithium batteries)740 shots
Dimensions (inches, WHD)4.8 x 3.6 x 2.75.2 x 3.7 x 2.94.8 x 3.6 x 2.75.1 x 3.8 x 2.9
Body operating weight (ounces)20.724.720.526.5
Mfr. Price$449.95 (body only)$599.95 (body only)n/a$1,295.95 (body only)
$449.95 (with 18-55mm lens)$699.95 (with 18-55mm lens)$649.95 (with 18-55mm lens)n/a
$599.95 (with 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses)n/a$749.95 (with 18-55mm and 50-200mm lens)n/a
n/an/a$849.95 (with 18-55mm and 55-300mm lens)n/a

At its price point, it significantly undercuts Canon and Nikon, leaving it up against two less formidable direct competitors. Here's how it stacks up:

 Olympus E-620Pentax K-xSony Alpha DSLR-A330
Sensor (effective resolution)12.3-megapixel Live MOS12.4-megapixel CMOS10.2-megapixel CCD
17.3 mm x 13.0mm23.6mm x 15.8mm23.5mm x 15.7mm
Magnification factor2.0x1.5x1.5x
Sensitivity rangeISO 100 (expanded)/ISO 200 - ISO 3200ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 6400/12,800 (expanded)ISO 100 - ISO 3200
Continuous shooting4.0 fps
5 raw/unlimited JPEG
4.7 fps
5 raw/17 JPEG
2.5fps
n/a
Viewfinder
magnification/effective magnification
95% coverage
0.96x/0.48x
96% coverage
0.85x/0.57x
95% coverage
0.74x/0.49x
Autofocus7-pt AF
5 cross-type
11-pt AF
9 cross-type
9-pt AF
n/a
Shutter speed1/4000 to 60 sec; bulb 1/6000 to 30 sec; bulb 1/4000 to 30 sec; bulb
Metering16 segment
EV 0-21
16 segment
EV 1-21.5
40 segment
EV 2-20
Flash sync1/180 sec1/180 sec1/160 sec
Wireless flash controllerYesYesYes
Image stabilizationSensor shiftSensor shiftSensor shift
Live ViewYesYesYes
VideoNo720p at 24fps Motion JPEG AVINo
LCD size2.7 inches articulated
230,000 dots
2.7 inches fixed
230,000 dots
2.7 inches tiltable
230,400 dots
Battery life (CIPA rating)500 shots1100 shots (lithium batteries)500 shots
Dimensions (inches, WHD)5.1 x 3.7 x 2.44.8 x 3.6 x 2.75.0 x 3.8 x 2.8
Body operating weight (ounces)18.920.519.2
Mfr. Pricen/an/an/a
$699.99 (with 14-42mm lens)$649.95 (with 18-55mm lens)$649 (with 18-55mm lens)
n/a$749.95 (with 18-55mm and 50-200mm lens)$849 (with 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses)
n/a$849.95 (with 18-55mm and 55-300mm lens)n/a

Things aren't quite so lopsided as you'd think, though. The Pentax likely has a better viewfinder and probably better performance, but I'm guessing there are quite a few shooters who'd prefer a movable LCD over the dubious attractions of a 24fps movie mode. And I take that claim of ISO 12,800 with a ginormous grain of salt; I've yet to see generally usable ISO 3200 shots in this price class, much less higher sensitivities. I also have my doubts about the new 55-300mm f4-5.8 kit lens. While it's a convenient range to carry, it's pretty broad territory to cover without having some signficant weaknesses somewhere, especially since it must be pretty low cost.

Pentax generally produces exceptionally fast dSLRs for budget shooters, and there's no reason to think this won't keep up with its predecessors. I've had quibbles about Pentax's default image settings for this class of user, but the cameras are usually capable of pretty good images with some tweaking; I certainly hope the company has at least incoporated some neutral options. Given the notable differentiators in it feature set, overall the K-x look like a model to keep an eye on for entry-level shooters. It's slated to ship in October.

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