Pentax K-x review: Pentax K-x

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.8
  • Design: 7.0
  • Features: 8.0
  • Performance: 8.0
  • Image quality: 8.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Very good noise profile; nice-size viewfinder for its class; relatively speedy.

The Bad Doesn't display AF points in viewfinder; no HDMI connector; slow Live View autofocus; mediocre LCD; unreliable image stabilization.

The Bottom Line A fast, inexpensive dSLR with better-than-average low-light quality, the Pentax K-x nevertheless has some flaws, such as unreliable image stabilization, to watch out for.

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Aside from the fact that it comes in too many colors to count, at least overseas, there's a lot to like about the Pentax K-x, an entry-priced dSLR with some sophisticated features you don't normally see in that price class. Continuing its tradition of aggressively priced dSLRs, the K-x model breaks the low ground by offering video capture support in a kit that costs less than $650. It's fast, with good photo quality and an excellent noise profile. And though there are a few things about it that really disappointed me, overall I think most shooters will like it for what it is: a flexible budget dSLR that delivers.

The camera body feels solid and well made, and it's a bit more compact than most of its competitors. However, like its predecessors, the K-x runs off four AA batteries, which make it heavier. Some people think AAs are a plus, others not so much. In practice, it means you can pack it with disposable lithium batteries that last a long, long time and you've got a choice between disposable and rechargeable, so I fall into the "plus" camp.

  K2000
(discontinued)
K200D
(discontinued)
K-x K-7
Sensor (effective resolution) 10.2-megapixel CCD 10.2-megapixel CCD 12.4-megapixel CMOS 14.6-megapixel CMOS
23.5 mm x 15.7mm 23.5 mm x 15.7mm 23.6mm x 15.8mm 23.4mm x 15.6mm
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 3,200 ISO 100 - ISO 1,600 ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 6,400/12,800 (expanded) ISO 100 - ISO 3,200/ISO 6,400 (expanded)
Continuous shooting 3.5fps
4 raw/5 JPEG
2.8fps
4 raw/4 JPEG
4.7fps
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
Autofocus 5-pt AF
all cross-type
11-pt AF
9 cross-type
11-pt AF
9 cross-type
11-pt AF
9 cross-type
Shutter speed 1/4,000 to 30 sec; bulb 1/4,000 to 30 sec; bulb 1/6,000 to 30 sec; bulb 1/8,000 to 30 sec; bulb
Metering 16 segment
EV 0-21
16 segment
EV 0-21
16 segment
EV 1-21.5
77 segment
EV 0-21
Flash sync 1/180 sec 1/180 sec 1/180 sec 1/180 sec
Live View No No Yes Yes
Video No No 720p at 24fps Motion JPEG AVI 720p at 24fps Motion JPEG AVI
LCD size 2.7 inches fixed
230,000 dots
2.7 inches fixed
230,000 dots
2.7 inches fixed
230,000 dots
3 inches
921,000 dots
Battery life (CIPA rating) n/a n/a 1100 shots (lithium batteries) 740 shots
Dimensions (inches, WHD) 4.8 x 3.6 x 2.7 5.2 x 3.7 x 2.9 4.8 x 3.6 x 2.7 5.1 x 3.8 x 2.9
Body operating weight (ounces) 20.7 24.7 20.4 26.5
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/a n/a $849.95 (with 18-55mm and 55-300mm lens) n/a

One of the camera's highlights, as well as its frustrations, is the viewfinder, which it inherits from its predecessors. On one hand, it's bigger, with slightly better coverage and more magnification than most consumer models. But though there are basic framing lines, in a bewildering move the camera doesn't display the autofocus areas. This is annoying for a couple of reasons. For one, if you shoot in complete autofocus, you have no idea which points the camera has selected in order to know if you need to switch out of that mode. If you use single-point AF, there's no reminder if you've moved it (without routinely looking at the LCD for confirmation). You do get an AF area indicator in Live View, with a couple of nice magnification options for manual focusing.

You can program Pentax's signature green button to reset the camera, choose the image settings, show a depth-of-field preview in the viewfinder, apply an effects filter, reset the autofocus point to center or override the file format settings. I really like Pentax's file override capabilities. You can define a behavior for any given scenario: the function depends upon whether the camera is set for JPEG, raw only, or raw+JPEG, and you can define the override you want for each as well as whether it's sticky or cancels after one shot.

Though it lacks a lot of the explanations and hand-holding features that some other entry-level models provide, the K-x's operation is relatively straightforward, incorporating many familiar conventions that point-and-shoot users are familiar with. Some aspects make a lot more sense than other implementations I've seen. For instance, the ISO screen lets you choose Auto or a fixed value, as well as the auto range it can choose from; the latter is usually buried in a menu somewhere.

Though there's a lot on it, the status screen provides an easy-to-scan display of most of your current settings. An Info button pulls up an interactive control panel that provides access to almost all the settings: image controls (saturation, hue, high/low key, contrast, and sharpness), cross processing, special effects, automatic HDR, shake reduction, metering, autofocus mode, metering, highlight correction, shadow correction, file format, resolution, compression, distortion correction and lateral chromatic aberration adjustment. Though it's a pretty packed display, it's easy to navigate and nothing's hidden in a place that you'll have trouble remembering.

  Canon EOS Rebel XSi Olympus E-620 Pentax K-x Sony Alpha DSLR-A330
Sensor (effective resolution) 12.2-megapixel CMOS 12.3-megapixel Live MOS 12.4-megapixel CMOS 10.2-megapixel CCD
22.2mm x 14.8mm 17.3 mm x 13.0mm 23.6mm x 15.8mm 23.5mm x 15.7mm
Magnification factor 1.6x 2.0x 1.5x 1.5x
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 1600 ISO 100 (expanded)/ISO 200 - ISO 3,200 ISO 100 (expanded)/200 - ISO 6,400/12,800 (expanded) ISO 100 - ISO 3,200
Continuous shooting 3.5fps
6 raw/53 JPEG
4.0 fps
5 raw/unlimited JPEG
4.7 fps
5 raw/17 JPEG
2.5fps
n/a
Viewfinder
magnification/effective magnification
95% coverage
0.87x/0.54x
95% coverage
0.96x/0.48x
96% coverage
0.85x/0.57x
95% coverage
0.74x/0.49x
Autofocus 9-pt AF
Center cross type
7-pt AF
5 cross-type
11-pt AF
9 cross-type
9-pt AF
n/a
Shutter speed 1/4,000 to 30 sec; bulb 1/4,000 to 60 sec; bulb 1/6,000 to 30 sec; bulb 1/4,000 to 30 sec; bulb
Metering 35 zone
EV 1-20
16 segment
EV 0-21
16 segment
EV 1-21.5
40 segment
EV 2-20
Flash sync 1/200 sec 1/180 sec 1/180 sec 1/160 sec
Wireless flash controller No Yes Yes Yes
Image stabilization Optical Sensor shift Sensor shift Sensor shift
Live View Yes Yes Yes Yes
Video No No 720p at 24fps Motion JPEG AVI No
LCD size 3 inches fixed
230,000 dots
2.7 inches articulated
230,000 dots
2.7 inches fixed
230,000 dots
2.7 inches tiltable
230,400 dots
Battery life (CIPA rating) 500 shots 500 shots 1,100 shots (lithium batteries) 500 shots
Dimensions (inches, WHD) 5.1 x 3.8 x 2.4 5.1 x 3.7 x 2.4 4.8 x 3.6 x 2.7 5.0 x 3.8 x 2.8
Body operating weight (ounces) 18.5 18.9 20.4 19.2
Mfr. Price $499 (body only ESP) n/a n/a n/a
$649.95 (with 18-55mm lens) $699.99 (with 14-42mm lens) $649.95 (with 18-55mm lens) $649 (with 18-55mm lens)
n/a n/a $749.95 (with 18-55mm and 50-200mm lens) $849 (with 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses)
n/a n/a $849.95 (with 18-55mm and 55-300mm lens) n/a

The K-x includes a couple of interesting features, some unique to Pentax and some just new to the company. In addition to the traditional PASM exposure modes, Pentax offers a Sensitivity-Priority option (Sv), which automatically adjusts shutter speed and aperture as you scroll through a user-determined range of ISO sensitivity values. It's a nice alternative to the trial-and-error approach to finding the lowest ISO sensitivity that will deliver a desired exposure. There are also other veteran Pentax features like Catch-in Focus and the effects filter introduced with the K-7.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Oct 15, 2009
  • Digital camera type SLR
  • Optical Zoom 3 x
  • Optical Sensor Type CMOS
  • Image Stabilizer Optical (image sensor shift mechanism)
  • Optical Sensor Size 15.8 x 23.6mm
  • Lens 27 - 82.5mm F/3.5