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Pentax extends its reach to first megazoom

The company jumps in with a 24x model for 2009.

Better late than never? Pentax makes a surprisingly belated entry into the megazoom digital camera market with the $399.99 X70, a competitively spec'd camera. In fact, its lens and sensor specifications look amazingly similar to that of the Nikon P90: a 1/2.33-inch 12.7-megapixel CCD and 24x f2.8-5 26-624mm-equivalent zoom lens.

Unfortunately, there's not much here to differentiate it from the crowd, at least on the surface. The X70 incorporates a 2.7-inch LCD, but it's fixed--many competitors offer tilting or fully articulated displays. It doesn't support HD movie capture, instead maxing out at a 1,280x720-pixel resolutions at 15 frames per second using the rather inefficient Motion JPEG codec. While it offers sensor-shift image stabilization--every camera in this class has either mechanical or optical stabilization--the Movie SR (Shake Reduction) mode sounds like it's probably electronic. There's a high-speed burst mode, 11fps for 21 frames but at a reduced 5-megapixel resolution. And while it offers a full complement of manual and semimanual exposure modes, it lacks raw format support.

The weakest aspect of megazooms tends to be the lens: they're usually not terribly sharp across much of the zoom range, and prone to distortion and aberration. Nor are these models usually particularly speedy. So if Pentax's lens is a bit better or it's a faster shot than its competitors, then it's got a chance. I guess we'll find out when it ships in April.