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Pentax X70 review: Pentax X70

Pentax X70

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Joshua Goldman
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Joshua Goldman Managing Editor / Advice

Josh Goldman helps people find the best laptop at the best price -- from simple Chromebooks to high-end gaming laptops. He's been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software for more than two decades.

5 min read

As first efforts go, the Pentax X70 megazoom camera is strong, though it succumbs to problems seen throughout the category--namely slow performance and a noticeable decline in photo quality above ISO 200. The camera's 26mm-equivalent wide-angle lens with 24x optical zoom is certainly very flexible and fun, and the X70 is outfitted with a large set of shooting options--from full manual to full auto. But a couple feature missteps and, again, performance and photo quality troubles keep it from being a complete success.

OVR
7.0

Pentax X70

The Good

Sharper photos than most megazoom cameras; plenty of shooting options; straightforward operation.

The Bad

Slow performance; no full-resolution continuous shooting; crippled HD movie recording; noise even at lowest ISO sensitivities.

The Bottom Line

Slow performance and photo quality concerns stop the otherwise very good Pentax X70 from being a winning megazoom.

Lighter than most cameras with its zoom range, the X70 nonetheless looks the part of a megazoom camera and feels of reasonably good quality. Well, with the exception of the lens, which sort of floats loosely in the barrel. But otherwise, it feels solid with a big rubberized handgrip on the right and a similarly textured thumb rest on back. An eye piece for the electronic viewfinder juts out above the 2.7-inch LCD, and thankfully there's a button to take you back and forth between the two. All of the controls and buttons are big and clearly labeled, including the Mode dial on top. The camera's menu system is very straightforward and easy to navigate as well.

Most megazooms rely on AA batteries--alkaline, lithium ion, or rechargeable NiMH--for power. Pentax used one of its rechargeable lithium ion packs instead. It's a small one, though, and battery life was not the best. You'll probably want to get a backup if you're going to be out shooting all day.

Those looking to either work up to using or supplement a digital SLR or who need to satisfy a number of different user types under one roof will appreciate the large assortment of shooting options. With full-manual and semimanual modes you get finer control or room for experimentation. There's also a User mode so you can define a frequently used group of settings. If you want the camera to do more of the heavy lifting, there are Program, Auto Picture (automatic scene recognition), and Scene modes. The X70 has Pentax's dedicated Green mode button that sends you straight into simplified automatic shooting with limited access to shooting options.

Most notable are an array of ISO sensitivity options. In addition to complete Auto and manual 50 through 1,600 at full resolution, there are fixed-range auto options, which let you choose one of five ranges: ISO 50-100, 50-200, or 50-400, 50-800, or 50-1,600. There are also two high ISO settings, 3,200 and 6,400, but the resolution drops to 5 megapixels. If you're going to keep it in Auto, use the ISO 50-200 range for the best photo results.

Performance is a sore spot for megazoom cameras of this caliber. Just because they look, feel, and have shooting options in common with digital SLRs doesn't mean they perform like them. The X70, for example, is across-the-board pokey. Start-up to first shot is 3.1 seconds. Shutter lag in bright conditions is 0.7 second, while low-light shooting extends the lag to 1.4 seconds. Shot-to-shot times without a flash averaged 2.9 seconds, while turning the flash on pushes that up a bit to 3.1 seconds. If you're shooting landscapes, flowers, slow-moving animals, rocks, and sleeping and/or motionless people, these times probably won't matter to you.

There is no full-resolution continuous shooting mode, which is a real disappointment. Even a simple three-shot burst would have been nice. Instead the X70 has three levels of high-speed continuous shooting at a 5-megapixel resolution. The fastest is able to capture up to 21 photos at an average of 12fps.

Photo quality is very good for a megazoom camera, but it's still a point-and-shoot. Noise is present from the start at ISO 50 when photos are viewed at full size, though it doesn't get noticeable at smaller sizes until ISO 200. However, the X70 is one of the sharper 20x or higher megazoom cameras we've tested, and detail is good at these lower ISO settings. At ISO 400, noise reduction starts to blur detail. ISO 800 may be suitable for small prints if you're not too picky, but ISO 1,600 isn't worth using. I don't recommend using the high-ISO settings; not so much because of the reduced resolution, but because, honestly, the results are really not good.

The X70 produces inaccurate colors, but they are pleasing. Test shots in the slideshow above were all taken using the camera's Natural setting, which is the only setting for the camera's Auto Picture mode. Other shooting modes open your selections to Bright and Monochrome options.

As expected from a megazoom camera--especially one with a wide-angle lens--the X70 shows some barrel distortion at its widest setting and slight pincushioning at its longest position. Purple fringing isn't an issue until the X70's lens is fully extended. At that point, though, it's pretty bad. Lastly, Pentax's sensor-shift shake reduction works well, helping out immensely when that long lens is in use.

The X70 is capable of capturing 720p HD-quality video, but only at 15fps, which is pointless, frankly. Plus, the lens doesn't function while video is being recorded. If you want to use the X70 to record movie clips, use the VGA setting at 30fps; those results are actually fairly good.

There's no doubt that the Pentax X70's lens is a lot of fun and other than the crippled HD movie capture and lack of a full-resolution burst mode, it has plenty of shooting options. If your photos are going to only be seen on a computer screen or made into 4x6-inch prints with an occasional 8x10, you'll likely be more than satisfied with its photo quality, too. The laggy performance is the only other major issue, but again, if you're shooting slow-moving or still subjects, even that's not much of a hindrance.

Shutter speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28
2.3 
1.8 
0.8 
0.6 
Canon PowerShot SX10 IS
1.5 
2.1 
0.8 
0.6 
Nikon Coolpix P90
2 
2 
0.8 
0.7 
Kodak EasyShare Z980
2.4 
1.1 
0.9 
0.5 
Olympus SP-590 UZ
1.6 
2 
1.4 
0.6 
Pentax X70
3.1 
2.9 
1.4 
0.7 

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in seconds)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Note: Pentax X70 does not feature a full-resolution continuous shooting mode.

Find out more about how we test digital cameras.

OVR
7.0

Pentax X70

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 5Image quality 7
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