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Pentax X70 review: Pentax X70

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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.

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7.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 5
  • Image quality 7

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.

Key specs Pentax X70
Price (MSRP) $399.99
Dimensions (WHD) 4.4 x 3.2 x 3.5 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 14.5 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 12 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 2.7-inch LCD, 230K dots/electronic
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 24x, f2.8-5, 26-624mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/Motion JPEG (.AVI)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,000x3,000 pixels/1280x720 at 15fps
Image stabilization type Mechanical and digital
Battery type, rated life Lithium ion rechargeable, 170 shots

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.

General shooting options Pentax X70
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600
White balance Auto, Daylight, Shade, Tungsten, Fluorescent (daylight colors), Fluorescent (daylight white), Fluorescent (white), Manual
Recording modes Auto Picture, Program, Aperture priority, Shutter priority, Manual, Scene, Movie, User, Digital SR, Sport, Green
Focus modes AF (Multi, Spot, Automatic Tracking), Macro, 1cm Macro, Infinity, Manual, Area Selection
Metering Multi, Center-weighted average, Spot
Color effects Blue, Green, Red, Pink, Purple, Yellow, Color Extraction (Red, Green, Blue), Sepia, Black & White, Fish-eye, Brightness
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) None (21 photos at 5-megapixel resolution in high-speed burst mode)

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.

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