Interchangeable-lens hybrid cameras, like the , and increasingly affordable digital SLRs don't seem to have killed off the superzoom. That's because manufacturers have grown cannier with their long-zooming offerings. The Pentax X90 is a case in point, providing pretty much everything we'd expect from a superzoom in 2010. It's available now for around £230.
The X90 boasts a 26x optical zoom with shake reduction, offering a focal range equivalent to 26-676mm in 35mm film terms. It would cost a small fortune to match that kind of scope with a dSLR.
The camera also offers high-definition movie recording at a 720p resolution in a 16:9 wide-screen ratio, at a smooth rate of 30 frames per second. An HDMI output will let you hook the camera up to a flat-screen telly.
Want to use the long lens to capture fast-moving action or sports? The X90 offers up to 11fps continuous shooting. Throw in face-detection capability with a dedicated activation button, and a perfectly acceptable resolution of 12.1 megapixels, and you have an enticing proposition for anyone who wants greater creative flexibility than a compact camera can typically provide.
Although the X90 offers three JPEG-quality levels, however, there's no unadulterated raw option. Some will view that as a significant oversight.
The camera itself is made of plastic and metal, with more of the former than the latter on show. Our review sample's gunmetal grey finish doesn't do much to disguise the predominance of plastic, but you can also pick the X90 up in black and blue versions. Nevertheless, the X90 feels solid when gripped.
Our biggest gripe with the design is that the electronic viewfinder on the back juts out further than most, making it awkward to use if you're wearing glasses. On the other hand, at least this solves the age-old problem of the photographer's nose squashing up against the LCD when squinting into the viewfinder.
At first glance, the lens barrel seems to feature a manual focus or zoom ring. But, actually, it's just a non-rotating design detail. This ridged component at least provides something to grip when you're holding the camera steady in both hands and shooting without the aid of a tripod.
The X90 is smaller than several of its close competitors, such as the Fujifilm FinePix HS10, and Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ100. Its dimensions are a manageable 111 by 85 by 110mm and it weighs just 428g with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and SD or SDHC memory card installed.