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Pentax K-x DSLR Review

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating

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The Pentax K-x DSLR

Pentax's entry-level DSLR camera is the K-x DSLR.

Pentax

The Bottom Line

The Pentax K-x is squarely aimed at the entry-level market. It's one of the smallest DSLRs on the market, and it's ideal for any photographer who prefers to travel light. Pentax has designed a camera that's easy to use and feels solid and well built.

But how does it compare to its rivals?

Description

  • Resolution: 12.4 megapixel APS-C format, CMOS sensor
  • ISO: ISO 200 - 6400, 100 - 12800 when expanded
  • Focusing: 11 AF points
  • Movie Mode: 720p HD movie mode (24fps)
  • Flash: Built-in popup flash
  • LCD Screen: 2.7-inch LCD panel, 230,000 pixels
  • Battery: Four AA (lithium, alkaline, and rechargeable Ni-MH) batteries
  • Dimensions: 4.8 x 3.6 x 2.7 inches (122.5 x 91.5 x 67.5mm)
  • Weight: 1.3 pounds (580g) (including battery)
  • Maximum Image Size: 4288 x 2848 pixels (RAW and JPEG)

Pros

  • Excellent image quality in low light conditions
  • In-camera RAW conversion and two RAW formats
  • Decent build quality

Cons

  • No visible AF points in viewfinder
  • Unreliable Auto White Balance in artificial light
  • Shake reduction not particularly efficient

Pentax K-x Review

Pentax's K-x DSLR is a solid little camera that's ideally suited to those looking for something lightweight to travel with. It has a respectable 12.4 megapixels of resolution and the ability to record HD movies -- although only at 720p. And while it doesn't quite live up to the Nikon D3100's features, you can pick up a Pentax K-x kit for around $150 less than the Nikon. It's an attractive proposition, but how good is the camera?

Controls

The Pentax K-x manages to pack a lot of controls onto a small body. This is great in that it gives you direct access to things such as ISO, white balance, exposure compensation, and so on. However, the controls are all quite small and tightly packed together and, if you have larger hands, you could find yourself pressing the wrong one by mistake. There's also a "Green" button, which can be assigned to one of a few choices of shortcuts, such as custom image, optical or digital preview, digital filter, RAW button, or center AF point. 

Live View

As with most DSLRs in this budget range, Live View is really only suited to tripod work as it's so slow! Usefully, Live View on the K-x can be magnified up to 6X for manual focus accuracy. This makes it a useful feature for still life or macro work, most of which would need to be done on a tripod anyway. For everything else, the contrast AF is just too slow, and images would be missed. 

White Balance

Auto White Balance on the K-x, as with many entry-level Canon cameras, just can't seem to cope with artificial lighting. However, the presets do a much better job, in particular, those for fluorescent lighting. There's a "subtle" and "strong" option to deal with tungsten lighting, but even the "strong" option struggles to deal with this kind of lighting effectively. You can fine tune most of the presets, though, and there's also a Custom setting. It does continue to amaze me that, after all this time, white balance with artificial lighting has not been perfected. 

Image Quality

The Pentax K-x produces really great quality images in JPEG format. You'll have high quality images with natural colors straight out of the box at base ISO. The camera also keeps this high quality going right through its ISO range. By leaning heavily on chroma noise, the Pentax produces images with a grainy film-like quality to them, as opposed to the traditional digital noise. 

Another useful feature is "Dynamic Range." This allows you to selectively adjust the ISO in different parts of the image, and it also allows for increasing shadow and highlight details. It works very well and gives accurate results. However, the K-x does have a tendency to overexpose in high contrast scenes, and dialing in a little negative exposure compensation before such shots is advisable. Because the camera is almost as good in JPEG mode as in RAW, shooting RAW won't necessarily get around this problem.

Overall, though, the image quality is superb.

In Conclusion

The Pentax K-x is an attractively priced entry-level camera with exceptional image quality. I'd give it five stars, if it weren't for the inexplicable exclusion of AF points in the viewfinder. The 11-point AF system is fairly configurable, but, without seeing the AF points in the viewfinder, you never really know where the camera is focusing.

If you can live with this, in all other respects, the K-x is a wonderful little camera.

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