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Budget-priced DSLRs make up a pretty crowded sector and one that deserves investigation from anyone about to enter the wonderful and empowering world of this type of shooting gear.
As a DSLR, the Pentax K-x is about as good as it gets and, aside from engaging with a venerable name in cameras, taking it on would also deliver a camera to you with the benefits of Live View and High Def movie capture.
With the f3.5-5.6/18-55mm lens attached the Pentax K-x, built around a stainless steel chassis, is compact and not too heavy at around 800 grams. The knobbly speed grip makes it an easy one-handed shooting piece of gear.
Colour? Yes it can shoot colour (goofy!) and it comes in colour in a choice of white or black, as well as special, limited edition red and navy blue.
Here’s what you get: 12.4 megapixel CMOS sensor with a shifting sensor to quell hand-induced shake in both stills and movie shooting, giving you a four f stop boost; pentamirror optical viewing plus a 6.9cm LCD screen; HD video capture at 720p resolution and 24 fps; 11 point autofocus system; uses 4AA batteries (alkaline or rechargeable); RAW, JPEG And RAW+JPEG capture.
The High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode is interesting in that it blends three bracketed images into a single picture to optimise shadow, highlight and midrange detail. This is a technique much admired by pros (mostly achieved in software) and can give superb results with subjects containing an out of the ordinary contrast range. Some caveats: the camera and subject must be perfectly still; the stabiliser is disabled; JPEG is the capture format.
Continuous capture can run up to 17 JPEG frames at an initial speed of 4.7 fps; this speed will slow as the buffer memory fills; another continuous mode can shoot at a slower but more reliable 2 fps until the memory card is full.
The K-x has three different focusing modes in Live View: contrast optimisation; Face Detection Auto Focus detects up to 16 faces, then selects the main subject’s face and captures it in sharp focus; the AF sensor is used to optimise focus on the subject.
The mode dial offers access to auto, Program AE, shutter and aperture as well as manual exposure modes. Added to this are direct access to five scene modes and, indirectly, another ten.
A novel collection of digital filters will encourage the dabbler to experiment with his or her images: you can shoot pictures looking as though they were made by a toy camera, an old photo look; high contrast effect; soft focus etc … I’m sure you get the picture.
Even more startling is a Cross Process mode that will give you ‘off colour’ versions of otherwise straight images, a little like the way that pros used to (and some still do!) dunk the right film in the wrong chemicals. Don’t ask me why they do it but the results are startling.
In my test shots I found the Pentax’s quality to be on par with most other DSLRs at this level.
You should take note that there are three performance options with batteries: best one is lithium; second is rechargeable NiMH cells; final is AA alkaline batteries, as an emergency only. In my case I loaded a fresh set of Duracell alkalines … and they lasted 20 shots!
This is a seriously good camera for the photographer making the leap from a compact digicam. While it would be a good choice for snapshot and holiday photography, by adding one or two lenses with extended zoom range, it would make a powerful kit.
Experimenters apply here: the range of the camera’s ‘image twisting’ options is terrific and these could create effects that even a hardened Photoshop whiz envious.