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Pentax K-x DSLR Review

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.

Pentax K-x black front.jpg

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.

pentax-k-x-colors.png

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.

Pentax K-x white back.jpg

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.

ISO Settings

ISO settings range from 100 to 6400, with a boost to a startling ISO 12,800. But don’t expect pristine quality at this level.
Pentax K-x ISO 200 f4.5 1:50 sec.jpg
ISO 200 at f4.5 and 1/50 second.

Pentax K-x ISO 800 f5 1:200 sec.jpg
ISO 800 at f5 and 1/200 second.

Pentax K-x ISO 1600 f5.6 1:250 sec.jpg
ISO 1600 at f5.6 and 1/250 second.

Pentax K-x ISO 6400 f9 1:400 sec.jpg
ISO 6400 at f9 and 1/400 second.

Pentax K-x ISO 12,800 f10 1:640 sec.jpg
At ISO 12,800 and f10 with 1/640 second exposure the noise and colour artefacts become very obtrusive.

Chinese lantern 2 ISO 12,800 f14 1-2500 sec.jpg
This shot of the lantern was taken at ISO 12,800 and f14 with 1/2500 second exposure.

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.

Kids in pool.jpg

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.

Pool Normal-Cross Proc.jpg

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.

Comment

In my test shots I found the Pentax’s quality to be on par with most other DSLRs at this level.

  • Why you would buy the Pentax K-x: movie mode; a wide range of experimental modes (HDR, Cross Processing, Digital Filters etc); Live View; you need a top shutter speed of 1/6000 second!
  • Why you wouldn’t: movie capture is not Full HFD; xxxHaving said the above I also have to note that the camera is noisy: the shutter release and mirror action clatters.

    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.

    Like it.

    Pentax K-x Specs

    • Image Sensor: 12.4 million effective pixels.
    • Metering: Multi-segment, centre-weighted metering and spot.
    • Effective Sensor Size: 23.6×15.8mm CMOS.
    • 35 SLR Lens Factor: 1:5x.
    • Compatible lenses: Pentax K, KA, KAF, KAF2 and KAF3 mount.
    • Exposure Modes: Auto, Program AE, shutter and aperture priority, manual.
    • Shutter Speed: 30 to 1/6000 second, Bulb. Flash sync: 1/180 sec.
    • Memory: SD/SDHC cards.
    • Image Sizes (pixels): 4288×2848, 3936×2624, 3072×2048, 1728×1152. Movies: 1280×720, 640×416 at 24fps.
    • Viewfinders: Optical pentamirror, 6.9cm LCD (230,000 pixels).
    • File Formats: RAW, RAW+JPEG.
    • Colour Space: Adobe RGB, sRGB.
    • ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100 to 6400.
    • Interface: USB 2.0, AV, DC input.
    • Power: Rechargeable lithium ion/NiMH/4AA alkaline batteries, AC adaptor.
    • Dimensions: 122.5×91.5×67.5 WHDmm.
    • Weight: Approx. 580 g (with lithium battery and card).
    • Price: Get a price on Amazon for different configurations including Body Only and with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL Lens.
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Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse

is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals.

He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

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