Pentax MX-1, Hands on Review
Pentax is playing catch up with retro designed cameras. This trend was started presumably by Fujifilm with their introduction of the Fujifilm X100. Now almost every major camera manufacturer is trying to put a retro designed camera in their product line.
With the introduction of the MX-1, Pentax is going into a crowded high end point and shoot camera segment. The competitors of this market are Canon S110, Lumix LX7, Olympus XZ-2, Nikon Coolpix P7700, Sony Cybershot RX100 and Fujifilm X10.
The Pentax MX-1 package comes with a 12 megapixel, 1/1.7in. backlit CMOS sensor and a 28-112mm equivalent f1.8 -2.5 lens. It has a 3 inch 920,000-dot tiltable LCD. The ISO sensitivity ranges from ISO 100-12,800. It can shoot in JPEG, RAW or JPEG + RAW mode.
The top and bottom plates were built of brass with chrome plating just like the cameras of the yesteryears…and the word “Brass” was prominently etched onto the top plate. This camera was built in Indonesia.
For more information on the specifications of this camera, visit here.
This camera looked handsome and like a rangefinder of the yesteryears. It felt surprisingly solid and well built. The top and bottom plates were made of brass, I am repeating myself here. This was the nostalgic feel that first captivated my interest to give this point and shoot camera a test.
The controls were well placed. There are 2 dials on the top plate, the exposure modes and the exposure compensation dials. Most photographers do not use exposure compensation that often but I used it 70% of the time to get the right exposure. I hate cameras that hide the exposure compensation in the menus. For me it is just a no no. The shutter button and the wide-tele lever shared the same space. The small on/off button was also designed onto the top plate.
On the back was the usual control buttons, shifts and menus. The controls were similar to a Pentax DSLR. The best feature here was the tiltable LCD. It can be tilted for low and high angle shots. This feature was great for street shooters who were shooting “from the hip” or photographers who loved waist level viewfinders. The LCD can also be tilted downwards for high angle shots with the camera held above the head.
There was a flimsy Wally styled pop-up flash. Personally I would prefer a hot shoe but then this camera was targeted to users who loved to have an all-in-one package. If any Pentax Engineers are reading this review, please put in a hot shoe in the Pentax MX-2.
I took this camera for a 4days 3nights photosafari to Lake Toba, Indonesia. It is not easy to comment on functionality or ease of use from the specifications or technical reviews. Hands-on review is what makes or breaks a product. A photosafari trip is one of the best ways to put the camera through its paces.
I took this camera for a street shoot in Medan and shot some really low light situations. The scenes around Lake Toba were captivating. I used it for some landscape shoots. The thing I find this camera was lacking was the ability to fix a GND filter set on the lens.
This camera was capable of handling bright sunlight landscape shots so were other cameras of its class. Chromatic aberrations were noticeable. However, this can be easily fixed in ACR. Sunrise shoots offered a challenge to its small sensor. The images had some noise in the dark areas even with ISO’s as low as ISO250. However, this also can be easily fixed with ACR.
One very good feature was the ability to shoot panoramic photos in-camera. The image were recorded in jpeg even though the image settings were only in RAW. There was a setting for HDR, however, I did not find this feature very useful.
This camera really shone in street shooting. The fast lens of f1.8 offered a lot of opportunities for handheld shots in low light situations. Since most of the images will be converted to black and white, the issue of noise was minimised. The small size, tiltable LCD and ease of use allowed the photographer to shoot in stealth mode. The shutter sound can be switched off.
There were a lot of complaints from people who shot in RAW mode due to the slow writing of the files to the SD card. I have a practice of shooting all my photos in RAW. In order to minimise the problem I used SanDisk Extreme SD card. The problem of the slow recovery did not go away but at least it was bearable.
The small size made this camera an ideal tool for travel photography. It fits well into the trousers’ pocket or handbag. Its handsome look was a plus point. Travel cameras were about lifestyle and functionality. It should be able to handle 70% of the situations that a DSLR can handle and also have better image quality than a smart phone.
In this area, the Pentax MX-1 did a good job. The DNG RAW image format meant that this camera was designed for serious users. It too has a manual mode where the shutter speed and aperture can be manually adjusted. The shutter lag and focusing speed were as good as a DSLR.
This is a very good point and shoot camera to be used as a back-up camera in a photosafari trip. The image quality was very good. However, the 12 megapixel sensor has limitations on how big the prints can be. I would be very comfortable of printing A3 sized prints from these files. I can rely on this camera for short trips, friends or family outings.
The fast aperture, ease of use, image quality and good looks made it into my well audited camera bag. The selling price of around $1,800+ MYR is an added attraction.
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