Steve's Conclusion

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Steve's SnapShot
Thumbnail image for PENTAX_MX_1_silver_web.jpg
  • 12-Megapixel Backside Illuminated CMOS Imaging Sensor
  • 3.0-Inch, 920,000 dot tiltable LCD Screen
  • 4x Optical zoom lens: 28-112mm (35mm equivalent)
  • Sensor Shift SR
  • Dedicated Video Record Button
  • Auto Picture
  • 1080p HD video recording
  • HDR Shooting
  • Popup flash unit
  • Classic metal and brass rangefinder styling
  • HDMI Output
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card compatible
Pros
  • iAuto shooting mode is accurate and easy in all situations
  • Dedicated Video Capture Button is always ready to record
  • Overall excellent image quality
  • Fast, Easy to use HDR shooting options
  • Sensor Shift SR assists up to 3 stops
  • Bright, tiltable 3.0-inch LCD
  • Good shooting performance
  • Optical zoom available while recording video
  • Stills can be capturing during video recording
  • HDR mode works very well for an auto camera mode
  • Great Battery Life
  • Competitively priced
Cons
  • AF during video recording struggled
  • Some noise in higher ISO images
  • Popup flash unit is not very powerful
  • No EVF or OVF
  • Wind noise reduction does not work with other background noises
  • Camera body is very thick
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 2.2 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused  = less than 1/10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = approx. 3/10 to 6/10 of a second
  • Shot to shot delay wo/flash = 1.50 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 1.56 seconds
  • Continuous =  1.75fps 
  • Burst Low = 3.13fps for 10 shots
  • High Speed Burst = 4.35fps for 10 shots
  • All tests were taken using an SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-1, 8GB SDHC memory card, Program Mode, ISO auto, Flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults unless noted otherwise.
Bottom Line
The Pentax MX-1 is a classically designed, fully featured compact digicam. It's 12-Megapixel CMOS and low-light zoom lens capture excellent quality images. It is a great compact alternative to a larger entry-level dSLR.
Pick This Up If...
You are looking for a compact camera with great image quality and performance. It is also a great looking camera that  enthusiasts will love.
Pentax's new MX-1 is a classically designed, compact digicam that provides high image quality and good performance with a sense of style. Featuring a 1/1.7-inch, 12-Megapixel backlit CMOS image sensor and a 4x optical zoom lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.8-2.5, you will have no problems shooting indoors or in other low-light situations. A large 3.0-inch LCD screen, Full 1080p HD video capture and sensor shift image stabilization top off the technology of the camera, while its metal and brass accents will age and give a true classic look and feel over time.

Looking at the MX-1 you will immediately notice how thick it looks and how heavy it is when you pick it up. It is definitely one of the beefier cameras that we have seen in a while, but it has a very sturdy feel that allows you to wield it with confidence. Its rubberized grips give you good control with one hand or two, and the tiltable LCD screen allows you to shoot at difficult angles with ease. The lack of an EVF or OVF takes away from the classic styling a bit, but we would not like to see the body get any bigger. Framing and viewing your images with the 3.0-inch, 920,000 dot LCD screen is not only easy in just about any lighting condition, it is also a pleasure. The incredibly high resolution allows you to see a great deal of detail while shooting. Pentax has also given you the option to display an electronic level and histogram for  additional control and information. We did have a couple of instances of accidentally changing the Exposure Compensation dial with its location on the top edge of the camera.

Performance from the MX-1 is good for a compact camera, capturing its first image after start up in just 2.2 seconds. The shutter lag is almost instantaneous when the camera is prefocused, and when allowing the AF system to work it took between 3/10 and 6/10 of a second, depending on the situation. Its shot to shot delay when using the flash was 1.56 seconds, but not much faster without it at 1.50 seconds. Continuous shooting gives us a decent 1.75fps that should never run out, but if you are looking for faster, you will want to check out the burst shooting modes. Low burst mode ups the capture rate to 3.13fps while the high burst mode hits 4.35fps. Both of these modes will stop after ten images so the camera is able to save them to the memory card. All of our tests were completed using a SanDisk Extreme Pro UHS-1, 8GB SDHC memory card, Program mode, ISO Auto, flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults. Shooting in RAW or RAW+ will disable burst shooting and slow down the continuous rate. 

The outdoor image quality from the MX-1 is excellent. Our samples show outstanding exposures and colors, giving us a very realistic image. The image is also very sharp, giving our subjects crisp edges and fantastic details. Framing your images is accomplished with the 3.0-inch, 920,000 dot tiltable LCD screen. Its incredibly high resolution not only makes it a pleasure to use, but it also allows you to see most of the fine details that you will capture on the screen. Featuring seven levels of manually adjustable brightness and the ability to tilt up to 135°, you will have absolutely no trouble seeing the screen in any shooting situation, even when the camera needs to be held above or below something in order to get the shot. 

Our indoor image quality is also excellent, especially at the lower ISO levels. From ISO 100 - 400, the images are incredibly sharp, showing all the finer details found within our M&M Man scene. At ISO 800, noise has started to really become noticeable within the image, yet the images are still good enough for producing prints. By the time you get to ISO 3200 and beyond, the noise has taken over and most of the fine details are gone. Assisting with our indoor and low-light images, the small pop-up flash unit really brightened up our Auto sample. The big problem is that it did not change the ISO setting. Between the two Auto images is the only place where we have seen a variation in the cameras exposure system. 

Our portrait sample taken with the MX-1 provided us with realistic skin tones and an excellent overall exposure. Unfortunately from just 6ft. away the flash was not powerful enough to keep the ISO levels down so that the camera could capture more detail. While the high ISO softens the finer details, it also at the same time softens the skin. While capturing our portrait images, the camera did an excellent job of detecting and following any faces within the frame. The face detection then adjusts the exposure and other settings to assure that the face takes priority in the image. 

The MX-1 has a built-in HDR shooting mode, allowing anyone to capture High Dynamic Range images with just one push of a button. With three settings, you get a little control over how you images will come out as well. When the camera is in HDR mode, just pressing the shutter release once is all you have to do. The camera will capture everything its needs to and process the image on the spot. The MX-1 also features a HDR filter, allowing you to add an HDR effect to any other images that you have captured. Shooting in the HDR mode provided us with a much better looking image than when using the filter. This mode also works much better than we are used to seeing on a compact camera.

Shooting video with the MX-1 is incredibly easy as the camera is always ready to start recording. The dedicated video recording button the top of the camera allows it capture video with the press of a button, no matter what shooting mode the camera is in. The camera captures very good video for a compact digicam, but the camera's autofocus struggles during recording, even when we are not using the optical zoom while recording. A small built-in microphone records audio for your movies. During our recording we used the wind reduction feature, however, it did not help with the background noise. During video recording, up to 3 still images can be captured by pressing the OK button. 

Powering the MX-1 is a 3.6V, 1250mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery. Pentax claims that the camera is capable of capturing up to 290 shots on a single charge while using the flash for half of them. This gives us a very good overall battery life. During our tests we able to capture over 160 images and several short videos on a single charge without the battery having to be recharged. While this is a good battery life, we still recommend having a second battery to keep charged and on hand at all times. The included quick charger makes it easy to keep all of your batteries charged and ready to go.

Bottom Line - The Pentax MX-1 is a small but powerful compact camera that is able to produce image quality rivaling more expensive cameras, thanks to its large sensor and low-light lens. Pentax has also given it a classic build that truly gives it a retro look and feel. Overall the image and video quality is very good, especially at the lower ISO settings. Available online from Pentax for just $450, this is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a compact alternative to carrying a dSLR or other bulky digicam.




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