Steve's Conclusion

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Steve's SnapShotpentax_x90_450.jpg
  • 12.1-Megapixel Imaging Sensor
  • 2.7-Inch LCD Screen with Anti-Glare Coating
  • 26x Optical zoom lens: 26-676mm (35mm equivalent)
  • Shake Reduction
  • Manual, Aperture and Shutter Priority
  • Green mode
  • Smile Capture
  • 720p HD video capture
  • EVF (electronic view finder)
  • 31.2MB internal memory
  • SD/SDHC memory card compatible

Pros
  • 26x optical zoom (26-676mm)
  • Powerful pop-up flash
  • Shake Reduction
  • EVF and 2.7-inch LCD
  • User-friendly Green mode
  • Great overall camera performance
  • HDMI output
  • Captures pleasing photos indoors and out
Cons
  • Above average amounts of noise at all ISO settings
  • Inaccurate Auto White Balance under mixed lighting
  • Good amount of noise in videos
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 3.1 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused  = less than 1 /10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = approx. 4/10 to 6/10 of a second
  • Shot to shot delay wo/flash = 2.06 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 2.7 seconds
  • Sequential burst =  0.85fps
  • Sequential burst Hi = 11.5fps 15 images (5M)
  • Sequential burst Medium = 8.5fps 6 images (5M)
  • Sequential burst Low = 5fps 6 images (5M)
Bottom Line
Pentax's X90 is an incredibly versatile Super-Zoom digicam featuring a 26x optical zoom, 12.1-Megapixel imaging sensor and 720p video capture. While it lacks a little in image quality, it has pleasing performance and is easy enough for anyone to use.
Pick This Up If...
You are looking for a powerful camera that will capture nice photos in a variety of shooting situations. Its vast array of useful shooting modes allow for anyone, no matter how much photography experience they posses, to have fun using it.  
Pentax's X90 is a Super-Zoom camera featuring a 26x optical zoom lens with an Ultra-Wide 26mm to 676mm telephoto zoom. This camera also boasts a 12-Megapixel imaging sensor, Shake Reduction, Powerful Pop-Up flash, 720p movie recording and full manual controls.  The inclusion of several fully automatic and advanced manual exposure modes allow anyone to have fun shooting with this camera, no matter how much photography experience they have.

Although it is smaller than most entry-level dSLR cameras, the shape and feel will remind you of shooting with one, especially when shooting with the EVF (Electric ViewFinder). The camera's controls are very well laid out, allowing you to quickly and easily change settings and shooting modes on the fly. Framing and viewing your images can be done on either the 2.7-inch LCD screen or the EVF. The LCD features 7 levels of brightness and an anti-glare coating that makes it easy to see in just about all lighting conditions. If you should happen to find a time when it is difficult to see the screen, then the EVF will provide the same quality display and information that you will find on the LCD.

Performance from the X90 is outstanding for a Super-Zoom in this price range. The camera is able to capture its first image in 3.1 seconds after you press the power button. When the camera is focused, the shutter lag is less than 1/10 of a second, and between 4/10 and 6/10 of a second when allowing the autofocus to work, depending on available light, zoom, etc. In single shot mode the camera has a shot-to-shot delay of 2.06 seconds or if you are using the flash 2.7 seconds.

If you are looking for burst or continuous shooting modes, the X90 features four options. First is continuous burst mode, which will continue to shoot until you let off the shutter release. This mode was able to capture 10 images in 11.8 seconds giving you a frame rate of 0.85fps. While capturing these images, the camera shot in groups of 5 then took time to clear the buffer before it shot again. The first 5 images were captured in just 3.6 seconds. Next the camera has a Hi, Medium and Low setting, which will only capture 5-Megapixel images instead of 12-Megapixel images like the continuous mode. These modes allow the camera to capture photos with frame rates of 11.5fps, 8.5fps and 5fps respectively. These modes are limited to 15 images for Hi speed and 6 images for Medium and Low modes. All of our tests were completed using a Lexar Pro 133x 2GB SD memory card, Program mode, ISO Auto, Flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults, unless noted otherwise. All times may vary depending on lighting, camera settings, media, etc.

Looking at the quality of our outdoor images, we can see that the camera produces a good descent exposure, showing us a few spots that are overexposed, and colors that are bright but slightly unnatural looking. Helping you to compose your images is the ultra-wide 26x optical zoom lens, with a 35mm equivalent of 26-676mm. This huge range guarantees that this is the only camera that you will need to carry, whether you are shooting vast landscapes, zooming in on distant objects or using the camera's outstanding macro mode. On the wide end of the zoom, you will see some barrel distortion; there are some very noticeable chromatic aberrations on the telephoto end and you will see noise in low contrast areas throughout the zoom range. 

Our indoor images show the same image noise and unnatural coloring from the outdoor images. Despite the increased noise in the image at the lower ISO settings, the camera will produce excellent looking prints of 8x10 and under. This noise will not become a problem until you start to make poster sized prints. The camera's auto white balance is very warm, giving the images a yellowish tint. There are two ways around this. You can either choose a preset white balance or manually set it before you start shooting every time, or you can use post-production software, such as Adobe Photoshop Elements, to adjust the white balance on a computer afterward. Either way it will be an extra step for those who are looking to just point and shoot.

The X90's pop-up flash is very powerful, allowing it to be used with as much of the zoom range as possible. This is very important when using the camera in low light and indoor shooting situations, where a weak flash will not produce enough light to use even half of the zoom. The flash was just a little short in our M&M Man shot from 6ft. away at ISO 80. If you are shooting at ISO 200 or 400, you will have a much bigger range that will allow you to shoot across a medium to large sized room with no difficulty. One thing you will want to watch out for is when shooting in macro mode, as the lens may block the flash if the camera is too close to the object.

Shooting portraits with the X90 is easy in all shooting modes if you have the face detection turned on. It is very good at detecting and following faces within the frame. When shooting outside, the back lit image looks descent, but it was a little disappointing that the flash, which was set to auto, did not fire to help fill the darker face. This camera also features the Smile Capture feature, which allows the camera to automatically capture an image when the subject in the frame smiles. 
 
When looking at our sample shots at 100%, you can see in the top right corner of all of the images, that there is a bad pixel. After completing our normal sample shots, we used Pentax's pixel mapping feature from the camera's setup menu. As you can see in our two macro shots that were taken after, you can no longer see the bad pixel. Needless to say, the pixel mapping feature worked perfectly.

The X90 has the ability capture videos with sound at resolutions of 1280x720, 640x480 and 320x240. While recording, you are not able to use the 26x optical zoom, but the full range is available to be set beforehand. Our sample video plays back smoothly, but shows a lot of noise. The camera's small built-in mic is very sensitive and will pick up any and all noises from around the camera. To help cut down on these noises, try to stay away from furnaces, air conditioners and our of the wind. Remember that this is a camera first and a video camera second, if you are looking to capture high quality video, you will want a camcorder.

Powering the X90 is a 3.6V, 1250mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery that is capable of supplying the camera with enough power to capture approx. 255 images on a single charge. During our tests we were able to capture 175 images and videos while running the battery very low. You will definitely want to have a second battery charged and on hand at all times while out shooting with this camera, which is easy thanks to the included external charger.

Bottom Line - Pentax's X90 is an incredibly versatile 12.1-Megapixel Super-Zoom digicam, featuring an awesome 26x optical zoom lens with shake reduction, 720p video capture and full manual controls. Overall the camera can capture nice photos, but suffers from noise and an inaccurate white balance system under certain conditions. Performance is great, matching up well to other Super-Zoom cameras with higher price tags. With a MSRP of US $399.95, this is a fun and versatile digicam. You may also want to check out the Sony CyberShot HX1, the Canon PowerShot SX10 IS, or the Panasonic Lumix FZ35.

Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.

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