Pentax K-x

Pentax K-x It could be that the good people at Pentax have gone batty. They put way too much stuff in the new Pentax K-x camera. It’s priced slightly above the most expensive compact cameras (in the sub-$600 range with a Pentax 18-55mm zoom lens) and is offered in three colors (red, white and blue) plus basic black.

It’s a darn good camera for folks who are stepping up to their first digital SLR. And an excellent choice for first-generation DLSR owners who are looking to move up from a seven-year-old Canon Rebel, for example.

Here’s a rundown on the features, starting with the two or three I did not expect to find on a budget-priced camera:

HDR image capture mode makes High Dynamic Range photography as easy as pie. The K-x shoots three shots and blends them into a single image. Obviously, you must use a tripod. There are two settings for HDR—Standard and Strong.

Widescreen HD 720p video at 24 FPS—even though I don’t shoot a lot of movies, this is a very cool feature.

Fast 4.7 frames-per-second capture speed and 1/6000 of a second top shutter speed.

Outstanding high ISO performance, even at 3200. The image at the top of this blog entry was shot at ISO 3200. When I examine the full resolution file, I am amazed and impressed.

Multiple Exposure. Yes, I know how to do it in Photoshop, thank you. It’s more fun doing it in the camera.

Live View makes it easy for folks to graduate from using a compact digital camera to an SLR because they can, if they wish, still compose on the monitor instead of at eyelevel.

RAW image capture directly as a DNG file or in Pentax’s own format (PEF). It also allows RAW+JPEG simultaneously.

Pretty doggone good RAW image processing software powered by SilkyPix.

Optional dynamic range extension to protect highlights and, separately, to preserve shadow detail.

Excellent manual White Balance control that can be fine tuned.

SR, Pentax’s term for image stabilization (SR = Shake Reduction).

12.4 megapixel CMOS sensor.

2.7 inch LCD monitor that’s home to an easy to use, easy to understand menu system that’s activated by pressing the Info button once.

11 Point Wide Angle Focus.

Powered by AA batteries (high performance cells allow you to capture up to 1900 shots) and accepts readily available rechargeable NiMH (nickel metal hydride) options from Duracell, Energizer and others.

The Pentax K-x provides so many entertaining and creative features that even the most experienced photographer can experiment for months. It offers Cross Processing (even though few people even know what that means) and very sophisticated Filter Modes. The Filters are wonderfully adjustable and can be applied after the image has been captured. They replicate Toy Camera, Retro, Water Color, Star Burst and Custom (which is a sort of do-it-yourself). There are 16 choices in all. Plus it has Auto Picture (Portrait, Macro, Landscape, etc.) and Scene Modes including Night Scene, Kids, Museum, Stage Lighting and six more.

On the negative side, I miss seeing the AF area light up, especially when there are 11 possible points. I also found the AF speed too slow for sports photography. These two minuses are negligible compared to all the good stuff it’s got.

—Jon Sienkiewicz