Text and Photos by Allison Gibson
An Intuitive Entry-Level D-SLR with Surprising Features
Walk down the street with the white Pentax K-x D-SLR in hand, and you’ll likely attract the attention of enthusiastic strangers who will stop in their tracks to ogle the camera, or even shout compliments from across the street. But even beyond its eye-catching looks (it also comes in black and a limited edition red or navy blue color), the K-x is attractive to a large number of consumers because it offers the market an affordable entry-level D-SLR with High Definition video recording and a built-in HDR processing feature. Because the $650 MSRP includes the body and kit lens, the Pentax K-x is more affordable than many new entry-level D-SLRs, including the Nikon D5000 ($630, body only) and the Canon EOS Rebel XSi ($699, kit).
An Ideal Entry-Level D-SLR
Camera manufacturers have begun to hone in on a growing, and long ignored, demographic: the Pro-Amateur, or “Prosumer.” This photographer finds the typical point-and-shoot digicam lacking in features, but isn’t yet ready to move on to a pro-level D-SLR. The Pentax K-x might offer perfect entrée into the SLR world because it boasts a few of the advanced features of its big sister, Pentax’s flagship D-SLR, the K-7, yet it also offers features like Auto Picture and Scene Modes, which are typically found in many consumer-level compact cameras.
We tested the K-x with its kit lens, the limited edition white, weather resistant DA 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6. While shooting, we focused on how the camera could introduce D-SLR photography to those new to it by experimenting with features that might serve as good learning tools—shooting with capture modes like Shutter and Aperture Priority, and shooting in RAW+ mode for more control of exposure in processing.
The K-x’s 2.7-inch LCD features Live View, which people used to point-and-shoot cameras have come to expect, but the feature is only now becoming common in D-SLRs. The LCD also has adjustable brightness and Face Detection Auto Focus for up to 16 faces. The optical viewfinder is small, offering only 96% coverage, but is still preferable to the LCD for composition.
At 4.8-inches wide by 3.6-inches high, and weighing only 20.5 ounces fully loaded, the camera is easily light and compact enough for one-handed shooting, and won’t weigh you down when it’s around your neck for long periods of time. The grip is substantial enough that the camera feels secure in-hand and there is a nice, large space on the back of the camera for the thumb to rest, where it won’t accidentally bump buttons. It seems like a triviality, but that happens too often the way some other manufacturers’ models are set up. The K-x is compatible with every Pentax lens ever produced.
A Full Range Of Features
Replacing the 10.2-megapixel Pentax K2000, the K-x boasts a 12.4MP CMOS sensor with sensor-shift Shake Reduction. One of the major upgrades from the K2000 is the ability to capture widescreen HD videos in 720p resolution (1280×720) at 24 frames per second (fps), and sound with the built-in microphone. Other new, more advanced features are borrowed from the pro-level K-7, including: built-in HDR (High Dynamic Range) image capture, which blends three bracketed images into a single picture for low, mid-range and highlight detail, and also a faster, more responsive11-point wide angle SAFOX VIII auto focus system. The PENTAX PRIME II image processing engine has a fast, 4.7 fps capture speed and a top shutter speed of 1/6000 of a second.
Digital Art Filters
The K-x also offers Creative Processing and Filter modes, which Pentax boasts as offering photographers “the ability to explore artistic freedom through unique special effects.” These digital filter modes appeal to the photographer who is new to shooting with a D-SLR because they offer in-camera effects that a more advanced professional photographer might seek to capture with alternative optics or manual adjustments—rather than through digital manipulation—like for instance, the “Fish-eye” effect.
We’ve seen creative art filters in D-SLRs before, most notably in Olympus’ E-series lineup. As we pointed out in our hands-on coverage of the Olympus E-620 mid-range D-SLR and even the more advanced E-30 D-SLR, built-in creative filters can offer surprisingly stunning results. DP Technical Editor, Tony Gomez, was particularly fond of the “Grainy Film” black-and-white filter offered in both Olympus cameras. However, I wasn’t instantly impressed with many of the digital art filters in the K-x. To begin with, the feature is buried deep within the digital menu options in the camera, which is not the place a major selling-point feature like this should be hidden. There is a “Green Button” on the top of the camera near the shutter, which can be customized to be a quick-jump to any feature in the menu, so I ended up setting it to jump to Digital Filters after growing tired of going through the menu each time I wanted to change the filter. The Digital Filters that the K-x offers are: Toy Camera, High Contrast, Soft, Starburst, Retro, Color Extract, Fisheye, and room for eight Custom options. The Fisheye filter was one that I was initially most excited to try out, however I would hope to see it tweaked for the next generation of this camera because it was less than impressive. There are three levels of intensity that can be set with the filter, though the effects of each did not really resemble the wide, hemispherical results of shooting with an actual fisheye lens—rather the images appeared flat with only an abrupt bulge in the center of the frame. The Color Extract filter was much more successful. The processed images appear completely desaturated save for the one color you set it to focus on (there are six colors to choose from).
Shining in Low-Light
Where the K-x shined was auto focus, which captured moving subjects very well, and in low-light, where it did well capturing low-noise images at higher ISOs. Overall, the Pentax K-x is a feature-rich entry-level D-SLR that has impressive image quality and bonus features such as HD video and HDR capture. The digital filters have the potential in the next generation to be outstanding, though they leave much to be desired for now. The compact design and Auto Picture shooting modes make it attractive to first-time D-SLR photographers, who will learn a lot about D-SLR photography from experimenting with this camera.
- $649.95 (comes with a DA L 18-55mm lens)
- 4.8”W x 3.6”H x 2.7”D; 18.2 oz., loaded
- Image Sensor:
- Maximum Resolution:
- 4288 x 2848
- Still Recording Format:
- RAW (PEF, DNG), JPG, AVI
- 2.7-inch LCD (230,000 pixels); Optical Viewfinder
- Manual Exposure Control:
- Full manual, aperture-priority, shutter speed-priority, sensitivity-priority
- Exposure Metering:
- Multi-pattern, center-weight, spot
- Special Features:
- Live View, Face Detection, Scene Modes, Creative Filter Modes
- Video Recording Mode:
- 720p/24fps in .AVI format
- Provided Accessories:
- 4 AA Lithium Batteries, shoulder strap, USB cable, Hotshoe cover, Eyecup, Body mount cover, printed manual and a CD-ROM
- Power Source:
- AA batteries