Posts Tagged ‘Camera Reviews’
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
The new issue of Digital Photographer features profiles on top photographers, including renowned night/low-light photographer, Jill Waterman, and fine art photographer, David Julian. The issue also features hands-on reviews of new D-SLRs, compact cameras and camcorders, including: The Canon Rebel T1i, the Sony A330, the Olympus Stylus Tough-8000, the Sigma DP-2 and the Sony HDR-XR520V. Also, check out reviews of the latest optic swap system from Lensbaby and Nik’s Dfine 2.0 noise-reducing software. Brush up on your understanding of focal length with a Back to Basics article and learn about special effects in video production.
Of course, there are always the columns you love: Digital Insider, Exposure and Inside the Image, which features the work of a DP reader. Learn how your photograph could be featured in the next issue here. We look forward to your feedback on the new issue, and as always, you can catch us on Twitter for up to the minute photo world news and Facebook for photo community discussions.
Tags: BackToBasics, camcorder, Camera Reviews, Cameras, Canon, Canon Rebel t1i, D-SLR, David Julian, focal length, Jill Waterman, Lens Baby, low-light, night photography, Nik Dfine 2.0, Nik Software, Olympus, Olympus Stylus Tough-8000, photography, point-and-shoot, Sigma, Sigma DP-2, Software, Sony, Sony HDR-XR520V, special effects, video | No Comments »
by Larry Lytle
Published Winter ’09
Studio Testing Medium-Format
Here in the beginning of 2009, some camera manufacturers are in the unenviable position of having to provide platforms for two media—film and digital. When you think about it, this occurrence is unprecedented in the history of photography. There have been changes—from Daguerreotypes to glass plate, from glass plate to roll film (for brevities sake I left out a few in between). Whatever the substrate, the “capture device” was always silver or dye-based and the means for printing either through contact or projection. So, except for the development of new bells and whistles to improve the camera, the technology remained essentially the same.
Hasselblad, along with many other camera manufacturers, are in a similar position. They have to offer two camera bodies, one for film and one for digital. Or, in the case of medium-format, they have a camera body that, by switching the back, accomplishes the change from digital to film. In the olden days with film, one could use the same body and change out the back to shoot either transparency or various print films. And, although the Hasselblad HD3II-39 accommodates either a film or digital back, I tested this camera using only the digital back.
When I opened the case, I was impressed by its size. I had been used to a smaller medium-format camera. The weight of this camera comes in at just under five lbs. with the 80mm lens. A bit heavy for constant hand held shooting, but fine when mounted on a tripod or studio stand.
I turned on my computer and popped in the tutorial on Phocus, the new capture and conversion software that ships with the kit. It appears to be a great program for tethered shooting, and/or for browsing and converting downloaded files. After viewing the tutorial, in happy anticipation, I attempted to load the program and found that I couldn’t. With a brief phone call I found out that you must run system 10.5 for the Mac and have at least 4 gigs of ram. So I used FlexColor, the precursor to Phocus, and although the interface isn’t nearly as slick, it works adequately.
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by Tony Gomez
Published Spring ’09
A Big Improvement Over The D80
hen Nikon announced the D90 DX-format (non full frame) D-SLR a few months back, they trumpeted the fact that it was the first D-SLR capable of recording High Definition video (720P). Since then many other D-SLR manufacturers have also added this HD recording feature to their equipment (see my Digital Insider column for more information). But HD recording isn’t the only big improvement in the D90 from its predecessor, the D80, to make it a standout camera.
Improvements Over The D80
The D90 has a larger, 12-megapixel CMOS sensor (4288×2848), which is an improvement over the D80’s 10MP CCD sensor. And more resolution means better captured detail, especially when making large sized prints. You can also capture stills at two lower resolutions—7MP (3216×2136) and 3MP (2144×1424) if you are short on memory. The D90 also has a larger and brighter 3-inch LCD screen, up from 2.5-inches in the D80, as well as a faster Auto Focus system, a faster continuous shooting mode, Automatic Sensor cleaning, and the previously mentioned HD Video Capture—720P at 24 frames per second.
Live View Monitoring
As if these big improvements weren’t enough to excite you, the larger LCD screen also incorporates the latest Live View monitor technology, which has been one of the most discussed features in D-SLRs for the past two years. This is the technology that lets you preview your scene before you actually shoot it. Pioneered by Olympus a few years ago, it’s all but commonplace in most of the leading D-SLRs today. Many professional photographers scoff at it, preferring to use their viewfinders instead, but if you are coming from a point-and-shoot camera, Live View is what you’ve been used to all the time. So Live View monitoring should make you feel right at home with the new D90.
The D90’s all black body exudes an air of professionalism. The body only weighs in at about 1lb 6oz., but when you include the optional 18-105mm zoom that I tested it with, it’s about 2.5 lbs overall. That combined weight, while much lighter than the more professional Nikon D-SLRs, should be tolerable for the hand-held shooter, although, the D90 is definitely a two-handed camera. The optional 18mm – 105mm VR (Vibration Reduction) zoom lens provides a very good degree of image stabilization when the D90 is hand held. However, some enthusiasts might want to use a monopod or tripod.
The menu controls and mechanical buttons on the D90 are laid out very logically. The Menu button opens up a variety of sub menus, displayed in large letters on the large LCD screen, including ISO, Image Quality and Size, Movie Quality and many more. All menu adjustments are made with the easy to use 4-way controller. The Live View button is conveniently located just to the right of the LCD screen. The Info button shows the various conditions the camera uses for image or video capture, and it also displays a convenient cross-hatch pattern to help you keep horizons or objects straight. A manual exposure compensation button allows images to be under or over exposed depending on user needs. These compensation effects are visually displayed on the Live View monitor.
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