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Pentax MX-1: First Look


Pentax MX-1: First Look

Alright, today I’ll be taking a quick look at the new Pentax MX-1, the new…and as far as I know, the first…premium, high-end compact digital camera from Pentax. Pentax have been pretty big in the DSLR market – they’ve been big in the mirrorless area too – they’ve been making loads of regular compacts as well (most of which are pretty good too), but this is the first compact of its kind that I’ve seen from Pentax lately…and after my first glance, I’m liking it!

Based on the classic Pentax MX film SLR camera, the MX-1 is yet another modern camera to go for retro looks. This camera’s retro-ness, however, is more than just that, it seems, as it borrows build quality traits from the old days, being built solidly with genuine brass covers, metal accents and…ok, now I’m just quoting Pentax…but this is pretty cool, I think. I bet it weighs a bit, but I wouldn’t be complaining about that. Nice touch

Placing it into one of the two common categories of compacts these days, it falls into the large-feature-filled compact…and is not the really compact type of compact camera, if you get what I mean. It’s fairly long, it’s pretty thick, and I don’t think it’ll fit into many pockets – much like the Fujifilm X10/X20 – but from what I can see, it has a very nice control layout and should be a pleasure to handle and use. It should produce nice pictures too

It’s got the usual goodies, of course: a fast, 28-112mm lens (f1.8-2.5), plenty of manual controls, lots of dials and buttons which I’m sure can be customized, RAW shooting, and pretty much every other feature you’d expect on one of these more expensive compacts. One thing notably missing that most new compacts go for these days is the control ring around the lens – there isn’t one. Also, the continuous shooting speed is a very, very ordinary 1fps! Not sure what’s up with that. Either way, those two aspects might disappoint some…possibly many

Anyway, I haven’t seen much of this camera before now, but I find myself liking it as I write this. I wish they popped in a bigger sensor – it comes with a now-average 1/1.7” CMOS – and had a control ring, and a better drive mode, but apart from these little (or not-so-little) issues, everything seems to be in place for it to at least make a small impact on the market. Ok, time for a more detailed look at the MX-1!

If you’re interested in buying this camera, please use my affiliate links below to pre-order! Thanks!


Pre-order the Pentax MX-1 From B&H Photo!

Specifications You Would Want to Know

  • Body Type: Compact
  • Resolution: 12.0 mega pixels
  • Sensor Size: 1/1.7”
  • Sensor Type: Backlit CMOS
  • Lens: Pentax 6-24mm f1.8-2.5 (28-112mm equivalent)
  • Image Stabilization: Yes, Pentax SR (sensor shift)
  • Shutter Speed: Max 1/8000 sec, Min 30 sec
  • ISO Range: 100-12800
  • Video: 1080p (30fps) and lower resolutions
  • Video Format: MPEG-4, H264
  • Metering Modes: Multi-segment, center weighted, spot
  • Exposure Modes: P, A, S, M, Auto, Scene, HDR, User
  • Built-in Flash: Yes
  • Flash Modes: Auto, Flash Off, Flash On, Red Eye, Slow sync, Rear Curtain Sync
  • Flash Range: 12m
  • Hot Shoe: No
  • Autofocus: Contrast Detect
  • AF Modes: Auto, Spot, Tracking, Single, Infinity, Pan Focus, AF Point Switching
  • AF Points: 25
  • Manual Focus: Yes
  • Macro Range: 1cm
  • Screen: 3.0” LCD (920k dots)
  • Articulated: Yes, Tilt
  • Touchscreen: No
  • Optical/Electronic Viewfinder: No
  • Max Drive Speed: 1FPS (for 6 frames)
  • File Formats: JPEG, RAW
  • Connections: USB 2.0, HDMI Mini (Type D)
  • Memory Card Type: SD, SDHC, SDXC
  • Dimensions: 122 x 61 x 51mm
  • Weight: 391g (with battery)

First Thoughts

Alright, I’ve already mentioned some of my first thoughts above, so I’ll just continue from there. I always start with the looks, and my first impression was that this retro-styled camera looked good. It does, actually. From the front. However, after you see that first picture that the Pentax site (or any other site, including this one) has in front, you check out a few other angles, and it starts to look a bit…weird. It’s thick, and pretty chunky, and suddenly starts to seem a bit ugly. This is based on each person’s opinion of course – and maybe you’d love the design, from all angles – but I can’t say I like how this camera looks. Especially from the top!

It seems like the tilt LCD is something that really adds thickness, and ruins the lines of the camera…and if that’s the case, I’d gladly swap the tilt feature for a slimmer, better-looking device. Yes, I know how useful a tilt LCD can be, but I really value compactness in a…well, in a compact! And I’m used to using a camera with non-articulated screens!

Moving on…I’m not sure how the backlit CMOS performs. I’ve seen sample images from pentax.com which look very good, I have to admit – but I still wish they went for a larger sensor size than the 1/1.7” that they did put in the MX-1. When the camera body is this big, the only reason I’d consider it is if it had a large sensor. A 2/3” would’ve been great. As it is, I’m not too impressed

What else? The lens! The lens looks great. A very nice range of 28-112mm, a very fastaperture range, from f1.8 at the wide end to just f2.5 at the tele end, makes this a very nice lens to use. I think that’s perfect. Nothing to complain about there

The control layout looks good. The lack of a control ring of some sort is a bit disappointing, but if I’m being honest, I rarely use the RX100’s fancy control ring, so I’m sure with all these buttons and dials that I see on the MX-1, controls shouldn’t be a problem

Let’s have a look at them anyway

Controls

Yeah, controls seem plentiful. There are quite a few on the large, brass top panel. Let’s start with that. On top, you will find: the mode dial, the power button, the shutter button, the zoom rocker switch (which is around the shutter button), and a dedicated exposure compensation dial. Nice. There’s also a dedicated movie recording button on top. And yes, the flash pops up from the top too. You need to release it manually – via a switch just below

Apart from the AF illuminator lamp, the front has nothing. The back has the rest of the controls. There’s the large LCD, and everything else is to the right of it. There, you find: a single thumb-wheel that is your main command dial, an AV/AE-L button, a delete button with a green dot on it (not sure what that is, to be honest!), a playback button, an Info button, the Menu button, and four directional buttons (that do NOT double as a second command dial) that control flash, drive/self timer, macro, and ISO

If they included a second command dial, it would’ve been a really nice layout. An Fn button, which I now realize is missing, is something I’d love to have seen here too. Maybe it’s the green-dot button? I don’t know

Alright, so I’m changing my thoughts a bit. A camera with this much space, due to its size, really needs to have a fantastic control set to justify it being this big. Or a large sensor. Lacking a second command dial, an Fn button, and a control ring of any sort, I’m starting to feel disappointed with the MX-1, and the way the user will have to control it. It’s got most of it right, but a few bits are lacking. And that’s a shame

Performance

Overall performance should be good. I haven’t used it, so I can’t say. But new cameras usually perform well in general operation, don’t they? Fair assumption!

Anyway, when it comes to performance, AF speed is probably the most important part of it for most of us. I’d like to be able to tell you more on that, but there’s not much said on the Pentax MX-1 and it’s AF system. It’s a contrast detect system, with 25 selectable points, but from what I’ve been reading, there’s not a lot more to go on

The drive speed is a truly pathetic 1fps. Can you even call that a drive mode? The RX100 can probably shoot 1fps in normal mode – just press the shutter as fast as you can! I’m really not sure what’s up with that. I hope the rest of the camera performs better than this

There’s not a lot said about the processor running this camera either, although with that 1fps stat, I wouldn’t be expecting much from this camera in terms of speed. Not till full reviews are out, not till I get myself one for testing!

That’s all I got for you here, I’m afraid. Not much. But that’s all there is. I’ll try to give you more information in a full review!

Conclusion

So that’s the new Pentax MX-1 digital compact camera. It looks impressive when you see it for the first time, then starts to continually bring you down the more you look into it. That’s how it was for me, at least. At first, it seems to be a pretty cool camera. Look deeper and it just seems ok

The Pentax MX-1: Image from pentaximaging.com

The Pentax MX-1: Image from pentaximaging.com

First of all, the looks. It looks great from the front, but look at it from other angles, and it doesn’t seem that cool anymore. I’d even call it a bit ugly

Ok, it’s large. And that’s fine. You think of the X10, with its fantastic control layout, and you think the Pentax has got something similar, so you’re ok with it. Look closer at the controls of the MX-1, and you realize that while it’s good, it’s not nearly as good as the Fuji. First of all, there’s no control dial or ring on the lens. There’s just one command dial. There doesn’t appear to be an Fn button (although I maybe wrong about that?). And well…it’s just not…what I’d expect in a camera of this nature. And it could’ve been. Oh well

Then there’s the sensor. You look at a camera of this size and you’d expect a 2/3” one. Maybe some were even hoping for a Sony-style 1” sensor. Nope, it’s a 1/1.7” CMOS. Looking at the sample pictures, I can’t complain, but I still can’t help wishing it was a bigger one. You know the benefits of a larger sensor as well as I do

Lastly, the performance aspect isn’t encouraging. A processor that can handle just 1fps? Seriously? Come on! To me, that really doesn’t bode well for the rest of the performance of the camera, although I could be completely wrong – and I hope I am. As long as AF performance is up there with the RX100 and the Fuji X20/XF1 etc., I’m ok with it. But I’m having doubts

Ok, before I wrap up, let me add some positives to the MX-1 now. On the plus side, there’s the very nice lens. The sensor-shift SR image stabilization system by Pentax is good, and should be very useful, although you might not need it, considering the lens is that fast. The LCD is a very high resolution one, and is tilt-able. And the sample images that the thing has taken, available on pentax.com, look very nice indeed. That’s the biggest factor when looking at the performance of a camera, I guess



Pre-order the Pentax MX-1 From B&H Photo!

I can’t say more till I’ve seen more so I’ll leave you with that. Thanks for reading. Leave a comment if you agree/disagree with anything I’ve said. Or anything else, really. If you’re interested in this camera, you can pre-order it from my affiliate links – please use my links! And leave a comment if you’re getting one of these for yourself…maybe you can help me figure out how the MX-1 really performs. Until next time

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By Heshan Jayakody
All content is my own, except for images, which are from pentaximaging.com

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Discussion

7 Responses to “Pentax MX-1: First Look”

  1. I had not noticed this camera out when I last searched for my new compact camera. It seems pretty good, right? What do you think, should I go get it for myself, or wait for something else?

    Posted by Gus | February 10, 2013, 15:07
    • It seems pretty good, yeah…but I think for this price (or a bit more) you can get something much better. Check out the Panasonic Lumix LX-7, which I feel is much better…or if you can afford it, the FUji X20 or Sony RX100. Even the older Fuji X10 is better than this Pentax, in my opinion. Hope that makes you decision easier!

      Posted by pixelogist | February 10, 2013, 18:29

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