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Many people can be misled by some camera makers’ claims of higher pixel counts, maxi zoom ranges etc … when in fact they’re actually being sold a turkey.

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This is one camera that goes against the trend: it can capture only a 12 megapixel image, has only a 4x zoom and its 35 SLR equivalent range is a meagre 28-112mm … reasonable but not spectacular.

However, look a little deeper into the digits and you discover the CMOS measures 14.9mm diagonally and is capable of capturing a maximum image of 3984×2656 pixels, printing out to a 34x22cm print.

Its video capture is in MPEG4 and runs to Full HD 1920×1080. You cannot shoot a still mid video.

As well, the maximum lens aperture is f1.8, shrinking to only f2.5 when fully zoomed in. Obviously, a dim and dark spaces lover!

Pentax MX-1 Features

For such a small, pocketable camera, the MX-1 is surprisingly heavy. It does have a distinctly retro look and will make long time Pentax users a trifle teary!

The control layout is sensible, well ID’d in largish, white text.
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Top deck: at left, the flash cell; to the right the mode dial which gives access to PASM; 21 scene modes (kids, panorama, sport etc); HDR shooting (based on a three shot capture); user specified mode; movies; and a green mode which takes you an easy, no forethought picture taking mode.

Further right we find power button; shutter button and zoom lever; the familiar red video record button; exposure compensation dial.

Rear: here we find the vari-angle screen (Hooray!) that can be lowered down by approx 45 degrees or raised upward to approx. 90 degrees; an E-dial which varies ISO setting, shutter and aperture settings; an AV/AE-L button that lock exposure settings; trash; replay; info and menu buttons; plus the four way rocker which takes you to still/continuous shooting, flash settings, ISO and macro.

Overall, a quite tidy and easily followed regime of external controls.

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I found the info button useful to give a current status display and then affords immediate access to such matters as the size of the AF area, image size, AWB etc. This was useful as, for some odd reason, I continually threw the camera into ‘bright’ capture mode instead of normal … the info button reassured me of where I was control-wise.
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The rear screen finder menu system is, admittedly, more involved but at least it does give access to an enormous range of options, running from custom image settings (natural, vibrant, bright etc).
The camera is well balanced but I would have liked a speed grip for the right hand to feel more secure.

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More: The camera has a novel Handheld Night snap mode helps the photographer capture sharp, blur-free night-time images by shooting multiple images in a run, then synthesizing them into a single image.

Now, a little magic that I have never seen before on a digicam: a level indicator that shows the camera tilt not only left and right but fore and aft also. As I said: Magic!

The MX-1 has a dual shake-reduction system that seems to work its magic with quite a bit more effectiveness than many of its peers.

Digital Filters: with these (15 in all) you can edit captured images to take on a variety of looks: B&W, retro, high contrast, soft, miniature and pos to neg … amongst others. Got me!

The AF system has 25 points.

There’s face detection (32 in all) and pet detection (3 in all). Plus smile capture and blink detection.

Startup Time

From startup it took about three seconds until I could shoot the first shot; follow-ons about a second apart.

Distortion

No sign of any problems at the zoom’s wide or tele ends.

ISO Tests

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By ISO 3200 the noise and definition had risen to such a degree that IMHO the setting would be unusable.
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Pentax MX-1 Review Verdict

Quality: about average.

Why you’d buy the Pentax MX-1: reasonably fast lens; Adobe DNG (RAW) capture; a wide variety of filters and image treatments for the dabbler.

Why you wouldn’t: you really want a DSLR; limited zoom range.

I found a lot to like in the MX-1: it sat well in the hand, the controls were easy to get around. And, it felt like a camera!

Pentax MX-1 Specifications

Image Sensor: 12 million effective pixels.
Sensor: 15mm CMOS.
Lens: f1.8-2.5/6-24mm (28-112mm as 35 SLR equivalent).
Metering: Multi segment, centre-weighted, spot.
Exposure Modes: Auto, Program AE, shutter and aperture priority, manual.
Shutter Speed: 30 to 1/8000 second.
Memory: SD/SDHC/SDXC plus 75.3MB internal memory.
Image Sizes (pixels): Stills: 3984×2656 to 1536×1536.
Movies: 1920×1080 (30fps), 1280×720 (30+60fps).
Viewfinder: 7.6cm LCD screen (920,000).
File Formats: RAW (DNG), JPEG, MPEG4.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100 to 12800.
Interface: USB 2.0, HDMI mini, AV, DC input.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, DC.
Dimensions: 122.5x60x51.5 WHDmm.
Weight: 391g (inc battery, card).
Price: get a price on the Pentax MX-1 at Amazon.