Previous page Next page

Conclusion - Pros

  • Excellent image quality in JPEG and Raw
  • Solid build
  • Appealing design
  • Good color, practical color modes
  • Overall good performance in low light
  • Good optical quality - center to corner sharpness, with little sign of chromatic aberration
  • Fast autofocus
  • 10fps full-res burst mode
  • Captures a Raw image even in special color/effect modes
  • Switches to Macro mode automatically
  • 1cm Macro mode allows extreme closeups
  • In-camera Raw conversion for individual or batch reprocessing
  • Raw files contain a lot of extra detail in both highlights and shadows
  • Tilting LCD with 920k dots
  • Good 1080p Movie mode with stereo audio recording
  • Dedicated Movie record button
  • EV compensation dial is stiff and well-placed
  • Infrared sensors front and back
  • Built-in sensor-shift and pixel-track shake reduction

Conclusion - Cons

  • Too large for most pockets
  • No hot shoe or accessory port
  • Tungsten lighting sometimes left quite yellow by AWB system
  • Motor sounds audible when zooming (with optical zoom enabled)
  • Lacks second dial to give easy control of both aperture and shutter speed in Manual mode
  • Camera doesn't hang level from strap thanks to front-mounted strap lugs
  • Slow to power down
  • Slow to return control to user after shots

Overall conclusion

Taken on its own, the Pentax MX-1 is easy to like. Its large, good quality, fast lens and rugged, retro styling make it a handsome companion for those who miss old camera designs. Those who are drawn to its looks will be rewarded with impressive image quality and excellent optical performance. The MX-1 also has nice heft for those who appreciate what a little well-balanced weight can add to camera stability. That the extra weight comes from brass plates may matter to some, but be careful about treating the MX-1 roughly to give it that 'brassing' appearance prematurely; let those battle scars come naturally.

The lack of more customization options, particularly around exposure control or noise reduction, is unfortunate, because many of the MX-1's competitors have a lot to offer in this respect. Whether you'll miss in-depth customization in the MX-1 will depend on your priorities. As much as we value custom controls, speed and responsiveness are arguably more important for street and family photography, and in our shooting, when we need to shoot more critically we usually have an SLR in tow anyway.

Another omission from the MX-1 (albeit one that most users are unlikely to notice) is any sign that Ricoh has anything to do with Pentax camera design. We think Ricoh's brilliant customizable GRD/GXR interface would have added that extra something to make the MX-1 more compelling; but that too would have required an additional control or two.

When it comes down to it, though, what you need for good pictures is a sharp, fast lens, a good quality sensor, and a shutter button. The Pentax MX-1 wraps those basics into a neat little body with good heft and a sense of presence.

Image Quality

The Pentax MX-1's kinship with the Olympus XZ-2 is clear when you look closely at the sample images, particularly the Studio Comparison Scene. Though the JPEG processing is not identical, it's very close, with similar noise patterns and image rendition is about as distinct, even as ISO rises. The MX-1s images are slightly more contrasty, but only a touch.

Optical quality really impressed us, with nearly no loss of quality in the corners when compared to the center of images. Chromatic aberration is all but undetectable (in JPEGs at least). Movie quality is also good, with stereo audio and the option of digital or optical zoom.

The only real trouble we had with the MX-1 was in tungsten lighting, where the Auto white balance system left our images rather yellow; this was especially bad in a dimly-lit school theater. It's well known that Pentax tends to bias toward leaving a yellow tint in incandescent lighting, only recently changing their SLRs to bias toward a more balanced color, while letting the user choose an option to render Tungsten lighting more yellow.

Handling

At first blush, despite its retro appeal, the Pentax MX-1 seemed a little too thick and heavy to compete well with other cameras in the enthusiast pocket space. Instead of going for tall, slim, and pocketable, Pentax went for thick and retro. After a bit of time with the camera, each user gained new respect for it. It wasn't just its reliable image quality, but the camera's performance in the field. Seasoned reviewers noticed its slower shot-to-shot time, sometimes locking the user out of taking another shot until the image saved - even with a fast card - but amateur users just liked the way it felt like a quality camera. It isn't so small that it was hard to hold, and it was reasonably simple to use.

Focus is fast, face detection is usually helpful, and the tilting LCD is handy for low angle and overhead shooting. Though the LCD housing can be seen from one point of view as too thick, grafted on as an afterthought, it's also quite solid, with a build that seems appropriate on a heavier camera. There's no question it seems out-of-place compared to the elegant look from the front, but it's certainly functional, and its 920k LCD panel is bright and crisp, offering good viewability in sunlight.

The Final Word

While our experience with the Pentax MX-1 was really quite positive, it does have some weak points and we can't help mention that lingering doubt about its lack of an extra dial for full manual control. In the end, it didn't tarnish our experience with the camera, as we've noted, but those who will want that extra dial should take note and consider another camera. If you're generally happy using the semi-auto modes with your premium pocket camera, however, the Pentax MX-1 has a well-placed EV compensation dial at the ready for minor tweaks this way and that.

It's the optical and sensor quality that impresses us most about the Pentax MX-1, making it easy to recommend to anyone looking for a good performer in a solid body. If you don't mind carrying a small camera bag or hanging the MX-1 from a neck strap, you'll be quite happy despite its difficult-to-pocket dimensions. The Pentax MX-1's high image quality and overall performance make it a very good choice for anyone looking for a straightforward image maker with a retro sensibility.

Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.

Pentax MX-1
Category: Premium Enthusiast Compact Camera
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Exposure and focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Flash performance
Low light / high ISO performance
Optics
Performance (speed)
Movie / video mode
Value
PoorExcellent
Good for
Those looking for a high quality camera with a great sensor and sharp lens, who also like a little style and heft for extra stability.
Not so good for
Enthusiasts looking for more rapid control over exposure and other settings. Anyone looking for a camera that slips easily into a pocket.
Overall score
74%
Pentax's first entry into the premium pocket camera category is big on image quality but also a bit big for the pocket, which narrows its niche a little more than its competitors. Still, it's a very capable camera with a good set of features, a handsome finish, and an impressive sensor and lens combination.

 

Want to make sure you don't miss out on any future articles?
Sign up for our free weekly newsletter!

Enter the 'Pentax compact camera talk' Discussion Forum

Real-world Samples

There are 30 images in the Pentax MX-1 review samples gallery and 26 in the preview gallery. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.

Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution. Because our review images are now hosted on the 'galleries' section of dpreview.com, you can enjoy all of the new galleries functionality when browsing these samples.

Pentax MX-1 Review Gallery

27 images • Posted July 1 2013 • View album
Sample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photoSample photo

Recommended Links

Previous page Next page
51
I own it
20
I want it
5
I had it
Discuss in the forums

Comments

Total comments: 13
WilliamEv
By WilliamEv (2 months ago)

I purchased the MX-1 because liked the look of it and that it was a compact. Would be great for traveling. So got my MX-1 and went on a Holiday sad to say it worked for two day and them the LCD stopped working :( No pictures of my holiday except for my IPhone. I am trying to get it returned, replace or repaired but no one seems to care.

0 upvotes
FW Birds
By FW Birds (3 months ago)

I ordered one of these today. They are now selling for half of their original list price. To me that seems like a bargain. I really like the colors of Pentax jpegs, so much so that I may just shoot jpegs for ease and convenience. This looks like a great travel camera to pair with my K-3. Looking forward to trying it out.

0 upvotes
miuan
By miuan (4 months ago)

This is the first camera I want to return as soon as I got it, and I really wanted to like it despite its strange form factor. The operation is frustratingly slow. Most of the controls are well laid out and the buttons have good feel to them, but their response is sluggish most of the time, taking away the fun from the photography. The AF is desperate in all but casual static shooting, even in macro mode with enough light it struggles at times. The funky chroma NR artifacts at ISO 1000-1600 and the lack of NR / image parameter settings finishes the bitter feeling. I'm going back to my X10, sorry Pentax.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
Sad Joe
By Sad Joe (4 months ago)

PLUS: Nice nice brass body. CONS: That is simply not nice to hold ...remember the 'Simply Hold A Pentax' marketing strap line guys? Sadly its designers didn't….

0 upvotes
Rip57
By Rip57 (6 months ago)

I picked one up on the Woot $199 deal and have to say that's a lot of camera for the money. I'm still getting used to this particular form factor - no viewfinder and a LCD screen that tilts up and down (only). The technical quality of the photos is quite nice - it's my compositional skills that are lacking.

One thing that has helped is enabling the view screen overlay with vertical and horizontal lines as well as the electronic vertical and horizontal levels. I'm learning to shoot more from the waist, but I still keep trying to bring it up to my eye to look through the nonexistent viewfinder.

I still have an old film MX, into which I long ago placed a viewfinder screen with vertical and horizontal lines. The point is, my lack of compositional skill is certainly not the fault of any one camera.

4 upvotes
Ben O Connor
By Ben O Connor (6 months ago)

A silver Pentax K-3 kit & MX-1 as a back up P&S cam

Dream of a hobbyist in 2013-2014

3 upvotes
HauntedToaster
By HauntedToaster (6 months ago)

You can pick it up on Woot today for $199, plus $5 shipping.

0 upvotes
davids8560
By davids8560 (7 months ago)

This is a terrific RAW-capable high-end enthusiast compact, and at current prices (Jan. 2014) it is an excellent value and a very attractive option when compared to similar cameras in its class. Image quality is just about as good as you can expect for a camera with this size sensor. Build quality is outstanding. The menus are straight forward and inituitive in use. Performance is snappy all around. It's also a very good-looking camera, in addition to its decent performance. And maybe it's a matter of personal preference, but I rather like the accentuated oblong shape, as it gives me plenty of room to easily access the right buttons and make adjustments. The dedicated Ev knob is a very handy plus, too. I'd like to see a hot shoe and a reasonably-priced optional EVF like the Olympus XZ models have in the next iteration. But without hesitation I highly recommend the Pentax MX-1.

Comment edited 4 times, last edit 14 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
ragmanjin
By ragmanjin (7 months ago)

This is all the comments this camera got? That's a little disappointing, it's such a winner. Studio comparison tool, Fuji XQwhatever vs. Pentax MX-1 vs. Canon G16.....well, you'll see it. When I need a replacement for my G11 I'm almost certain the MX-1 will be the compact in my pocket for many years.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
5 upvotes
Kfrog
By Kfrog (9 months ago)

I'll give serious consideration for my small camera needs.

0 upvotes
PRhe
By PRhe (9 months ago)

I bought the MX-1 after comparing it to the Olympus (XZ-2) and Fuji (X10 & X20) options. Picture quality is superior, control setup is logical and the camera itself is drop-dead gorgeous! Looking forward to years of happy clicking.

5 upvotes
papa natas
By papa natas (3 months ago)

I've bought one too. I feel you, bro.
This is the camera that's unobtrusive, no ostentation. People give it a look (with a dog's interrogative expression) wondering if it is an old, well preserved 35mm with the ordinary 50mm lens. You won't provoke the "Pros (?)" with their phallic gear nor step on the toes of the P&S crowd. You are the Chevy Nova parked between the Hummer and the Porsche.
When it comes to menu, I love the simplicity and the friendly use of it. IQ is just superb. Colors are just off the wall, especially blue skies when shooting in winter. It easily accommodates up to 3 f stops. It makes me go back to my first SLR: Pentax ME Super.
This is a First Love camera. The LOVE that so many have forgotten: The LOVE for FUN!!

Comment edited 27 seconds after posting
1 upvote
jkokich
By jkokich (10 months ago)

Sounds like a great little camera!

0 upvotes
Total comments: 13