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Body & Design

Like last year's Fujifilm XF1, the Pentax MX-1 recalls an era when cameras had metal top and baseplates, with leather around the middle. The MX-1's 'leather' covering has leather-like texture, but doesn't make much more effort to feel like the real thing, instead looking just like rubber, with the grip you'd expect from high-quality synthetic rubber - good tactility and give, with plenty of grip enhancement without being actually sticky. Pentax has made a big deal of the fact that the camera's top and base are cold to the touch, which is true, whereas painted magnesium-alloy can be a little warmer.

One notable feature are the two infrared sensors for wireless remote controller operation, one front, one back, as seen on many of Pentax's SLRs. Missing, as we've mentioned, are the dual exposure controls one would expect for the enthusiast shooter. Onscreen menus are similar enough to Pentax SLR design that it's clear they expect Pentax SLR owners to consider an MX-1 for a slot in their camera bag, so it's odd they omitted the ring around the lens.

Top of camera

The MX-1's top view shows its relative thickness. That leaves plenty of room for a large mode dial, a medium-sized shutter button and zoom toggle, and the exposure compensation dial. Power and movie record buttons are nestled between these larger elements. The power button glows green when on. The tilting LCD is thick too, but the right rear of the camera is a little thinner, which makes holding the camera a little easier.

A lens cap, not shown, attaches to the camera with a small tether. We were occasionally greeted with a warning: "Please confirm lens cap is removed" when we'd forgotten to remove the cap. It was a minor nuisance compared to scratching the lens or damaging the lens housing, gears, or motor, which can happen when lenses open against resistance (like inside a tight pocket).

In your hand

The Pentax MX-1's thickness means that the body is pretty much the 'hand grip'. Though the camera is hefty, thanks in part to the brass top and bottom plate, the rubber coating on the front also helps. Pentax could have added a little bit more rise under the EV dial to give the camera more of a thumb grip, which may be the main ergonomic weakness (if you can call an essentially boxy design ergonomic at all).

The index finger finds the Pentax MX-1's shutter button easily, and my thumb in particular wants to rest on the rear dial, ready to make adjustments.

Tilting LCD

For greater ease when shooting over heads or around corners (in vertical orientation) the Pentax MX-1 offers a tilting LCD. It tilts up a little more than 90 degrees and down about 45 degrees. As you'd expect of a camera at this price, the MX-1 has a 920k dot screen, giving a 640 x 480 pixel display.

Variation of maximum aperture with focal length

As with most compact zooms, the Pentax MX-1's maximum aperture of F1.8 only applies at wide angle, but the lens stays relatively fast as the lens zooms to 112mm. The table below shows the maximum aperture at each of the focal lengths shown (as 35mm equivalents):

Equiv Focal Length
28mm
35mm
50mm
60mm
85mm
112mm
Max aperture
F1.8
F1.9
F2.1
F2.2
F2.3
F2.5

This is quite good performance, one of the MX-1's primary strengths. Note that the Pentax MX-1 does not indicate focal length on screen, so focal lengths and apertures were obtained by snapping a series of images and pulling the data from the EXIF files.

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Comments

Total comments: 14
solarider

Blunty's reviews are pretty fun to watch.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuOpygcOVJE

1 upvote
WilliamEv

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

0 upvotes
davids8560

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

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

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

0 upvotes
PRhe

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

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

Sounds like a great little camera!

0 upvotes
Total comments: 14