Operation and controls
The Pentax MX-1 has fewer external controls than we've come to expect from cameras in this category; specifically we'd like to see at least one more control to allow easy adjustment of aperture and shutter speed simultaneously. However, it has enough good controls to do what most enthusiasts would like, so long as they're not manual exposure devotees. Four buttons on the back offer quick access to ISO, drive modes, flash, and AF options, so all is not lost with the lack of a front ring or second control dial. It also offers a comprehensive function menu that will be immediately familiar to owners of recent Pentax DSLRs, so it's pretty easy to get to most of the camera's key settings.
Top of camera controls
The Pentax MX-1's top plate is used to set capture mode, power-on the camera, control the zoom, adjust the exposure compensation, and either fire the shutter or start a movie. The record button is flush with the top deck, so it requires effort to press it. This makes accidental activation less likely but increases the risk of your videos starting with a rotational movement and you straighten the camera after pressing the button.
This control cluster really represents most of what an enthusiast would like to see on the top deck: a mode dial, an EV compensation dial, a zoom toggle and dedicated video button. Sure an ISO dial would also be nice, as would a hot shoe for some, but at least they didn't omit the mode dial.
Rear of camera controls
Most of the MX-1's rear controls are pretty standard, including a four-way navigator, and playback, info, and menu buttons. The four-way controller accesses flash, drive mode, AF mode, and ISO settings, while the center button confirms selections. Above those are a green button, an AV/AE-Lock button, a control dial and the rear infrared remote port. The control dial is mostly used for adjusting exposure parameters and for zooming in and out in playback mode. In menus, it selects among tabs allowing you to switch between them without having to scroll to the top of the menu (as you have to do when using only the buttons to navigate).
The AV/EA-Lock button sets autofocus in movie mode, and locks exposure in still mode. The green button 're-centers' exposure settings. If you set a different exposure setting using Program shift, for example, pressing the green button reverts to the camera's original suggested settings. Even if you're in Manual mode, you can get an initial recommendation from the camera by pressing the green button, then make adjustments from there. Unfortunately in Manual mode, you don't get an exposure preview on the LCD when making adjustments, so you have to take a picture to see how your settings will work.