Performance and Image Quality
Though it relies a lot on its retro looks to help sell itself, at its core the Pentax MX-1 has a good quality lens and sensor that combine to produce great results. Startup is reasonably fast, taking about two seconds, but shutdown could be a bit quicker, sometimes taking three seconds before you can stow the camera again. Continuous speed is only one frame per second, not a surprise in this product category; however, burst mode high can capture about 10 Fine JPEG shots in around 2 seconds. Reducing compression to normal does nothing to change how many frames are captured, nor does changing the output resolution. During our testing we (as usual) shot primarily in Raw+JPEG mode, and didn't like how the camera frequently locked us out of menus while waiting for data to save to the card. Even with our fastest card, a SanDisk Extreme Pro rated at 95MB/s, the camera took three seconds to save a single Raw and JPEG pair before returning the camera's systems to our control, and that includes being able to take another shot.
Focus is contrast-detection, and very fast. The camera automatically switches to Macro mode with closer subjects (inside 0.5m, 1.6 feet), but you have to manually select 1cm Macro mode, which allows you to focus on objects between 1 and 2cm.
JPEG image quality from the MX-1 is generally very good, bringing to mind output from the Olympus XZ-2, a camera whose pictures we like for their sharp detail and good color rendition. For maximum quality, shooting in Raw mode s a good idea (see the next page for some examples of why) and speaking of which, the Pentax MX-1 also includes in-camera Raw conversion, allowing you to vary aspect ratio, image size and quality; apply custom image (color) settings; adjust ISO sensitivity; add shadow correction; and apply distortion correction (see below).
Raw (distortion uncorrected)
The MX-1 automatically applies distortion correction to JPEGs, which is why there's a dramatic change between the two images as you roll over the titles. In this shot, taken at 32mm equivalent, it's clear just how effective the in-camera correction is. Though you can process your Raw images in-camera so that they're distortion corrected, at the time of writing Adobe Camera RAW doesn't have a profile for the MX-1.
The Pentax MX-1 outputs impressive images with good sharpness corner to corner, and very little evidence of chromatic aberration. Even coma seems negligible in the corners.
In everyday shooting, the Pentax MX-1's Auto white balance setting did well most of the time, as most pocket cameras do these days.
|F2.5, 1/100, ISO 1600||DNG, -0.5EV, -10 highlights, Tungsten WB|
|100% crop||100% crop|
When shooting in a darkened high-school theater, however (above), the MX-1 had a little trouble with the mixed lighting, rendering the tungsten quite yellow, occasionally blowing highlights; but that's not a big surprise. Theater lighting is a challenge for any camera's auto white balance and exposure system, and Pentax cameras are generally biased to retain some of the yellow color under tungsten lighting. Switching to tungsten white balance in Adobe Camera RAW, dialing back exposure by half a stop and adjusting the highlights made a more usable image, though the highlights remain a little hot.
Exposure and background blur
Exposure is also mostly very reliable. Seattle's frequent overcast conditions resulted in some fairly flat images during our shooting, but the camera still told the truth, which is what we like them to do. In the exceptionally difficult conditions of a sunlit mountain scape, the MX-1 did very well indeed, and although some images from our selection were a touch underexposed (see the following page) on the whole, the camera performed admirably.
|Shot in 1cm Macro mode, this image was taken at F2.8, 1/45 second, ISO 320. The image shows a nicely defocused background (which is to be expected in macro mode).||100% crop|
Having a slightly larger sensor and a fast lens does a little to improve subject/background separation over smaller-sensor designs, but you're not going to get anything like the subject/background separation you would expect from the larger sensors in mirrorless or SLR cameras. Naturally the closer your subject, the more blur you'll see. 1cm Macro mode (see the picture of the flower, above) demonstrates the effect.
At more normal focus distances you're not going to be blown away with buttery-soft backgrounds. Despite the impressive-sounding F1.8 maximum aperture, it's only available at the widest lens setting, which has a greater depth of field. The above shot (F1.8, 1/320, ISO 100, 28mm eq.) illustrates just how little your background will be thrown out of focus. Focus was set on the insect. While at 100% onscreen the background seems soft, at normal print sizes the background is still pretty distinct.
But at the middle and telephoto settings, you do get more impressive subject separation, thanks to the limited change in the maximum aperture. Even at the telephoto setting, the lens stops down to only F2.5, which, combined with telephoto focal lengths can produce some noticeable background blur.
F5.0, 1/320, ISO 100
F2.5, 1/1250, ISO 100
|100% crop||100% crop|
Roll over the aperture settings above to see the change in background blur as we change aperture from F5.6 to F2.5. You can get reasonable background blur thanks to the relatively wide aperture of the lens even at telephoto.
ISO is easily adjusted thanks to the ISO button on the back of the Pentax MX-1. ISO by default is limited to 1600, but you can allow it to rise to the maximum 12,800 setting with a turn of the rear dial, a nice feature if you just want to get the shot no matter what. ISO 640 images are a little crunchy around transitions, but most detail is pretty good. ISO 12,800 is very grainy, so you'd want to avoid it most of the time, but ISO 3200 is very good and ISO 6400 is good for so small a sensor so long as you keep your print sizes small. To see how the Pentax MX-1 compares to its peers, see the Image Quality Compared pages of this review.
The Pentax MX-1 has a range of color and effects modes, including HDR, which are effectively a subset of similar modes found on Pentax's SLRs, with less scope for adjustment. Presets include Bright, Natural, Vibrant, Reversal Film, and Monochrome. The first three allow you to adjust Saturation, Hue, Contrast, and Sharpness, but only by a few steps.
HDR Strong 2
Default conversion of Raw file
It was while shooting a series of images that we learned HDR Strong 2 could resurrect a drab day. We'd show the other images, but they're also fairly drab. To see how bad it was, roll over the Raw file the camera saved. Of greatest practical interest is how much the MX-1 brings up the exposure from the shadows on the left, but there is something to be said for the illustration-like image delivered by the MX-1's HDR mode. Note that the HDR image appears to be slightly zoomed because HDR mode crops some of the image.
The FAA has ordered helicopter pilots and operators to halt certain doors-off flights in the wake of a tragedy that killed five passengers.
Analysts TechInsights have torn down a Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus to have a closer look at the device's internal components and their cost.
Oppo's new high-end phones bear an uncanny resemblance to the iPhone X, with features like face unlock to a portrait lighting mode.
Recently we visited the 2018 CP+ show in Yokohama, Japan and as usual, we booked interviews with senior executives from several major manufacturers, including Sigma.
At this year's CP+ show in Yokohama, we sat down with senior executives from several major manufacturers, including Canon. Topics of conversation included Canon's ambitions for high-end mirrorless cameras, and the importance of responding to the demands of the smartphone generation.
We were recently able to follow local frame builder Max Kullaway as he created one of his AirLandSea bikes. Here are our picks of the photos we got, as the project progressed from bare tubes all the way to rideable bicycle.
On paper, the Sony a7 III is a tempting option for photographers who've been considering a switch to full-frame mirrorless. But how does its image quality stack up? We compare it to the Mark II and a few of its other peers.
Erez Marom shares the details behind this beautiful aurora photograph, captured on Haukland Beach in the Lofoten Islands, Arctic Norway, on a moonless evening.
Google Lens uses artificial intelligence and 'computer vision' to identify and provide information about businesses, landmarks and other objects using your phone's camera. And now it's available for iPhone users, too.
The company posted a record quarterly revenue of $2.08 billion for the first quarter of the 2018 fiscal year. That represents incredibly healthy year-over-year growth of 24 percent.
In the job posting, the Times' describes this role as "one of the most important and high-profile jobs in visual journalism." If you're looking for a high profile job in photojournalism, you could do a lot worse than being Photo Director at The Gray Lady.
According to a recent report out of South Korea, Samsung is increasing production of its ISOCELL image sensors in a bid towards market leadership for image sensors. To reach this goal, Samsung will have to dethrone current market leader Sony... no small task.
In this video, large format photographer Ben Horne shows off the incredible resolving power of 8x10 slide film by pixel peeping a massive 709.6-megapixel drum scan of one of his landscape shots. And you thought 100MP medium format was big...
Photographer Wendy Teal tells the heart-breaking story of a wedding she shot at a hospital on just 24-hours notice. The mother of the bride had been given one week to live, and Wendy responded to the couple's desperate social media plea for someone to capture their special day.
This tiny little plug-and-play VR/AR camera for Android phones uses a pair of greater-than-180° FOV fisheye lenses to offer both 360° video/photo capture and 360° livestreaming at 1440p resolution.
Syrp has announced the Magic Carpet Pro: a slider that offers filmmakers an 'infinitely extendable' range thanks to built-in track levers that let you connect lengths of track without the use of tools.
At CP+ we sat down with executives from several major manufacturers. Among them was Kenji Tanaka, of Sony, who talked to us about the a7 III as well as its plans to attract more pro shooters – without ignoring APS-C and entry-level customers.
How do you shoot macro photography on an 18x24cm large format wet plate camera? You 'connect' two large format cameras together! That's how wet plate photographer Markus Hofstaetter did it, and you can read about the whole process in this article.
The Fujifilm X-H1 is a top-of-the-range 24MP mirrorless camera with in-body stabilization and the company's most advanced array of video capabilities. We've tested the X-T2's big brother extensively to see how it performs.
Motorsports photojournalist Jamey Price recently flew to Canada with Lamborghini for the car company's Winter Accademia 2018, where clients get to drive the latest Lamborghini supercars on snow and ice. Yes... it is exactly as awesome as it sounds.
For the Pixel 2 smartphone's Motion Photos feature, Google built on its existing Motion Stills technology by adding advanced stabilization that combines software and hardware capabilities to optimize trimming and stabilization.
This "high-capacity advanced spider tripod" system can handle a maximum load of 65kg / 143lbs thanks to its reinforced design and 8-layered carbon fiber legs.
Photographer William Briscoe captured the beautiful two-for-one timelapse just outside Fairbanks, Alaska on January 31st, braving -31°F (-35°C) temperatures to get the shot.
"After his camera was stolen from his room in the orphanage, he switched to an iPhone for his photography, reasoning that the image quality of a big, heavy camera was less important than the freedom of a cell phone. 'Quality? Screw it, I’d sketch things with a pencil if I could draw,' he wrote in a blog post."
Chinese manufacturer Vivo has announced some AI-powered Super HDR tech to compete with Google's HDR+ system. Both systems combine multiple images to create a final shot with more dynamic range and less noise, but Super HDR claims to do so more intelligently.
The YouTube channel JerryRigEverything recently tore down (or rather, tore apart...) the new Samsung Galaxy S9, giving us the closest look at yet at the new smartphone's camera hardware.
The Leica l Model A, dating from between 1926 and 1927, comes with a card signed by Earhart herself. Unfortunately, this is the only 'proof' that the camera really did belong to her.
The Rokinon AF 35mm F2.8 FE is a budget-friendly option for users of Sony's a7-series that are looking to get into the 35mm focal length.
The 'semantic image segmentation model' categorizes every pixel in an image and assigns it a label, such as “road”, “sky”, “person” or “dog.” And now, Google has released its latest version as open source, making it available to any developers whose apps could benefit from the tech.
Huawai is teasing the upcoming P20 smartphone's low-light and zoom capabilities in a couple of tongue-in-cheek teaser videos on YouTube.