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With a 5x zoom and a collection of the latest must-have technology, the Pentax M50 is designed for easy shooting at a reasonable price. The 8 million pixel model is available in six colours to appeal to a wide range of consumers and its small metal and plastic design puts it halfway between the entry level and lifestyle categories of digital compacts.
The lens covers the 35mm equivalent of 36-180mm, a useful range in a small compact that covers the majority of average shooting needs. Pentax has foregone the optical image stabilisation so beloved of other camera manufacturers but uses digital image stabilisation instead. This system automatically raises the ISO sensitivity of the camera, which in turn allows faster shutter speeds to be used in lower light or when the lens is at long extensions, and so reduces the danger of camera shake and blurred pictures.
Pentax has also added a host of easy-to-use scene modes, accessed through the mode button. The primary shooting mode is Program, while a selection of scene modes covers specific eventualities such as portraits, landscapes, night-time shots, kids, pets and food, amongst a few others. The inclusion of kids and pet modes is a telling indicator of who Pentax feels its user base is for its entry level compacts. This is a family snapshot camera.
If you find the general array of scene modes confusing, despite the cartoon symbols and text box explanations, the AutoPict mode will automatically recognise the type of picture being taken and choose the scene mode for you.
In Program mode you can alter the setting of the camera to a small degree. This includes choosing ISO speeds, up to an impressive ISO 6400 as well as the option to use exposure compensation over ±2 stops. You can also change the metering pattern from multi-segment to centre weighted and spot metering, change the white balance and adjust the size of the focusing area from wide to spot. The camera is equipped with face recognition, which detects and focuses on faces in the frame, setting the correct aperture to ensure the depth of field covers any differences in distance between them.
The menu also lets you adjust image parameters such as colour saturation, sharpness and contrast.