Up until now Pentax has specialised in two types of camera; its Optio range of ultra-compacts, and its successful range of digital SLRs. It has a couple of other products, such as the W-series of waterproof compacts as well as some very nice binoculars and assortment of accessories, but up until now it has never ventured into bridge camera or super-zoom territory. The new Pentax X70 is the company's first foray into this uncharted territory, but it's a pretty accomplished debut. With a 24x zoom lens with a 26mm-equivalent wide angle, a 12-megapixel sensor, a 2.7-inch 230k monitor, sensor-shift image stabilisation and manual exposure options can it succeed in a highly competitive sector of the digital camera market?
That competition is already well established. The current benchmark for super-zoom cameras is of course the extremely popular Panasonic FZ28, which sports an 18x zoom lens, 10.1MP sensor and optical image stabilisation, and currently sells for around £235. However the FZ28 was launched nearly a year ago and is getting a little long in the tooth. Other more recent rivals include the Olympus SP-590UZ, which features an over-stretched 26x zoom lens and 12MP sensor, and currently sells for around £240, or the Canon SX10 IS, with its 20x zoom and 10MP sensor. The £300 SX10 also features a flip-and-twist monitor and a video mode with stereo audio. However perhaps the closest match for the new Pentax is the excellent Nikon P90, which offers a 12.1MP sensor, a 24x zoom lens and image-stabilisation for around £300. By comparison the very similar X70 does look a bit expensive at around £370, but then it has only just been launched, so the price will probably fall over the next few months.
Pentax has taken few risks with the overall design of the X70, and as a result it does look a bit generic. It has the conventional SLR-style body with a large handgrip, a pop-up flash, an electronic viewfinder and a fairly predictable control layout. In fact the X70 bears a strong physical resemblance to the Nikon P90, although measuring 110.5 x 82.5 x 89.5mm and weighing approximately 410g including battery the Pentax is both smaller and lighter.