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Pentax X90 - Features and Design

By Cliff Smith



Our Score:


The X90 offers plenty of features, but most of them are exactly the same as the X70. Externally it's hard to tell the two cameras apart. The overall body design is almost identical, apart from the X90's slightly longer lens barrel with a totally cosmetic knurled ring around the end of it. The colour is different too; where the X70 was available in matt black only, the X90 is an attractive blue-grey colour with a slight crackle finish. The the X90 is relatively light and compact for a top-end superzoom camera, measuring 111 x 84.5 x 110mm, only slightly larger than the X70. The new model is also slightly heavier, weighing 428g including battery and memory card, 10g more than the X70.

Pentax X90 zoom

Other than that not much has changed. The build quality is still up to Pentax's usual high standard, with tight panel joins and a strong metal hinge on the battery/card hatch. The large comfortable handgrip has a textured rubber surface, and there is a textured rubber thumbgrip on the back. The control layout is well designed with large clearly labelled buttons, and the camera is very comfortable and pleasant to handle. The LCD monitor is nice and sharp, and bright enough to work well outdoors even in bright sunlight. It has a good angle of view in every direction except downwards, annoying really because that's one direction you need a wide view, for shooting over obstacles.

Pentax X90 side

The viewfinder is pretty good too, but as usual with electronic LCD viewfinders it's not really sharp enough for accurate manual focusing, despite the automatic magnification in MF mode. Manual focusing is fairly poorly implemented, with stepped focusing controlled via the D-pad, rather than continuously adjustable focusing controlled by, for instance, the control wheel handily mounted on the back of the camera, or that non-functional ring on the lens barrel.

Other features include manual exposure modes, with aperture priority, shutter priority and full manual exposure, the settings adjusted by the control wheel just above the thumbgrip. The wide aperture range and fast maximum shutter speed of 1/4000th of a second do offer a fair degree of creative control for those who want it. Also useful is the impressive 1cm macro mode, allowing extreme close-ups of things just in front of the lens.

Pentax X90 back

Some features have been upgraded, particularly the video mode, which can now shoot at 1280 x 720 pixels and 30fps, with mono audio recoded via a microphone mounted beside the lens barrel. Unfortunately optical zoom cannot be used while recording, and the sound quality isn't exactly brilliant. The microphone is very prone to wind noise, and is also non-directional, picking up noises behind the camera just as loudly as those in front. The sensor shift IS doesn't operate in video mode either, just the usual electronic stabilisation.

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July 2, 2010, 3:58 am

Great review Cliff, and I agree with your score that this camera deserves.

Lately, I don't understand the trend of using "1/2.3" sensors for most of the new P&S Cameras, every new camera that is being interduced in the photography market had also increased their pixel counts but the sensor remains small. Many of these manufactures are top companies like Pentax, Sony, Canon, Nikon, etc.... They do realized that smaller senor size and increase mega pixel counts = more noise and lower quality images.

I wonder, if it cost more for these companies to produce cameras that use larger CCD/CMOS sensors and keep the pixels at around 10 to 12 Meg?

As consumers, can we get a good P&S cameras that works reasonably well in dark conditions without too much noise?


July 2, 2010, 6:19 am

@Cliff Smith - Sorry if this is a bit off topic, but I didn't know where else to post it...and I would greatly appreciate it if you took the time to answer these questions.

When will you be reviewing Sony's NEX-3 and NEX-5? And what about Fujifilm's new HS10, and Samsung's EX1, any plans on reviewing them anytime soon?? Just a few models I would like to get your opinion on..(I'm interested in versatile cameras with articulated monitors that produce great quality images)

BTW, how would you compare the image quality between a Panasonic DMC-GH1 and a Canon Powershot G11?? (I know they're not in the same category at all, that's why I'm asking)

Have a good one!!


July 2, 2010, 5:52 pm

@money - I'd love to see an affordable superzoom with a bigger sensor and better low light performance too but I suspect manufacturers steer clear of this to avoid cannibalizing DSLR sales - same reason they usually only come with a weedy built-in flash and no hotshoe.


July 4, 2010, 9:21 pm

Epic - As I understand it, there are 2 main reasons these bridge cameras have smaller sensors. One is cost, since more small sensors can be made on one wafer. Secondly its because smaller sensors need relatively small lenses to focus the image onto them, and as you increase the surface area of the chip you'll need to increase the size of the lens setup in order to throw a bigger image onto the sensor.

Or something.


July 4, 2010, 11:54 pm

What superzooms and bridge cameras need is:

A larger sensor with a lower pixel count

A hot shoe OR synch lead socket for studio/external flash

A screw on filter ability. Adding an ND or Polarising filter makes a huge difference to the final image.

Better quality optics

BUT few manufacturers will embrace these needs preferring to offer fripperies to attract the casual user.

I use my ancient Olypmus SP 510UZ for semi pro illustrations in a modeller magazine. Mostly it works fine at the lowest ISO rating and working at the 'macro' end of its lens range. The lens chromatic aberrations mean that judicious cropping is needed.

I have looked at a DSLR, 4:3rds or hybrid to replace the super-zoom but so far the cost/return ratio is too steep and the results are not a huge stride on from those I am currently getting.

I would take on another superzoom as they offer me the best all-round performance without needing to carry around an entire camera store of lenses and accessories to grab a small number of different shots.

Without a hot shoe/external synch socket and the lack of a screw-on filter ability the Pentax X-90 is another failure in an increasingly long list.


July 11, 2010, 4:31 pm

Driver - I ended up buying an FZ38 & am really please with it. There are filters & teleconverters available for it, and the lens is pretty good too. No hotshoe though, but for £230 you can't really go too far wrong.

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