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Pentax X90 review




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Considering that Pentax is one of the original “Big Five” camera companies (along with Canon, Nikon, Minolta and Olympus), and has been making digital cameras for over a decade, it's rather surprising that last year's X70 was the company's first foray into the superzoom market. It did pretty well for a newcomer though, with a state-of-the-art 24x zoom camera with a good if unadventurous range of features. Pentax has obviously got a taste for it now, because it's just updated the design as the new X90.

Pentax X90 front angle

The X90 is only a fairly minor upgrade on the X70, but it does address a couple of problems that affected the previous model. It still has a 12 megapixel 1/2.33-inch CCD sensor, a 2.7-inch 230k LCD monitor, a 200k electronic viewfinder, sensor-shift image stabilisation and optional manual exposure, but it now sports a high quality f/2.8-5.0 26x zoom lens equivalent to 26-676mm (the X70 had a 24x zoom), 720p HD video with mono audio at 30fps, and a new larger battery, increased to 1250mAh from the X70's relatively puny 880mAh version.

Pentax X90 front

Pentax is up against some well established competition in the superzoom market, with models like the new Nikon P100 (£294), the Samsung WB5000 (£284), the superb Fuji S200EXR (£282) and of course the ever-popular but soon to be replaced Panasonic FZ-38 (£220), not to mention an ever-increasing number of long-zoom compacts. The X90 can certainly match its main rivals in terms of specification, and is currently selling for around £274, which is fairly competitive.


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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