- Well designed body; Good handling; Affordable price
- Poor LCD screen performance; Choice of AA batteries won’t please all; Image quality issues; No Raw
- Review Price: £199
Owing to the combination of a large focal range, compact body, full manual control and invariably a high specification, bridge cameras continue to be popular with consumers. More often than not they are seen as the first step up in to more advanced photography, and in many cases judged as a reasonable alternative to a DSLR for those not wanting to deal with a selection of removable lenses.
On the face of it the Pentax X-5 seems like just such a camera – ticking all of the boxes with regards to imaging specification, whilst bearing more than a few similarities to models in Pentax’s DSLR line-up, almost a K-5 lite.
Pentax X-5 review – Features
The chief selling point of the Pentax X-5 is the model’s large optical zoom. The Pentax X-5 features a 26x optical zoom that covers a focal range with an impressive wideangle of 22.3mm through to a tele end of 580mm. The zoom benefits from Pentax’s dual shake-reduction system – a combination of sensor-shift and digital shake reduction – which will no doubt ease any worries about sharpness at the tele end of the zoom. There’s also the added bonus of extra close-up functionality, with the Pentax X-5 capable of capturing images at a focal length of just 1cm.
The model’s 26x optical zoom is paired with a 1/2.33in BSI CMOS sensor that features an effective resolution of 16 megapixels. The sensor is supported by Pentax’s ‘Super Resolution’ technology that is aimed specifically at image processing performance. The sensor also supports full HD video capture at a resolution of 1080p and 30 frames per second although, somewhat unfortunately for a bridge camera, the Pentax X-5 does not offer Raw capture.
On the rear of the Pentax X-5 sits a 3in LCD screen with a resolution of 460k-dots. A major selling point with the LCD screen that it’s tiltable and can be pulled away from the body of the camera and rotated around a range of horizontal angles. Unfortunately the hinge of the LCD screen is poorly implemented – while it allows the screen to sit at 90 degrees to the body facing upwards, it only allows a 45 degree angle facing downwards, and overall the Pentax X-5 feels a lot more restrictive than the side-hinge variety found on other models.
Accompanying the vari-angle LCD screen is an electronic viewfinder, something that is always popular with bridge camera owners. The viewfinder features a resolution of 230k-dots and, although it is lacking in eye sensor technology, the Pentax X-5 does offer dioptre adjustment if necessary.
Despite not offering Raw capture, the Pentax X-5 does cater well for the advanced photographer. The model features a program shooting mode as well as full manual control. Other shooting settings available on the mode dial include a full auto setting, a range of scene modes and a handheld night setting that takes a series of images and then blending them together in camera for one well-exposed shot. One final option for those looking for the easier route towards good images is Pentax’s proprietary ‘Green’ shooting mode, which takes care of every camera setting in a single press.
One final point of note regards the Pentax X-5’s specification is the way in which the camera is powered. The model necessitates four AA batteries, rather then the standard Li-ion rechargeable unit that’s now common in digital cameras. This can be something of a mixed blessing – while it does mean that replacement batteries are readily available should the ones you’re using run out in the field, although if the performance isn’t up to scratch then this can involve lots of costly trips to the shops if you’re not using rechargeable AAs.
Design and Performance
Pentax X-5 review – Design
As mentioned previously, the Pentax X-5 bears a lot of similarities to the manufacturer’s DSLRs in terms of design, albeit an understandably smaller version. Inheriting these design characteristics has resulted in both positive and negative features for the X-5.
On an aesthetic level, the X-5 impresses. The angular top plate catches the eye, as does the green flash around the lenses front ring. The lens itself, as you would expect, forms a large part of the front of the cameras body with a rubberised grip around its exterior. There is an issue here – the combination of the green flash around the lens and the rubberised grip section has such a feeling of a lens on a Pentax DSLR that your first instinct is to turn it to zoom or focus. Unfortunately Pentax has missed a trick here as the lens itself is fixed and is lacking in any kind of control wheel functionality, so while it sits well in the hand that’s the extent of it’s use.
Another markedly DSLR feature of the X-5 is the large and protruding handgrip. This is no doubt in some part owed to the fact that the camera necessitates 4 AA batteries to operate, but whatever the cause the depth of the handgrip is certainly welcome especially if you have larger hands. The combination of this rubberised hand grip and rubberised lens both offer a firm grip on the camera and ensure that it feel safe in the hand whatever the shooting conditions.
The rear of the X-5 feels somewhat unnecessarily bulky. This is no doubt due to the implementation of the vari-angle LCD screen, so in some part it can be forgiven. However, the lack of success of the hinged screen is means that this is not entirely excusable.
While on the whole the X-5 impresses regarding design, unfortunately the menu system is something of a let down. All of the functionality that one might want to access quickly is somewhat deeply rooted and rather then being able to quickly flick between the various menu layers, it involves scrolling through each of the individual elements until you get to the one you need.
Pentax X-5 review – Performance
Despite being towards the more affordable end of the scale, the Pentax X-5 delivers generally decent levels of performance.
The model’s focus system offers a prompt enough focus, while accuracy is also respectable. If you want to modify the focus performance and have it more in line with your needs, then the variety of custom focus modes on-board will no doubt prove useful.
Although Pentax quotes some fairly impressive burst mode speeds in the X-5’s specification, unfortunately the two top-end rates are only available in reduced resolution shooting modes. The burst speed at full resolution is fairly pedestrian, although as a result once the images are captured there is little or no delay in the buffer clearing. Another disappointing factor with regards to speed is the model’s start-up speed, which is sluggish at best.
As mentioned previously, the rubberised lens and handgrip mean that you’re given a secure hold over the camera and presented with a comfortable shooting experience. There are signs of the cameras more affordable nature found around the body, however. The body feels a touch plasticky and that it wouldn’t stand up to too much bruising and battering. This is most acutely felt around the model’s battery door that features a slightly worrying level of travel most likely due to being under the strain of the four AA batteries.
The negative to do with penny pinching also extend to the model’s LCD screen. Although it’s not the lowest resolution on the market, it suffers from softening and a low level of quality. Images appear pixelated on the rear of the camera and as a result it’s difficult to get a clear representation of captured images especially in bright conditions. The same is true of the EVF – although it features dioptre adjustment which is of benefit, and its mere presence will most certainly appease many photographers, unfortunately it’s overly small and the quality is such that colours appear over saturated and thus it’s best used as guidance rather than a tool.
Keeping the cost down is one reason for the LCD screen and EVF to be kept to a lower quality, but the presence of AA batteries is no doubt another mitigating factor. As a result battery performance is kept to a reasonable level, although it’s slightly poorer than that found in Li-ion counterparts
Image Quality and Verdict
Pentax X-5 review – Image Quality
On the whole, images produced by the X-5 are of a respectable level, although there are certain issues that are worth highlighting.
The model’s white balance is generally reliable, although it does have a slight tendency to produce images to the warmer side of the scale – an issue accentuated by the fact that the X-5 is lacking in Raw capture functionality. When the white balance does perform accurately, colours appear on the more neutral and, as a result, more natural end of the scale. There is range of different tonal settings, as well as sliders for saturation and contrast, so if you’re looking for more customised control you can do so.
Although there are issues with the model’s white balance performance, on the whole the exposures are generally reliable forming an image of what the eye sees. There are issues with the camera’s dynamic range with a slight clipping seen in highlights, although this isn’t to the great detriment of overall image quality.
Despite the fact that the X-5 is at the affordable end of the scale, the 26x optical zoom generally performs well. There are some signs of distortion at the wide end of the zoom, although chromatic aberration is noticeably well controlled.
The X-5 handles noise perfectly well at lower ISO settings, with the camera resolving detail perfectly well up to ISO 400. Above that, there is a noticeable deterioration in resolution as the X-5’s noise reduction kicks in. The higher ISO settings above ISO 800 still deliver usable results, although the images lose sharpness and resolve much less detail, and as a result they won’t stand up to large-scale enlargement.
Pentax X-5 review – Verdict
If you’re looking for an affordable bridge camera, the chances are that the X-5 will be on your shortlist. The good news is that the X-5 is certainly a capable camera, and one which handles well and offers a decent level of performance in a generally well designed package. There are drawbacks – the LCD screen is poor, as is the EVF, while there are some image quality issues and the use of AA batteries will disappoint some. So although it’s a capable model, it just falls short of a full recommendation.
Score in detail
Image Quality 8