The camera body is made of plastic, apart from the metal ring around the lens barrel. The overall build quality is good, although the camera’s light weight does make it feel a little more flimsy than it actually is, and it doesn’t quite feel like £370 worth of camera. However despite its relatively small size it handles well. The handgrip is rubber coated and is large enough even for my hands, and together with the rear rubber thumb-rest it provides a secure and comfortable grip. The control layout is pretty conventional and will be familiar to anyone who’s used a compact camera before. The D-pad and most of the buttons are well positioned for one-handed operation, as is the single adjustment wheel and the large mode dial on the top plate.
The overall feel of the X70 is competent and efficient. It has all of the basic features one expects from a modern super-zoom, with Pentax’s excellent three-stop sensor-shift image stabilisation, 100-6400 ISO sensitivity range and optional manual exposure. Aperture priority, shutter priority and full manual are available, with shutter speeds from four seconds up to an impressive 1/4000th of a second, and apertures from f/2.8/5.0 to f/8.0, in 1/3EV increments.
Also available are a useful range of scene modes, some with extra options, and the Auto Picture mode, which is automatic scene selection. Pentax was the first manufacturer to offer this feature, and it does work very well. The camera’s face detection system is also very effective, working even in relatively low light, or with faces in part profile.
The X70 is also the latest super-zoom to feature very high speed continuous shooting. It has three continuous shooting modes, offering seven frames at 4fps or 6.3fps, or 21 frames at 11fps, however in all three modes it is limited to five megapixels (2592 x 1944).
Many super-zoom cameras, especially ones in the X70’s price bracket such as the Canon SX1 IS and Casio EX-FH20, are starting to offer advanced 720p or 1080p HD video recording and even stereo audio, and indeed this does seem to be the next “must-have” digital camera feature for the second half of 2009. Unfortunately the X70 can only manage either 848 x 480 (WVGA) at 30fps, or 1280 x 720 at 15fps, with mono audio and no optical zoom.