Trusted Reviews may earn an affiliate commission when you purchase through links on our site. Learn More

Pentax X90 Review

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £274.00

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.
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.

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.

The X90’s overall performance is pretty good for a superzoom camera. It starts up and is ready to shoot in just under three seconds, and in single-shot mode it has a shot-to-shot time of also just under three seconds, which isn’t exactly sparkling performance but is a full second faster than the X70. In continuous shooting mode it can maintain approximately 1.25fps, which is actually pretty quick for a 12MP camera. It also has three burst modes of varying speeds, but since there is no audio cue to let you know when a picture is taken, and the monitor remains blank, these aren’t really much use.
Pentax X90 top

The autofocus system also seems to have had a bit of attention during the upgrade process. It is still very accurate and reliable, and even works well in low light, but it is now much quicker, focusing in a fraction of a second. This is a big improvement, and significant boost to the X90’s performance.


Also vastly improved is the camera’s battery duration. The 1250mAh Li-ion cell powering the X90 is over 25 percent higher capacity than the battery in the X70, and as a result it can keep shooting a lot longer. I was able to shoot around 220 shots before the battery indicator dropped to one bar and turned yellow, indicating that it needed a recharge. It kept shooting though, managing 270 shots before it finally ran out, exceeding the manufacturer’s claimed 255 shots.


There have been a few changes to image quality too, but the X90 still has some room for improvement in this area. The X90 has a new lower sensitivity setting of 80 ISO and appears to have a new noise reduction system. At lower sensitivities the image quality is generally good with no visible noise, but the results tend to look a bit over-processed. By 400 ISO the noise reduction is blurring out fine detail, and at 800 and 1600 ISO noise is a real problem. 3200 and 6400 ISO are available but only at 5MP resolution.
Pentax X90 bottom

The new lens however is excellent. Pentax optics have a very good reputation and despite its gigantic zoom range the X90’s lens produces superb edge-to-edge sharpness with no trace of chromatic aberration or barrel distortion. This may be due to corrections at the processing stage, but the results are still impressive. Colour rendition and dynamic range are better than average, and exposure metering and focusing are reliably accurate. All in all a significant improvement, and hopefully a sign of great things to come from the Pentax X range.


”’Verdict”’

Although it is only a relatively minor upgrade over the X70, it’s enough to put the Pentax X90 into the top bracket of superzoom cameras. Build quality, design and handling are right up there with the best, and the improved performance and battery duration are very welcome. There’s still room for further improvement in image quality, but the results are far from disappointing.

Pentax X90 specs

”Over the next few pages we show a range of test shots. On this page the full size image at the minimum and maximum ISO settings have been reduced to let you see the full image, and a series of full resolution crops have taken from original images at a range of ISO settings to show the overall image quality. These pictures were taken indoors using shaded natural light.”

—-
Pentax X90 test photo


This is the full frame at minimum ISO.


—-
Pentax X90 test photo


The image quality at the new 80 ISO minimum sensitivity is very good.


—-
Pentax X90 test photo


Still no problems at 100 ISO.


—-
Pentax X90 test photo


Still noting to worry about at 200 ISO.


—-
Pentax X90 test photo


Noise reduction has blurred some detail at 400 ISO.


—-
Pentax X90 test photo


Image quality is greatly reduced at 800 ISO.


—-
Pentax X90 test photo


Lots of image noise at 1600 ISO.


—-
Pentax X90 test photo


3200 ISO is available at 5MP.


—-
Pentax X90 test photo


6400 ISO is also available at 5MP, but it looks like a cheap webcam.


—-
Pentax X90 test photo


This is the full frame at maximum ISO.


—-

”A range of general test shots are shown over the next two pages. In some cases, the full size image has been reduced for bandwidth purposes, and a crop taken from the original full resolution image has been placed below it to show the overall image quality. Some other pictures may be clicked to view the original full-size image.”


—-
Pentax X90 test photo


Here’s the usual detail test shot of the West Window of Exeter Cathedral, for you to compare with other cameras. See below for a full res crop, or click to see the whole picture. File size 3.6MB.


—-
Pentax X90 test photo


The level of fine detail is impressive, and slightly better than the (linkkout:https://www.trustedreviews.com/digital-cameras/review/2009/07/11/Pentax-X70-Digital-Camera/p6 X70), nut it still looks a bit over-processed.


—-
Pentax X90 test photo


The new lens produces no barrel distortion despite the 26mm wide angle.


—-
Pentax X90 test photo


Centre sharpness is excellent.


—-
Pentax X90 test photo


There is a little corner blurring, but no chromatic aberration.


—-

”Here are some general test shots to help evaluate the camera’s overall image quality, including dynamic range, colour rendition and the zoom range of the lens. Some pictures may be clicked to download the full size original image.”


—-
Pentax X90 test photo


The wide angle end is equivalent to 26mm, wider than most comparable cameras. Please note that this was shot on the medium quality setting. File size 1.8MB.


—-
Pentax X90 test photo


The telephoto end is equivalent to a massive 676mm. This was shot from the same spot as the picture above, also on medium quality. File size 1.8MB.


—-
Pentax X90 test photo


Dynamic range in standard mode is pretty poor, with no shadow detail.


—-
Pentax X90 test photo


With the D-Range booster activated there is more shadow and highlight detail.


—-
Pentax X90 test photo


Colour rendition is bright and vivid.


—-
Pentax X90 test photo


Do not underestimate the power of the 1cm macro feature.


—-
Pentax X90 test photo


The handy time travel feature is useful for amateur archaeologists, or if you’re running late for a train.


—-

We continually check thousands of prices to show you the best deals. If you buy a product through our site we will earn a small commission from the retailer – a sort of automated referral fee – but our reviewers are always kept separate from this process. You can read more about how we make money in our Ethics Policy.

Trusted Score


Score in detail

  • Value 9
  • Image Quality 7
  • Build Quality 8

Features

Camera type Super Zoom
Megapixels (Megapixel) 12.1 Megapixel
Optical Zoom (Times) 26x
Image Sensor 1/2.33-inch CCD
Optical focal length 4.6mm to 119.6mm
Shutter speed 4 secs to 1/4000th
Auto focus Wide area, narrow area, tracking, area selection
Manual focus Yes
Max output resolution 4000x3000
Other resolutions 4000x2672, 4000x2256, 2992x2992, 3072x2304, 2048x1536, 1024x768, 640x480
Focus range Wide: 0.4m to infinity, Tele: 1.7m to infinity, Macro 0.1 to 0.5m, 1cm Macro: 0.01 to 0.3m
Exposure control P, A, S, M, Program AE, 21 scene modes
Exposure metering TTL Multi-segment, C/W, spot
Exposure compensation +2EV in 1/3 EV steps
Image Stabilisation Sensor Shift
ISO settings Auto, 80-6400 (3200-6400 at 5MP)
LCD Monitor 2.7-inch 230k dots
Viewfinder Electronic, 200k pixels
Flash range Wide: 0.2 to 9.1m Tele: 1.7 to 5.1m (AUTO ISO)
Flash modes Auto, Red-eye reduction, Soft Flash, On, Off
White balance modes Auto, Daylight, Shade, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Manual
Drive modes Single, continuous, burst mode
Image formats JPEG, Exif 2.21, WAV, QuickTime
Picture adjustments Saturation, contrast, sharpness
Video (max res/format) 1280x720 at 30fps
Movie length Card capacity
Self timer 10/2 secs
Memory card slot SD/SDHC
Supplied memory 31.2MB
Batteries supplied 1250mAh Li-ion rechargeable
A/V output PAL, NTSC
HDMI Yes
AV Out Yes
Manual 25-page quick guide, full manual PDF on CD

Physical Specifications

Dimensions Width (Millimeter) 111mm
Depth (Millimeter) 84.5mm
Weight (body only) (Kilogram) 400gkg

Unlike other sites, we thoroughly test every product we review. We use industry standard tests in order to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever accept money to review a product. Tell us what you think - send your emails to the Editor.

NAV BUG FIX