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.
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.
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.
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.