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Pentax MX-1 Review

The Pentax MX-1 is an advanced compact camera with Brass top and bottom plates as well as a bright f/1.8 4x optical zoom lens.

| Pentax MX-1 in Compact Cameras


Pentax MX-1 Review: Pentax MX 1 Black (1)

The Pentax MX-1 is a new "serious compact" with a bright f/1.8 4x optical zoom lens, tilting 3 inch screen and slightly larger than normal backlit CMOS sensor. The MX-1 features a retro design with top and bottom brass plates and is available in silver and black or entirely black.



Pentax MX-1 Features

Pentax MX-1 Review: Pentax Mx 1 Body (7)

The Pentax MX-1 design is reminicent of the Pentax MX SLR film camera, and features the same logo design, with a rubber grip surrounding the front of the camera, as well as strap loops in the same position.





Brassed Off

The top and bottom brass plates are designed to wear with use and any damage to the paint covering this will reveal the brass underneath.

The 4x optical zoom lens is the equivalent of 28mm at the wide end and zooms to 112mm at the telephoto end, and has f/1.8 - f/2.5 aperture available, with the same specification and design as the lens on the Olympus XZ-2.

Remote control sensors on front and back panels, Dual-axial digital level for accurate horizontal and vertical alignment, 15 digital filters, including Miniature and Toy Camera, to add creative touches to captured images, a range of creative image-processing tools including Stretch, Small Face filters and Collage function. The camera has RAW image processing in playback to convert photos to JPEG.

Pentax MX-1 Review: Pentax Mx 1 Body (12)





Key Features



  • 12.1 megapixel backlit 1/1.7inch sensor
  • 4x optical zoom lens, f/1.8 - f/2.5, 28-112mm equivalent
  • SR Shake Reduction - Sensor Shift Image Stabilisation
  • 3inch tilting screen, 920k dots
  • Dual axis electronic level
  • Exposure compensation dial
  • P/A/S/M shooting, AdobeDNG RAW
  • Full HD Video recordin with stereo sound
  • High speed and Time-Lapse Movie at VGA resolution
  • ISO100 - ISO12800
  • 4.5fps continuous shooting
  • Electronic shutter available
  • 1cm macro
  • HDR shooting
  • Black or Black and Silver

Pentax MX-1 Handling

Pentax MX-1 Review: Pentax Mx 1 Body (9)

Handling - Picking the camera up, the first thing you notice is the weight, weighing in at 391g with battery and memory card it certainly feels substantial. The top and bottom feature brass plates, however the rest of the camera (apart from the lens surround) are made out of plastic and it's a shame that the rest of the body isn't metal. It almost seems unnecessarily large considering it doesn't feature a flash hot-shoe when there is clearly space for one on top, and in fact the Panasonic Lumix LX7 is smaller and features a flash hot-shoe.

Switching the camera on with the lens cap still on results in a message asking you to check the lens cover. You then have to switch the camera off and on again to get it started, instead of simply pressing a button to continue like on other cameras with removable lens caps.

Pentax MX-1 Review: Pentax Mx 1 Body (10)

Menus – The menus are clearly laid out with 3 pages of photo options, 1 page of video options, 4 pages of setup options, followed by two pages of custom options, where you can find options for WB when using flash or AWB in tungsten light, and electronic shutter to name a few. Using the INFO button you can quickly set the options on the rear screen without having to go into the menus. The middle OK button acts as a 'Display' button changing how much is shown on screen.

Pentax MX-1 Review: Pentax MX 1 Black (2)

Battery life - Battery life is rated at 290 shots according to Pentax / CIPA test results, we were able to take over 250 shots before the battery went flat.

Pentax MX-1 Review: Pentax Mx 1 Body (11)

Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.



  Pentax MX-1 Sony RX100
Shutter Response <0.05 0.0
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.2 0.3
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.45* 0.3
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 2.1 2.2
Shot to Shot without Flash 1.3 0.9
Shot to Shot with Flash 2.0 2.1
Continuous Shooting - JPEG
(shots before slow down)
4.5fps (10 shots) 7fps (speed priority mode, 15 shots)
Continuous Shooting - Flash N/A 1.6s
Continuous Shooting - RAW 4.5fps (10 shots) 4fps (13 shots)

Shutter response is excellent with quick focus at the wide end of the lens. Continuous shooting is quick, although write times are quite slow with the camera popping up a message at times saying "Data being processed" before you can continue shooting. * Would not focus a number of times, but when it did the speed was 0.45 seconds. This appears to be a problem with the test object used as focusing outdoors appeared fine.





Pentax MX-1 Performance

Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.

Pentax MX-1 Sample Photos

Sample Photos - Dynamic range appeared to be good, and can be enhanced using the camera's shadow and highlight adjustment options. Colour is bright and richly saturated, and photos with flash showed a small hint of red-eye in our test shots.

Pentax MX-1 Lens test images

Lens Performance - Distortion correction takes care of barrel and pincushion distortion. Purple fringing is quite high, and slight chromatic aberation can be seen in some photos. Macro performance is excellent with the camera able to focus on subjects just 1cm away from the front of the lens. Detail is good whether shooting at the wide or telephoto ends of the lens. Detail is also good into the corners of photos, as long as you're not shooting wide open. Vignetting was not noticed and exposure was reliable.

Pentax MX-1 ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - Noise is low at ISO100, and increases at ISO200. Noise increases again at ISO400 and again at ISO800, but detail is still very good. Noise becomes quite strong at ISO1600, but detail still remains quite good. At ISO3200 detail suffers as noise increases further. Noise is strong at ISO6400 and this setting and above is best avoided, unless you want to resize your photos.

Pentax MX-1 White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance (AWB) performs well, although there are two options for AWB under tungsten lighting, with the choice of strong correction, or subtle correction, with the subtle correction leaving the image warm. There are a number of fluorescent presets available that should suit a variety of fluorescent lighting, and AWB does a good job under fluorescent lighting.

Pentax MX-1 Review: Panoramic | 1/1600 sec | f/4.0 | 6.0 mm | ISO 200
Panoramic | 1/1600 sec | f/4.0 | 6.0 mm | ISO 200

Panorama mode - Panoramic lets you take three photos and you have to line them up using an overlay of the previous image, after taking three, the camera will stitch them together, although results vary depending on how well you can line them up.

Pentax MX-1 Digital filters

Digital Filters - Scene modes: The camera has the usual scene modes, but also has handheld night shot, candid capture, digital wide (stitches two portrait photos to take an ultra wide angle photo), and panoramic.

Playback effects/options, include image rotation, stretch, small face filter, collage, digital filter, HDR, original frame, RAW processing, movie edit, red-eye edit, resize, and crop. There are 15 digital filter effects including B&W, Sepia, Toy Camera, Retro, Colour, Extract Colour, Colour emphasis, High Contrast, starburst, soft, fish-eye, brightness, miniature, slim (stretch), and invert colour. Some of these are shown above, and can be combined in the camera before saving.

HDR options are standard, strong 1 and strong 2. HDR shots are best when using a tripod, otherwise the results can be quite soft. Custom image has a number of presets including Bright, Natural, Vibrant, Reversal Film, Monochrome, and you can set the saturation, hue, contrast, and sharpness.

Video - Both the time-lapse and high speed video modes record in VGA (640x480) resolution, and uniquely feature sound. Optical zoom is available when recording full HD videos, although in video mode you can't use the video button to start recording video, instead you use the shutter release button, and the noise from the optical zoom is quite loud.








Value For Money

The Pentax MX-1 is available for £399 which makes it good to average value for money, somewhere in the middle of other serious compacts. Others to consider with bright lenses include the Olympus XZ-2, Panasonic Lumix LX7, Canon Powershot G15, Nikon Coolpix P7700, and Fujifilm FinePix X10. For more serious compacts, have a look at our Top 10 Serious Compact Cameras.




Pentax MX-1 Review: Olympus Stylus XZ-2 Pentax MX-1 Review: Panasonic Lumix Dmc Lx7 Front Pentax MX-1 Review: Canon Powershot G15 (2) Pentax MX-1 Review: Nikon Coolpix P7700 (3) Pentax MX-1 Review: Fujifilm FinePix X10
Olympus XZ-2 Panasonic LX7 Canon G15 Nikon P7700 Fujifilm X10
£405 £349 £439 £389 £299

You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.





Pentax MX-1 Verdict

The Pentax MX-1 has divided opinion in the office, with some liking the styling and others not as keen on the retro looks. It is definitely a unique looking camera, looking more like a classic camera in the silver and black finish. The camera feels good with a rubber grip at the front and back that is part of the cameras styling, although it is quite heavy in the hand. Despite the camera having room for a flash hot-shoe, one isn't provided, and a number of the competition provide this feature.

It is currently at the more expensive end of the market and offers high image quality and manual controls. While there were some quirks with some of the features, such as HDR, which we would have preferred to have worked better, the camera offers a lot of customisation and editing features within the camera, without the need to process images on your PC. For this reason it could be a good choice, particularly if you want to take images from your camera, without using the PC to fine-tune images. The camera also provides some unique video options including time-lapse and high speed video, with sound.





  Pentax MX-1 Review:
  The Pentax MX-1 is a uniquely styled retro digital camera capable of producing bright colourful images.



Pentax MX-1 Pros

Metal top and bottom plates
Excellent macro performance
Dual axis electronic level
Rubber grip front and back
Timelapse / High Speed Video with sound
Lots of Digital Filters / Effects
Bright f/1.8 4x optical zoom lens



Pentax MX-1 Cons

Lacks flash hot-shoe
Competitors have additional controls around lens etc
Feels large and heavy
HDR / Panoramic stitching not great
Slow write times






Pentax MX-1 Specifications

Max Aperturef/1.8 - f/2.5
35mm equivalent28mm - 112mm
Optical Zoom4x
Image Sensor
Pixels12Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4000
Pixels (H)3000
Sensor TypeBack-lit CMOS (B.S.I.)
Sensor Size1/1.7 inch
Sensor Size (width)No Data
Sensor Size (height)No Data
Aspect Ratio
  • 4:3
  • 3:2
  • 16:9
  • 1:1
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution920k dots
Touch ScreenNo
Min Focus1cm
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Manual
  • Spot
  • Face Detection
  • Multi
  • Centre
  • Snap
  • Infinity
  • AF Tracking
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/8000sec
Shutter speeds longest30sec
Bulb modeYes
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
  • Program Variable
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Multi Pattern
  • Spot
ISO sensitivity100 - 12800
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Shade
  • Flash
Exposure Comp+/-2
Shooting Options
Continuous shootingNo Data
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080 FullHD
  • 1280x720 HD 720p
Video FPS30fps
Stereo SoundYes
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationYes
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • SDXC
File Type
  • RAW
  • JPG
  • RAW + JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeLithium-Ion D-LI106
Battery Life (CIPA rating)290shots
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data

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Photographs taken using the Pentax MX-1

A Clear but Frosty MorningRust at Lancashire Mining Museum, Astley GreenWood Carving, Leigh Parish ChurchRust in TimeNEC ModelThe jetty at Benington LordshipThe FollyRopeyRemember SpringAutumn LeafArley tree in winterICM Up & DownModel from NECDeep in DeclineHappiness Is....a Gin Distillery

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makitta 10 United States
7 Mar 2013 12:15PM
Between MX-1 ans Fuji X20, I wil pick MX... why? because now I know has a very good IQ, it has a great ISO performance "the best for under $500" (DxOMark test), it's screen is a plus as I can shoot from hips level and that is excellent for street photography, and the brass plates are a plus Wink
franken Plus
20 5.7k 4 United Kingdom
7 Mar 2013 12:44PM
Battery life - Battery life is rated at 290 shots according to Pentax / CIPA test results, we were able to take XXX shots before the battery went flat.

Go on tell us! Smile

joshwa Plus
12 927 1 United Kingdom
7 Mar 2013 1:01PM
makitta 10 United States
7 Mar 2013 1:31PM
I will need to buy a second battery, just like I did with my D200. Not big deal... I've seen DLi106 compatible -reliable- batteries for 15 bucks Smile

Also, I hope Pentax releases leather half cases and some other accesories for the camera. That will make it more fun.

I hope MX-2 will take K lenses, have a ring for filters, hot shoe for external flash a possibly a fixed aperture zoom lens Smile or I will look for a Fuji camera next time Wink

p.s. OH! and thanks for the review ePhotozine guys!
Paul Morgan 22 19.8k 6 England
7 Mar 2013 10:53PM
I think this will attract Pentax users but not much else, the spec looks pretty average, apart from its fast max shutter speed, and they should have used a larger sensor.

Quote:the camera offers a lot of customisation and editing features within the camera, without the need to process images on your PC. For this reason it could be a good choice, particularly if you want to take images from your camera, without using the PC to fine-tune images

The Fuji x10 does this, you can process raw images in camera, for a while it did a better job than third part software.

My x10 is still better on paper, and the x20 is due out soon.

People buying high end compacts will also be looking at a camera`s creative possibilities, no flash shoe is a big mistake.
10 Mar 2013 1:57PM
Will go for Olympus XZ-2 due to its better colors. For my personal taste!
10 Mar 2013 8:30PM
Another copycat-clone serious compact goes on the market. That leaves out Sony as the only major manufacturer not yet jumped on the bandwagon. But Sony have produced the RX100 with its much larger image sensor and it's not vastly more expensive.
AndyJL 17 1 United Kingdom
13 Mar 2013 1:56PM
I am confused.. "backlit sensor" ???

I can understand a backlit LCD screen on the back but a backlit sensor, that's just crazy.. Since when have you needed a backlight for the sensor.. maybe it helps taking photo's in the dark hahaha
The Pentax MX-1 also miaows like a cat and barks like a dog - so I thought it would be fun to use for street photography in Barcelona!

Check out how people react Smile
13 Mar 2013 3:27PM
If they're going to build a camera like this, they might as well install a larger sensor than their competitors, rather than the same-old, same-old. I love my Panasonic with its 1/1.7 sensor, but I don't need a clone of it. What would be the point?
Manny_M 13
13 Mar 2013 4:44PM
To EnglishPhotographer, I like your review via your link. The video was most useful. Please note my comments there. I agree about your point regarding today's cameras have gotten to the point where the amount of sophistication and automation makes almost every camera do much of what we need to accomplish. Pentax recently with their products (K-30, K-f, etc.) have made high ISO and low light photography no longer a significant issue among amateur photographers. It now boils down to our creativity, imagination and some basic skills to produce wonderful images.
makitta 10 United States
13 Mar 2013 8:15PM
The more I use my MX-1 the more I love it.
The tiltable screen is wonderful for street photography.
The in-camera filters are fun to use.
The slow video motion is funny and will probably be useful in the future.
The flash does a very good job. Better than the D5100 of my cousin!
the instant macro mode is a great plus too. I'm loving my mx-1 Wink
jackitec 14 16 Spain
4 Sep 2013 8:51PM
A was a Pentax fan since 1974, but not now, they seem to be churning out the same same old tech cameras, fancy colours etc. but no wifi, no touch screen, they seem to be living in the past with the same old designs from cameras past, 12mp? phones have better resolution now, sorry Pentax not for me any more there are higher spec cameras for less money, have they not looked at the market to see what's available now, they might be surprised!!! I'm sure the Pentax brigade will love it though!

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