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Hands-on: Pentax MX-1 large-sensor compact camera

updated 07:46 pm EST, Thu January 10, 2013

Pentax incorporates retro design cues to semipro MX-1 compact

Electronista came across a newly-unveiled digital compact camera at the Pentax booth during our CES travels and took a few minutes to check it out. Despite being new, its looks are decidedly old-school, and on purpose. The top and bottom plates are made of brass before being painted in either black or silver, the reason being that as it wears it will reveal a polished patina that will evoke memories of the very first Pentax cameras.

The modern touches include a larger than usual, 1/1.7-inch, 12-megapixel sensor, and 28-122mm f/1.8-2.5-equivalent zoom lens. A digital zoom extends the zoom range up to a 35mm equivalent of 218mm, though the motorized zoom lens certainly takes its time to fully extend. The maximum ISO is 12,800. The camera feels pretty retro as well, with cold-to-the-touch metal controls.

The controls are generous and at hand, as they include an EV Compensation dial, the prerequisite Mode selector wheel, and a rear control thumbwheel. The camera can see signals from Pentax remotes thanks to an IR receiver on the front and back. In another nod to semi-pros, images can be captured in RAW format. They can also be then converted from RAW to JPG. We were warned that the firmware wasn't quite finished, so we'll reserve judgement on its operation until we get our hands on a consumer-ready unit.

Another modern touch is the built-in LED light in the power button that indicates whether it's powered on or not. A dedicated video recording button is also built-in, with up to 1080p resolution supported in the H.264 format. There are also High-speed Movie and Time-lapse movie modes, though resolution is reduced to VGA (640x480). A micro HDMI output lets users watch content on connected displays.

The 3-inch display is sharp, at 921,000 pixels, and flips out thanks to a complex mechanism to allow for framing low- or high-angle shots. Speaking of complicated, the flash pops up and out of the body on a convoluted design of metal, opening the cameras innards to debris and the weather.

When it ships late in February or early in March, the MX-1 will carry a $500 sticker price.

by MacNN Staff



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