Ergonomics and Controls
One of Pentax’s strengths is body design, and the K-x is no exception. The grip includes a nice divot for your middle finger, and angles slightly inward to accommodate the fleshy part of your fingertips. Like those on most DSLRs in this class, the grip isn’t all that tall, so, depending on the size of your hands, you may find your pinky dangling below it while shooting. Around back there’s a clearly defined rest for your thumb, and a little bit of a ridge that provides leverage when angling the camera.
As is typical with entry-level DSLRs, there aren’t a lot of buttons dedicated to camera controls, and there's only one command wheel. Exposure compensation does get its own button, though, and it’s well placed next to the shutter release. During full manual shooting, you hold it down to change aperture.
We were happy to see that Live View also has its own button, but not so happy that the camera’s sensor-shift image stabilization didn’t get its own switch. You’ll have to jump into the on-screen controls to turn it on or off.
In our lab tests the IS system delivered an average of 1.5 stops of shutter-speed leeway when used with Pentax’s large 60–250mm f/4 lens zoomed all the way out. In practical terms, this means that if you normally have to use a shutter speed of 1/250 sec for sharp images while shooting handheld, you should be able to get similar results at 1/90 sec in identical conditions when IS is engaged. And, since the stabilization system is built into the camera body (unlike the Canon and Nikon lens-based systems), it will work with any lens you put on the body, even hand-me-down glass from Grandpop.
The info button on the back of the camera not only toggles through various configurations of on-screen information during playback, but also provides access to the K-x’s control panel, letting you change the most common functions quickly.
Looking for video? The K-x is one of the least-expensive DSLRs to offer HD capture. Sure, it’s 720p at 24 fps, not full 1080i at 30 fps, but at this price who can complain? The image quality of the Motion JPEG AVI footage we shot was on par with what you can expect from most DSLRs.
You can still find better image quality and a much simpler shooting experience with a camcorder, but if you’re comfortable with manual focus or don’t mind planning your shots to eliminate the need to refocus during a scene, then you’ll probably enjoy the footage you get from the K-x.
The Bottom Line
If you’re looking for a very inexpensive DSLR, you’re likely to be happy with the Pentax K-x.
Since nearly all the lenses Pentax has ever made will fit on any of its DSLRs, the frugal among us can find excellent older ones at used-equipment outlets and on eBay. Of course, some of these, such as the decades-old screw-mount lenses and medium- format lenses, require adapters to fit a modern body and have limited automatic functionality.
Prefer new optics? You’ll find some great ones, such as Pentax’s 100mm f/2.8 WR macro we tested this month.. And the superb Limited series of lenses is one of the most enjoyable sets of primes we’ve used.