Pentax K-x Digital Camera Review$650.00
Ease of Use
Buttons & Dials
The K-x provides direct access buttons for the most frequently used shooting adjustments — ISO, white balance, drive mode and flash control — and the comprehensive quick menu (available by pressing the Info button) displays nearly all the settings on a single screen. The layout will look familiar to anyone who's checked out the Pentax K2000, which is nearly identical. To accommodate Live View access (the K2000 lacks this feature), Pentax added a dedicated button in place of the delete button. The delete function now shares the flash pop-up button, which works out fine.
As with most SLRs today, the K-x offers both a traditional full menu system and a quick menu (which Pentax calls the control panel) providing ready access to the most frequently changed shooting settings. The control panel is accessed by pressing the INFO button in shooting mode, which toggles between the LCD info display, the control panel and turning the LCD off entirely.
To change settings in the control panel, you move the cursor to the relevant category using the four-way controller, At that point you can turn the control dial to cycle through settings, or press OK and bring up a menu displaying all the available options. The settings with dedicated buttons on the camera body aren't included in the control panel.
The main menu system is broken into four sections: record, playback, setup and custom. All but the playback section have multiple screens, but turning the e-dial makes them easy to navigate — unlike some menu systems, you don't have to cursor up to the top of a list to move to the next screen of options. We also like the fact that all of your choices are visible on screen at once, without having to scroll down to the bottom of a column to reveal hidden options below.
The white-on-gray text is perfectly legible. And while the quick menu uses icons to fit as many options as possible in a confined space, the main menu system writes out each option clearly. Some commands are placed in categories we found unintuitive; noise reduction choices are found in the custom menu rather than record, while the programmable green button functions are assigned via the record menu. It didn't take us long to get used to the few oddities, though.
In a feature we've applauded in Pentax point-and-shoots, the K-x lets you easily choose which camera settings will be retained and which will be reset when you turn the camera off and turn it back on. There's a checkbox listing in the fourth Record Mode menu that includes settings for flash mode, drive mode, white balance, ISO, EV and flash compensation, cross processing, digital filter, HDR capture, shooting info display, playback info display and file numbering.
The 320-page Operating Manual generally does a good job of explaining the camera's broad and deep feature set. The writing is clear, and the illustrations, charts and diagrams well designed. Pentax also deserves praised for providing a detailed index that's genuinely useful, plus a glossary that explains concepts like RAW format, color temperature and histograms. There's an unfortunately intimidating information dump at the very beginning of the manual, before you get to the Getting Started section, and unlike the Pentax K2000, there's no separate software user manual, leaving you to learn a complex program using the software help system. We found only one factual error: the procedure described in the section on Readjusting Images Shot in JPEG Format doesn't work, and it took quite some time with tech support (via live online chat) to sort it out. Overall, though, this is a solid effort. To see for yourself, download a copy in PDF format from the Pentax web site here.