aa batteries

Review: Pentax X-5

I spent a few weeks with a Pentax X-5. I used it whilst my brother's girlfriend was decorating the Christmas tree, I took it down to my father's allotment, and I conducted the requisite 'general fiddling' too.

Basic spec

The X-5 has 26× optical zoom capability (22.3 to 580mm, extendable to 4174mm with Digital Intelligent Zoom in 35mm equivalent) with a dual shake-reduction system and 1cm minimum focusing distance in macro mode. The 16 megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor has a maximum sensitvity of ISO 6,400. It can shoot upto 10 frames per second, capture HD video, and comes with a range of filters and in-camera tools.

It is powered by four AA batteries and can be picked up for around £180 or $245.

Build and handling

The X-5 feels very much like a scaled-down dSLR in the hands, with a chunky grip and protruding lens. It was comfortable to hold and the button layout was sensible. Would I have preferred to be able to switch on the camera without having to remove the lenscap? Yes. Is it going to change my life any? No.

The X-5 offers you M, P, full auto, and a range of other preset shooting modes. No, there's no Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority modes. After spending far too long messing about with the controls in an attempt to secure a decent exposure in manual mode and getting highly frustrated by the auto-focus with a mind of its own in fully automatic mode, I shot predominantly in Program mode. The ISO settings are squirreled away in a menu, but it was far less problematic to change the sensitivity than it was to deal with auto-of-focus pictures or to refer to the camera's idiosyncratic exposure meter and functionality. (I disliked the meter's display on the LCD and found it unintuitve.)

I wasn't at all comfortable using the electronic viewfinder. It looked far too much as if I should have been playing a video game than taking photos. As a consequence, I used the LCD screen exclusively and enjoyed its tilting ability, especially when I put the camera on a low-set tripod.

Powered by AA batteries, you are supposed to be able to get 330 shots from a fresh set of four. I'm sorry to say that I didn't come anywhere close to that number of images. Maybe 150?


Once I'd freed myself of the tyranny of the self-selecting auto-focus and switched to Program mode, I quite liked using the X-5. It has a great zoom range, the image quality is absolutely fine for web reproduction, and it's generally simple to achieve what you want (within its capabilities, of course).

The ISO tests showed that it was fine up to ISO 400, but after then, quality began to degrade significantly. Colour reproduction in daylight was good, but I found that the auto white balance tended towards too yellow in incandescent lighting. Set the white balance to incandescent, however, and the colour reproduction was far more accurate. I was pleasantly surprised by the impact of the pop-up flash indoors. It wasn't too harsh.I had pretty good results with the macro mode, too.

I don't have any particular love for in-camera filters, but the X-5's range of 12 were easy to use and could be applied non-destructively to the original image. In addition to those filters, you can play around stretching your images, giving people small faces, and creating collages. You can resize and crop in-camera, as well as edit video, too. There's also the ability to shoot direct to the camera's memory and then transfer the images to an SD card.

The Verdict

You get a lot of camera for your money with the X-5. But, it doesn't offer you anything outstanding and I found some of its features so frustrating to use that, from my perspective, they might not even have been included. Furthermore, I'm just not convinced by the bridge camera concept; they seem to sit in a photographic no-man's-land.

Would I buy it? No. Between my dSLR and a highly specced compact, my needs are met and the X-5 comes in no way close to fulfilling them.

Would I recommend it? If you really want a bridge camera, it offers such great value for money that I don't think you can ignore it.

More images on Flickr.