Don Lindich’s Sound Advice: Pentax MX-1 is for enthusiasts

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Q. I need a new cam­era for trav­el­ing, and my pri­mary in­ter­est is good pic­ture qual­ity. I would also like some­thing that does not fo­cus as slowly as my old point-and-shoot. My bud­get is $250, maybe $300 max.

I don’‍t want a big SLR or in­ter­change­able lenses, but I am open to car­ry­ing some­thing a bit big­ger than a pocket cam­era if it means bet­ter pic­tures. Do you have any rec­om­men­da­tions?


Ridge­land, S.C.

A. There are some very good val­ues on the mar­ket right now. One cam­era in par­tic­u­lar stands out in the $250-and-un­der price range, and I think it will be the best choice for you.

The cam­era is the 12.-1 megapixel Pen­tax MX-1, an en­thu­si­ast com­pact cam­era. An en­thu­si­ast com­pact is a step above a point-and-shoot and a step­ping stone to an in­ter­change­able lens cam­era. Many en­thu­si­asts use cam­eras like the MX-1 when they do not want to take an in­ter­change­able lens cam­era sys­tem with them, hence the name “en­thu­si­ast com­pact.” These cam­eras are much more ca­pa­ble than a point-and-shoot in both op­er­a­tion, im­age qual­ity, fea­tures and over­all per­for­mance.

I rec­om­mended the MX-1 as a good value when it was sell­ing for $439, and the price has re­cently dropped all the way to $249 on­line.

The MX-1 is not a tiny cam­era and is a bit too big for a pants pocket, but it would fit fine in a jacket pocket, belt pouch or a purse. The top and bot­tom plates are made of brass and fin­ished in ei­ther black or sil­ver, like a clas­sic SLR. It feels very solid in your hand, al­most like a brick. The but­tons and di­als have a nice feel to them and the size of the cam­era means they are not so tightly grouped to­gether they are hard to push. There is an ar­tic­u­lat­ing LCD screen with a high res­o­lu­tion of 920k pixels.

Though the MX-1 can work as a point-and-shoot by us­ing the au­to­matic modes, when you hold it in your hand, it is ap­par­ent it is much more than a ba­sic cam­era. The menus and con­trols are very easy to un­der­stand and use, much like a Pen­tax dig­i­tal SLR. Fo­cus­ing is fast and ac­cu­rate, and the 28-112mm (35mm equiv­a­lent) f/​1.8-2.5 zoom lens is fast and sharp.

I was par­tic­u­larly im­pressed with the flash pic­tures from this cam­era, which were very evenly lit with good color and very ac­cu­rate ex­po­sure.

In short, this is a whole lot of cam­era for the money, and I don’‍t think it can be beat for un­der $250 new.

The Pen­tax MX-1 has a re­mov­able lens cap, rather than the in­te­grated cap found in most com­pact cam­eras. Many peo­ple do not like the lens cap dan­gling from the cam­era when tak­ing pic­tures and it can also be knocked off the cam­era when it is be­ing trans­ported, ex­pos­ing the lens to pos­si­ble dust, smudges and scratches.

If you buy the MX-1, you may want to or­der the Rain­bow Imag­ing auto clos­ing lens cap as well. It’‍s less than $13 on Am­a­ and it works ex­tremely well. Just at­tach it to the cam­era and it will open when you turn the cam­era on and close when you turn it off.

Read past col­umns and prod­uct re­views by Don Lindich at www.soundad­vice­

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