5 Great Pentax KX Lenses. Pentax kx film camera

Great Pentax KX Lenses

The Pentax KX is a great 35mm film SLR. This page is going to talk about the 5 best lenses for the Pentax KX, as well as a handful of alternative options.

In a rush? The following is the list of the best lenses for the KX:

  • Kit Lens. SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.7
  • Wide Angle Lens. SMC Pentax-M 28mm f/2.8
  • Portrait Lens. SMC Pentax 135mm f/2.5
  • Zoom Lens. Vivitar Series 1 28-90mm f/2.8-3.5
  • Macro Lens. SMC Pentax 100mm f/4 Macro

The best Pentax K mount lenses are grouped by pricing and kind of photography. There are many suggested alternatives to select from that are in price ranges ideal for the value of the camera.

Standard Lenses

The following is a selection of 50mm focal lengths that are compatible with the KX. When the camera was being sold as new, there was quite often an offer bundling a 50mm lens as kit for a reduced price.

They are considered standard lenses due to the fact that the angle of view is close to what people see with their eyes.

SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.7

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  • “Kit” lens for the KX.
  • Fantastic value.
  • Light, small, and compact.
  • 49mm filter threads.

Check on: Amazon, eBay, Adorama or KEH

If it did not come with the camera, a great initial lens to get a hold of for the KX is the SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.7. The 50mm f1.7 is easy to find, is cheap, has terrific photo quality, light, and streamlined. This is the most used lens on the camera.

SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.4

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  • Exceptional optics.
  • Improved output because of optical multi-coatings.
  • Easy to find.
  • Comparatively low-priced.

Check on: Amazon, eBay, Adorama or KEH

At the increased burden of size and weight, the SMC Pentax-M 50mm f/1.4 is just about a stop faster compared to the f/1.7. An f/1.7 or f/2 lens will cost more. The earlier version, SMC Pentax, and later version, SMC Pentax-A, are both compatible with the KX.

SMC Pentax 50mm f/1.2

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Check on: eBay, Adorama or KEH

Similar to competing camera companies, Pentax created a very fast 50mm lens. The resulting SMC Pentax 50mm f/1.2 is a very large, fast, and pricey piece of glass.

The lens can be difficult to come across since it will work on Pentax DSLRs so the appeal extends beyond use with 35mm film cameras. If you want to find one you might need to check and see what’s offered over weeks or months.

Wide Angle Lenses

SMC Pentax-M 28mm f/2.8

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  • Great combination with a 50mm lens.
  • Super Multi Coating (SMC) to improve performance.
  • Many copies are available.
  • Relatively low-priced.

Check on: Amazon, eBay, Adorama or KEH

The SMC Pentax-M 28mm f/2.8 isn’t the best option. The truth is, many people might not even consider it a wide angle lens. Nevertheless, it is considerably more affordable than any wider option.

There are plenty of wider focal lengths to consider, but they’re frequently much less affordable or third-party choices have noticeable amounts of barrel distortion. Also, it is easy to see optical defects like chromatic aberrations in third-party offerings.


The rule of thumb for is simple to understand. The wider the field of view, the more expensive the lens is going to be. Fast lenses will also be more expensive.

Take into account, that these do not include corrections that modern wide angle lenses have. The issue you’re most likely to see with vintage wide angles will be obvious barrel distortion.

  • SMC Pentax-M 20mm f/4
  • SMC Pentax-M 28mm f/2
  • SMC Pentax 18mm f/3.5
  • SMC Pentax 24mm f/2.8

Portrait Telephoto Lenses

SMC Pentax 135mm f/2.5

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  • 85mm substitute.
  • Excellent value.
  • Relatively inexpensive.
  • Widely available.

Check on: Amazon, eBay or KEH

85mm focal length lenses were not as commonly used as they are today compared to when the KX was initially released in DDATE. As a result of being more affordable, 100mm and 135mm focal lengths were more widely used.

You can see the price difference when you view available listings online.


There are plently of telephoto lenses to select from. 85mm and focal lengths longer than 135mm are going to be expensive.

  • SMC Pentax 85mm f/1.8
  • SMC Pentax 85mm f/2.2 Soft
  • SMC Pentax 105mm f/2.8
  • SMC Pentax 120mm f/2.8

Zoom Lenses

Before the release of autofocus, in the 1980s, there were a small number of lenses manufactured by third-party companies that performed better than what Pentax was offering.

Many of the best performers were released with the Vivitar brand name. Zooms that’s got the Vivitar Series 1 branding is going to have the best optics you can expect to see from an older zoom.

Unfortunately, getting one of these lenses in usable condition can be rather challenging. Keep in mind, no vintage zooms offer noteworthy performance. If you find a copy available for purchase that is cheap enough, it could be worth buying.

Vivitar Series 1 28-90mm f/2.8-3.5

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Check on: Amazon, eBay or KEH


Here are some more options that you can check out if you need a zoom lens for your KX. None of them are going to be amazing, and you’d likely be better off acquiring a couple of prime lenses instead.

Macro Lenses

Macro lens options for the Pentax KX suffer from supply problems. The available supply of Pentax K mount options is small, which increases higher than you’ll pay for comparable Nikon F mount or Canon FD mount lenses.

SMC Pentax 100mm f/4 Macro

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  • Ideal focal length for 1x magnification.
  • Widely available.
  • Mediocre value.

Check on: Amazon, eBay or KEH

A small number of people online have experienced balsam separation of the front doublet. This is worrying because even a little bit of separation will spread gradually and eventually make it unusable. If you see any signs of balsam separation, avoid that copy and keep looking.

Vivitar 55mm f/2.8 Macro

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  • The second best vintage macro lens I’ve used.
  • An outstanding lens for close-up photography.
  • Can achieve life-size magnification without needing an extension tube.

Check on: eBay, Adorama or KEH

The best vintange macro lens I’ve used, the 90mm Vivitar, was produced for a variety of camera mounts. However, it’s difficult to find a copy that features a Pentax K mount.

The Vivitar 55mm is my second favorite vintange macro. Keep in mind that it does have a smaller working distance when compared to the 90mm. It is a good choice for table top and close-up photography, but it is not the best choice if you want to capture macro images at 1x magnification.

Both Vivitar macros were produced by Komine and were sold under several brand names. If you search for a copy also look under the Panagor, Elicar, Quantaray, Spiratone, and Rokunar brand names.

There is a Vivitar 90mm Macro Review and a [/vivitar-55mm-f-2-8-macro-lens-review](Vivitar 55mm Macro Review).

For capturing photographs at macro magnification (1x), 90mm-105mm focal lengths will be the ideal option. You’ll have a big enough working distance to allow the use of flash, while avoiding excessive weight and excessive costs that come with longer focal lengths.

Used Pentax Lens Prices

Interest and supply will determine the cost of vintage lenses. During the past few years, film photography has grown in popularity, which has caused to go up.

pricing pressure stems from Pentax DSLR users collecting and buying lenses. Third party companies tend not to manufacture anything for the K-mount, unlike the Canon EF or Nikon F lens mounts.

Economic circumstances are constantly changing, and unforeseen events can quickly lead to price movements. Even so, the relative between choices should stay similar.

Checking a couple of sites is a Smart way to get accurate prices. If you’re lucky enough to discover an excellent deal, buy it because the best deals tend not to last very long.

What Lens Mount Does the Pentax KX Use?

The Pentax KX uses the Pentax K lens mount.

Released in 1975, the Pentax K mount is still used in cameras. It replaced the M42 screw mount that was used in previous cameras such as the Asahi Pentax Spotmatic. Over the years alterations have been made to add electronically controlled apertures, CPU contacts, autofocus, and metering information.

As long as a lens has a physical aperture ring, it will be backward compatible with Pentax film cameras. Keep in mind, it isn’t a Smart idea to waste money on expensive features that can not be useable. An exception would be if you also own Pentax DSLRs.

It’s also possible to use the previous M42 mount lenses by using an adapter. The older Takumar lenses would be the best to use. Having said that, I wouldn’t encourage doing this as finding them with FOCUS rings that aren’t tight can be tricky.

Standard Lens Cap Size

The standard lens cap and filter ring thread diameter used on the majority vintage manual FOCUS Pentax K mount lenses is 49mm. Lenses were sold with slip on caps, not the more prevalent center-pinch kind found today. If you look around, you will find a lack of original lens caps sold with the lenses.

Bear in mind large front elements will need bigger caps and filters.

The advantage of having a standardized thread size is that you only need to own only one filter set.

Pentax-M vs Pentax-A

SMC Pentax and Pentax-M lenses have a a stop-down coupler that allows the camera to have a mechanical linkage to the lens. The stop-down coupler will allow the camera to know the aperture is set to so that the light meter is able to meter accurately without being required to use stop-down metering.

The Pentax-A series added the feature for the aperture in the lens to be set by the camera. Cameras that support the Pentax-A changes have the capability to do shutter priority and aperture priority modes.

However, since that feature isn’t supported by the camera, it would not make sense to spend money on capabilities that the camera is not able to use.


That is it for info on the best lenses for the KX. Here’s additional information that will give you more information about the camera can be found below:

Pentax K-x. Camera

Details, images, availability, price history, ratings, reviews.

Sell or Trade your Pentax gear

Do you have a Pentax K-x. Camera you want to sell to us? Fill out our simple form and request a quote from us.

Sell or Trade Your Used Camera Equipment

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Here at Kamerastore we have been buying and selling cameras for over 10 years. Our customers sell and trade with us because of trust and ease. If you have one item or even thousands, we’ll gladly make you an offer on your used film or digital camera gear. So if you want to trade up to something better, or just want to sell some old camera gear you found in your attic, please see how to do so below.

Complete the Form

Complete the form above to the best of your ability. Your information will be immediately sent to our trade-in/selling team and they will begin to build a quote.


We will contact you with a preliminary offer for your gear. If you are happy with the estimate, send your items to our shop and we will professionally inspect them. Be sure to pack the items properly and safely.

Get Paid

When your gear arrives we will inspect it, and confirm or adjust the offer accordingly. You can accept the offer, or if you wish, request for the items to be sent back to you. Accept the offer and we will have the funds sent to you via bank transfer in 2-3 days.

Pentax K-x DSLR Review

Budget-priced DSLRs make up a pretty crowded sector and one that deserves investigation from anyone about to enter the wonderful and empowering world of this type of shooting gear.

As a DSLR, the Pentax K-x is about as good as it gets and, aside from engaging with a venerable name in cameras, taking it on would also deliver a camera to you with the benefits of Live View and High Def movie capture.

With the f3.5-5.6/18-55mm lens attached the Pentax K-x, built around a stainless steel chassis, is compact and not too heavy at around 800 grams. The knobbly speed grip makes it an easy one-handed shooting piece of gear.

Colour? Yes it can shoot colour (goofy!) and it comes in colour in a choice of white or black, as well as special, limited edition red and navy blue.

Here’s what you get: 12.4 megapixel CMOS sensor with a shifting sensor to quell hand-induced shake in both stills and movie shooting, giving you a four f stop boost; pentamirror optical viewing plus a 6.9cm LCD screen; HD video capture at 720p resolution and 24 fps; 11 point autofocus system; uses 4AA batteries (alkaline or rechargeable); RAW, JPEG And RAWJPEG capture.

The High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode is interesting in that it blends three bracketed images into a single picture to optimise shadow, highlight and midrange detail. This is a technique much admired by pros (mostly achieved in software) and can give superb results with subjects containing an out of the ordinary contrast range. Some caveats: the camera and subject must be perfectly still; the stabiliser is disabled; JPEG is the capture format.

Continuous capture can run up to 17 JPEG frames at an initial speed of 4.7 fps; this speed will slow as the buffer memory fills; another continuous mode can shoot at a slower but more reliable 2 fps until the memory card is full.

ISO Settings

ISO settings range from 100 to 6400, with a boost to a startling ISO 12,800. But don’t expect pristine quality at this level. ISO 200 at f4.5 and 1/50 second.

ISO 800 at f5 and 1/200 second.

ISO 1600 at f5.6 and 1/250 second.

ISO 6400 at f9 and 1/400 second.

At ISO 12,800 and f10 with 1/640 second exposure the noise and colour artefacts become very obtrusive.

This shot of the lantern was taken at ISO 12,800 and f14 with 1/2500 second exposure.

The K-x has three different focusing modes in Live View: contrast optimisation; Face Detection Auto Focus detects up to 16 faces, then selects the main subject’s face and captures it in sharp FOCUS; the AF sensor is used to optimise FOCUS on the subject.

The mode dial offers access to auto, Program AE, shutter and aperture as well as manual exposure modes. Added to this are direct access to five scene modes and, indirectly, another ten.

A novel collection of digital filters will encourage the dabbler to experiment with his or her images: you can shoot pictures looking as though they were made by a toy camera, an old photo look; high contrast effect; soft FOCUS etc … I’m sure you get the picture.

Even more startling is a Cross Process mode that will give you ‘off colour’ versions of otherwise straight images, a little like the way that pros used to (and some still do!) dunk the right film in the wrong chemicals. Don’t ask me why they do it but the results are startling.


In my test shots I found the Pentax’s quality to be on par with most other DSLRs at this level.

  • Why you would buy the Pentax K-x: movie mode; a wide range of experimental modes (HDR, Cross Processing, Digital Filters etc); Live View; you need a top shutter speed of 1/6000 second!
  • Why you wouldn’t: movie capture is not Full HFD; xxxHaving said the above I also have to note that the camera is noisy: the shutter release and mirror action clatters. You should take note that there are three performance options with batteries: best one is lithium; second is rechargeable NiMH cells; final is AA alkaline batteries, as an emergency only. In my case I loaded a fresh set of Duracell alkalines … and they lasted 20 shots! This is a seriously good camera for the photographer making the leap from a compact digicam. While it would be a good choice for snapshot and holiday photography, by adding one or two lenses with extended zoom range, it would make a powerful kit. Experimenters apply here: the range of the camera’s ‘image twisting’ options is terrific and these could create effects that even a hardened Photoshop whiz envious. Like it.

Pentax K-x Specs

  • Image Sensor: 12.4 million effective pixels.
  • Metering: Multi-segment, centre-weighted metering and spot.
  • Effective Sensor Size: 23.6×15.8mm CMOS.
  • 35 SLR Lens Factor: 1:5x.
  • Compatible lenses: Pentax K, KA, KAF, KAF2 and KAF3 mount.
  • Exposure Modes: Auto, Program AE, shutter and aperture priority, manual.
  • Shutter Speed: 30 to 1/6000 second, Bulb. Flash sync: 1/180 sec.
  • Memory: SD/SDHC cards.
  • Image Sizes (pixels): 4288×2848, 3936×2624, 3072×2048, 1728×1152. Movies: 1280×720, 640×416 at 24fps.
  • Viewfinders: Optical pentamirror, 6.9cm LCD (230,000 pixels).
  • File Formats: RAW, RAWJPEG.
  • Colour Space: Adobe RGB, sRGB.
  • ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100 to 6400.
  • Interface: USB 2.0, AV, DC input.
  • Power: Rechargeable lithium ion/NiMH/4AA alkaline batteries, AC adaptor.
  • Dimensions: 122.5×91.5×67.5 WHDmm.
  • Weight: Approx. 580 g (with lithium battery and card).
  • Price: Get a price on Amazon for different configurations including Body Only and with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL Lens.

Pentax K-x review

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Based on the Pentax K-m, the latest K-x has inherited a number of features from the K-7 to entice the entry-level photographer. We put it to the test.

Pentax K-x at a glance:

  • 12.4-million-pixel CMOS sensor
  • HD video capture
  • 4.7fps shooting rate
  • Street price around £550, including 18-55mm lens

Although the Pentax K-x is based on the same design as the K-m, it actually inherits a number of features from the high-end enthusiast-level K-7. These include an 11-point AF system, in-camera HDR and HD video capture.

When we reviewed the Pentax K-m in AP 6 December 2008, we awarded it a score of 75%. While this is a good score, it lost some marks because we felt its performance lagged behind that of other entry-level cameras. Hopefully, Pentax will have made improvements in these areas rather than simply adding a few new ‘glamour’ features to appeal to the entry-level photographer.


While the K-x looks remarkably similar to the Pentax K-m, a number of changes have taken place inside the newer model. The first, and possibly most important, is that the sensor has been upgraded from a 10.2-million-pixel CCD sensor to a 12.7 million-pixel CMOS sensor. This small increase in resolution keeps it ahead of the resolution of the Nikon D3000, Canon EOS 1000D and Olympus E-450, which all feature ten-million-pixel sensors.

The switch to a CMOS sensor from CCD is presumably to allow HD video capture and Live View technology on the K-x. Another improvement that will have an impact on photographers is the new AF system. Instead of the rather basic five-point AF system, the K-x has the same 11 points found on the K-7.

Also inherited from the K-7 is the latest Prime II image-processing engine. This should have an impact on image processing and the speed of data transfer. In turn, Pentax has been able to increase the shooting rate in the K-x to an impressive 4.7 images per second.

A number of new in-camera image effects have been added to the K-x. A selection of cross-processing filters are available, but the most notable feature is in-camera HDR image capture. This creates a single in-camera HDR image by combining three different camera exposures. It is a feature I recently looked at in detail as a Feature in use when I reviewed the Pentax K-7 against the Nikon D300S (AP 17 October).

So while the Pentax K-x may have inherited its camera body from the K-m, there are a number of changes that have taken place inside the camera that should produce marked improvements in the K-x.

Build and handling

Like the K-m, the Pentax K-x is one of the smallest and lightest DSLRs available. Despite its size, the depth of the handgrip makes it comfortable to hold. It is also possible to use the camera single-handed and still change the shutter speed and aperture settings.

The rear of the K-x has the usual selection of shortcut buttons to alter the most regularly used settings. In addition, there is a green function button to which the user can assign one of the features they use the most. Pressing the Info button shows an extended shooting menu on the rear screen, which changes other features such as the picture mode, image file format, metering, AF modes and the HDR shooting feature.

Using the camera’s more in-depth menus is also straightforward, with most features appropriately named and easy to find. There are 22 different items in the custom menu. These can adjust a host of settings, ranging from the order of the auto bracketing to activating the expanded ISO sensitivity settings.

Although there are a huge number of settings, there is also a range of automated scene modes to help those learning photography to get good results. Apart from the addition of a dedicated Live View button and the opportunities that Live View offers, the Pentax K-x handles in a similar way to the K-m.

White balance and colour

When used in a variety of lighting conditions, I found that the Pentax K-x performed extremely well in AWB mode and in its default WB settings. There are also a large number of colour options and effects. These include the usual standard presets, such as landscape, portrait, vibrant and black white, and each of these can be tweaked to the photographer’s taste. However, these settings are only part of the story.

There are seven filter effects, ranging from Toy Camera to a Fisheye effect, and a custom filter that allows you to create your own look. The effects are applied immediately after the image has been taken and they take a few seconds to process, so using the filters can slow down the camera’s shooting rate significantly. A better option is to apply the filters by editing the image in-camera later.

However, the fun doesn’t stop there. Among the new features of the K-x is the Cross Processing-style option. This applies one of four randomly selected cross-processing effects to an image. While it is intriguing to see which random effect will be applied, it can be frustrating if you don’t get the effect you like. This is compounded by the fact that in the pre-production model I had previously used, you could choose which style to apply.

With the K-x also including in-camera HDR creation from three individual exposures, there is a huge amount of creativity possible in-camera.

Image: The Cross Processing option has randomly added green and magenta hues to this image


The metering system of the Pentax K-x is the same 16-segment system found in the Pentax K-m and the K20D, but is not as advanced as the 77-segment system of the K-7.The K-x’s evaluative metering produces good results in most situations. Like all such systems, there are times when a bright sky or very dark foreground can fool the camera. In such cases, I found that using the AE-L button and spot metering mode helped to get more accurate results.

Like other Pentax DSLR cameras I have tested, I found that the K-x had a tendency to underexpose slightly. Switching to spot metering mode and taking an image of a grey card confirmed this. The measured value of the midtone was around 118 rather than 128. This was easily resolved by setting the EV compensation to 0.3EV


As mentioned earlier in this article, autofocus is one area where Pentax has made improvements with the launch of the K-x. The new model has an 11-point AF sensor, which is the same as that found in the K-7, and much improved over the five-point system of the K-m. Nine of these sensors are of the cross type, which are more accurate than standard AF points.

The biggest improvement in the AF is that the AF points can now be selected individually. However, the AF point in use is not illuminated in the viewfinder, which can make it difficult to remember which point is in use and where it is placed in relation to the subject on which you are trying to FOCUS.

On the whole, the AF system of the K-x seems slightly faster than the AF of the K-m. I found that the K-x still searches for FOCUS a little too much when in AF-C mode and it isn’t as ‘snappy’ as more expensive cameras.

That said, unless you intend to photograph sports or fast-moving wildlife, the AF should be able to cope adequately with most situations.

Resolution, noise and sensitivity

The 12.4-million-pixel sensor of the K-x doesn’t perform quite as well as other 12-million-pixel cameras we have tested. However, at ISO 100 it reaches 22 on our chart, which is better than the Pentax K-m.

Colour noise is well controlled in-camera at all ISO sensitivities. Looking at unedited raw files produced by the K-x, colour noise starts to appear at around ISO 400 but it only becomes a real problem at ISO 1600.

Even at ISO 12,800 both colour and luminance noise can be controlled in Adobe Camera Raw and it produces very good results given the ISO sensitivity. Pentax has obviously spent some time making sure that images are usable throughout the ISO range Although Pentax is clearly pushing the limits of what the 12.4-million-pixel sensor can do, the company has made it clear that the ISO 12,800 is an extended option, and not a default.

These images show 72ppi (100% on a computer screen) sections of images of a resolution chart, still-life scene and a grey card. We show the section of the resolution chart where the camera starts to fail to reproduce the lines separately. The higher the number visible in these images, the better the camera’s detail resolution is at the specified sensitivity setting.

The section of the still-life image contains the emblem on a standard-sized matchbox. The full scene can be viewed at https://tinyurl.com/67sj96. Images are taken using the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro lens.

Dynamic range

Our tests show that the Pentax K-x has a dynamic range of around 12EV. This is a good score and matches many other more expensive cameras. In use, though, I found that the lower midtones are a little dark. However there is an in-camera solution. Like most other digital SLRs, the K-x has highlight and shadow correction features. These do not affect the dynamic range, but they do reduce the brightness of highlight areas and lift shadows.

If you are taking images that you don’t wish to spend too much time editing before printing, it may be worth leaving these settings turned on. However, the shadow correction can introduce noise in shadow areas, so I would recommend using it only at low ISO sensitivities.

Viewfinder, LCD, Live View and Video

Unlike its predecessor, the K-m, the Pentax K-x features Live View technology. In my review of the K-m I commented that Pentax ‘may have missed a trick by not including a Live View mode’, so it is good to see it included on the K-x.

The Live View image is displayed on a 2.7in, 230,000-dot screen, which is the same as that on the K-m. While not up to the standard of the current 3in screens found on higher-end models, it shows enough detail to check that focusing is accurate.

Although Live View is now a standard feature, most photographs will still be framed using the optical viewfinder. This has a coverage of 96% of the final image, which is again on a par with other similar cameras in this price range. Viewfinder magnification is 0.85x, which is bright and large enough so you can FOCUS manually with a degree of accuracy.

Perhaps the biggest selling point of the K-x over the K-m is the video-capture facility. Video footage can be recorded in 1280×720 resolution (16:9 ratio) and also a lower resolution 640×416 (3:2 ratio). It is a nice addition to the camera, although not one that I feel will hugely benefit enthusiast photographers.

Our verdict

With competition very fierce in this sector of the market, it is perhaps no surprise that the K-x comes in a choice of four colours, including a bright red that may attract a few more fashion-conscious photographers than the dowdy, conservative black we are now used to. In Japan, the K-x is actually available in 100 colour combinations.

However, the K-x is far more than a fashion accessory, as the improvements over the K-m are worthwhile. There are numerous in-camera options and settings, and certainly enough to keep someone learning photography interested. It should also be considered as a back-up DSLR for the K20D and K-7, especially as it features video capture. In all, it’s a great little DSLR with just a few areas in need of improvement.

Pentax kx film camera

Review The Pentax K-x is arguably one of the smallest and more accomplished entry-level DSLR cameras on the market. The K-x inherits the compact body and the simple layout of the K-m while squeezing in quite a few of the high-end features of its bigger brother, the K-7.

Colour photography: Pentax’s K-x

The 12.4Mp sensor measures up at 23.6 x 15.8mm and features a dust removal system and in-body shake reduction. The K-x shutter speed ranges from 1/6000 to 30 seconds and it’s capable of continuous shooting at up to 4.7 fps, as well as 720p HD video. It also features an 11-point, wide-angle autofocus and offers Live View on its 2.7in, 230,000 dot LCD panel. All in all, not bad for an entry-level camera.

The basic kit comes with a DA-L 18-55mm lens and costs £600. Given the spec, the K-x appears pretty good value and is likely to prove a very tough competitor for its main rivals, the Canon EOS 500D and the Nikon D5000. While Pentax’s decision to power the K-x with AA batteries might not appeal to everyone, this choice does increase portability. AA batteries are everywhere and you’re not constrained by having to find a mains source to recharge the camera. And if you can’t abide the waste, a set of high capacity AA rechargeables plus charger can be picked up for less than 20 quid.

Playing on the fun factor, the K-x comes in four different body colours: black, white, red and navy, while in Japan an astonishing 100 different colours are available. At 122 x 92 x 69mm and 581g, its small, light body makes it inconspicuous and easy to carry around – ideal for serious beginners and travellers. Furthermore, its range of in-camera processing features and digital filters offer a genuinely creative photographic experience.

The reinforced plastic body of the K-x feels solid and has a good ergonomic grip, yet it’s a shame that Pentax doesn’t offer the weather seals of the K-7. The layout of the external controls have been cleverly designed and, according to Pentax, is to allow for ‘one-handed operation’. Indeed that holds true. All settings can be easily and intuitively accessed with one hand, that hand being the right one though.

A dedicated Live View button makes for swift viewing mode changes

Unlike many other camera makers, Pentax actually provides a dedicated Live View button that makes it easier to switch between viewing modes. However, there’s a very annoying blue on/off light located on the top right end of the camera next to the shutter. The light is so bright and large that it interferes with the visibility of the LCD screen in dim light conditions. The good news is that the viewfinder is large – 96 per cent area of coverage – and clear, so the dazzling blue light issue was bypassed by framing through the viewfinder in low light.

The menu interface is rational and efficient. Cleverly, all the available options on the menu tab are always contained within the one screen and this avoids any frustrating scrolling down to get to any more options at the bottom of a page. The shutter mechanism is quite noisy, but the sound is reminiscent of the mechanical clack of a 35mm film camera. Those inclined to nostalgia might even consider it a bonus.

Compact and designed with single handed operation in mind

Pentax claims a battery-life between 1100 (with 50 per cent flash) and 1900 images (no flash) with lithium batteries. Yet with alkaline batteries the figures quoted are just over a tenth of that. In our initial tests with Duracells, before forking out for rechargeables, the batteries drained surprisingly quickly. The camera was used in a fairly standard way and Live View only occasionally. That said, Pentax has a released firmware update which addresses the monitoring of battery power and, much like printer cartridges that claim to be empty when a third remains, it may be that our pre-update K-x experience revealed it was a bit too eager to report power loss.

You can check the K-x’s current firmware by pressing the Menu key when powering on. Shockingly, the review sample came loaded with version 0.20. Yet, updating the firmware to version 1.01 wasn’t all plain sailing – whether it was our 32GB card wasn’t exactly clear. The Mac download file appeared in upper case, yet the tech notes included with the file referred to it in lower case. Storage or nomenclature, either way, the K-x was having none of it. However, changing the firmware file name to lower case and putting it on an 8GB card enabled a successful update.

Not all modes are available with Live View, with functions such as white balance prompting a ‘Not available in this mode’ message. Also Live View’s on-screen autofocus is extremely slow, making it only suitable for tripod work or stationary subjects. On the plus side, thanks to the mirror locking function, it can be used successfully for continuous shooting.

With Live View off and using the viewfinder instead, the autofocus is very fast and smooth, working really well in all light conditions and effortlessly tracking fast moving subjects. The only nuisance is that Pentax does not provide any display on the viewfinder for where the actual active point of FOCUS is.

Autofocusing is a bit sluggish with Live View, but smooth and swift with the viewfinder

Like Olympus and Minoltas of old, Pentax uses sensor-shift image stabilisation, which means that the image stabilization system is built into the body of the camera, rather than into each separate lens as Canon and Nikon do. The main advantage of this body-based stabilisation is that it applies to every lens you mount on the camera, meaning you can use a 50-year old lens and have perfectly stabilised images. This also keeps lens cost and weight down.

The picture quality of the K-x is generally excellent. Images were sharp and finely detailed and the colours accurate and vibrant. I was particularly impressed by its low light and indoor performance, facilitated by the inclusion of a 30 seconds maximum shutter speed and a Bulb mode. Very good noise control coupled with the built-in shake reduction give terrific night shots, even without the use of a tripod. It is certainly the best low light performance I’ve seen in a camera at this level.

Impressive noise handling characteristics at this price point

The automatic white balance was not always spot on in indoor situations but produced very realistic daytime tones. However it is also worth mentioning the lack of a white balance bracketing system on the K-x – a feature usually included in all DSLRs. The K-x has an ISO range of between 200 and 6400, expandable to 12800. Overall, the ISO tests produced remarkable results, with very limited levels of noise up to 1600 and little distortion all the way to 6400. Indeed, the noise reduction system does a very good job at retaining fine details, resulting in very sharp images.

Apart from the usual choice of shooting programs, Pentax has also included a Sensitivity Priority mode on its main menu dial, which lets you select the ISO while the camera automatically adjusts shutter speed and aperture to give you the optimal exposure. Some might find it a gimmicky addition but I think it could be useful in challenging lighting conditions where time or texture is an issue. For example, if you are shooting fast moving subjects in low light it could be quite handy to set a high ISO as a trade-off.

The K-x is a fast shooter. It clearly outperforms all other entry-level DSLR and several higher end models when it comes to speed. Switch on is almost instant and there is no noticeable shutter delay. importantly it delivers an impressive 4.7fps continuous shooting, which is an extraordinary step up for a camera of this class.

Pentax has provided this small reflex with quite a bit of in camera processing and cool digital filters that, used sparsely, can produce great creative results straight out of the camera. The K-x features seven digital filters and a number of well-designed post-production editing tools and effects. Amusingly, the watercolour filter turns the image into a cartoon and contributes to what makes this camera really fun to use. The quality of the filters is very convincing and the effects can be adjusted by using on-screen sliders for smoother and more personal results.

Besides a built-in flash, there are numerous effects processing options

Anyone with a film background will appreciate the inclusion of a Cross Processing mode. It emulates a creative development technique in which a film is processed in a chemical solution intended for films of a different type. This process produces high contrast images with surreal colours that are very popular in fashion and advertising.

Sample Shots and Video

Wide angle Click for a full-resolution crop

Standard Click for a full-resolution crop

Tele-photo Click for a full-resolution crop

HDR Click for a full-resolution crop

HDR weak Click for a full-resolution crop

HDR strong Click for a full-resolution crop

SD Video Click for a scaled movie clip

HD video in available light Click for a scaled video clip

Still from HD video Click for a full-resolution image

Sample Shots

Effects and Filters

Sample Shots

Click for a full-resolution crop

Click for a full-resolution crop

Click for a full-resolution crop

Click for a full-resolution crop

Click for a full-resolution crop

Click for a full-resolution crop

Click for a full-resolution crop

Sample Shots

Click for a full-resolution crop

Click for a full-resolution crop

Click for a full-resolution crop

Click for a full-resolution crop

Click for a full-resolution crop

Click for a full-resolution crop

Click for a full-resolution crop

ISO Tests

ISO 200 Click for a full-resolution crop

ISO 400 Click for a full-resolution crop

ISO 800 Click for a full-resolution crop

ISO 1250 Click for a full-resolution crop

ISO 1600 Click for a full-resolution crop

ISO 2500 Click for a full-resolution crop

ISO 3200 Click for a full-resolution crop

ISO 4000 Click for a full-resolution crop

ISO 5000 Click for a full-resolution crop

ISO 6400 Click for a full-resolution crop

The useful HDR Capture (only available for JPEGs) is a well-conceived automatic feature that works by shooting three photos with different exposures and combining the better-exposed areas of each to produce a perfectly balanced final picture. The drawback is that it only works with studio shots or tripod work because hand movement would produce blur.

great, pentax, lenses, film

Great value with plenty of creative options

The K-x also sports a D-Range option that allows you to correct the highlights and/or shadows in high contrast situations, and a Colour Temperature Enhancement setting that corrects colour cast in situations where the prominence of a particular colour produces a washed out effect or distorts the automatic white balance, such as a grass landscape scene. Probably the coolest addition to the K-x creative tools is its Multi-Exposure drive. It lets you merge up to 9 different pictures using Auto EV Adjust. if selected – to combine all the different EV values into one correct exposure.

Another K-x boon is HD video, recording 12 minute AVI files at 720p at 24 fps or SD video for 25 minutes a time. The downside is the lack of a HDMI port and its mono microphone – there’s no external mic input either and the sound is certainly noisy, picking up all the camera’s internal whirrings. Definitely room for improvement there. Also, unless you read the manual, shooting a video may prove a challenge. Although there is a Video Mode on the main shooting dial, the video won’t start unless you either engage manual FOCUS or FOCUS on a subject by half-pressing the shutter before releasing it and then press it again to start recording.

In video mode, you can choose between manually setting the lens to a specific aperture or use the Auto Aperture setting, with either option giving you some form of control over depth of field or brightness, which is more than Canon’s EOS 500D does.


If you can tolerate the slow Live View autofocus and a few minor handling flaws then this camera is a near perfect choice for a first DSLR. Just be sure the firmware is up-to-date to avoid possible power issues. Overall, the K-x offers an image quality and a photographic performance to rival many higher end cameras, with the inclusion of fun and user-friendly features to satisfy the most creative of beginners and enthusiasts alike. /p>

Catherine Monfils is a professional photographer specialising in portraiture, lifestyle and fashion.

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