The design of the Pentax MX-1 is certainly distinctive, and there's not too many companies, with the exception of Fujifilm, so positively retro in their designs. However, while it may appeal to some, others may be put off by its large, boxy design.
It's one of the largest premium compact cameras currently on the market, especially considering the small size of the sensor inside it. Other compacts featuring larger sensors, such as the Sony RX100, are smaller, and it means the Pentax certainly isn't jeans pocketable - a possible downside for those looking for an easily transportable back-up camera. It's also pretty weighty too, which is probably down to its metal construction.
Although there's no grip on the front of the camera to hold on to, the textured covering of the front plate goes some way to making it feel secure in the hand, even when shooting one-handed. Helpfully, all of the buttons and key controls can be found on the right side of the camera, so again shooting one-handed is relatively easy.
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At the top of the camera is a dial for quickly switching between the various modes on offer. Here you'll find the fully automatic mode along with semi-automatic and fully manual modes, such as aperture priority and shutter priority.
There's also scene mode, HDR, movie and one space for a user-defined group of settings. This is useful if you often find yourself needing one particular kind of shooting style, such as low light.
Also at the top of the camera is an exposure compensation dial, which is handily placed within easy reach of your thumb. Just in front of this dial is a small dedicated movie record button. It's quite handily placed, if a little small, and it's unlikely you'd accidentally knock it on.
Similarly, the Pentax MX-1's small power-on button is slightly hidden next to the mode dial, which although a little fiddly is unlikely to be accidentally switched on while in a bag or coat pocket.
A dial on the back of the camera is used for making changes to aperture or shutter speed, depending on the shooting mode. When in fully manual mode, you need to press a button underneath the dial to switch between aperture and shutter speed.
To change the autofocus point, you need to hit the button marked as macro on the back of the camera, then use the arrow keys to navigate to the point you want. This is a relatively quick process, although it could have been quicker if a touchscreen had been implemented.
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If you want to activate macro focusing, you first need to press the macro button, then hit the menu button to choose between the different focusing options.
For quick access to commonly used settings, hit the Info button to bring up various parameters, such as white balance, metering, aspect ratio and so on. For more in-depth settings, delving into the menu reveals more.
The design of these menus is reasonably sensible, if a little aesthetically odd - it's very reminiscent of early 1980s computers, with lots of blue and black and large blocky lettering.
One feature that could be incredibly useful is the highlight warning displayed on the Pentax MX-1's screen. This flashes red where the scene may be overexposed.
Unfortunately, this doesn't update with changes to the camera's settings, so it will still flash as overexposed even when the resulting picture will be dramatically underexposed. Still, it can be useful at times.