Pentax Optio X review

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Our Verdict

It's hardly the best out there but in a crowded market the Optio X at least manages to stand out

For

  • Unique design

    Great controls and menus

Against

  • Sometimes slow

    Average 5-megapixel snaps

Judging whether or not a camera has that special "X-factor" is a lot harder than simply wearing your trousers high or marrying an old metaller with the shakes. Pentax, for instance, is trying to sway our opinion of its latest camera by including the letter X in its name (hey, it worked for Liberty and Malcolm).

The Optio X is undeniably a strange and interesting snapper. Like all the best football matches, it's a game of two halves: one side containing the lens, flash unit, processor and 14MB of memory, the other housing all the controls, a two-inch LCD, a battery and an SD card slot.

Both sides are constructed from stylish black and silver metal panels, and are extremely thin (just 18mm). They're linked by a central spine that enables them to rotate through 270 degrees, for you upskirting enthusiasts. We reckon the camera looks at its best when rotated through 180 degrees to give an all-black front and an all-silver back. This does leave the shutter button upside down, but it's great for freaking out your mates.

As if two halves weren't enough, the X is also the first camera we've seen with three power buttons: one each for the camera, video mode and voice recorder. Luckily for our tiny brains, there's only one shutter release. Handling is excellent and the screen is close behind, with highlighted warnings of over and underexposed areas alongside crisp, clear icons.

A solid five-way joystick offers access to the Optio's modest features list, which includes good metering and focusing options. There are 16 scene modes and a good interval-shooting system, but nothing really complex to master.

Crack open the X with a hammer and you'll find a five-megapixel CCD and a new, supposedly improved image processor inside. We say "supposedly" because the X is anything but fast, offering a ridiculously slow burst-shooting mode and smallish movies that flicker at an irritating 15fps.

Also, if you plan to use the Optio to pick up the smallest details in your photos, X doesn't mark the spot. Thankfully, exposure and colour reproduction are decent, enabling the model to produce thick, solid dark tones and light, crisp whites, plus bright primary colours.

It's hardly the next evolutionary step for camera-kind, but if you're looking for a useful and unusual new snapper, this Pentax certainly has X appeal.