We found that the Pentax X-5 has a slight bias towards overexposing in auto and scene modes, with an apparent loss of detail in the shadows, and slightly blown out highlights in some cases.
The Pentax X-5 offers eight white balance presets plus a custom option. Using the majority of these options produced satisfactory results, with colours being very nearly on point. Yet the daylight, auto and even the custom option failed to deliver colours as rich as the real-life subjects, with reds and green in particular appearing muted.
In terms of noise performance, we see little disruption at ISO 100 and 200, with colours appearing smooth and lines clean. The first tale-tell signs become visible in darker sections of images by ISO 400, and are quite obvious by ISO 800, with colours and the crispness of detail becoming compromised.
After that, images show clear incremental damage as we move through the sensitivity range, and by ISO 3200 and certainly by 6400, the image quality is so degraded at full size that results are relatively unusable.
Chromatic aberrations are noticeable in areas of high contrast, as is often the case with lower-end compact cameras.
However, what is more disturbing is the purple glare captured in any circumstance where the light source is photographed - be it as harsh as the midday sun or as delicate as a flickering church votive.
We see relative softening at either end of the 22-580mm focal range straight out of the camera, but nothing that should put you off.
However, despite Pentax promising no compromise to image quality when using the infamous Intelligent Zoom feature, we found the results at its full extension were relatively unusable. They more often than not exhibited distortion, blur and colour desaturation.
Given its very reasonable price tag, we weren't expecting flawless images, yet actually the Pentax X-5 does very well for its class. There were a handful of image quality concern areas we could take issue with, but nothing that should deter you from considering it.