Pentax XG-1 Review
|Full model name:||Pentax XG-1|
|Sensor size:||1/2.3 inch|
|Viewfinder:||EVF / LCD|
|Dimensions:||4.7 x 3.5 x 3.8 in.
(119 x 89 x 97 mm)
|Weight:||20.0 oz (567 g)
|Full specs:||Pentax XG-1 specifications|
Pentax XG-1 Review -- First Impressions
by Mike Tomkins
Preview posted 07/15/2014
Some cameras aim for balance in all areas of their designs. Others focus on one detail, and take it to the maximum. The Pentax XG-1 takes the latter route, with a seriously powerful zoom lens -- far more so than any past model from the company.
And it's interesting for another reason, too. It's the first fixed-lens model from Ricoh Imaging to feature Pentax branding rather than Ricoh's own brand. Back when Ricoh adjusted its camera division's corporate name, we were led to expect that the Pentax brand would only be used on interchangeable lens cameras and certain non-camera gear, but it returns to a fixed-lens camera nevertheless -- perhaps because this model has somewhat SLR-like body styling.
The Pentax XG-1's lens is not quite the most powerful that we've seen, but it's close. Only four mainstream digital cameras to date -- the Nikon P600, Panasonic FZ70, Samsung WB2200F, and Sony H400 -- have offered a longer zoom, and Pentax itself has never gone beyond a 26x zoom until now. And two of those earlier models had somewhat wider lenses than does the XG-1, meaning that among name-brand cameras it actually has the third most powerful unconverted, fixed-lens telephoto to date, behind only the Nikon P600 and Sony H400.
At the core of the Pentax XG-1's design is a 52x optical zoom lens with a handy 24mm-equivalent wide angle and a stunning 1,248mm-equivalent telephoto. It's paired to a 16-megapixel, backside illuminated image sensor capable of sensitivities to ISO 3200 equivalent. Having such a generous zoom range ensures that whether your subject is near or far, you should be able to frame it as you want, without lots of back-and-forth to find the right spot from which to shoot.
Of course with such a powerful telephoto on offer, stabilization is a must: Hand-holding photos even in good ambient lighting conditions would be a challenge towards the telephoto end of the Pentax XG-1's zoom range. Thankfully, Ricoh has included sensor-shift stabilization that should help out.
Priced at US$400, the Pentax XG-1 goes on sale in the US market from August 2014.
Let's take a closer look at the most far-reaching Pentax ultrazoom camera to date!
Pentax XG-1 Review -- Technical Info
by Mike Tomkins
The Pentax XG-1's photos are captured using a backside-illuminated, 1/2.3-inch CMOS image sensor, the same size used in most fixed-lens cameras these days. (And also in Ricoh's diminutive Pentax Q series of interchangeable-lens cameras.)
Total resolution of the Pentax XG-1's imager is 16.79 megapixels, of which 16.0 megapixels are effective in imaging. The Pentax XG-1 can output images with a maximum resolution of 4,608 x 3,456 pixels.
The Pentax XG-1 is capable of shooting nine frames per second at full resolution. That's a swift rate for the class, although it's likely that autofocus and exposure will be locked from the first frame at this rate.
In ordinary shooting, the Pentax XG-1 is capable of a much more sedate 0.67 frames per second rate. It's also possible to trade away some resolution for even faster shooting. In the four megapixel High-Speed Continuous mode, the XG-1 will manage 30 frames per second capture. Dropping to VGA resolution (640 x 480 pixels) will boost this still further to 60 fps.
The Pentax XG-1 provides a sensitivity range of ISO 100 to 3200 equivalents, controlled automatically or manually. That's about par for the course with this sensor size.
The real story of this camera, though, is its extremely powerful 52x optical zoom lens. It sports smc Pentax branding, implying that it carries Ricoh's Super Multi Coating to reduce the impact of flare and ghosting. 35mm-equivalent focal lengths from a generous 24mm wide-angle to an extremely powerful 1,248mm telephoto are covered, with a maximum aperture that falls from a fairly bright f/2.8 at wide-angle to a reasonable (given the telephoto reach) f/5.6 at the other end of the range.
Of course, stabilization is a must with a lens this powerful, and Ricoh has included its own system. While there's no stabilization in the lens itself, the camera body features a sensor-shift type Shake Reduction system, which is coupled with Digital SR. In movie mode, the sensor-shift system is disabled, likely to reduce ambient noise and/or heat that might adversely affect video capture.
Although there's no optical viewfinder, the Pentax XG-1 does include an electronic viewfinder that will allow a more SLR-like shooting experience, unlike some bridge cameras which require you to shoot at arm's length. That's good news for more reasons than one, because shooting with the camera to your eye can help to steady it -- again, countering the effects of the powerful zoom lens.
The Pentax XG-1's electronic viewfinder has a total resolution of 200k dots or thereabouts, which equates to somewhere in the region of 320 x 200 pixels. While that's a relatively low resolution compared to many cameras these days, it's actually pretty standard for the Pentax XG-1's class. Look, for example, at the aforementioned Nikon P600, Panasonic FZ70, Samsung WB2200F, and Sony H400, all of which are in the same ballpark for price and feature set, and you'll find 200k dot electronic viewfinders in the lot.
A diopter adjustment is included to cater for eyeglass-wearers, but we don't yet know its corrective range.
That's also true of the Pentax XG-1's rear-panel LCD monitor, which has a diagonal size of 3.0 inches, and a resolution of 460k dots (or around 480 x 360 pixels, with each pixel comprised of separate red, green and blue dots.) It's the exact same size and resolution that you'll find in the Panasonic, Samsung and Sony cameras, and while it trails the 921k dot resolution of the Nikon, that camera is also the most expensive of the group, with a list price some US$100 above that of the Pentax.
Like most fixed-lens cameras (and all of its main competitors), the Pentax XG-1 relies solely on contrast-detection autofocus. Ricoh has yet to state precisely how many AF points are available, but we do know that single, multi and continuous AF modes are available, along with object tracking and face-detection functions.
Ordinarily, the Pentax XG-1 will focus from 23.6 inches (60cm) at wide-angle or 118 inches (299cm) at telephoto to infinity, but in macro mode, this falls to as near as 12 inches (30cm), albeit with the lens locked between wide and mid-zoom. Enabling a 1cm Macro mode will reduce this even further to just 0.4 inches (1cm), although getting sufficient light onto your subject from such a short distance may prove challenging.
Like most cameras in its class, the Pentax XG-1 includes Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and fully Manual exposure modes, as well as a fully Automatic mode that takes almost all decisions out of the photographer's hands, making it simple to get a shot without needing to understand how the camera works.
There are also a variety of scene and effects modes that help you get the shot you're after with a minimum of fuss in certain common shooting environments: Face Beautifier, Handheld Night, Screen Mode, Pet Mode, Sunset, Fireworks, Multi Exposure, Sport, Night Portrait, Landscape, Portrait, Snow, Children, and Party.
The Pentax XG-1 determines exposures using the image sensor, and offers metering modes including multiple, center-weighted, spot, and face detection. If you want to stray from the metered exposure in an automatic or semi-automatic mode, +/-2.0 EV of exposure compensation is available in 1/3 EV steps.
The XG-1 offers shutter speeds ranging from 1/2,000 to four seconds by default, but this longer limit can be expanded to encompass up to a 30-second exposure in Manual mode. Exposures are timed using both a lens shutter, and an electronic shutter function of the image sensor.
Although it has SLR-like styling, the Pentax XG-1 lacks any external flash connectivity, just as do its main rivals with the exception of the Panasonic FZ70. There is, however, a built-in popup flash strobe, which sits over the lens atop a hump reminiscent of the prism housing on an SLR camera.
The Pentax XG-1's flash strobe is rated as good for 1.64 to 20 feet (0.5 to 6.1m) at wide angle, or 3.9 to 12 feet (1.2 to 3.7m) at telephoto, but it's worth noting that these figures apply with a sensitivity of ISO 800 equivalent. At the camera's base sensitivity of ISO 100 equivalent, the range will be in the region of 0.6 to 7.1 feet (0.2 to 2.2m) at wide angle, or to 1.3 to 4.2 feet (0.4 to 1.3m) at telephoto.
Slow-sync and red-eye reduction functions are included, and can be combined with each other if desired.
As well as still images, the Pentax XG-1 can shoot high-definition movies, as can the vast majority of still cameras these days. Video clips use AVC / H.264 compression, and are stored in a .MOV container along with linear PCM, stereo audio.
Movie resolutions on offer include Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels, aka 1080p), HD (1,280 x 720 pixels, aka 720p), and VGA (640 x 480 pixels, aka 480p). At all resolutions, a capture rate of 30 progressive-scan frames per second is available, and the 720p resolution also adds a 60 frames-per-second rate.
The Pentax XG-1 offers all the connectivity options you'd expect on a camera in this class: USB 2.0 High-Speed data, high-definition Type-D Micro HDMI video output, composite NTSC / PAL video output, and a DC Input terminal.
You have a couple of storage options as a Pentax XG-1 shooter, but one of them is really of little use. There's 15.4MB of internal memory, which is only enough for a handful of shots should you accidentally leave your flash card at home -- but still better than nothing, we suppose. There's also a Secure Digital card slot that's also compatible with SDHC and Eye-Fi memory cards.
Like many bridge cameras, the Pentax XG-1 forgoes any raw file format, instead saving images solely in compressed JPEG mode.
Although it doesn't include in-camera Wi-Fi wireless networking capability, the Pentax XG-1 can transfer images wirelessly when using Eye-Fi's Wi-Fi capable Secure Digital memory cards.
The Pentax XG-1 draws power from a single, proprietary lithium-ion battery pack of type LB-060. This is said to be good for 240 shots on a charge, or 200 minutes of playback or movie capture. Ricoh doesn't specify whether this figure is to CIPA testing standards, or to its own in-house standard, but either way, it seems to be something of an Achilles heel. The camera's nearest rivals manage anywhere from 330 to 600 shots on a charge, making the XG-1 look rather anemic in this area.
Expect to factor the cost of a second battery into your purchase cost if you're planning to be away from a charging station for any significant length of time.
$349.47 (22% more)
Also has viewfinder
60x zoom (15% more)
$321.59 (12% more)
Also has viewfinder
42x zoom (19% less)
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