Pentax XG-1 Review – If you are the kind of photographer who wants to capture it all, the 16MP Pentax XG-1 is set to please. Its massive 52x optical zoom lens has the focal range to cover landscapes and portraits, it can zoom in on the action, and it even focuses down to 1cm to capture subjects up close. While it might not be as large as the Panasonic Lumix FZ72’s 60x zoom, the Pentax still manages to pack in more than enough into its compact body, reaching to a huge 1,248mm in 35mm equivalent terms, and it’s even got a 4x digital zoom on top of that.
One genre it is particularly suited to, though, is action. Not only does its zoom enable you to stand well back, but it can also shoot at nine frames per second in full resolution so you can freeze a split second of movement. The focusing was also fairly fast, if a little slow in low light, but tracking AF mode kept up with moving subjects. Image stabilisation helps with sharpness, but as we would expect there is some softening when fully zoomed in so you will need to sharpen in Photoshop.
A tripod is definitely needed in this instance, but the zooming action is a smooth process using the zoom rocker on the top. It’s also easy to hold the camera one-handed, with a large rubberized grip helping you to gain good purchase on a camera that overall feels of a sturdy build quality. The clear menu system means that you can pick your options really easily and the camera features a trusty mode dial with a variety of choices, including manual, handheld night mode and a Face Beautifier function that smooths the skin to save time in editing.
The Face Beautifier isn’t as subtle as we’d like, however. Another annoyance is having to access aperture, shutter speed and ISO through the exposure compensation button, which proves frustrating if you’re used to a control wheel, as well as time-consuming.
White balance is accessed through the OK button, but the Auto setting produced accurate results. While it comes with a clear electronic viewfinder, it’s a shame the LCD screen is fixed and there’s no option to shoot in Raw, as competitors such as the Canon SX50 HS have these features for much more flexible shooting and editing in Photoshop. There are effects like fish eye and vignetting in-camera, though, to save you editing time if you just want a quick effect. It also comes with 1080p Full HD video and a quick button on the back to switch to movie mode. Whatever features it holds, however, the most important consideration is the image quality.
Generally the XG-1 produced pleasing results with high dynamic range and plenty of detail. Colours were a bit flat and washed out, but there is the option to add a vivid digital filter, which helps to punch up the tones. Exposures were usually on point, but the camera favoured overexposing highlight detail in high contrast situations, which is harder to recover in Photoshop than underexposed shadows. Also, noise becomes noticeable after ISO 400 but is still usable at ISO 800. The quality of results from the lens was also solid, but we did experience some harsh lens flare in bright light, and purple fringing in high contrast situations. The XG-1 may have its flaws but the competitive price, solid feature set and versatility in a lightweight body may help to override many of its drawbacks.
A great all-in-one camera.The XG-1 has reliable image quality, but the fixed screen, lack of Raw and fiddly way to access exposure settings may put some off.
- Reliable image output
- Non-friendly User interface
Pentax XG-1 Specifications
- 16 megapixel CMOS sensor
- 52x optical zoom lens (35mm equiv: 24-1248mm)
- Optical image stabilisation (Sensor-shift)
- 3.0 inch 460k dot LCD screen
- 200K dot electronic viewfinder (EVF)
- Full manual controls
- Full 1080p HD video recording
- ISO 100-3200
- 1 cm minimum focusing distance
- Numerous filter effects