Pentax XG-1 Review

November 3, 2014 | Jack Baker | |
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Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 16 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 4.5Mb.

In good light the Pentax XG-1’s 16.0MP 1/2.3” back-illuminated CMOS sensor generates high quality images with attractive yet accurate colour reproduction. The camera’s auto white balance and exposure metering are excellent, producing accurate colours and well-balanced exposures. That’s not to say the overall dynamic range is particularly high though, as highlights are prone to overexposure, whilst shadows still look slightly dim. Things do appear worse immediately after snapping a high contrast shot, however, such is the poor colour and contrast accuracy of the XG-1’s LCD screen.

Detail is impressive at lower sensitivities and when shooting at wider focal lengths, but images can look a little soft when zoomed in, as the camera needs to shoot at higher ISO sensitivities to maintain a fast enough shutter speed to counteract camera shake. Shooting landscapes can often cause small-sensor cameras like this to smear detail, but the XG-1 maintains reasonably good sharpness.

Noise is very well controlled up to ISO400, with very little evidence of grain and only minimal colour speckling visible in shadow areas. Grain becomes more apparent at ISO800 but is not distracting. By ISO1600 grain noise is clearly visible, whilst neutral tones can look distinctly blotchy. This worsens considerably at ISO3200 where blotchiness and colour speckling are obvious in shadow areas, even when viewing at 25% image size.

Fortunately the lens’ slightly wider than average f/2.8 maximum wide-angle aperture helps let more light through to the sensor, reducing the need for higher ISO settings. The lens also has good corner sharpness and only negligible wide-angle barrel distortion. Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) is apparent in very high-contrast areas, but only when viewing at 100% image size.

Noise

The Pentax XG-1 has six sensitivity settings available at full resolution, ranging between ISO100 and ISO3200. In automatic mode the camera can chose any sensitivity, e.g. ISO503, but other modes the scale is in conventional 1EV steps.

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso100.jpg iso200.jpg
   

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso800.jpg
   

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

iso1600.jpg iso3200.jpg

Focal Range

ThePentax XG-1’s 52x optical zoom lens gives you a focal range of 24-1248mm (in 35mm-camera terms). This can be upped to a whopping 4992mm-equivalent telephoto range using 4x digital zoom, which Pentax claims not to compromise image quality. However, this is simply untrue as images taken with full digital zoom are extremely soft.

24mm

1248mm

focal_range1.jpg focal_range2.jpg

Sharpening

Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are just a little soft at the default sharpening setting. You can change the in-camera sharpening level if you don't like the default look.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg
   
sharpen2.jpg sharpen2a.jpg

File Quality

The Pentax XG-1 has three file quality options: Best, Fine and Normal. File sizes are relatively small for a 16MP camera, averaging around 4-5MB, 2-3MB and 1.5-2.5MB respectively.

Best (4.21Mb) (100% Crop)

Better (2.48Mb) (100% Crop)

quality_best.jpg quality_fine.jpg
   
Normal (2.00Mb) (100% Crop)  
quality_normal.jpg  

Chromatic Aberrations

The Pentax XG-1 handled chromatic aberrations excellently during the review, with very limited purple fringing present around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations, as shown in the example below.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

chromatic1.jpg chromatic2.jpg

Macro

A 1cm macro focussing distance gives good scope for close-up shots, however this only applies when the lens is set to maximum wide angle. The further you zoom in, the more you’ll need to back away from your subject. Whilst this is the case for all cameras, the XG-1 requires more distance than most when zoomed in.

Macro

Macro (100% Crop)

macro1.jpg macro1a.jpg

Flash

The Pentax XG-1’s built-in flash includes six modes: Force Off, Flash Auto, Force Flash, Slow Sync, Slow Sync+Red-Eye and Red-Eye Reduction. It produces very little wide-angle vignetting when shooting from a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (24mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (24mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64
   

Flash Off - Telephoto (1248mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (1248mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Our testing revealed that the XG-1 successfully avoids red-eye with and without red-eye reduction.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)
flash_on.jpg flash_on1.jpg
   

Red-eye Reduction

Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)

flash_redeye.jpg flash_redeye1.jpg

Handheld Night mode

Use this mode to shoot a night-time scene without the need for a tripod. The camera quickly shoots four frames and combines them into a single, clear image. The end result is ‘only’ an 8MP image, but there’s enough clarity to make an A4 print.

Off

On

night1.jpg night1a.jpg

Shake Reduction

Pentax’s Shake Reduction sensor-shift stabilisation system does a great job at ironing out the effects of camera shake and is essential when using the majority of the XG-1’s focal length range. Unfortunately this isn’t active when shooting video, and though the camera does employ an electronic stabilisation system instead, it’s nowhere near as effective.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Anti Shake Off (100% Crop)

Anti Shake On (100% Crop)

1/10th / 220mm antishake1.jpg antishake1a.jpg

HDR

The Pentax XG-1 includes a multi-shot HDR mode to increase dynamic range when shooting high-contrast scenes. Some cameras can produce cartoony results, but Pentax have erred on the side of subtlety and the XG-1’s HDR images look realistic. Unfortunately images are only recorded at 8MP when HDR is active.

Off

On

hdr_off.jpg hdr_on.jpg

Digital Filters

The Pentax XG-1 sports no less than twenty digital effects activated by pressing the ‘i’ button on the rear panel. Choose from: Normal, Vivid, Japan Style, Italian Style, French Style, Punk, Black and White, Sepia, Partial Color (Red, Blue, Yellow & Green), Negative, Dreamy, Vignetting, Salon, Fish Eye, Reflection, Grids, Sketch.

Normal

Vivid

Pentax_XG-1-digital_filter01-Normal.JPG Pentax_XG-1-digital_filter02-Vivid.JPG
   

Japan Style

Italian Style

Pentax_XG-1-digital_filter03-Japan_Style.JPG Pentax_XG-1-digital_filter04-Italian_Style.JPG
   

French Style

Punk

Pentax_XG-1-digital_filter05-French_Style.JPG Pentax_XG-1-digital_filter06-Punk.JPG
   

Black and White

Sepia

Pentax_XG-1-digital_filter07-Black_and_white.JPG Pentax_XG-1-digital_filter08-Sepia.JPG
   

Partial Color Red

Partial Color Blue

Pentax_XG-1-digital_filter09-Partial_color-Red.JPG Pentax_XG-1-digital_filter10-Partial_color-Blue.JPG
   

Partial Color Yellow

Partial Color Green

Pentax_XG-1-digital_filter11-Partial_color-Yellow.JPG Pentax_XG-1-digital_filter10-Partial_color-Blue.JPG
   

Negative

Dreamy

Pentax_XG-1-digital_filter13-Negative.JPG Pentax_XG-1-digital_filter14-Dreamy.JPG
   

Vignetting

Salon

Pentax_XG-1-digital_filter15-Vignetting.JPG Pentax_XG-1-digital_filter16-Salon.JPG
   

Fish Eye

Reflection

Pentax_XG-1-digital_filter17-Fish_Eye.JPG Pentax_XG-1-digital_filter18-Reflection.JPG
   

Grids

Sketch

Pentax_XG-1-digital_filter19-Grids.JPG Pentax_XG-1-digital_filter20-Sketch.JPG