Pentax X70 Review

September 3, 2009 | Gavin Stoker | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The Pentax X70 is the first super-zoom camera from Pentax, sporting a 24x zoom lens with a versatile focal range of 26-624mm. The 12 megapixel X70's telephoto setting can even be extended to an incredible 3900mm using the Intelligent Zoom function. An image-sensor-shift shake reduction system helps to combat the inevitable camera-shake, while the X70 also offers continuous shooting up to 11 frames per second (at 5 megapixels), 1280x720 pixel HD movies, a 2.7-inch LCD monitor, ISO 100-6400, 1cm macro setting, and Aperture-Priority AE, Shutter-Priority AE and Metered Manual modes. Available in black, the Pentax X70 is available now for around £370 / $399.

Ease of Use

Despite releasing an impressive run of cameras - particularly the K-7 and K-m - somehow Pentax's products have failed to stay long in the collective consciousness. Will its first big digital zoom in the misleadingly named X70 (this is actually a 24x zoom model) - joining the ranks of very similar 'bridge' models from Canon, Fuji, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, Sony et al - be the one to receive both critical plaudits and actual real-world sales?

Mirroring a smaller form factor digital SLR in its design and layout, first thoughts are that the 12 megapixel Pentxa X70 is surprisingly (but not unpleasantly) lightweight - partly due to the inclusion of a slender lithium ion rechargeable battery for power, rather than the four standard AAs often supplied with this class of camera - and is comfortable to hold.

There's sufficient space for your three lower fingers to intuitively curl around the large rubberized grip to the right, while a pad at the rear falls under the thumb of your right hand, enabling the camera to be held fairly steadily in just the one hand; that is unless the 26-624mm equivalent lens is fully extended, whereby gripping in both feels both more logical and sensible. As our sample images show, it is however possible to get usable shots without the aid of a tripod, provided there's sufficient light and you take two captures of everything. There's a further digital zoom option that extends the range to an equivalent 3900mm which is more something for the spec sheet than a practical option.

If we've an initial grumble it's that the camera is a little plastic-y in both look and feel, and despite its sophisticated all-black finish doesn't disguise this fact as well as a similarly priced entry level DSLR. Incidentally, the lens tubing extends some 6.5cm from its protective housing at maximum telephoto setting, whereupon the camera begins to resemble less a photographer's tool, more a plumber's. The extremities of the lens also feel a little loose and vulnerable; you certainly wouldn't want to accidentally knock or drop the camera in this state.

Luckily, the Pentax X70 is otherwise fairly solidly constructed, and unlike we found on our recent test of Nikon's D3000 DSLR, the electronic viewfinder's eye relief on the X70 sticks out sufficiently proud of the rest of the body to avoid your nose grazing the LCD screen below as you bring an eye level. There's also enough space provided on the camera layout for buttons and controls to 'breathe', with no fiddly fingernail-precision operation required. Crucially the unassuming looking X70 is a more portable option for those wanting a long lens reach without the usual attendant bulk - and, while not cheap, costs a great deal less than a starter DSLR with a similar telephoto lens would.

Pentax X70 Pentax X70
Front Rear

Practical considerations aside, the Pentxa X70 doesn't stint as regards on-board features. Alongside that broad focal range, potential users are offered up to 11 frames per second continuous shooting (up to 21 sequential JPEGs) - whereby, as a trade off, resolution drops to five megapixels - plus HD movies (at 1280x720 pixels rather than the Full HD 1920x1080), 1cm macro option and a choice of 4:3, 3:2, 16:9 or 1:1 image ratios. There's also 'proper' CCD sensor shift shake reduction - gyro sensors detect external movement and vibrate the chip to compensate - essential obviously when shooting at the extremities of the zoom, or in low light, where light sensitivity settings extending up to ISO 6400 in theory also come in useful.

From the front then the Pentxa X70 resembles a basic, frill-free DSLR, face-plate dominated by its Pentax branded lens, top right of which (viewed lens-on) is a button to activate the spring-loaded pop-up flash. Left of the optic we discover a porthole for the bright orange AF assist/self timer lamp, beneath which is a narrow slit housing the built in microphone; nothing out of the ordinary here then.

Up on the top plate, set into an L-shaped metal panel, we find the catch for operating the zoom encircling the large and springy shutter release button, which there is no mistaking. The zoom itself is quick and response, travelling through its gargantuan range from maximum wideangle to extreme telephoto in just over a couple of seconds. It can be a little tricky therefore to pinpoint your framing completely accurately, and usually involves tabbing back and forwards in baby steps to arrive at the desired composition.

Just set back from these controls is a dedicated exposure compensation button offering a compact range of +/- 2EV, settings selected via a twist of the DSLR-like command dial at the rear. Behind which again is the on/off button, partially recessed into the bodywork to prevent accidental activation. Press this and, again like a DSLR, the camera powers up from cold almost instantaneously, rear LCD bursting into life and lens extending to maximum wide-angle setting. Go on to press the shutter release button and within three seconds of pressing the power switch you can be capturing your first image, with little in the way of noticeable shutter delay. There is a degree of picture control in that the user can choose whether to give image a bright, natural or monochrome look - the first option producing the better defined results.

Pentax X70 Pentax X70
Top Pop-up Flash

The largest control on the Pentxa X70's top plate is logically its shooting mode dial, featuring the usual suspects of program, shutter priority, aperture priority and manual, alongside pre-optimised scene modes, a point-and-shoot auto picture function, the aforementioned video mode, user setting, sports mode and digital image stabilization option which automatically bumps up the ISO as necessary. The control itself provides just the right amount of 'give'; that is it can turned to a chosen setting with a definitive click and won't accidentally slip between settings when transported in a camera bag.

At the back users get a choice of composing and reviewing shots via the main 2.7-inch, 230k-dot resolution LCD monitor or, if sunshine stops play, electronic viewfinder directly above, with a button provided for quickly switching between them. Shame then that the larger screen cannot also be angled or tilted for a greater range of photo taking possibilities. A press of the similarly sized button marked 'display' to the right of the viewfinder either adds a histogram and other key settings (selected white balance, image quality, compression level and metering option) to the on-screen info, calls up a nine zone compositional grid, or wipes it clean of any distractions.

To the right of this is the previously mentioned command dial, which, when shooting in program mode can be used to alter shutter speed and aperture on the fly. When reviewing images it also acts as a way of zooming into and enlarging image segments with a twist to the right, whilst scrolling the dial to the left calls up images on the card or internal 33.6MB memory as a series of thumbnails.

The rest of the buttons and pads on the Pentxa X70's backp late pretty much function as illustrated. Directly beneath this, top right of the LCD, is a button emblazoned with a self-explanatory smiley face for invoking the X70's face priority and/or smile capture functions, and below this the familiar playback button. Happily, if you're reviewing images when a photo opportunity presents itself, a half press of the shutter release button will throw you back into image capture mode, thus providing a more seamless transition.

Pentax X70 Pentax X70
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

A four way control pad is also just as you'd expect to find on a camera of this ilk, centrally placed 'OK' button surrounded by a means of variously adjusting flash, close up mode, self timer, flash and, with top dial at the 'scene' position, calling up the 20 scene modes on offer which, showing the Pentax's possible family appeal, include babies, kids and pets alongside the more regular landscape and portrait mode variants. Said button also calls up the playback modes when in that operational setting, which include the ability to add a range of digital filter effects to images (sepia, black and white, fish eye, soft focus), as well as the more regular rotating, cropping and re-sizing.

The last two equally comfortably sized buttons on the Pentxa X70's back are for menu - a press of which brings up four record and three set up folders, options overlaying the handily still visible image on screen in white text - and user friendly, photographic option-reducing 'green' mode for the more inexperienced. Press this and all ability to change key camera settings is disabled; meaning it can in theory be handed to the mother in law and the kids without the device doing something untoward.

While the right hand side of the camera is given over to the grip and eyelet for attaching a strap, the left hand flank of the camera - as viewed from the rear - features a built in speaker, just below which is a rubber flap protecting standard ports for USB and AV connectivity. There's no HDMI out option or cabling provided to hook the X70 up to an HDTV set however.

The base of the Pentxa X70 features a screw thread for attaching it to a tripod, next to which is a shared compartment for battery and SD or SDHC media, protected by a door with lockable catch, slid open with strong fingernails. While design, layout and operation is reasonably streamlined, less impressive is a battery life of just 170 shots from a full charge; in practice juice levels were running low after just a weekend's use, meaning this isn't the greatest choice of travel companion. A pity, as its compositional versatility would be a boon for both city and country touring.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 12 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 4Mb.

It's possible to achieve pleasing results with the Pentax X70, though at times it feels like you have to work at it. When shooting HD video at the full extent of the zoom it's almost impossible to hand hold the camera steady enough to ensure a smooth, jerk free image. Just as disappointingly, the framing cannot be altered once recording has commenced as the optical zoom is disabled. Your framing merely stays the same as it was before the shutter release button was pressed. While not uncommon on big zoom bridge models, this seems something of an over-sight as the broad focal range is the camera's major feature.

As regards still captures, though pictures feel balanced in terms of exposure, with well saturated and colourful in the main, being flatteringly sympathetic to skin tones, there's occasional softness when shooting at maximum telephoto - not really a great surprise - whilst upon close inspection pixel fringing is visible between areas of high contrast. Our white wall shots reveal quite pronounced barrel distortion at maximum wide angle however.

In terms of low light sensitivity, the Pentax X70's performance is (forgive the pun) no great shakes, with noise creeping in from ISO 400 upwards in interior shots taken without the aid of flash. Taking photographs in low light at settings up to ISO 800, results are usable, though we'd advise steering clear of ISO 1600 and above as detail is noticeably softened. Shooting at ISO 6400 images are particularly disappointing; detail is smudged and pictures take on more of an impressionistic, painterly quality.


There are 7 ISO settings available on the Pentax X70. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)


ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)


ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)


ISO 6400 (100% Crop)


Focal Range

The Pentax X70's 24x zoom lens has a massive focal range, as illustrated by these examples:




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)


Chromatic Aberrations

The Pentax X70 handled chromatic aberrations quite well during the review, with some purple fringing present around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations, as shown in the examples below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)

Example 2 (100% Crop)


The Pentax X70 allows you to focus on a subject that is just 1cm away from the camera. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.


100% Crop


The flash settings on the Pentax X70 are Flash-on, Flash-off, Red-eye reduction, Low-speed synchro, and Low-speed synchro + Red-eye. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (26mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (26mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (624mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (624mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Flash On or the Red-eye-Reduction settings caused any red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

Red-eye Reduction

Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)


The Nikon D3000's maximum shutter speed is 4 seconds, which is not very good news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 1 second at ISO 800. I've included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like.


Night (100% Crop)

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Pentax X70 camera, which were all taken using the 12 megapixel JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1280x720 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 17 second movie is 16.8Mb in size.

Product Images

Pentax X70

Front of the Camera

Pentax X70

Front of the Camera / Pop-up Flash

Pentax X70

Isometric View

Pentax X70

Isometric View

Pentax X70

Isometric View / Pop-up Flash

Pentax X70

Isometric View / Pop-up Flash

Pentax X70

Rear of the Camera

Pentax X70

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Pentax X70

Bottom of the Camera


Pentax X70

Top of the Camera

Pentax X70
Side of the Camera
Pentax X70
Rear of the Camera
Pentax X70
Memory Card Slot
Pentax X70
Battery Compartment


OK, on one level the unassuming looking Pentax X70 feels free of frills; there's no tilting rear screen, option to add external flash via a hotshoe, nor the ability to shoot in Raw as an alternative to JPEG, as offered on rival models towards the higher end of the pricing scale, but that said, if you can find an Internet pricing around the £300 mark, the X70 offers fair value. At full asking price £369 it feels a tad too dear to truly have the 'X' factor.

So can one size truly fit all when it comes to the myriad demands of the digital photographer? Well, it's worth noting that operationally, the X70 shouldn't daunt anyone trading up from a compact or those looking to supplement their choice of DSLR with a more portable, reasonably versatile snapper. Plus, there's no doubting that having such an extensive lens reach at your disposal shoehorned into a relatively compact and lightweight chassis has its advantages. And once you've used the likes of Pentax X70 to achieve a wider range of compositions than you would normally with either a compact or standard lens kit DSLR, returning to either (with a typical 3x reach) feels like a step backwards.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4
Ease-of-use 3.5
Image quality 3.5
Value for money 4

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Pentax X70 from around the web. »

The ultrazoom category is a force to be reckoned with in today's market. Not only do these cameras offer a wide- to telephoto focal range; they cost less than a dedicated SLR. The Pentax X70 is a 12 megapixel powerhouse with a 24X optical zoom, the first entry from the same company that manufactures the formidable K-series of DSLRs.
Read the full review » »

Up until now Pentax has specialised in two types of camera; its Optio range of ultra-compacts, and its successful range of digital SLRs. It has a couple of other products, such as the W-series of waterproof compacts as well as some very nice binoculars and assortment of accessories, but up until now it has never ventured into bridge camera or super-zoom territory. The new Pentax X70 is the company's first foray into this uncharted territory, but it's a pretty accomplished debut. With a 24x zoom lens with a 26mm-equivalent wide angle, a 12-megapixel sensor, a 2.7-inch 230k monitor, sensor-shift image stabilisation and manual exposure options can it succeed in a highly competitive sector of the digital camera market?
Read the full review » »

For the first camera in the superzoom range, Pentax have done quite well. I think they've started as they mean to go on by putting one of the largest zooms available in the camera. A lot of the other features are found on basic compacts and I think are simply there to bulk the camera out and keep it uniform with the rest of the range.
Read the full review » »

The Pentax Optio X70 is highly versatile due to its 24X optical zoom which starts at a very wide-angle 26mm and reaches 624mm, in 35mm equivalent terms. This wide range covers most photographic uses, particularly well in the telephoto range for wildlife and bird photography. This super-long reach puts the X70 even beyond the reach of DSLR lenses under $1000 USD. Macro photography is also possible with the Pentax Optio X70 which can focus as close as 1cm (0.4").
Read the full review »


Effective Pixels 12 megapixels
Type 1/2.33" CCD
Sensitivity Auto, Fixed (ISO 50 - 6400)
Image Size
Still 12M, 3:2, 16:9, 1:1, 7M, 5M, 3M, 1024, 640
Movie 1280, 848, 640, 320
Shake Reduction
Type CCD-Shift-Type (SR : Shake Reduction)
Hi-sensitivity anti-shake mode (Digital SR)
Movie shake reduction mode (Movie SR)
Options Face recognition AF&AE is available at all mode. 32 people at most. Smile Capture. Blink Detection.
Storage Media
Internal Built-in Memory (approx. 33.6MB)
External SD/SDHC Memory Card
Focal Length 4.6 - 110.4mm f2.8-5.0 (approx. 26 - 624mm in 35mm format)
Construction 14 elements in 11 groups (4 aspherical elements, 3 ED elements)
Digital Zoom Digital zoom: 6.25X approx.
Inteligent zoon: approx. 31.3X at 7M,  approx. 150X at 640 iincluding optical zoomj
Focusing system
Area 9-point AF, Spot AF, Auto tracking AF
Focus Range (Still) Standard: 0.4m - Infinity (at wide setting), 1.7m - Infinity (at tele setting)
Macro: 0.1 - 0.5m (middle zoom position)
1cm Macro: 0.01 - 0.3m (middle zoom position)
Mode  Infinity-landscape, Manual Focus, AF Point switching
Exposure system
Metering Area Multi-segment metering, Center-weighted metering, Spot metering
Exposure Modes Scene modes: Auto Picture, Sport, Digital SR, Movie, USER, Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority,
Program, SCNiLandscape, Flower, Portrait, Backlight, Half-length Portrait, Night Scene,
Night Scene Portrait, Stage Lighting, Surf & Snow, Baby, Kids, Pet, Food, Fireworks,
Frame Composite, Party, Museum, Sunset, Digital Wide,  Digital Panoramaj, Green
Exposure System
Compensation +/-2EV (1/3EV steps)
Speed 1/4000 - 1/4 sec.  4 sec at most (Tv, Av, M, Night Scene mode setting)
Type Electronic Viewfinder, approx. 200K dots
Modes Flash-on and Flash-off modes.  "Red-eye" reduction function employs a pre-discharge.
Low-speed synchro, Low-speed synchro + Red-eye
Effective Range Wide: approx. 0.2 -  9.1m (ISO Auto)
Tele: approx. 1.7 - 5.1m (ISO Auto)
Drive Mode
Modes One shot, Continuous Shooting (L/M/H), Self-timer, 2 sec Self-timer, Interval Shooting, Auto Bracket
White Balance
Modes Auto, Daylight, Shade, Tungsten light, Fluorescent light (W, D, N), Manual setting
LCD 2.7"LCD , approx. 230K dots, AR coating
Modes Slideshow, Digital Filter(Colour Filter(11 kinds), Soft Filter, Fisheye Filter, Brightness Filter),
Frame Composite,  Resize, Cropping,  Image/Sound Copy, Image Rotation, Movie Edit,
Red-eye Compensation,  Voice Memo,  Protect, DPOF, Image Recovery, Start-up Screen,
Face close-up playback
PC USB2.0 (Hi-Speed)
AV AV terminal
Source Rechargeable D-LI92 lithium-ion battery, Optional AC adapter kit is also available
Performance Still*: Approx. 170 shots (Rechargeable Lithium-ion battery)
Playback**: Approx. 200 min.  (Rechargeable Lithium-ion battery) * Recording capacity shows approximate number of shots recorded during CIPA-compliant testing.  Actual performance may vary depending on operating conditions.
** According to the result of PENTAX in-house testing.
Height 82.5mm
Width 110.5mm
Depth 89.5mm
Weight approx. 390g (without battery and SD memory card)

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