The Pentax X-5 is a small-sized bridge camera with a viewfinder, a tilt screen, a handy thumb-wheel, a BSI CMOS sensor and a low-cost price tag. Add to that a wide-angle setting announced at 22.3 mm, and this looks like a great-value camera! Let's take a closer look.
For an entry-level bridge at this price point, the Pentax X-5 is actually quite nice to hold and use. The grip handle is big and easy to keep hold of, the camera's weight is very well balanced, and a large rubbery ring helps your left hand keep hold of the lens (there's nowhere else for your left hand to rest). The finish of the buttons, wheels and dials isn't amazing, but it's OK. Plus, the twin-hinge system for the tilt-screen works smoothly and doesn't have any unsettling wobbles.
The same can't be said for the pop-up flash though, as the hinges here are a little less reassuring. The battery and memory card compartment door is even worse—it's no doubt the least well-made part of this camera. Plus, once the X-5 is switched on, the lens has a certain wobble to it ... which can sometimes be a warning sign for second-rate image quality.
It's a good job that this screen has a tilt function, as viewing angles are horribly tight. And viewing angles aren't the screen's only problem—even when you're looking at it straight on, many lighter hues are washed out to white and onscreen colour fidelity is poor (the average Delta E is over 13, which isn't great, even for a screen in this kind of camera).
The viewfinder is no show-stopper either. While it does do a slightly better job of distinguishing light greys from white, colour fidelity is still poor and the image has a strong blue overtone. Plus, the EVF's mediocre resolution, small size and low contrast (blacks are effectively dark greys) actually make it quite uncomfortable to use. The only real good point here is that the viewfinder has no rainbow effects.
The X-5 is easy to use, with menus that are clear if not particularly stylish. There's no direct access to ISO settings, but you can get round this by adding a "Quick" menu to the green button with four options of your choice. Note too that the manual mode is disappointingly limited—since the camera has no real diaphragm, you only get two aperture settings.
The Pentax X-5 takes two and a half seconds to start up, and just as long to save a photo. It's therefore not a lightning-fast snapper. The autofocus isn't painfully slow, but there are plenty of faster-to-focus cameras out there.
Finally, the burst mode shoots at under one frame per second. All in all, this camera is only just OK in this field.
Like several other entry-level bridges, the X-5 has a 26x zoom lens with a focal range starting at 22 mm. In practice, we didn't get an angle of view any wider than 71°, which actually works out as 24 mm. That said, most camera lenses announced at 24 mm are actually nearer 25 mm, so the X-5 effectively still offers a wider wide-angle setting than most. The BSI CMOS sensor is an original feature for a camera at this price point, as low-cost bridges most often use CCD sensors or standard CMOS sensors.
Indeed, the ISO test results are largely better than what we're used to seeing with low-cost bridges using CCD sensors, which usually give noise-ridden, excessively smoothed or generally unusable photos at 800 ISO. However, quality here is still no match for high-end cameras. This could be because the image processing system in the X-5 is less advanced.
This inbetweener of a camera takes good pictures up to 800 ISO, but at 1600 ISO smoothing is brutal. It's too heavy to make decent 8" x 10" prints (20 x 27 cm), and even 4" x 6" prints (11 x 15 cm) shouldn't be inspected too closely.
The lens does a pretty good job at wide-angle, clearly outperforming certain competitors (like the Canon SX500). However, quality drops as you zoom. At a mid-range zoom setting (above), purple fringes can be seen around the edges of the frame where sharpness levels also drop. At telephoto, only the centre of the frame is still reasonably sharp and clear.
On the upside, the X-5 films in Full HD. Exposure is dark but relatively well-managed, and light or bright parts of the picture are maintained well. The mic gives relatively accurate results too. Audio quality isn't unpleasant.
On the downside, there's only one mic, which means mono sound. Plus, you can't use the optical zoom while filming (you therefore can't zoom out to a wide-angle if you started filming at telephoto). Your only option is a poor-quality digital zoom.