Available in a range of hues, there's much to like about the 12.4-megapixel Pentax K-x, an entry-level digital SLR with some sophisticated features that you don't normally see in its price class, including 720p video-capture capability. Pentax has a history of releasing aggressively priced dSLRs, and the K-x is no exception. It's available for about £480 for the body only, £580 with an 18-55mm kit lens, and £700 with an 18-55mm lens and 55-300mm lens.
The K-x feels solid and well made, and it's slightly more compact than most of its competitors. But it runs on four AA batteries, which makes it heavier than some rivals.
One of the camera's highlights, as well as its frustrations, is the viewfinder, which it inherits from its predecessors. On the one hand, it's bigger, with slightly better coverage and more magnification than you get with most consumer models. On the other hand, although there are basic framing lines, the camera, bewilderingly, doesn't display the autofocus areas.
This is annoying for a couple of reasons. For one, if you shoot in complete autofocus, you have no idea which points the camera has selected in order to know if you need to switch out of that mode. If you use single-point AF, there's no reminder if you've moved it (without routinely looking at the LCD for confirmation). You do get an AF area indicator in live view, with a couple of good magnification options for manual focusing.
You can program Pentax's signature green button to reset the camera, choose the image settings, show a depth-of-field preview in the viewfinder, apply an effects filter, reset the autofocus point to centre, or override the file-format settings. We really like Pentax's file-override capabilities. You can define a behaviour for any given scenario: the function depends upon whether the camera is set for JPEG, raw only, or raw and JPEG, and you can define the override you want for each, as well as whether it's sticky or cancels after one shot.
Although it lacks many of the explanations and hand-holding features that some other entry-level models provide, the K-x's operation is relatively straightforward, incorporating many familiar conventions that point-and-shoot users will be familiar with. Some aspects make much more sense than other implementations we've seen. For instance, the ISO screen lets you choose auto or a fixed value, as well as displaying the auto range you can choose from -- the latter is usually buried in a menu somewhere.
There's plenty of information on the status screen, but it provides an easy-to-scan display of most of your current settings. An 'info' button pulls up an interactive control panel that provides access to almost all the settings: image controls (saturation, hue, high/low key, contrast and sharpness), cross processing, special effects, automatic high dynamic range, shake reduction, metering, autofocus mode, metering, highlight correction, shadow correction, file format, resolution, compression, distortion correction and lateral chromatic aberration adjustment.