Pentax MX-1 review: High-end compact with retro appeal delivers competitive sensor performance

By Janice Chen - Thursday February 28 2013

Sensor Review
Introduction | Pentax MX-1 sensor performance | Pentax MX-1 versus competition | Conclusion

A serious challenger to established players

Pentax MX-1 vs. Canon PowerShot S110 vs. Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7

Pentax MX-1

While the Canon PowerShot S110 and Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 are the latest of popular and proven multigenerational lines from their respective makers, the MX-1 is the first high-end enthusiast compact from Pentax. Nevertheless, the MX-1 holds its own when we compare the three cameras head-to-head.  In fact, with a DxOMark Overall Score of 49 points, the MX-1 should deliver a very similar image quality level as the S110 and LX7, which scored 48 and 50 respectively.  All three cameras have practically the same scores on both color depth and dynamic range. The one score where we see the MX-1 gaining a slight advantage is its low-light ISO performance, where it exceeds the S110 by 1/3 of a stop and the LX7 by a 1/2 stop.

As you can see from the Color Sensitivity graph below, for high ISO between 1600 and 12800, the MX-1 was able to score 2/3EV higher than the Canon and Panasonic cameras, indicating that in low light and higher ISO settings it can produce images with greater color depth and nuance.

Pentax MX-1

Where the LX7 was able to beat both the Pentax and Canon cameras can be seen in the Dynamic Range graph below.  The LX7 is slightly superior in dynamic range, beating the other cameras by 1/3EV at ISO 80, indicating that in bright light and low ISO settings it will be able to produce better details in highlights and shadow.

Pentax MX-1

Pentax MX-1 vs. Olympus XZ-2 vs. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100

Pentax MX-1

Two slightly higher priced enthusiast compact cameras that compete with the MX-1 are the Olympus XZ-2 iHS ($599.99) and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 ($649.99).  The Olympus XZ-2 and MX-1 have the same Overall Score of 49 and perform almost identically across all three use case scores, which comes as no surprise given that they likely utilize the same 12-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor.

The Sony RX100, on the other hand, sports a much larger 1-inch CMOS sensor and is therefore able to achieve higher marks across the board, with an Overall Score of 66, essentially performing a full stop better than the MX-1 and XZ-2 as well as the Canon S110 and Panasonic LX7. In fact, the RX100 is able to beat the MX-1 and XZ-2 by 1.5 stops in color depth and 1EV in dynamic range. And in low-light shooting it wins by nearly one full stop, indicating that it is a better option for sports photography—again, no surprise given its larger sensor.

Pentax MX-1 vs. Pentax Q10 vs. Nikon Coolpix P7700

Pentax MX-1

Other interesting comparisons to make are the similarly priced Nikon Coolpix P7700 ($499.95) and Samsung EX2F ($499.99), as both also have 12-megapixel 1/1.7-inch sensors. The Samsung EX2F’s sensor scores are not yet available, but you can see that the Nikon scores very similarly to the MX-1, but with a slightly higher Overall Score of 53.

We’ve also included a comparison with Pentax’s latest interchangeable lens compact, the Pentax Q10, which sells for $599.95 with a 3x zoom kit lens. The Q10 actually has a slightly smaller 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, but achieves an Overall DxOMark Score of 49—which is equivalent to the MX-1’s score and indicates similar image quality—by using the approach of interchangeable lenses rather than the point-and-shoot approach of the MX-1.