With an attractive sub-£100 asking price, does the Pentax M900 surpass expectations? Our Pentax M900 review finds out...
There’s an abundance of budget compacts available, so it should follow that some will be better than others. The Pentax M900 offers little to impress on paper, but for under £100 the expectations are simply that it can take a decent image in a variety of situations.
Pentax M900 Review – Features
Helping it to do so is a 12MP CCD sensor, which is fronted by a 5x optical zoom lens which spans a focal range of 28-140mm. There’s no viewfinder, and the LCD screen offer little out of the ordinary being 2.7in in size and with a 230,000dot resolution. Sensitivity is restricted to a range of 80-1600 which is the minimum we can expect at such a price, but with a maximum shutter speed of only 1/1000 sec it could prove to be limiting in certain situations.
Pentax M900 Review – Features
There are plenty of scene modes for all eventualities, but otherwise exposure modes are limited to Auto and Program settings, and there’s neither HD recording nor output. Instead, movies are limited to a VGA resolution of 640×480 pixels at 30fps. Surprisingly, a small histogram is offered as part of the display options, which should at least help out to balance exposures.
Pentax M900 Review – Design
Design wise there’s little to fault, with the rubber-like shell providing a comfortable grip and a set of well-defined buttons which respond well when pressed, although the power button on the top-plate is painfully small. Such a simple camera comes with an equally simple menu system, and with practically nothing to confuse the user it means that not only is it perfect for someone with little or no experience, but also that a manual is largely unnecessary.
Sadly, this is where the fun stops. In low light the camera often can’t focus, while the low contrast of the LCD screen makes viewing and composing images difficult. The brightness of the screen may be adjusted to help out, but there’s no apparent way of boosting its contrast, which is what’s really needed. When taking pictures many situations also require the use of the flash, which causes a problem when shooting anything where it may be reflected, while the zoom is accompanied by an annoyingly loud whirring of the lens’s motor whenever operated.
Pentax M900 Review – Image Quality
And sadly, image quality from the Pentax M900 is a perfect match for its poor performance. Even when its low asking price is considered the camera delivers an inconsistent and below-par performance. At the lowest sensitivities detail is lacking and noise is present throughout the ISO range as a further compromise, while white balance is occasionally inaccurate and inconsistent. There’s noticeable barrelling at the 28mm end of the optic, and chromatic aberration – while not shockingly bad – is present throughout many images. The only saving grace comes with the metering system, which can be largely trusted to perform with a degree of predictability.
While it’s possible to get reasonable results with repeated attempts, images from the Pentax M900 can only realistically be expected to be sufficient for a small print.
At this price there are a number of more capable alternatives that are recommended instead, such as Canon's IXUS 105IS and Fujifilm's JV100.