The days when the handy pocket snapper was the weapon of choice for grabbing a quick photo or two have all-but gone, thanks largely to the increasingly capable cameras on the ubiquitous smartphone. Manufacturers looking to tempt folks into buying a dedicated compact camera are having to up their game a notch or two and offer consumers top quality sensors and powerful image processors, more manual control over the end result, and a little more style and finesse. Such is the case with the new vintage-styled MX-1 from Pentax Ricoh Imaging, featuring brass top and bottom plates, a dedicated exposure compensation dial in addition to the mode selection dial, and supporting both RAW and JPEG image formats.

Pentax Ricoh has given the eye-pleasing MX-1 a newly-designed 1/1.7-inch, 12-megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor and state-of-the-art imaging engine, and a fast wide-aperture F1.8 4x optical zoom lens with a focal length of 28 - 112 mm (35mm film equivalent). Though there is a built-in pop-up flash, the camera's ISO 100-12800 sensitivity may well mean that it doesn't need to be used too often. If you're looking for a hot shoe mount to attach an external flash, though, this is not the camera for you.

The camera has a 1/8000 of a second to 30-second shutter speed range (with Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, Manual Exposure, and combination of electronic shutter enabled), contrast detection autofocus with a focus assist lamp, and manual focus running from 0.4-inch/10 mm (Super Macro) to infinity. Horizontal and vertical digital level guides are included, and its hybrid sensor shift (mechanical) and Pixel Track (digital) image stabilization should help keep the effects of camera shake in check.

Pentax says that combining digital and optical zoom with Intelligent Zoom can ramp the coverage to 7.8x (at 3 megapixels) without significant loss of image detail by optimizing the resolution to match the zoom length.

Creative types will be happy to find 15 digital filters included, there's face detection of up to 32 faces, smile capture, blink detection and pet detection modes, and users get to take photos in a choice of four aspect ratios. The supplied Li-ion battery should be good for 290 shots between charges.

The 4.8 x 2.4 x 2.0-inch (121.9 x 60.9 x 50.8-mm), 13.8 ounce (391 g) MX-1 has a tilting 3-inch, 920,000 dot LCD display panel with anti-reflective coating and a viewing angle of 170 degrees, is capable of 1080p HD video recording (H.264) at 30 frames per second (up to 60 fps at 720p) with stereo audio, and benefits from a dedicated movie record button. Viewing content on a big screen TV is made possible thanks to an HDMI-out port, and the camera comes supplied with SILKYPIX Developer Studio 3.0 LE, designed for Pentax Ricoh by Ichikawa Soft Laboratory.

The Pentax MX-1 will be available from next month for a suggested retail price of US$499.95.

Product page: Black MX-1, Silver MX-1