A Viewfinder Darkly

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Pentax Q the smallest interchangeable lens digital camera

November 27 2011

by Philip Northeast

DxOMark tests show the Pentax Q has performance matching rival mirror-less interchangeable lens cameras, such as the Olympus EP3 and the new Nikon J1.

Pentax emphasised size in the design process for the Pentax Q where there is an inevitable compromise between image quality and compactness.  The resulting Pentax Q is smaller and lighter than other mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras.

Pentax Q

Pentax Q comes in black or white

While everybody else is trying to fit larger sensors into smaller camera bodies, Pentax went for a smaller sensor. Perhaps they called the camera a Q – for quirky.

In the size stakes the Pentax Q is smaller than our sample trio of Nikon cameras with the Nikon J1 mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, the P7000  compact digital, and a compact entry level DSLR, the D3100.

 

J1 P7000 D3100 Pentax Q
W x H x D   (mm) 106 x 61 x 29.8 114 x 77 x 44.8 124.5 x 96.5 x 73.7 98×57.5×31

One benefit of the Pentax Q’s smaller sensor is the lenses are also smaller and lighter helping maker the overall package more compact and convenient.

This makes the pentax Q a good choice for street photographers and travellers. The Pentax Q is also rugged as well as compact with a solid but lightweight weather resistant magnesium body and stainless steel lens mount.

DxOMark test summary comparison

DxOMark test summary comparing Pentax Q to Nikon J1 and Olympus EP3

The compromise of using a smaller sensor to produce small camera system shows in the DxOMark noise tests where the Pentax Q has a lower overall score for low light performance compared the Nikon J1 and Olympus EP3.In normal light with low ISO settings the difference is negligible and for higher ISO settings the Pentax q should produce very useable photos.  All these cameras have larger sensors than the Pentax Q and it is no surprise they have better noise performance.

 

Detailed noise test from DxOMark

Detailed noise test from DxOMark

Putting the little Pentax Q in context by comparing it to a top compact digital camera, the new Nikon P7100, the Pentax Q scores better in every DxOMark category, including lower noise. The Nikon P7100 also a has a larger sensor and is bigger than the Pentax Q.

The Pentax Q compared to Nikon P7100

The Pentax Q compared to Nikon P7100 by DxOMark

While the specification show the size advantage of the Pentax Q this promo shot from Pentax sums up the pocketable size of this little gem with the standard lens.

Pentax Q and a bunch of keys

Pentax Q and a bunch of keys

The Pentax Q’s 1/2.3 inch backlit CMOS image sensor has 12.4 megapixels resolution, more than enough for all common print sizes and more than enough for Facebook.  The Pentax Q produces ordinary JPG images but can also save digital photos as 12 bit DNG RAW files.  This gives advanced photographers the chance to optimise the digital photos in their favourite photo editing software.

All the important features and capabilities for serious photographers come in this small package, The Pentax Q does video, has image stabilisation and all the important exposure modes; full auto, aperture priority, shutter speed priority and full metered manual control over exposure.

The not so serious using photographers relying on full automatic mode can choose from a range of scene modes to help deal with different lighting conditions or types of photography.

The in-camera operations and capabilities are similar to my Pentax K5 DSLR, making the Pentax Q an attractive alternative to DSLRs for a small pocket camera. The Pentax Q can save digital photos in Adobe’s DNG RAW format so most digital photo software for RAW images should process the Pentax Q RAW pictures.  For travellers the Pentax Q can produce JPEG copies from the RAW digital photo information for immediate use, leaving the original RAW untouched for more serious processing at home.

The Pentax Q sensor shift image stabilisation reduces the blurring effect of camera shake at slower shutter speeds.

Lens Choice 

The standard lens choice reveals more of Pentax’s individuality. The Pentax Q is available with the Pentax 01 Standard Prime, a  compact all round prime lens with a 47mm equivalent view and wide f1.9 aperture. This is reminiscent of the pre zoom lens days when this type of lens was dominant. A compact zoom lens package with the 27.5-83.0mm equivalent lens also available.

pentax q system

Pentax Q system with lenses and optical viewfinder

The standard prime lens maximises the benefit of the smaller sensor to make the lenses smaller and lighter.

Viewfinder

For those who prefer an optical viewfinder Pentax have a clip on accessory unit. This is optimised for the angle of view of the standard prime lens.

 

Price and Availability

The Pentax Q is available from Adorma  for $US699 for the standard 47mm equivalent lens version.

 

 

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