The Pentax Q puts the compact in Compact System Camera. Is the ultra-small Q able to outsmart its larger-sensor peers? The What Digital Camera Pentax Q review...
Pentax Q review – Features
The Q takes the Compact System Camera to new levels of compactness. With a 12.4-megapixel back-lit 1/2.3in sized CMOS sensor at its heart the system wholeheartedly shuns the larger-sensor system cameras. It’s important to consider the options that Pentax is up against here: first came the Micro Four Thirds Lumix G and Olympus PEN models, followed by larger sensor independent ventures in the form of Samsung’s NX and Sony’s NEX series. More recently the Nikon 1 system, with its 1in sensor size, has been talk of the town – by and large received with a great bout of negativity throughout blogs and reputable technology publications due to the sensor being ‘too small’. And if that’s the attitude to a 1in sensor size then, well, the 6.17×4.55mm (1/2.3in) sensor in the Q – which is smaller than that found in both the Canon G12 or Panasonic LX5 compact cameras – is going to more than ruffle some feathers.
Let’s get it straight out there: such a small sensor means shallow depth of field will be far harder to achieve at standard to mid-range focal lengths. That sumptious blurred, bokeh background that epitomises many a pro portrait isn’t (really) achievable using the Q. This is further punctuated by the decision to pair up ‘Toy’ lenses (that’s their actual name) with fixed-aperture settings no brighter than f/5.6 for the 3.2mm fisheye, fixed at f/7.1 for the 6.3mm prime and f/8 for the 18mm telephoto. To reiterate, those are the widest aperture settings and in the case of the latter two the only aperture settings those particular lenses provide.
And so it becomes a little clearer… maybe. Despite the ‘compact size, SLR performance’ press release Pentax isn’t, at least in my opinion, looking to challenge the Compact System Camera market. It’s barely looking to take on the ‘high-end compact’ market either, though this is the area the Q is more closely aligned with. The Q is a world unto its own; a miniature street photographer’s camera unlike anything else out there. It’s an up to date camera delving into the past, associating itself with the romantic period of photography and, by this token, a model that’s got one hard sell.
As well as its uber small size, the Q offers Raw & JPEG shooting from ISO 125-1600 at speeds of up to five frames per second (5fps). A 25-point autofocus system is dealt into nine zones and also offers Face Detection, Tracking, AF-Selection (movable single point) and Spot (centre-point only) options. 1080p HD movie can also be recorded, while composing and image review takes place on the 3in, 460k-dot LCD screen. A standard hotshoe fitting is included to add an external flash or optical viewfinder (each sold separately), though there’s no capability to add an electronic viewfinder (EVF) due to lack of connectivity in the design. Speaking of which, where did such an unusual and independent model spring up from…