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 – Performance
Considering the Q’s promise to deliver DSLR performance we were left waiting for more. Given the awe-inspiring K-5 and 645D models that have graced Pentax’s release schedule in the past year, the Q therefore feels like even more of a departure.
The ‘BC’ (which we’ll call ‘Bokeh Control’) mode on the Q’s main dial is the camera’s attempt to counter its inability to provide pronounced shallow depth of field. It does so by blurring the background using post-processing, detecting and supposedly leaving the subject in ‘focus’ (i.e. not blurred). Or that’s the idea anyway. In reality shots look like a misplaced tilt-shift effect gone wrong with seemingly random blurring in various parts of an image. Needless to say it’s unimpressive to the point of a write off.
The rear LCD screen, while of a reasonable 460k-dot resolution, is another a bone of contention. Even in flat lighting the screen’s darkened playback makes it difficult to see and assess images to an acceptable degree. For the high price-point a higher resolution, better-coated screen should have been an absolute – particularly due to the Q’s lack of a built in viewfinder.
Focusing furthers the screen’s issues, as when the camera is hunting to pin focus on a subject or area the screen will brighten or darken as the camera deems necessary to obtain focus. Even if this is necessary to the focus mechanism it doesn’t look great in preview and can be deceptive to exposure level. Focusing itself is reasonable but doesn’t get anywhere near the sort of speeds the latest Olympus PEN or Panasonic Lumix G-series models are capable of. The Q’s focusing feels more like a compact camera and, while there’s nothing wrong with that, it ought to be far faster to make a real impression.
For burst shooting the 5fps mode is a decent speed, though a Class 10 SD card could only snap six JPEG Fine frames before pausing. When capturing Raw files the burst speed is drastically reduced and the buffer can take some time to shift data through to the card – the camera is inoperable during this time.
Another area that needs crucial thought is the Q’s dust reduction mechanism. As larger-sensor systems have reached a point of providing solid removal systems this tends to be an area that doesn’t cause much discussion of late. But with the Q it’s a very different story given the sensor size. Take the lens off and the sensor is sat there staring you back in the face – it’s very easy for dust and other particles to get into the camera. A hair or ‘dust bunny’ on a 1/2.3in size sensor is as desirable as a hole in the head as their size relevant to the sensor will be the end of an image. The same obstruction on a larger sensor is still a problem, but usually one that can be touched out in post-production if a shot isn’t there to reshoot. The Q’s DRII (Dust Removal II) mechanism is the same type as that found in the K-5 – and whilst we’re not doubting its performance, all dust reduction systems aren’t 100% efficient on any camera.