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Pentax Q Hands-on Preview

June 23, 2011 | By Richard Butler, Simon Joinson


Preview based on a pre-production Pentax Q running firmware 1.0

The Pentax Q is the smallest interchangeable lens camera on the market. And, just like the company's famously diminutive Auto 110 SLR from the late 70's, it achieves this by embracing a smaller format than its peers. Being built around a 1/2.3" sensor, the Q is a fraction of the size of even the smallest existing mirrorless cameras and is the first really pocketable model (though the protruding lens still means that'll have to be the pocket of your jacket, rather than your shirt or trousers).

To make clear what the rather opaque 1/2.3" figure actually means, it equates to a surface area of around 28mm2. This is around 1/8th the size of the sensor used in Micro Four Thirds cameras and 1/13th the size of the the APS-C format sensor in Sony's NEX. The advantage of this is that the lenses for the Q mount can be made a lot smaller than those for other systems, but the downside is that the image quality is more likely to resemble that of a compact camera than a DSLR.

You can glean a lot about Pentax's approach to the Q from the lenses it has announced: a 47mm equivalent F1.9 prime lens for the enthusiasts but accompanied with a healthy dose of fun in the form of two fixed focal length 'toy' lenses (a wide-angle and a telephoto version, both sub-$100). On the fun side of things there will also be a fisheye lens or, at the more serious end, a 28-83mm equivalent standard zoom with a built-in shutter, allowing flash sync at any shutter speed.

Coupled with the 47mm equiv. prime or the standard zoom the Q, with its sturdy magnesium-alloy build, appears to be offering an alternative take on the photographers' compacts such as the Canon G12, Olympus XZ-1 and even the Ricoh GRD. However, the fact that it can take different lenses means that in a matter of seconds it can be converted into a fun little camera that should still offer a more satisfying shooting experience than a mobile phone and image processing app.

And the Q is no toy camera, despite its modest sensor size it boasts a magnesium alloy body with rubber front coating, a 460,000 dot LCD on the rear and raw output in the DNG format. Interestingly, Pentax bucks the recent trend of trying to attract point-and-shoot users by removing those intimidating buttons with all those mysterious symbols on them, and includes plenty of external controls.

Pentax Q key specifications:

  • 12.4MP back-illuminated CMOS sensor (1/2.3" size - 6.17 x 4.55 mm)
  • Q-mount interchangeable lens mount
  • 12-bit DNG raw file option
  • 3" 460,000 dot LCD
  • Sensor-shift image stabilization and dust-removal
  • 1080p30 HD movie recording in H.264 format
  • 5 frame-per-second continuous shooting capability
  • Quick-dial control giving access to four image settings
  • In-camera HDR option blends three images
  • Built-in flash
  • Flash hot shoe (also used for mounting optional viewfinder)
  • Front and rear IR remote sensors

Compared to the Sony NEX-C3

The Q's well-proportioned design makes it a little hard to work out how large it is until you see it in comparison to another camera. The sensor is around 1/13th the size of that in the NEX-C3 but does means it's the closest a mirrorless camera has yet come to being truly pocketable.

Placing the Q side-by-side with the NEX helps give some idea of how small it is, but taking the lens off also reveals how small its sensor is. The Pentax doesn't trigger quite the same wonder about how the engineers managed to fit so much into so little space - suggesting that there's a minimum size a camera can currently be, regardless of sensor size.


If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

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This article is Copyright 2011 and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.

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Comments

Total comments: 279
1234
bergat
By bergat (Jun 23, 2011)

Per me è una tavanata pazzesca

2 upvotes
Tormenborba
By Tormenborba (Jun 23, 2011)

speriamo Pentax fallisca!

0 upvotes
bergat
By bergat (Jun 23, 2011)

What is the need, if the sensor is so...small. The problem of compact camera is the sensor dimension, not they havefixed lens.
For me is a stupid project

3 upvotes
King YONG
By King YONG (Jun 23, 2011)

Is the Q mount sensor as big as my Panny TZ15 which has a 1/2.33 CCD? If so, I guess the DR/low light IQ will be much inferior to my Samsung NX100. What a waste of time for Pentax..........

1 upvote
Photog74
By Photog74 (Jun 23, 2011)

1/2.3" image sensor? When I first read the specs I thought it was a 2/3" sensor and thought, that's still on the small side (1/4th the area of a FourThirds chip). But a 1/2.3" sized imager is just ridiculously small with extreme pixel density.

1 upvote
Trollshavethebestcandy
By Trollshavethebestcandy (Jun 23, 2011)

It's a cute well built hipster camera with good video

0 upvotes
rtogog
By rtogog (Jun 23, 2011)

I can not imagine this Q mount will success. People who likes interchangeable mostly very concern about IQ. How this small sensor can deliver images that meet most users expectation. I thought will be much reasonable to develop mirroless camera which working with their limited series lens or they think will be miracle on small sensor development to compete with bigger sensor in the near future.

0 upvotes
ujay
By ujay (Jun 23, 2011)

of course...i hope the price will drop to 300-400 dollar mark. I dont even want that lens. Just the body.

0 upvotes
Faivre thierry
By Faivre thierry (Jun 23, 2011)

drôle d'idée, sans réelle avenir, comme le Ricoh gxr !
appareil trop gros
capteur trop petit
vitesse trop faible
etc

1 upvote
ujay
By ujay (Jun 23, 2011)

I am probably the only one who thinks its a good idea. Actually I have been hoping that somebody would make a interchangable lens P&S camera or make a camera like Canon G11 where you could take the lens off.

Lo! pentax did it.

Reason: I want to use a cheap supersharp telephotos on this with an adapter to get great magnifications for bird photography.
This option is smaller, lighter and portable and I will be able to use silky smooth MF lens on cheap 135 or 200mm lenses with a great LCD and take bird photos at equivalent of 600-900mm or even greater magnifications.

with patience and some luck.....I am sure we can get amazing photos. Sure to beat Digiscoping!

For the rest of the things...I have my 40d, 50d, EOS 50 and a speed graphic.

2 upvotes
Peter Post
By Peter Post (Jun 23, 2011)

First, the G11 has a bigger sensor. second, wich lens can perform with a crop like this? Not my canon lenses, not even a 'L' lens.

0 upvotes
Nick Bangkok
By Nick Bangkok (Jun 23, 2011)

Can't use any cheap (or expensive) telephotos on this one. The body doesn't have shutter - it's in the lens.

2 upvotes
MonkeyHouse
By MonkeyHouse (Jun 24, 2011)

Seems to me that any number of cameras in the superzoom category fit the bill for portable P&S birding. DSC-HX100V for example. If you're putting on a telephoto and keeping it there, the IL aspect doesn't seem to offer much.

0 upvotes
Wye Photography
By Wye Photography (Jun 23, 2011)

Will this tempt me away from my 1963 Canon Demi and an acetate based exposure system where I don't have to worry about dynamic range and blown highlights - probably not. Its an ugly camera, BUT could be a lot of fun.

0 upvotes
MisterBG
By MisterBG (Jun 23, 2011)

No viewfinder = No sale.
If it had an articulaed screen it /might/ have been worth considering, but the price is a joke.

2 upvotes
Artistico
By Artistico (Jun 23, 2011)

I like this: "And the Q is no toy camera" - gave me a good laugh in the morning.

When I saw the headline I was hoping Pentax had launched someting MFT-esque - or preferably even joined the standard. With their pedigree of good optics, that might have been something really interesting. But why make really amateur gear at pro prices? One can get a real mft camera for what this stuff costs, which at the moment is the best compromise between size and image quality.

0 upvotes
Jorginho
By Jorginho (Jun 23, 2011)

Can't see this becoming a succes. Those who want interchangable lenses are usually the types that are more demandingin IQ etv also.

Smallest for me would be the rumoured Nikon Mirrorless with 17mm diagonal. Could deliver panny G1 IQ in a few years. That would be nice.

1 upvote
tkbslc
By tkbslc (Jun 23, 2011)

Man, with a 1/2.3" sensor this will have zero appeal for the enthusiast crowd.

4 upvotes
MonkeyHouse
By MonkeyHouse (Jun 23, 2011)

If it's meant to be fun, it needs to be cheap. I believe this will be around $800 will it not? I'd pay "enthusiast compact" prices to get this instead of an enthusiast compact were I in the market for such a thing. But not $800.

0 upvotes
Debankur Mukherjee
By Debankur Mukherjee (Jun 23, 2011)

The concept is good , now we can have smaller lenses than NEX because of the smaller sensors but sure there will be a trade off in quality compared to the NEX's APS-C Sensors......This product is surely more pocketable.....

1 upvote
h2k
By h2k (Jun 23, 2011)

One thing that seems interesting about this otherwise vastly disappointing novelty is a flash sync time of 1/2000. I use built-in flash a lot in daytime, for faces, flowers and anything closer than 3 meters. Currently i can only use flash only up to 1/160 and a faster time would be much appreciated.

Still that is no reason to consider Pentax Q, sadly, even though i need a travel cam in that size.

0 upvotes
Corros
By Corros (Jun 23, 2011)

I think when the sensor quality will be like the Canon Powershot series of today, this one will rock! Really small with some pretty nice primes, but it's not for a big marked, therefore a m4/3 or else is needed for the big crowd!

0 upvotes
Gyorgy Kenez
By Gyorgy Kenez (Jun 23, 2011)

Think about how good the CMOS in K5 is, then cropping the size of the sensor would mean cropping out a picture from one made with the larger sensor. If it is the same...

0 upvotes
Corros
By Corros (Jun 23, 2011)

I think it's not that simple.

0 upvotes
Donald Chin
By Donald Chin (Jun 23, 2011)

Interesting concept and curious to see how it performs especially in image quality.

1 upvote
Simon Zeev
By Simon Zeev (Jun 23, 2011)

I will stay with m4/3 and 4/3 but I welcome the new concept.
What is missing for now is an EVF.

0 upvotes
Franka T.L.
By Franka T.L. (Jun 23, 2011)

Well well, look to be very logical layout for the control, a decent mode dial and control dial. Now though I do not like the small sensor choice I can see this as a decent carry around for most condition ( low light and night excluded ).

If Pentax can develop more quality FAST fix focal for this, it can actually work out. With the 01 lens its already a viable combo.

0 upvotes
guvenilter
By guvenilter (Jun 23, 2011)

Looks like a toy... A nice one but a toy nevertheless... I'd love to see some samples and the full review, but it doesn't look like much to write home about.

0 upvotes
tkbslc
By tkbslc (Jun 23, 2011)

With the fisheye and plastic lens options, I do wonder if this will be targeted at the holga/lomo/hipster crowd. But it will have to be fairly cheap for that to work.

0 upvotes
jmmgarza
By jmmgarza (Jun 23, 2011)

Very cute... yes, cute sells... in Japan.

2 upvotes
Zebooka
By Zebooka (Jun 23, 2011)

Today Pentax finally died for me.
I will never again buy anything from them.
There are much clever companies selling really cool gear.

1 upvote
tom sugnet
By tom sugnet (Jun 23, 2011)

DR will be splendid

0 upvotes
meanwhile
By meanwhile (Jun 23, 2011)

If they made it weatherproof, then maybe ... if the sensor was bigger, and the lenses smaller, then maybe ... but as is ... huh?

1 upvote
meanwhile
By meanwhile (Jun 23, 2011)

So confused. Why would anyone buy this over an XZ-1 or LX5?

7 upvotes
drwho9437
By drwho9437 (Jun 23, 2011)

You may one day have a 200 mm telephoto that weighs 100 g or a ultrawide that slips into your pocket.

To buy *any* interchangeable lens camera just to shoot 28-105 mm is rather silly. I personally rarely shoot in that focal length (when I do I shoot at 35 mm).

1 upvote
policeman0077
By policeman0077 (Jun 23, 2011)

I am intersted in the mechanism of shutter and appture.

0 upvotes
NineFace
By NineFace (Jun 23, 2011)

I think it look cool but the sensor is too small

0 upvotes
bloodycape
By bloodycape (Jun 23, 2011)

They could have at least given it a 1/2' sensor.

0 upvotes
ogremage
By ogremage (Jun 23, 2011)

One can argue many ways which sensor size vs. lens size compromises make sense for mirrorless, with probably everything from 1:2.5 to 1:1 crop factors compared to FF being feasible, and IMHO 1:2 (m43) being in the sweet spot; however 1:6 with a 1/2.3'' sensor is not it, especially if as ugly as this one.

It will sell OK for the first few weeks in Japan while it's a novelty. Then it will die, lingering with a market share somewhere around the GXR.

Pentax should have joined m43, NEX or NX instead.

6 upvotes
drwho9437
By drwho9437 (Jun 23, 2011)

They are rumored to be releasing a K-mount mirrorless in fall.

1 upvote
grafixstop
By grafixstop (Jul 11, 2011)

I'll be all product roadmaps will get a careful scrubbing with the
Ricoh acquisition. The one real positive is that former Pentax management did a good job of protecting the K mount though
generational and technology changes. It may be the "pony in there somewhere" as the raison d'etre for the sale.

0 upvotes
rennie12
By rennie12 (Jun 23, 2011)

Just what I don't need - a camera with a non-existant set of lenses. I would be interested in such a camera if it took my K lenses - but I switched to the Sony A55 which seems about the same size but MUCH more camera. Still have the Pentax k20d and 3 lenses, tho.

1 upvote
drwho9437
By drwho9437 (Jun 23, 2011)

They are rumored to be releasing a K-mount mirrorless in fall.

0 upvotes
Dwip
By Dwip (Jun 23, 2011)

I nominate this for the Golden WTF award of 2011. It manages to combine a tiny sensor with the added cost and hassle of having to carry around multiple lenses, and wraps the package up with an extremely high price. Pentax would have done better by simply giving away the R&D money to the few customers in the target demographic.

19 upvotes
photonion
By photonion (Jun 23, 2011)

I think it takes the award hands down! What were they thinking??? You get a NEX or m43s (or Samsung NX) + compact superzoom for this money and you still have some money left in your pocket. This way you get huge pocketable focal length range from the superzoom and some SERIOUS IQ from the large sensored ILC.

5 upvotes
eadrian75
By eadrian75 (Jun 28, 2011)

Those few customers are exactly who PENTAX is targeting; demographic that does not conform to aging trends/standards. These PENTAXIANS do their research, find value in the unique offerings and as a result don't follow the herd.

The W(where)TF is your brain award should go to those who are quick to dismiss the potential of this little camera based solely on sensor size without seeing any hard samples or having handled the Q for themselves. This knee jerk reaction is most like due to their never ending quest for the "perfect" camera. Every once in a while they'll take that "wow, check out this awesome 6400 iso shot of my brick wall" and post it proudly to this forum. The pixel peeping "dark side" of photography is far removed from the true nature of photography. Which in my opinion is to have fun.

I applaud PENTAX for taking this bold move. What has Canon or Nikon done lately? Just more cookie cutter products for the herd.

0 upvotes
El Crapio
By El Crapio (Jun 23, 2011)

Shutter on the lens is a bad idea. Lenses are supposed to last longer than bodies.

1 upvote
drwho9437
By drwho9437 (Jun 23, 2011)

Lenses with shutters are common many places and enable high speed flash sync a feature this camera and the recent Fuji have but no DSLR that I know of has.

1 upvote
kitsap2
By kitsap2 (Jun 23, 2011)

Seems to be what parents would want to present to their aspiring, photo youngster at Christmas time. That's about it. Maybe through, Toys-r-us.

0 upvotes
strata83
By strata83 (Jun 23, 2011)

Probably the ugliest and least useful camera ever.

3 upvotes
mr inspire
By mr inspire (Jun 23, 2011)

This is really expensive! 800 dollar man

1 upvote
ogl
By ogl (Jun 23, 2011)

The user of Pentax Q must clean sensor...None from P&S camera's users make it before...

2 upvotes
drwho9437
By drwho9437 (Jun 23, 2011)

The thing I am most interested in is how well the HDR mode works and if it takes 3 pictures quick sensor readings or if it is all software working of 3 in burst off the SD card.

0 upvotes
ulong
By ulong (Jun 23, 2011)

HDR out of K-x is not so impressive, I don't think it will be any better out of this tiny sensor, I highly doubt it.

0 upvotes
drwho9437
By drwho9437 (Jun 23, 2011)

Glad to see some original thinking in the camera market. Such a system could be useful for extremely compact telephoto work in bright light (think birds, if the AF is good).

Better than the same core camera in yet another body that Panasonic and Olympus have been doing (for the most part) in this market since the launch of their systems. Rumor is there will also be a K-mount mirrorless in the fall...

1 upvote
robertbarber
By robertbarber (Jun 25, 2011)

I wonder what lenses can it be adapted to take.

The crop factor will be 5.5x. That means a 300mm 2.8 legacy lens would be 1650mm 2.8 equivalent--if it could be adapted. That would be useful for wildlife, for sure.

As far as the image quality goes, well, I think it would be good enough for some applications. My Oly C7070 7 megapixel compact makes 13x19 prints that I'm happy with. This shouldn't be too different, with good glass. Sometimes I wonder if posters on these forums actually make prints, or just pixel peep.

1 upvote
Corros
By Corros (Jun 26, 2011)

I think it's all about pixel-peeping and not about what this camera is really about. http://j.mp/iB6U97. I think this camera is about portability and creativity. That's what I like about it!

1 upvote
Ketmeister
By Ketmeister (Jun 27, 2011)

I think its a cool concept irrespective of where it slots in from a functionality and usage standpoint. It's definitely a niche product siding more in the novelty space. From a practicality point of view its not that portable since you carry around different lenses and its not much smaller than the NEX-C3 shown here. The Canon G12 appears to have more external controls and is hard to beat in IQ as a small sensor camera. It'll be interesting to see how this Q plays. I wish it success. Having more options is never a bad thing.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 279
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