Body & Design

The Q gives the impression it might be a product of its namesake from the James Bond films - it's easy to conceal about one's person, there's a hint of cold-war camera chic in its apparently impeccable engineering and the overall concept is just ever-so-slightly eccentric.

The magnesium alloy body, with its rubber coating along the front panel feels very well built and the body has been scaled-down about as far as possible without requiring preadolescent hands. The buttons are a little small but despite this, we've not found ourselves having any difficulty in operating them, and the control dial on the top right-hand shoulder makes it child's play to change settings quickly.

We particularly like the customizable Quick Dial on the front of the Q. Not only does it add to the classic look of the camera, it also offers a very simple way of gaining access to one of the camera's functions that might otherwise be lost in a menu. One of four features can be applied to the quick dial: Smart Effect (image processing filters), Custom Image (JPEG parameters), Digital Filters (more image processing filters), or Aspect Ratio. Once you've chosen which feature you want access to, you can then apply four of that feature's options to each of the positions on the dial.

In the same way that the aspect-ratio switch on Panasonic's LX3 and LX5 does a great job of encouraging use of a function that could otherwise be easily overlook, the Q's Quick Dial brings some of the camera's fun functions to the fore.

Beyond that, the camera shares many of its firmware features with the company's DSLRs, so you have access to an array of high-end features such as Multi Exposure mode, Interval Shooting and HDR mode. You also have control over everything from noise reduction to how the camera attempts to handle highlights and shadows, giving a good degree of control over the final image, even if you don't resort to using the DNG Raw output.

In your hand

The Pentax Q is small for an interchangeable lens camera but, since its lens can't retract, it's still not quite as pocketable as something like the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 or Olympus XZ-1. From the front and top, the Q has a pleasantly 'retro' look to it, but from the back, it just looks like any other modern digital compact, and this view is dominated by a 3" 460,000 dot LCD screen.

Body Elements

The Q features a small flash that does its best to distance itself from the lens, to minimise the risk of shading and to help offer less-stark flash images.

A menu option lets you choose whether the flash can fire in its unextended position.
Despite its compact size, the Q has a good range of external buttons, including an INFO button that brings up a function menu detailing the camera's current settings. This can be navigated using the four-way controller and each setting adjusted without leaving this screen, using the control dial.
The Quick Dial on the front of the camera provides quick access to one of four special features that might otherwise be lost in the menu system somewhere.

It also adds to the camera's retro look, of course.
The battery slots into the camera's left flank (as viewed from behind). This is probably a consideration of packaging but is a huge bonus for anyone using the camera on a tripod.

The D-LI68 battery pack is good for 230 shots according to CIPA standard testing (or 250 without flash).
Likewise, the side-mounted card door means swapping cards is simple, even if you've got the camera fixed in position.

The Q is compatible with the latest SDXC standard.
Looking at the sensor shift mechanism it becomes apparent why the camera hasn't been made even smaller.
Unlike Pentax's K mount, the Q mount doesn't have a mechanical aperture control mechanism. Instead the 01 Standard Prime lens and 02 Standard Zoom have lens shutter mechanisms, such as the one pictured.

Lenses

Alongside the Q, Pentax has announced a series of lenses, which will become available in the coming months. In addition to the 47mm equiv. '01 Standard Prime' there will be the '02 Standard Zoom.' This $299 28-83mm equivalent F2.8-4.5 lens will, like the Standard Prime, offer a built-in ND filter and lens shutter, allowing flash sync all the way up to 1/2000th of a second.

In addition to these relatively high-end lenses, Pentax will offer three other lens options that highlight the camera's youthful, creative potential, as well as its enthusiast appeal. The manual focus '03 FishEye' offers a 160° field of view and a fixed F5.6 aperture. Meanwhile, the 35mm equiv. '04 Toy Lens Wide' and 100mm equiv. '05 Toy Lens Telephoto' are fixed aperture, manual focus lenses designed to recreate the look of cheaply-made film cameras such as the Diana. Each will cost under $100.