12.4MP | 1/1.7" BSI CMOS | $499/£399 (MSRP, 5-15mm lens kit)

Long gone are the days when digital camera shoppers were made to choose between a small camera body and the ability to change lenses. These days, there are plenty of small interchangeable lens cameras on the market, from all of the current major manufacturers. But the smallest of all are Pentax's Q-series. The Pentax Q7's arrival was announced almost exactly two years after its original predecessor, the Pentax Q, was unveiled. The Q was the smallest interchangeable lens camera on the market, barely bigger than a point-and-shoot compact, and was announced alongside set of equally diminutive lenses. Though the Q7 (and its immediate predecessor, the Q10) has picked up a few millimeters in size, it remains one of the smallest interchangeable lens cameras you can buy.

Pentax engineers have been pushing the limits of size in interchangeable lens cameras for some time. The Pentax Auto 110 debuted in 1978 as the smallest SLR with interchangeable lenses to accept tiny 110 film cartridges. An advertising campaign from the time claimed "Now, you can be a great photographer any minute of the day," touting the portability of the ultra-miniature system. Decades later, Pentax is still selling small cameras with small lenses for the exact same reasons.

Pentax's first Q-series cameras attracted a cult following, but critics disliked their small 1/2.3" sensors and high MSRPs. In the Q7, both of these complaints have been addressed. It introduces a 1/1.7" type BSI CMOS, a standard in the enthusiast compact category, and at the time of its announcement, comes with a more reasonable price: $499 including 5-15mm (23-69mm equivalent) kit zoom. Note that existing Q lenses are fully compatible with the Q7 despite its larger sensor size, so it appears that Pentax designed the system around the larger sensor format all along.

Specification Highlights

  • 12.4 effective megapixel BSI-CMOS sensor
  • 3.0 inch LCD with 460,000 dot resolution
  • Manual exposure modes
  • 5 fps burst shooting (5 frames, JPEG)
  • Full 1080 HD video
  • ISO 100-12800
  • Sensor-shift image stabilization
  • Raw and raw + JPEG shooting

To say the Q7's appearance can be customized is a bit of an understatement. With six different grip colors and twenty body colors to choose from, there are a grand total of 120 different combinations in which the Q7 is available. Potential buyers be aware though, you should plan to add an extra week until delivery if you order a Q7 in custom colors. Our test unit boasts a sporty yellow body and black grip, paired with an ever-so-slightly lighter yellow zoom lens.

Pentax's Q-series cameras use a unique Q-mount, and thus far selection is limited to seven lenses, only three of which are traditional AF lenses:

  Focal Length Q7 Equivalent Focal Length Maximum Aperture MSRP (US)
01 Standard Prime 8.5mm 39mm F1.9 $200
02 Standard Zoom 5-15mm 23-69mm F2.8-4.5 $300 (also included with Q7 kit)
06 Telephoto Zoom 15-45mm 69-207mm F2.8 $300

The 03 Fish-Eye, 04 Toy Lens Wide, 05 Toy Lens Telephoto and 07 'Mount Shield' (with a single element) are all manual-focus-only with fixed apertures. The Q7 will use an electronic shutter with these lenses as they don't include a built-in shutter (the 01, 02 and 06 lenses do). One real advantage of this approach is that the camera is extremely quiet in operation.

An adapter is available ($250) for use of K-mount lenses with Q camera bodies. Focus and aperture will need to be set manually when using the adapter, and with the Q7's 4.65x crop factor, every lens coupled with it effectively becomes a telephoto. Powering the Q7 is a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery rated to 250 shots.

The Q7 has many features you'd expect from a system camera, including manual exposure modes, raw shooting, 1080p HD video, in-camera art filters and a fairly quick burst rate of 5 fps. In fact, you can find these features in just about every other mirrorless system. But unlike most other interchangeable lens cameras, the Q7 can nearly slip into your pocket, and it's available in a (very) wide variety of colors. Pentax is hoping these two features will make the Q7 attractive to those ready to step into the world of interchangeable lens cameras.

Compared to Olympus E-PM2

Side by side with the Olympus E-PM2, the Q7 body itself isn't much smaller than Olympus' smallest system camera, despite the disparity in their sensor sizes. With a prime attached (not shown here) the Q7 is pretty pocketable, but this advantage is reduced when the chunkier kit zoom is mounted.

Compared to Canon PowerShot G15

Canon's flagship compact, the PowerShot G15, uses a same-sized 1/1.7" sensor as the Q7 but is obviously much larger than the Pentax. Part of the height difference comes from the G15's built-in optical viewfinder, but it also has twin command dials, plus a dedicated dial for exposure compensation and a complex built-in zoom lens, all of which adds bulk.

So does the Q7's advantage of a smaller footprint than other mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras outweigh the potential negatives of a smaller sensor? Would its prospective buyers be better served by something like an Olympus E-PM2? Or is it the ideal enthusiast compact point-and-shoot - namely, one with the ability to change lenses? Read our full analysis.

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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