Pentax Q7 Review
There is no shortage of in-camera processing modes on board the Q7. A total of 17 'Digital Filters' like Toy Camera and Invert are provided, most of which will be familiar to anyone who has used a modern compact camera or smartphone before. Only 11 of these filters can be applied while shooting, the remaining six can be added post-capture. Apart from the filters, there are also Custom Image settings, processing modes like Bright, Natural and Monochrome that will tailor the look of JPEGs to your liking. Of these, a couple are 'filter'-like, including Bleach Bypass and Cross Process.
A Digital Filter can be used in combination with any Custom Image setting to create what Pentax calls a 'Smart Effect.' Several are pre-loaded on the camera - for example, Black and White processing mode combined with a high contrast filter is saved as the 'Bold Monochrome' Smart Effect. Users are free to create their own combinations and save them for later use.
Some of these in-camera effects are subtle, others are not. Shooting in Raw + JPEG will preserve the original image as well as the filtered JPEG, and many filters can be added after the fact, even in JPEG-only shooting. The strength and style of these filters can be adjusted to some extent, and the Q7 provides room for a user to save a favorite for later use. It's a nice implementation of the now-standard in-camera art filter array.
|Toy Camera Filter||Cross Process Filter|
|Cross Process Filter||Vintage Color Smart Filter|
In-camera HDR and Raw processing
A now-ubiquitous in-camera HDR feature is available in the Q7. It's a multi-shot mode with three settings (Auto, 1 and 2). The Q7 captures three images in quick succession and layers them together. The Q7 does a good job of auto-aligning images, as long as your hand is reasonably steady. HDR modes are available in JPEG shooting only, so no Raw file can be saved.
HDR 1 evens out tone more drastically, pulling highlights down further and lightening shadows. HDR 2 is the most dramatic, creating more of an 'Art Filter' effect. In-camera control over highlight and shadow correction are also provided. In my test shots, taken in a variety of different environments, Auto HDR was the least invasive of the three modes, revealing highlights in otherwise blown out areas but generally leaving shadow tone alone.
The Q7 packs a few other features carried down from more advanced Pentax systems that are worth exploring. For example, the camera stores Raw data for the most recent captured image in the buffer (provided you aren't shooting in burst mode or haven't turned the camera off). You can choose to save it separately or keep shooting and forever hold your peace with your JPEG.
You can also process Raw files in camera. Adjustments can be made post-capture to aspect ratio, JPEG compression quality, white balance, Custom Image mode, Digital Filter, ISO, noise reduction strength, shadow correction and lens distortion correction.
|The Pentax Q7's DNG Raw files can be processed individually or in batches directly in camera. All of the camera's 17 Digital Filters can be applied post-capture, to Raw or JPEG images; only 11 are available for use in live shooting.|
Neutral density filter
The Q7's 02 Standard Zoom and 01 Standard Prime lenses each offer a built-in neutral density filter, referred to in the camera menus as just ND. An ND filter acts to evenly reduce the amount of light hitting the imaging sensor. It can be useful to a compact camera shooter for a couple of reasons; first, reducing the amount of light in a very bright scene can prevent the camera from using smaller apertures in auto mode which, on a small lens, will almost certainly cause diffraction and reduce image quality.
|ISO 100, f/8, 1/400sec (manual exposure to demonstrate effect of diffraction)||100% crop|
|ISO 100, f/3.2, 1/500sec - ND filter on||100% crop|
As you can see above, the shot taken at f/3.2 is sharper than the shot taken at f/8, because diffraction at the smaller aperture is seriously reducing resolution. Enabling the ND filter allows for the use of a wider aperture in very bright conditions without compromising critical sharpness. Fortunately, operating in Program mode, the Q7 rarely closes the aperture down beyond f/6.3, which is helpful. Using the ND filter to photograph extremely bright scenes can ensure that the camera will keep the aperture to around at least f/5, but the Q7 generally likes to keep the aperture open as wide as the lighting (and lens) allow.
The ND filter's other use on bright days is to allow you to use slower shutter speeds, if for example you want to to smooth out the appearance of motion while keeping ISO sensitivity low and apertures relatively wide (see above for the effects of diffraction). It should be noted that the Q's toy lenses do not include ND filters.
|Enabling the Q7's built-in ND filter allowed the slower 0.4sec shutter speed used here.|
The Q7 offers a number of other advanced features under its unassuming point-and-shoot exterior. Focus peaking was quite useful with the Standard lenses and an indispensable aid for the manual-focus-only Toy lenses. We found it to be completely accurate in testing with the 01 Prime at wide apertures.
|Using the Q7's focus peaking feature, in-focus elements are outlined on the camera's LCD. When used with the 01 Prime as seen here, adjusting the manual focus ring brings up a magnified view of the scene, making it easier to check critical focus.|
Other advanced features include interval shooting and manual movie exposure modes. Those who acquire a Q7 should definitely spend some time with the owner's manual since there are a lot of potentially useful features under the camera's unassuming, point-and-shoot exterior.
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