2012-03-12

Pentax Q

The “Q” is Pentax’s first and somewhat unique take on the digital compact system camera. What makes it unique is its size. It is by far the smallest interchangeable lens camera available. And when I say small I mean small, the dimensions are 57.5mm high by 98mm wide by 31mm deep and it weighs in at just 200gms loaded with the battery and SD card. Despite these diminutive dimensions, this little camera has a host of features you would only expect to find on a full digital SLR.

The first time you handle the Q you realise Pentax hasn’t scrimped on the build quality. The body is made from magnesium alloy giving the camera a solid and robust feel. The body is covered with a simulated leather material and comes in either black or white. There is a barrel shaped finger grip moulded into the shell providing a comfortable and secure handhold. The lenses come in two varieties, precision lenses are offered with either of the two standard kits and unique or toy lenses are available to be purchased as add-ons.

In use, both the standard kit lenses perform well. The 8.5mm F1.9 prime (equivalent to a 47mm on a 35mm camera) and the 5-15mm F2.8-4.5 zoom (28-83mm equivalent) use the cameras 25 point autofocus system to good effect. The focusing is quick and accurate in good lighting conditions, the focus tracking system works well with moving subjects and even in low-light conditions the AF assist lamp keeps things sharp.

The "Q" has a 12.4mp back-illuminated CMOS sensor with Pentax's effective shake reduction and ultrasonic cleaning systems. The sensitivity range is ISO 125 to 6400. The LCD panel is a 460k 3" colour monitor with both brightness and colour adjustments. It provides almost 100% field of view coverage and you can display composition grids in either 4X4, Golden section, or scale display - in addition, you can activate the bright/dark area warning and histogram.

There is a built-in flash which operates in two positions the second of which assists in red-eye reduction by raising the flash well away from the camera body. The flash has a guide number of 5.6 (ISO 125/m), wide angle lens coverage equivalent to 28mm, P-TTL, slow-speed sync and trailing curtain sync. External flash is accommodated using the hot shoe on top of the camera and the full Pentax range of flash guns is compatible.

The camera shoots in RAW (DNG), RAW + Jpeg and Jpeg and takes video up to 1080p HD at 30fps. Continuous shooting is at 5 fps in Jpeg. Image settings include bright, natural, portrait, landscape, vibrant, radiant, muted, bleach bypass (my favourite), reversal film, monochrome and cross processing. The range of digital filters covers toy camera, high contrast, shading, slim, HDR, invert colour, extract colour, water colour, posterisation and fish-eye.

In addition there are numerous advanced functions including HDR capture, interval shooting, multi-exposure, in-camera movie editing to name but a few. On the front of the camera is a dial with 4 customisable settings allowing quick access to smart effect, custom image, digital filters and image formats.

The Pentax Q is quick to power up, the controls are nicely weighted with a positive feel. Selecting different shooting modes (Auto, P, Tv, Av, M, BC, SCN, Movie) is easily done using the dial at the top front of the camera. Shutter speed and aperture control in the semi-manual modes is controlled by the large dial at the top rear. This dial also controls zoom in review mode.

Do I like it? Well yes, I do. The camera is superbly crafted and has a wonderful feel, the shutter makes a reassuring clunk and the image quality is up there with the very best of the high end compacts. So if you are looking for a small, light compact system camera then the Pentax Q should be on your shortlist.

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