Pentax unveils the Q today, making an indisputable claim of the prize for world's smallest interchangeable lens camera. This feat is achieved with a 12.4 megapixel 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor and a new Q lens mount with a full line of lenses planned. Read on for the lowdown and a hands-on preview.
Stepping into previously unoccupied territory, the Pentax Q is the first interchangeable lens camera to utilize a 1/2.3-inch sensor, the same size chip that's found in most point-and-shoot cameras. It's a 12.4 megapixel backlit CMOS sensor capable of producing DNG RAW image files as well as JPEG, and despite its potential size disadvantage, Pentax reps stress the overall size reduction of the system as its biggest advantage.
The Q will be capable of full 1080p HD video at 30 fps and burst shooting at 5 fps. A 3.0-inch LCD on the back panel offers 460k-dots of resolution for framing and image review. An optical viewfinder will be available as an optional accessory. On the front of the camera body is a small numbered "Quick Dial," a customizable control that can be assigned functions for aspect ratio, focus mode, HDR settings and more.
Alongside the Q, Pentax will launch its 47mm f/1.9 Pentax 01 Standard Prime lens (35mm equivalent). It's expected to offer a minimum aperture of just f/8 due to the small size of the unit. A second 28-80mm equivalent zoom lens will be available for around $300, with a maximum aperture of f/2-4.5. Other lenses planned for the Q system include a manual-focus fisheye lens for around $130 and a few Holga-style "Toy" lenses retailing for just $80. Down the road, Pentax hopes to develop a telephoto macro lens and an ultra wide angle lens for its system.
Along with the ability to change lenses, the Pentax Q will offer a full complement of manual and auto shooting modes. Since the small 1/2.33-inch CMOS won't provide a lot of background blurring by nature of its design, Pentax has added a feature called Bokeh Control. It offers fine-tuning of the appearance of blur in the background of an image via in-camera processing filter. Another processing mode applies an HDR effect by combining three images captured at different exposures.
The camera will have a built-in ND filter as well as a popup flash unit. Sensor shift shake reduction is offered to reduce blur and shooters will be able to utilize shutter speeds as fast as 1/2000 second.
Hands On with the Pentax Q
I spent a few minutes handling a pre-production Q model and can report the obvious: it is very, very small. It's every bit the size of a compact point-and-shoot, if somewhat bulky for that class. The dials and controls feel natural, and the controls on the back panel will be familiar to anyone with a point-and-shoot. The control layout is remarkably clean for a camera with so little real estate, making the likes of the Canon G12 look oversized and over-complicated.
But the Canon G12 is a proven class-leader and the Q has a lot of convincing to do. Consumers will want to know if it can match the competition in image quality with a smaller sensor. The look and feel will certainly draw some interest - it's as solid as any other compact system camera, and the controls will look friendly to beginners. However, convincing consumers to pay a DSLR-esque price for something so undersized might be the Q's big challenge. It's no small task ahead of Pentax.
Pricing and availability
Pentax anticipates that the Q will arrive stateside in fall 2011 with earlier availability in Japan. The kit with standard lens will cost $800 and the camera body will be sold in either black or white.
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